I was booking for a group of six so I had to think beyond just me and my requirements. I was looking for every article or blog I could find. There wasn’t much, but as I learned you can’t really go wrong. Just being there was an experience I will not soon forget. Although I was going to see my childhood hero inducted, I was itching to go again as soon as it was over. Maybe just not on an induction weekend. Here is everything I did, learned, and recommend.
For an induction weekend, everything within close proximity books up fast, even before the inductees are announced. Upstate New York doesn’t have a normal hotel on every corner either. Lots of B&B’s, inns, and some major chain hotels in the local towns nearby. I was looking well in advance and it was tough. The vacation rentals on the usual rental sites were out of the questions since they had a seven-day minimum. I settled on a small town about 46 miles north east of Cooperstown called Johnstown, NY. I found a basic hotel that ran about $135 a night and had free breakfast. There were plenty of dining options within close proximity and the almost hour drive didn’t seem like it would be an issue since we would be gone all day each day. For this reason, I recommend not going too much price wise on lodging. If I had extra money to spend I might have splurged to be close but on an induction weekend it may cost you. As I said, you’re going to be in Cooperstown to take it all in, not hang out in a hotel. I also locked up a rental car quickly just in case. Remember that rental cars and be booked and cancelled without cost if booked direct.
We elected to fly into Boston since we were also going to visit ballparks and take in some baseball games. If you are a baseball fan, I highly recommend this. Many people flew into Albany or Syracuse which are closer. My only regret was having two rental cars for our group. Yes, a large van or vehicle was much more expensive but I didn’t figure in the tolls. I am still waiting for my final toll bill, but Massachusetts felt like one giant toll road and plenty in New York too. Having everyone in one vehicle would have been easier and more convenient but we made it work. Cooperstown is about a 4-hour drive from Boston but our hotel was about 3 ½ hours from Boston. Albany is about 1 ½ hours, and Syracuse is about 2 hours. On a side note we also visited the Basketball Hall of fame since it is on the way from Boston. Not nearly as impressive but still a fun stop.
Cooperstown itself is a small town in upstate New York. If you blink you could miss it along with many of these small towns and villages. Our drive each day to Cooperstown was some of the most scenic countryside you will see in America. Cell service is tough, and with our group no matter what provider we had it faded in and out. So don’t expect to be doing downloads and lots of posting from town. We all packed along battery backups for our phones which was valuable.
My recommendations? Buy a baseball hall of fame membership. You get early access each day and discounts on merchandise just to name a couple perks. Get there early and take advantage of the early access (7-8 AM) because by 9 or 930 the Hall of Fame will be packed! I mean too crowded to walk packed. The streets of Cooperstown will follow suit by noon with no room to move. We parked at one of the free trolley lots (There are 3) and paid $2 to take the trolley. That $2 is valid all day. We picked one close to town(Red) which made it easy to walk to at the end of the day.
Most of the shops in town are baseball memorabilia shops and you can’t even walk through those once its busy. There isn’t much to do. You can visit the shops, get autographs from players at various shops (fees apply), eat, and people watch. Players everywhere just walking down the street. It’s one of the best things about induction weekend. Where else in America can you hang out and see lots of hall of famers and or former Major league stars just walking down the street. Good food options with little cafes and restaurants, but they fill up fast. I suggest taking advantage of some locations with outdoor seating. Eat drink, take your time, and enjoy the people watching from an outdoor patio. Near Doubleday field there is a small business that has batting cages and video games. Lots of food and beverage booths. Make sure you go to the parade which starts at 6 PM. I don’t recommend camping out as we had a great view and we landed our spot 20 minutes before the parade started. it’s great to be up close to the Hall of famers and the parade provides that chance. I regretted not making it out to the breweries located outside of town. But once I was parked I didn’t want to give up my parking spot and have to drive.
For induction day they have free shuttles (school busses) that run from the Hall of Fame to the field where the induction is held. This is about 1.5 miles south of town. We decided against the shuttle and went straight to the field in the AM. We bought lawn chairs at Walmart and set them up the day before about 8am. We then just paid for parking as many property owners are selling spots at their house. Some try and rip you off with rates as high as $65. We paid $35 and were in walking distance. We also bought a disposable cooler and walked it in. Filled it with ice and water bottles. Be prepared for 8 hours in the sun and heat. Bring drinks, snacks, and sunscreen. They have the local high school selling hot dogs, water, chips, etc. They have merchandise tents but the lines are long, too long to wait in if you ask me. They have plenty of portable toilets but only on the opposite end of the seating area. Once it gets crowded it’s a tough walk with the crowds. I heard they had them on both sides last year and their numerous public address announcements stated they have them on both sides but they don’t. On a side notes, some of the nicest portable toilets I have seen. If you have an umbrella those have to be taken down once the induction starts and creates some issues among fellow induction goers. If you have a large pop up shade type tent those can only go in a certain area, farther away from the viewing area.
Even after a long day in the sun, it’s an amazing experience. I would do it all again especially for a favorite player. I can’t wait until I can take my kids to the hall of fame but that will be years. Speaking of kids, I don’t recommend taking them to a weekend like this unless they are old enough. In my mind, I am thinking 10 and above. I can’t tell you how many people I saw dragging their kids through the hot streets as they were throwing tantrums, crying, hot, miserable. I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone so don’t do it. Know your kids and be realistic. If I lived closer maybe, but I am not dragging my kids across the country for these conditions. They need to be able to appreciate it and I think that comes closer to the teenage years.