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For many of us, staycations are this year’s vacations. Instead of the cottages and castles of the Continent, visit one of New York’s fascinating house museums. Each week, for the entire summer, we’ll alternate between a site in New York City, or one in greater New York State. Many of these houses are in danger of closing if we don’t patronize them. Check them out, and go visit! If you’ve been, please leave comments and suggestions, including dining or any other amenities.
Name: The Farmer’s Museum
Location: Cooperstown, in central New York, Otsego County
Address: 5775 State Hwy 80, Cooperstown, NY 13326
Hours: 10-5, May October 11 (Columbus Day), open other times, see website
Admission: Adults: $12, Seniors: $10.50, Active and retired military, members: Free
Children: 7-12: $6, Under 7: Free
Directions: See Website. Approx 4 – 4.5 hour drive from NYC
Details: Full confession: I grew up near here. We had class trips to this place as often as NYC kids go to the Museum of Natural History. We all hated it. At the time, all they had was a central building and a few farm buildings with dioramas showing the lives of the Native American tribes who used to live there, and colonial Cooperstown and upstate farming life with a heavy emphasis on famous son, James Fenimore Cooper. He was America’s first novelist and author of the Leatherstocking Tales, which included Last of the Mohicans. Great story, but have you ever tried to read it? You think I’m wordy? They also had a cheesy gift shop with fake Indian souvenirs. How many six inch birch bark canoes can a kid have? We were not entertained, or even educated, which was the point. Anyway, skip ahead a few dinosaur years, and I happened to be in Cooperstown a few years ago, while visiting family, and I thought I’d check it out again. The whole place was totally different! It was GREAT! I had the best time!
The Farmer’s Museum is the oldest rural life museum in the country, and was founded in 1943 to preserve and celebrate rural and village life in the 19th century. It consists of a working farmstead and an a village, centered around a square. The buildings are all authentic structures which have been carefully moved to this location. They came from all over upstate NY, with most of them from the surrounding area. There are houses, a tavern, workshops, barns, stores, a law office, a school and a church, among others. The working farm grows and raises heritage crops and livestock, species and breeds you won’t see very often anymore, after two centuries of genetic manipulation. Everywhere in the museum there are fascinating demonstrations, re-enactments, and craftspeople recreating life in upstate NY. Kids will especially have fun in feeding and interacting with the animals, as well as participating in cooking and crafts demonstrations. The Museum is well designed to draw your interest, even if this sort of thing isn’t your usual cup of tea. Upstate NY used to be the hops capital of the US, and the making and quaffing of beer is celebrated in the authentic tavern. They also have a restaurant on site, and the gift shop is much improved.
The Farmer’s Museum has a joint admission policy with the Fenimore Museum directly across the street, and the Baseball Hall of Fame Museum. The Fenimore Museum is housed in another historic house, a beautiful neo-Colonial stone mansion built in the 1930’s, on the site of the original Cooper estate. Their permanent collections include a first class exhibit of Native American artifacts, and important early American portraiture and landscapes. They are currently running two interesting shows, one on John Singer Sargent’s portrayals of women, the other on women’s dress. The Baseball Hall of Fame Museum, located in town is a treasure trove of baseball memorabilia and history. All are worth an overnight stay to enjoy. Otsego (Glimmerglass) Lake is one of NY’s most beautiful bodies of water. Go!