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Williamstown, Mass., and Cooperstown, N.Y.: Picture Perfect Towns for Fall Foliage

Article and photos (unless otherwise noted) by Eric Hurwitz.
Page created on 9/7/17.

Cooperstown NY during the fall foliage seasonOtsego Lake, Cooperstown.

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Interested in visiting two of the most beautiful towns in the northeast United States during the fall season? Great! Then let's take the travel journey to Williamstown, Mass., and Cooperstown, N.Y. right now...

Close-knit, wonderfully appealing small towns at heart, Williamstown and Cooperstown are only a little over two hours from each other -- good news for those who love fall foliage and don't care for driving several hours to see colored leaves in pretty towns. Of course, the two towns deserve visits at any time of the year, but fall gets a special mention as both spots are vastly underrated at this time of year. Once arriving in Williamstown and Cooperstown during autumn, it actually makes one wonder if it is necessary to solely depend on the northern New England states like Vermont and New Hampshire for leaf peeping.

Columbus Day Weekend is a good time to visit as the leaves traditionally show good color. If you start in Williamstown, all it takes to arrive in Cooperstown is driving Route 7 south to Route 90 west to Route 88 to Route 20 west to Route 80.  Williamstown is about an hour to Albany, N.Y., and from there about an hour and 20 minutes to Cooperstown. The ride is especially nice along Route 20 which features charming, unassuming small towns like Sharon Springs, Esperance, and Cherry Valley, as well as views of beautiful hills and mountains.

Williamstown, located in the scenic Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, borders New York state and is home to the esteemed Williams College. Arguably the nicest mountain town in the Berkshires, Williamstown is ideal for cultural attractions, and refreshing walks through leafy neighborhoods that feel like home. It is undoubtedly one of New England's most beautiful towns.

Williamstown, Massachusetts is a wonderful fall travel destination.
Arriving at downtown Williamstown.

Field Park in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
Field Park in Williamstown.

Cooperstown, best known as the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, is so much more than that one attraction. The quaint turn-of-the-century village, stunning 10-mile Otsego Lake, incredibly scenic surrounding Otsego County countryside with gentle rolling hills, and a surprising number of quality family-friendly attractions make this small town my personal favorite destination in the northeast. Main Street features a wonderful variety of locally-owned baseball-theme shops, art galleries and boutiques, gift stores, restaurants and cafes, and the retro, fabulous Cooperstown General Store. The people are incredibly friendly and kind, the walks down Main Street and the tree-lined side streets are memorable, and the overall feeling so much more authentic than any other popular vacation town I know.

Main Street in Cooperstown NY during the fall.
Downtown Cooperstown.

The Williamstown area has several attractions -- heavily focused on the arts -- to complement the fall foliage experience. Here are five "must-sees"....

Williams College Museum of Art
Williams College Museum of Art. Photo credit: Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism
1. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute A most unusual, wonderful, world-class public art museum, The Clark also offers research and academic programs, including a major art history library. The Museum is considered a "leading international center for research and discussion on the nature of art and art history." The Clark is located at 22 South St. in Williamstown.

2. Williams College Museum of Art  is regarded as one of the best college museums in the northeast as they feature extensive, innovative exhibitions, programs, publications and projects. The Williams College Museum of Art is located at 15 Lawrence Hall Dr. #2, Williamstown.

3. Images Cinema, a non-profit community movie theater that first opened over 100 years ago, offers a tremendous variety of independent, foreign and classic films. It is one of the last remaining single-screen, independent theaters still in operation! Images Cinema is located at 50 Spring St. in Williamstown.

4. Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is located in a converted factory building just down the road (or maybe up the road, given the elevations) from Williamstown in North Adams, and is of the largest centers for contemporary visual art and performing arts in the United States. MASS MoCa is located at 1040 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams.

5. The Appalachian Trail skirts the town twice, and the highest point in town is at 3,320 feet
above sea level, just 0.2 mile west of the summit of Mount Greylock. Minutes east on Route 2 will bring you to the famous or infamous Hairpin Turn, depending on how you look at it. Whatever the case, the Hairpin Turn in a must see during the peak foliage season. I took this photo around Columbus Day Weekend...

Hairpinf Turn in the Berkshiresof Western Massachusetts during the foliage season.
Hairpin Turn, not too far from Williamstown.

