77 miles W of Albany; 141 miles E of Rochester; 213 miles NW of New York City
Set on gorgeous (and mostly undeveloped) Lake Otsego, this tiny village feels frozen in an era when gracious mansions lined the streets, folks greeted you by name, and people played a stick-and-ball game that didn't even have a name yet. The town of 2,400 people swells to 50,000 on summer weekends, but despite the crush of visitors, Cooperstown hasn't outgrown its small-town roots. With a couple of exceptions, you won't find chain stores here (the horror! no Starbucks!). Coffeehouses, bookstores, and restaurants are, for the most part, independently run. That personalized, hands-on ownership shows: People are friendly and excited to turn you on to their town.
Though once home to author James Fenimore Cooper -- who named Lake Otsego "Glimmerglass" in his Leatherstocking Tales -- the town was actually named for his father, William Cooper, in 1786. Today most people come to see the Baseball Hall of Fame, but that's not the only game in town. There are several worthwhile sites, and Lake Otsego harbors a magic all its own. Warning: The town shuts down early -- there are no movie theaters, and restaurants close as early as 9pm in the winter.