Flying the Coop to Cooperstown, Part I

For years, I had a “thing” against Cooperstown, New York and I'm pretty sure I can blame my brother. I suppose it was Brad's incessant pleas to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame which left me with this bitter bias. With no inkling of interest whatsoever in the seemingly sports-centric upstate area, I had no intention of spending a weekend admiring plaques and studying stats. Bor-ing.

So when I was invited on a “fun-filled fall trip” to Ostego County, I had my doubts. Could such a small town really have anything for an anti-athlete like yours truly? I checked out the proposed itinerary, and made a mental list of pros and cons. Foliage: Good. Apple Picking: Good. Art Museum: Good. Luxury Resort: Good. Baseball Hall of Fame… I guess you can't win 'em all.

Coop, There It Is…
Just a four-hour car ride from New York City, Cooperstown makes a convenient country getaway for city-dwellers in need of a quick foliage fix and a healthy dose of fresh air. Framed by the gorgeous Ostego Lake, aptly nicknamed Glimmerglass after James Fenimore Cooper's novels, Cooperstown's natural beauty becomes abundantly clear upon arrival. Working farms and orchards, tall trees, and lush landscapes abound. Is this what all of upstate New York looks like? As a graduate of Syracuse University, I can answer my own question (and that answer, FYI, is “no.”) But this homey town caught my eye and piqued by curiosity.

Stay at the Otesaga Resort… But Avoid the Fifth Floor
We pulled into the driveway of the stately Otesaga Resort Hotel, and my jaw dropped to the well-groomed ground. I had imagined a moderately-sized, unassuming hotel, but this place was amazing. From the traditional Federal-style architecture to the sprawling green lawns to the pretty pots overflowing with flowers to the rocking-chair-lined deck, everything about this imposing property was picture perfect. The Otesaga's inviting lobby, warm staff, and 135 charming rooms and suites evoke an ambiance and air of simple sophistication.

The pool is heated and open through December, when the Otesaga closes for the winter. However, you'd have to get me pretty liquored up to even consider taking a dip on a chilly October afternoon. In the warmer months, the lake is filled with swimming children and boating enthusiasts. We were lucky enough to take a boat tour along Lake Ostego on a sunny, crisp morning, and the sights and foliage were absolutely breathtaking.

The Otesaga's opulent main dining room serves up a sumptuous breakfast buffet every morning. Omelets, pancakes, Belgian waffles, bacon, sausage, grits and other soul-satisfying foods are freshly prepared and made with love. Dinner is an elegant affair, and the views overlooking the lake make for a simply sensational setting. On the lower level of the hotel, Hawkeye Bar and Grill offers a more casual experience, and the wood-paneled walls make you feel like you're dining in an old-school ski lodge. Order a glass of cabernet and enjoy the cozy atmosphere. With its live music and open ambiance, Templeton Lounge is an ideal place to digest after a hearty meal (with a cocktail in hand, of course).

One evening, we were taken on a ghost tour of the Otesaga Resort, which was recently featured on the Syfy Network's Ghost Hunters. Previously a boarding school for girls, the hotel is apparently a comfortable home to a few lost souls, and there has been confirmed paranormal activity on the fifth floor. While security guards, hotel staff, and patrons have spotted multiple “ghosts,” we were assured that they are spirits of the friendliest kind – sort of like the ones in Disney World's Haunted Mansion. Nevertheless, I slept with the light on and the TV blaring that night.

A lovely spot for weddings, family reunions, and corporate gatherings, the Otesaga is truly a gem along Glimmerglass. The Leatherstocking Course, located on property, is known throughout the country and is a big draw for golf aficionados and amateurs alike. In my humble opinion, the only thing this haute hotel is missing is a spa. Add one of those and hire a masseuse, and I might just be the Otesaga's number-one fan. Turns out that getting cooped up in Cooperstown is not such a bad thing after all. (Sorry, Brad.)