Where to eat in Williamstown
The Log at Williams College features a nice, rustic timber interior and offers lunch and dinner including snacks and small plates, soups, a salad bar, pizza, burgers, sandwiches and craft beers on tap. The Log is located at 8 Spring St. in Williamstown.

Where to stay in Williamstown
The Williams Inn Located on the Williams College campus,The Williams Inn offers 116  guest rooms, four event spaces, on-site dining options and numerous amenities, including complimentary WiFi, an indoor pool, hot tub and sauna.
Orchards Hotel Surrounded by the Berkshire Mountains, the Orchards Hotel offers a four-star restaurant, an outdoor pool and spacious guest rooms with free Wi-Fi.
1896 House Country Motel This long-time lodging destination is just outside Williamstown center and offers three buildings of lodging and seven guest room types and rates, from "posh and elegant to practical and affordable."
Check all listed Williamstown hotels for availability

I'll leave you with a few more scenes from Williamstown before going back to Cooperstown.  Gorgeous!

Church in Williamstown, Massachusetts
Church in Williamstown.

A walk through Williamstown, Massachusetts, in the fall.
Heading toward the downtown district in Williamstown.

Sidewalk in Williamstown, Massachusetts
Nice sidewalk in Williamstown!

In the Cooperstown area, I highly recommend visiting during the fall...

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York
Baseball Hall of Fame on Main St. in Cooperstown.
1. The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, one of the great treasures in our country, resides proudly on Main St. in a stately large, brick building with a new, inviting outside entrance. The Hall of Fame's mission is to "relive the history of the National Pastime, through artifacts from historic records, to the plaques of the game's greatest players in the Hall of Fame Gallery," according to its literature. Once inside, that mission comes to life whether it be the incredible New York Yankees displays, an Abbott and Costello "Who's on First," movie clip, a wonderful baseball card display, or, of course, the memorable and historical Hall of Fame where one can read plaques all day on all the great players inducted into this illustrious museum.The Hall of Fame and Museum has a wonderful library and an appealing park area, perfect for a short stroll or yet another perspective on Otsego Lake. The Hall of Fame and Museum is a must-see for the baseball fan or anyone with an interest in history. It is, simply, one of life's great travel attraction and cultural joys. The Hall of Fame is located at 25 Main St., Cooperstown.

2. The Farmers' Museum and Fenimore Art Museum The Farmer's Museum portrays rural life in early times. An herbal pharmacy, blacksmithing, weaving, printing, stickball games, music, farming, -- with many different animals -- and more make for a lively afternoon. The Farmers' Museum also features the Empire State Carousel. The best carousel we've ever been on, this is the merriest of merry-go-rounds lovingly crafted from a 1947 vintage carousel mechanism. Master carver Gerry Holzman, of Islip, N.Y., and more than 1,000 volunteers across the state spent over two decades creating this joyful masterpiece. The result: endless joy for children and adults alike who marvel at the 25 riding animals native to New York State, 23 carved portrait panels of famous New Yorkers, eight carved folklore panels depicting the regions of New York and "The Mighty & Magnificent Military Band" Organ.  Virtually across the street is the Fenimore House Museum, "home to one of the country's premier folk art collections, and now the American Indian Wing with a dazzling collection and galleries "'any museum in the world would envy.'" (The New York Times).  The Farmer's Museum and Fenimore Art Museum are located on State Hwy 80 Lake Road, Cooperstown NY.

3. Fly Creek Cider Mill The Cider Mill is a turn-of-the-century water-powered mill with delicious apple cider, great box lunches (including wonderful pulled pork and pot roast sandwiches, chili, ice cream, tons of baked goods and homemade pies), a picnic area, extensive two-story gift shop, and Fly Creek where kids can feed the ducks. The Fly Creek Cider Mill is rural American business at its best -- a viable, well-run operation where all employees work hard to ensure customers have fun and come away with good products. You simply can't get better cider anywhere else. The fall brings about pumpkins, apples and beautiful autumn decorations. The Fly Creek Cider Mill is located at 288 Goose Street, Fly Creek.

Fly Creek Cider Mill in Fly Creek NY during the fall season.
Fly Creek Cider Mill in Fly Creek.

Snack bar, dining area at the Fly Creek Cider Mill in Fly Creek NY, next to Cooperstown.
Fly Creek Cider Mill snack area.

