The average American, certainly the average New Yorker, probably has heard of Cooperstown. Maybe even Oneonta. But Unadilla? Cherry Valley? Fly Creek? Butternuts?
Not so much.
Welcome to Otsego County, population around 62,000, a picturesque chunk of Central New York, its rolling hills dotted by lakes, creeks and rivers. An area replete with museums, campgrounds, two colleges, one city, nine villages, a gajillion hamlets and even a couple of halls of fame that draw visitors from around the world.
It’s the sort of topography people might term “quaint” if they saw it in Europe, with large red-painted barns, verdant fields of corn and grain at certain times of year. The small towns, especially along Route 7 which slices diagonally through the county, have numerous examples of the French Second Empire architectural style that utilizes mansard towers, as well as the Italianate designs with their low-pitched roofs and numerous cupolas. Over the years I’ve come to simply refer to them as “Central New York Style.”
Anchored by picturesque Cooperstown to the north with its National Baseball Hall of Fame and Oneonta to the south, a blue collar town that is home to both SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College as well as the Soccer Hall of Fame, it’s an easy area to traverse in a long daytrip or an easy overnighter.
Here's a quick guide to Otsego County:
• Where to eat
Brook's House of Bar-B-Q, Route 7, Oneonta, (800) 498-2445: Brooks’ ubiquitous traveling barbecue services are so unbiquitous in Upstate New York that many people might not know it started back in 1951 as a restaurant and still runs a 300-seater. Besides its barbecued chicken. St. Louis pork ribs, chicken, steaks and roasts, the restaurant offers a full menu.
Blue Mingo Grill, 6098 State Highway 80, Cooperstown, (607) 547-7496: This popular seasonal spot is located on Otsego Lake at Sam Smith's Boatyard, 2 1/2 miles north of town. It specializes in “creative grill cooking” that encompasses global cuisine.
• Events, attractions, activities
National Baseball Hall of Fame, 25 Main St., Cooperstown, (888) 425-5633: The annual induction is held in late July each year. That’s the biggest event although the facility is open year-round.
Farmers' Museum, 5785 Lake Road (Route 80), Cooperstown, (607) 547-1450: New York state history, circa 1845, comes to life as daily chores are carried out at a working farm while period commerce flourishes at the Village Crossroad. Also home to the Empire State Carousel.
Fenimore Art Museum, 5798 Lake Road (Route 80), Cooperstown, (607) 547-1400: The collection includes outstanding examples of American landscape, history and genre paintings, American folk art, photography and American Indian art.
National Soccer Hall of Fame, 18 Stadium Circle, Oneonta, (607) 432-3351: Besides the expected displays, the facility has hands-on interactive stations where visitors can test, and improve, their skills.
Glimmerglass State Park, north of Cooperstown on Otsego Lake off Route 31 in the East Springfield area, (607) 547-8662: Fishing, hiking, camping and boating. The Hyde Hall Mansion, Covered Bridge and Beaver Pond Nature Center draw thousands of visitors each year.
Glimmerglass Opera, Alice Busch Opera Theater, (607) 547-2255: The summer facility offers four productions each season. This year's lineup features four operas linked to William Shakespeare: Porter's "Kiss Me, Kate," July 5-Aug. 23; Wagner's "Das Liebesverbot," July 19-Aug. 22; Handel's "Giulio Cesare in Egitto," July 6-Aug. 23; and Bellini's "I Capuleti e i Montecchi," July 26-Aug. 24.
Miscellany: Golf, farmers markets, art shows, seasonal festivals and much more are continually updated on the Kaatskill Life online site. The State University College at Oneonta and Hartwick College, a private liberal arts school, share the hillsides above Oneonta and add to the region's activities with sports, theater and other programs.
• Where to stay
Besides various chain hotels (Clarion, Holiday Inn, Howard Johnson, etc.) and the Otesaga Inn resort, bed-and-breakfasts are an attraction. The Innsmart Guide lists some online.
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