To make it even more enticing, Glimmerglass State Park is located just a few miles outside of Cooperstown, New York, an idyllic little town that’s home to the fabulous Fenimore Art Museum and the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Story Of Glimmerglass
Cooperstown was founded by William Cooper, a land developer, judge, and the father of 19th-century author James Fenimore Cooper. In the 1800s James Fenimore wrote popular historical romances and thrilling adventures set in the American frontier, particularly the wilds of central New York state. He drew inspiration from the people and landscape surrounding him, including beautiful Lake Otsego, which he nicknamed “Glimmerglass.”
Even if you’ve never read Cooper’s books, if you’ve seen the movie “Last of the Mohicans,” you’re familiar with his work. Somehow, despite my love of reading, I’ve never read any of his novels. After visiting Cooperstown I got inspired and picked up one of his books, only to promptly get lost in the weeds of his verbose, antiquated prose. But I do remember enjoying the movie (I think that’s the only time I’ve preferred a film adaptation to a book).
Cooperstown is the picture of a quintessential American town. Strolling down Main Street is like walking into a Norman Rockwell painting.
The Fenimore Art Museum
The Fenimore Art Museum stands on the site of James Fenimore Cooper’s former estate, with sweeping views of Glimmerglass. The museum houses one of the finest collections of American folk art we’ve seen anywhere, along with an exquisite collection of American Indian art. We spent most of a day exploring the fabulous museum, including picnicking on the beautiful grounds.
One of my favorite pieces was an elaborately decorated shoeshine stand created by Giovanni Indelicato, an Italian immigrant bootblack in New York in the 1930s. It’s eccentric, colorful, and undoubtedly the fanciest shoeshine stand in the world. How does someone decide to make something like this? And how does someone else decide that it’s art? And why do I like it so much? I have no answers to any of these questions, which is one reason I love wandering in art galleries.
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The Farmers’ Museum
Just across the road from the art museum is the Farmers’ Museum, one of the oldest living history museums in the country. Having recently visited Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan (quite possibly the most epic living history museum anywhere), we really didn’t need to go to the Farmers’ Museum. But we walked across the street, and my curiosity got the best of me. Before I knew it, I was speed-touring through the museum grounds 30 minutes before they closed because the docent at the gate said, “Sure, go have a look around!”
It’s small and very well done, with costumed docents who are enthusiastic about their heritage skills. And obviously, in the case of the blacksmith, don’t mind getting covered in soot.
The National Baseball Hall Of Fame
Most people make the pilgrimage to Cooperstown to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the shrine to America’s favorite sport. Eric went on his own and had a great time exploring the vast collection of everything baseball. While there, he paid homage to his favorite team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and his favorite player, Sandy Koufax, who was one of the greatest pitchers in history and the youngest player ever elected to the hall of fame. Eric used to go to the Dodger’s games with his dad, so his visit to the museum brought back wonderful memories. He also bought a Dodger’s baseball cap, which I have yet to see him wear. (We have an unspoken agreement that we do not comment on each other’s choices in sentimental memorabilia, as long as it doesn’t take up too much space in our rig.)
Other Good Stuff
We rounded out our two days in Cooperstown with a visit to the very cool Ommegang Brewery, an afternoon cocktail at the beautiful Cooperstown Distillery on Main Street, and a delicious afternoon tea and treat at the lovely and unique Origins Cafe, a seasonal venue located in a lush greenhouse. Not all in the same day, of course.
About the Campground
Glimmerglass State Park, located eight miles outside the village of Cooperstown, overlooks Otsego Lake, the “Glimmerglass” of James Fenimore Cooper’s novels. We were there just before the Fourth of July (we really wanted to stay through the holiday, but the campground is booked far in advance for the popular town celebration). We anticipated wild times (there were a LOT of little kids on bikes and every site had campfires going) but it was remarkably peaceful as soon as quiet hours hit. Not sure if that’s always the case.
The campground is small, with spacious sites, electric hookups, water conveniently located throughout, nice hiking trails, and good Verizon. The lake looked beautiful for kayaking but with only three nights there, we ran out of time. (Many thanks to our friends Sherry and David, who wrote about Glimmerglass several years ago and piqued our interest.)