For any baseball fan, a trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is a bucket list item. In July of 2014, my dad and I made the trip from Raleigh to Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. My dad has been a huge Atlanta Braves fan his whole life. Among the 6 inductees, there were 3 Braves: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Bobby Cox. This seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to head to our first trip to Cooperstown and it is something that I will never forget.
One of the things that sets the National Baseball Hall of Fame apart from other museums is the location. Most of our national museums are located in large cities like Washington, DC or New York. Cooperstown is a small town in New York of 1,800 people. That all changes one weekend every July when everyone in the town puts on a show and opens their doors to thousands of baseball fans. To me, it is what America is: summer, baseball, Small Town USA, family owned shops and restaurants, people saying ‘hi’ to each other.
The Hall of Fame induction weekend is made up of 2 main events: a parade for past and present Hall of Famers and the Induction Ceremony. Cooperstown puts on a show for both of these main events, but that’s not all that happens this weekend. There are throw back baseball games at the field in Cooperstown. You can pop into any shop throughout town and find Hall of Famers signing autographs (which, to me was a little overboard because they were charging money for it. I felt like it took away from the ‘feeling’ of the weekend.). And much more.
Cooperstown Hall of Famer Parade
This may have been the most cool and surreal event of the weekend. Late afternoon on the Saturday prior to the induction ceremony, past inductees and the current year’s inductees ride through downtown Cooperstown sharing a moment with the fans. My dad grew up idolizing players like Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, and others. This is the first time that I remember looking at my dad and seeing a kid. Seeing someone that was genuinely enjoying this hour, like nothing he has enjoyed before. Seeing him reflect on listening to his heroes on the radio or watching them play on black and white tv. This was worth the whole trip and something I will never forget. Get there early to snag a front row spot!
Cooperstown Induction Ceremony
The induction ceremony is held on Sunday afternoon. The setting is a huge field with open seating. Be sure to bring chairs, blankets, coolers, etc. and make it a fun event. There are food vendors for things like hot dogs, chips, water, and soda. I feel that what makes the atmosphere better is that volunteers run the event. There is a Cooperstown high school group that manages the concessions, which is great because much of the proceeds go to helping the community. You can tell that the whole town comes together for this event. Don’t expect to get close to the stage unless you basically camp out. That’s ok, though, because there are huge screens and you won’t miss a thing.
Planning a trip to Cooperstown
Again, Cooperstown is a small town in the middle of New York state. It’s about a 4 hour drive to Boston or New York City. Hotels are very expensive for Hall of Fame weekend and book up super early. The closest cities to fly into are Albany and Syracuse. We chose to fly into New York City and drive up, stopping in West Point on the way. It’s a great drive, very pretty, once you get outside of New York City. We flew out of Boston, so we were able to check out different scenery on the way in and out. We stayed in Albany and drove in each day to Cooperstown. While this wasn’t optimal, it saved us a ton of money and it was only about an hour or so drive each way. Really wasn’t that bad.
My recommendations for you if you’re planning to attend the Induction Ceremony weekend would be to plan early. Like a year out. Also, be flexible. Look at surrounding towns to visit and stay in. Make it an adventure and enjoy yourself. These are experiences that you will make with your dad or your kids that will last a lifetime!
If you are a baseball fan and haven’t been to Cooperstown, you must add it to your list of places to visit. While the Hall of Fame Induction weekend is busy, it is worth it to stand side by side with the greats of the game.