Wherever the eye turned, nothing met it but the mirror-like surface of the lake, the placid view of heaven, and the dense setting of the woods.
– From “The Deerslayer” by James Fenimore Cooper
As a traveling family, we have had the opportunity to visit many hotels and resorts. Some of these have merely been a place to lay our heads at the end of a day filled with outdoor adventures while others have been destinations in themselves. The Otesaga Resort Hotel in Cooperstown, New York demands it’s own distinction. Owned and operated by the Clark family for over a century, the Otesaga’s history is intricately woven into the town’s rich agricultural heritage and winning baseball legacy.
Deep Roots in Cooperstown History
In the summer of 1909, the Otesaga Hotel opened its doors for the first time and welcomed visitors into an atmosphere of elegance, relaxation, and harmony with nature. For five-dollars per day, guests could enjoy the most modern amenities like long distance telephones in their rooms, iced bottles of spring water, twice daily performances by the orchestra in the hotel’s foyer, and recreational activities including golf, tennis and croquet on the lawns overlooking majestic Lake Otesago.
The Clark family has a long history of philanthropy in the village and it was Stephen C. Clark who, in 1935 purchased a torn and battered baseball for $5 and put it on display in the Cooperstown Historical Society. Dubbing it the ‘Doubleday Ball’ after Abner Doubleday, the Civil War general who, legend told, had created the game of baseball nearly 100-years earlier, the ball became the first piece of memorabilia to grace what would soon become the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Although the Otesaga has been updated and modernized throughout the years, there have been no significant changes made to the original structure and the resort, which is now a member of the prestigious Historic Hotels of America, retains the stately grace and hospitality of a bygone era. At the same time, in the midst of such refinement, the Otesaga lacks pretension, and instead exudes a warmth and charm that allows children and their families to feel right at home.
Relax…and Sit for a Spell
Being an historic property, the rooms at the Otesaga Resort Hotel are all unique in design and décor. An added benefit for those of us with more than two kids is that many can accommodate a family of five with an added rollaway. There are also two suites available. Our preferred superior room, which had a stunning view of the lake, was extremely spacious and furnished with two comfortable queen-sized beds, a peaceful desk area, and an easy chair nestled by the window. There was also more than enough storage space with two huge walk-in closets and a large bureau. A large, sunny, vintage-style bathroom completed the picture.
One perk, in my opinion, is that an elaborate breakfast buffet is included in your room rate. At first I thought I’d prefer to check out some of the local restaurants in Cooperstown, however, I welcomed the convenience of being able to walk right downstairs in the mornings for the plentiful spread, as it allowed us to spend more time sightseeing. Breakfast, which was abundant and delicious, (don’t miss the waffles!) is served in the Glimmerglass restaurant and each morning we sat at a table that offered a beautiful view of the lake and mountains outside.
Our two days in Cooperstown were packed to the gills with activity, which we enjoyed immensely, though I couldn’t wait to get back to the Otesaga to settle into a rocking chair with an evening cocktail on the gorgeous porch. Saturday’s sunset was spectacular and my girls delighted in watching a wedding ceremony take place on the hotel’s back lawn while a group of high school kids in their prom finery took photographs under the enormous oak trees beside the lake.
Happily ensconced in a rocking chair, I finished my Ommegang Farmhouse Saison, one of the delicious ales I’d sampled earlier that day at Brewery Ommegang, while the girls played on the lawn below. Later, we set out for a short, lakeside walk to the tiny island where golfers at the Leatherstocking Golf Course tee off for the 18th hole. Not wanting to go anywhere else, we opted for dinner on the outdoor patio of the resort’s Hawkeye Grill where we caught a glimpse of the bride and groom cutting their cake through the ballroom window.
The resort’s location is ideal—just a short stroll from Cooperstown’s Main Street, yet removed enough from the action that it’s setting on the south shore of Lake Otesaga feels like a peaceful retreat. Jane Forbes Clark, granddaughter of Stephen C. Clark, Sr., has worked to preserve much of the lake’s eastern shore, most of which remains undeveloped to this day. The resulting scene is one of uninterrupted, pristine beauty.
Families can spend their days enjoying the crystal clear waters of the Otesaga, swimming or boating and the resort has a few kayaks and canoes available for guest use. Additionally, all manner of watercraft can be rented from Sam Smith’s Boatyard a mile or so up the road from the hotel. For folks looking to get into the woods, there are great hiking trails in nearby Glimmerglass State Park. At the Farmers’ Museum travel back in time with a stroll through a recreated 19th century village complete with printer, apothecary, general store, and schoolhouse. The museum’s newest addition, the Empire State Carousel, is a treat for everyone.
Kids will also enjoy taking a ride on the vintage cars of the Cooperstown-Charlotte Valley Railroad, gliding over the lake on the Glimmerglass Queen, or just strolling down the Rockwellian Main Street stopping at Schneider’s Bakery for a classic black and white cookie. Of course, the town’s crown jewel is the Baseball Hall of Fame, which houses over 30,000 artifacts celebrating our national pastime. Nearby, youth baseball games take place three times daily from late spring through early fall at Doubleday Field and admission is free of charge.
The May weekend we visited Cooperstown, the world was just waking up after a long winter, yet the village was bustling with lively mix of locals and sightseers alike. Our two days at the Otesaga were filled with blue skies and bright daffodils, plenty of history lessons, and a lot of old-fashioned amusement—and we hope to return soon.
Disclosure: We were guests of the Otesaga for the weekend. All opinions are, as always, entirely my own.