4. Brewery Ommegang features tours, tastings of its Belgian-style beers and some great food at its cafe -- all within an idyllic, bucolic setting. Many well known singers and bands play here, too! Brewery Ommegang is located at 656 County Highway 33 in Cooperstown.

5. The Tepee Located in neighboring Cherry Valley, NY, The Tepee is a beloved American roadside landmark featuring a 50-ft. tall metal cone and housing a gift shop with Native American souvenirs. Across the street are amazing panoramic views of the Mohawk Valley with the Adirondack Mountains in the distance. Pete's Chow Wagon complements the experience with chili,  hots, dogs, hamburgers and more healthy choices like veggie wraps.  The chili is about the best I've ever tasted -- ordered to the desired amount of spiciness (they had us sign a disclaimer before trying the hottest level!). The Tepee is located at 7632 US Highway 20 in Cherry Valley.

6. Otsego Lake One of the best ways to access Otsego Lake is taking a two minute walk down Lower Pioneer St. from Main St. This beautiful lake meets with the Susquehanna River a block over from Lower Pioneer St. off Lake St., and meanders 500-plus miles to Havre de Grace, Md.! At Otsego Lake, there's nothing better than sitting on a bench, relaxing and enjoying one of the most scenic locations on Upstate New York...

Fall foliage at Lakefront Park, Otsego Lake in Cooperstown NY.
A peak at Lakefront Park in Cooperstown.

Where to eat in the Cooperstown area
The Doubleday Cafe is pure Cooperstown, an extremely pleasant, popular one-room cavernous bar and restaurant attracting tourists and locals. The Doubleday has a knack of going beyond good "grub" and venturing into some sophisticated and ultimately well done lunch and dinners. It is a great restaurant for a burger, but it's even better for a marinated vegetable dish or seafood special of the day. A popcorn machine, four televisions, a charming brick wall and high ceilings, and always good service add up to the ultimate "townie" restaurant to dine. The Doubleday Cafe is located at 93 Main Street, Cooperstown.

Doubleday Cafe, Cooperstown NY
Doubleday Cafe in Cooperstown.

The tiny Cooperstown Diner is better than some restaurants that think they're really good. One taste of the chicken and biscuits dinner special makes one realize that home style cooking can still be done effectively when eating out. Hearty breakfasts, substantial lunches and a few dinner selections (the pot roast is very good) make the Cooperstown Diner a terrific, family-oriented restaurant. Service is always friendly, courteous, quick and informal. A classic diner experience for breakfast, lunch or dinner, not to be missed! The Cooperstown Diner is located at 136 1/2 Main Street, Cooperstown.

Cooperstown Diner, Cooperstown NY
Cooperstown Diner in Cooperstown.

Brooks BBQ in Oneonta Famous for some of the best barbecue chicken, pork spareribs, beef, pork and steaks this side of the Mason-Dixon line, Brooks isn't one of those "Johnny-Come-Lately," trendy barbecue joints that serves watery rotisserie meats. With the largest indoor charcoal barbecue pit (38 feet in length) in the East, Brooks Bar-B-Que certainly isn't for the macrobiotic, vegetarian crowd as this 300-capacity family-oriented restaurant serves high-quality, hearty portions that never disappoint for lunch or dinner. The great food, low prices, efficient service and cleanliness make Brooks a must-visit dining spot when visiting Cooperstown, even if it is a half-hour away. Brooks BBQ is located at 5560 State Highway 7, Oneonta.

Where to stay in Cooperstown
Bayside Inn and Marina Located on Otsego Lake, the rooms and cottages are very nice -- many with great lake views. Manager Jennifer Moore runs this inn beautifully, and we have enjoyed each stay here immensely. The inn has a small beach, kayaks, picnic grove, a game room and workout area.
Lake 'N Pines Motel Also located on Otsego Lake, the Lane 'N Pines is scenically situated between tall pine trees and the lake. They also have an indoor pool!
Lake Front Hotel Ideal waterfront downtown location at Lakefront Park and just a few minute's walk to Main St. and The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Check all listed Cooperstown hotels for availability

I hope you get to visit both of these amazing small towns during the foliage season. If so, please write me to share your experiences there!

Route 11 in Cooperstown BY
County Route 11 in Cooperstown.

Field Park memorial site in Williamstown, Massachusetts
Field Park, Williamstown

Otsego Lake, Cooperstown NY in the fall.
Otsego Lake, Cooperstown

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