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When he wasn’t getting kicked out of Yale or writing epics like “The Last of the Mohicans,” James Fenimore Cooper merrily beat the drum for the New York town bearing his family name. “We predict,” he wrote in 1837, “that Cooperstown will become, for five months of the year, a place of favorite resort for those with a taste for boating, for music, the languages, and other amusements and accomplishments of the sort, that bespeak an improving civilization.” Cooper, of course, could not have foreseen the amusements and accomplishments immortalized in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, nor the members of our improving civilization who descend on it every year by the tens of thousands. Like most museums, the Hall houses numerous interactive exhibits, movies, and special shows, but it’s the stuff (the bats, balls, caps, gloves, and uniforms used to achieve all kinds of on-the-field feats) that carries resonance for the hard-core baseball fan. Even the most fanatical pilgrim to the shrine, however, can’t help but appreciate the beauty that lies outside its gates. Cooperstown hasn’t changed all that much since Cooper’s day. Enormous oak and chestnut trees still shade the tidy red brick and clapboard buildings along Main Street and reflect in the broad sheet of Lake Otsego — the “Glimmerglass,” as it’s called in Cooper’s novels. A trolley runs along Lake Street to the Fenimore Art Museum, home to the New York State Historical Association. From the Fenimore, it’s a short walk to the Alice Busch Opera Theater, summer residence of the Glimmerglass Opera (607-547-2255). “Operatic” would best describe Cooperstown’s grandest hotel, The Otesaga (800-348-6222). The opulent, 92-year-old hotel boasts mahogany paneling and sumptuous rooms that represent rustication at its most refined. Rocking in a wicker chair on The Otesaga’s white-columned veranda, you can catch sight of the canoes along Lake Otsego and the golfers holing out on the venerable Leatherstocking Golf Course. Despite its size, The Otesaga fills up quickly. The hotel, however, also manages the Cooper Inn, a Federal-style manor house on Chestnut Street, and guests there have access to all Otesaga facilities. Other gracious options include The Inn at Cooperstown (607-547-5756), the Overlook Bed & Breakfast (607-547-2019), and Strawberry Hill Farm (607-547-8619). No matter where you stay, make sure to savor at least one meal in The Otesaga’s regal Main Dining Room. The hotel’s Hawkeye Grill presents a less formal option. So, too, does Gabriella’s On The Square, on Main Street (607-547-8000). At The Blue Mingo Grill (607-547-7496), a mere five-minute walk from Gabriella’s, the grilled lobster with roast corn butter and the roast duck with chipotle sauce are accompanied by lakefront views. Should you want to engage in a barroom debate about baseball, head to the tap room at the 200-year-old Tunnicliff Inn, known to locals as “The Pit.” Scottish Claymores adorn the stone fireplace, and many of the tables bear carved messages dating back a hundred years or more. You won’t find any inscription from James Fenimore Cooper, but this tiny town carries his imprint as much as it does that of Abner Doubleday. Restaurants, shops, and streets bear the names of his characters, and folks often refer to Lake Otsego as Glimmerglass. More even than the Hall of Fame, that huge body of water characterizes Cooperstown. So when you’ve had enough baseball, why not rent a canoe and cut a course across the water — and back in time? TRAVEL BASICS Hall of Fame Weekend runs August 4-6, and most hotels are already booked. This year’s inductees include the immensely popular Kirby Puckett, Dave Winfield, and Bill Mazeroski. Cooperstown is about five hours by car from New York City. Albany International Airport (ALB), about 70 miles east of Cooperstown, serves four airlines with direct flights from New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. From Albany, Cooperstown is a 90-minute drive via I-90 and local roads.

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