Visiting Cooperstown, New York and the National Baseball Hall of Fame
Visiting Cooperstown, New York is a must-do if you’re a baseball fan. My older son’s 12u team competed in Week 8, 2021 at Cooperstown All Star Village, and his team visited beautiful Cooperstown and the National Baseball Hall of Fame during the week of the tournament. Since I wasn’t sure what to expect going into our week in the Cooperstown area, I wanted to share some tips we learned from our week.
If you’re visiting Cooperstown for a 12u baseball tournament, you may want to also read my other posts about visiting Cooperstown and the surrounding area.
Here are the links to my first two posts:
Hopefully your week at Dreams Park or All Star Village includes one day for visiting Cooperstown, the birthplace of baseball. For anyone who lives and breathes baseball, or even if you just appreciate the sport, this is a must-see destination in your trip.
Cooperstown is a scenic 30 minutes north of Oneonta. Most of our team’s families stayed about halfway between Oneonta and Cooperstown, making the drive easy in the morning. Every team visiting both Dreams Park and All Star Village is given tickets to the Baseball Hall of Fame, as well as an allotted time to visit (I’m not sure if this is due to the pandemic, or if that is normal practice in non-pandemic years). Since our team was given an early time to visit the Hall of Fame, each of our team’s players stayed overnight with their parents (i.e. not in the bunkhouse) to make the morning rush to get up their easier.
Cooperstown was a welcome surprise – – beautiful old homes surround the main street, and the town itself sits on the shores of a gorgeous lake.
Due to our team’s game schedule, which was affected by rain, we ended up having very little downtime during the day on any of the days we were at All Star Village. We had two opportunities to visit Cooperstown – one night we had our team dinner at Pioneer Patio, then spent an enjoyable evening browsing the many baseball card and memorabilia shops along the Main Street of Cooperstown. The following morning we returned for our scheduled Hall of Fame visit.
To my surprise, we didn’t feel like we had enough time in Cooperstown despite visiting on two different days. Based on our visit, here are our recommendations for what to do in Cooperstown:
Baseball Hall of Fame
This is an absolute must visit, whether you’re a baseball nut or just enjoy watching the game. Even if you aren’t crazy about Baseball, you may be by the time you make it out of the museum. I absolutely loved this museum, and there is no one more surprised I’m saying this than myself.
We had a limited amount of time at the Hall of Fame, and honestly it was not enough time to see everything in the museum. Some museums, you can stroll around and just view the exhibits, and get the general gist of the exhibit’s significance. The thing about the National Baseball Museum – – you will want to read every plaque, read the small card next to every piece of baseball memorabilia, touch every interactive exhibit button that brings up famous, funny and amazing baseball clips. I enjoy watching baseball, but I can’t spout off stats and facts like my husband and kids can. I don’t know the history of the sport like they do, so for me to say that this was one of my top 5 favorite U.S. museums ever (and I’ve been to every Smithsonian museum multiple times…) is saying something.
We spent 30 minutes just in the Babe Ruth exhibit before we realized we needed to pick up the pace to get through everything in time. Then my kids spent an hour looking at just the baseball cards in protected glass folders before we realized we really needed to get through everything faster. There are entire areas of the museum we did not get to see because we ran out of time and had to get through the Plaque Gallery before we headed back to All Star Village so the team could get ready for their game. Bottom line – it’s an amazing museum, one that you cannot miss, and you need to dedicate at least 2-3 hours to your visit if you want to feel like you saw all the exhibits.
Where to Eat when visiting Cooperstown
- Pioneer Patio is a great restaurant a block from the Hall of Fame. We held our team dinner here on our second night at All Star Village, and the food was good and the service was excellent. They easily accommodate large groups, and always post your team’s picture on their social media pages.
- Schneider’s Bakery was excellent. My older son, who considers himself a blueberry muffin connoisseur, said it was the BEST blueberry muffin he’s ever had.
- The Red Shed Brewery is located about halfway between Oneonta and Cooperstown. This brewery had excellent beer (I recommend getting a sampler) and a food truck out back. There’s no table service, so you order your drinks at the bar, and the food at the food truck, then clean up yourself. The food was excellent. Think burgers, fried pickles (recommended), huge soft pretzels (also recommended). The brewery has a large canvas tent, picnic tables gorgeous mountain views, board games for kids, Adirondack chairs, and offered live music the night we were there. If the weather is beautiful, you can’t go wrong at this place. We went with a couple team families and the kids (both siblings and players) and parents had a great time.
Where to Shop in Cooperstown
- Cooperstown is THE destination for baseball memorabilia. Vintage and antique baseball equipment is available in many of the stores. There were a couple shops that looked just like mini baseball museums, with antique bats, balls and gloves.
- Every baseball card shop on Main Street is excellent. The shopkeepers are all friendly and welcoming to their young guests, many of whom can stay in the shop for hours browsing cards. Much of our team came back later in the week just to shop for baseball cards.
- There is no shortage of Cooperstown souvenir gear available in just about every store. Whether you’re looking for a coffee cup, a key chain, or a t-shirt with ‘Cooperstown written on the front of it, you’ll find something.
- For the adults: Cooperstown Distillery is steps from the Hall of Fame and offers free samples of their excellent gins, rums, and whiskeys. The shop itself smells amazing and has gifts including soaps and bar ware. Their distinctive ‘baseball bottle’ makes a great gift and can be bought with or without liquor. If you’re visiting Cooperstown, and potentially looking at spending several hours in baseball cards shops with your kids, this should be your first stop. Like I said, they offer free samples.
My kids visited every shop on Main Street that was open. Their favorite shops on Main Street included:
Mickey’s Place – – Tons of Baseball caps, baseball cards, autographed photos and baseballs to purchase were the standouts in this shop.
Yastrzemski Sports – – Baseball cards. Tons and tons of baseball cards, ranging from antique to vintage to present day single cards, sets, and unopened packs and boxes. Also had signed memorabilia.
Cooperstown Bat Company is the place to go if you’re looking for a custom engraved bat to commemorate your player’s time at Cooperstown. The store had a huge display of player pins, so make sure to bring a team pin to add to their collection.
Visiting Cooperstown, New York requires an entire day, at least, to fully appreciate the history. We didn’t get to spend nearly enough time in Cooperstown, and I wish we had a few more hours to look through the shops and explore the town more fully. We all agreed that a couple more hours at the Baseball Hall of Fame were needed. Luckily, we will be back in 2024 when our youngest son has his Cooperstown experience!
Planning a trip to Cooperstown for your 12u player? Be sure to read these related posts: