A COVID Careful Trip to Saratoga Springs and Cooperstown, NY
By Tab Hauser
Travelers today must use care and planning if they want to escape from their house or home office.
With people fearful of flying or simply not able to because of shutdowns around the world, a road trip is a viable alternative if done correctly.
Our Cooperstown, NY road trip with an overnight spa break in Saratoga Springs, NY was easy, fun, and just what we needed.
Following the below precautions is a small inconvenience if you want to travel during pandemic times. Starting with a hotel or inn, make sure the staff is masked properly and shows concern to keep themselves and their guests safe. This includes seeing signs requiring masks and sanitizing stations around.
After entering your room I recommend opening the door and windows to allow fresh air to flow. To help with air circulation we bring a 12-inch fan and place it reversed by a window.
The next step should be to sanitize all the room’s touchpoints. Also, if staying just a few nights, we pass on maid service.
For dinner, if outdoor dining was not possible, we had a checklist a place had to meet before sitting down. The list included hearing the mask rules by a host and seeing the staff were wearing them.
We would then look to see if the restaurant had tall ceilings or good circulating air and spaced out tables. We never entered any place crowded or closed in.
Saratoga Springs: Spas, Cars, and Springs in a Park
Saratoga Springs, NY is an affluent town a three-hour drive from New York City and an hour west of Vermont.
Having a tense week we booked the spa retreat package for a night at the old world Gideon Putnam Hotel (www.gideonputnam.com) located within the 2500 acre Saratoga Spa State Park.
This allowed us to walk to our spa date, the automobile museum, and the springs. (Hotel tip: upgrade to the screened-in porch suite overlooking the trees and don’t miss their historical room)
With Gideon Putnam’s spa reservation confirmed, we strolled over to the landmarked Roosevelt Baths and Spa building.
Here there are 42 private treatment rooms. Before the massage, a large bathtub was filled with a mix of hot water and cool naturally bubbled therapeutic waters to soak in. With the lights dimmed, it was very soothing.
Feeling quite relaxed we walked over to the Saratoga Automobile Museum (www.saratogaautomuseum.org). This small museum is located in an old water bottling plant from 1935.
Exhibits here include art, racing, old NY State produced cars, and the current feature on “Wheels: Independence and Woman from 1900 to 1920.
Hike the Trails
While here enjoy the pretty trails in the park. Make your way to the only natural geyser east of the Mississippi that shoots up five to 15 feet!
Also, bring a bottle so you can sample water at the different spring outlets as they each taste differently.
The park also has a swimming pool, performing arts center, golf course, and the National Museum of Dance. Click www.discoversaratoga.org for information on the town.
Family Friendly Caves
Our road trip continued to Cooperstown with a stop at an old tourist attraction called Howe Caverns (www.howecaverns.com) This cave had their first tourists in 1843.
Howe’s most popular tour takes about 90 minutes and includes a short boat ride.
During the tour, a guide explained the cave and its different mineral formations. It should be noted that this attraction is not the best for social distancing.
Knowing this in advance we switched from homemade masks to N-95 respirators for better protection.
Cooperstown, NY is one of the prettiest, cleanest and best kept small towns one can visit. Its main draw is the Baseball Hall of Fame but there is enough here to keep you busy for a few days.
Staying in at an old historic inn is what you want to do when in Cooperstown. We chose the Landmark Inn (www.landmarkinncooperstown.com) built in 1856.
Owner Robin runs a charming and very COVID clean place to the point that our keys were dipped in sanitizer before handed to us! A nice and reassuring touch.
The inn has a comfortable living room decorated in baseball posters and books.
They serve a delicious hot breakfast and allow you to use the dining room for take out dinners with advance notice.
The Landmark Inn is within walking distance to the village. It would be hard to find a better place to feel more welcomed and pandemic safe.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (www.baseballhall.org) was established in 1939.
It is the keeper of all things baseball with a collection of over 40,000 items. You don’t have to be a jersey-wearing fan to appreciate some of the many exhibits here.
My wife liked the baseball art, uniforms, and videos of the greatest plays. I was impressed by the “ancient” baseball equipment, a Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron exhibit as well as seeing Yankee artifacts.
You can spend two hours to all day depending on your level of interest. Don’t miss their short film, “Generations of the Game”
American and Indian Art
The Fenimore Art Museum (www.fenimoreartmuseum.org) is located in a former neo-Georgian mansion.
It specializes in American Indian art, American fine and folk art, rare books, and 19th and 20th-century photography. The museum is laid out well and takes about 90 minutes to stroll through it.
When on the road exercise is important. With no access to a gym, we took to the woods.
Cooperstown has a few hikes that offer peace of mind while burning a few calories. The Clark Tower trail is an easy three-mile shaded walk to what looks like a castle tower.
Another trail to consider with lake views is the Natty Bumpo Cave Hike. You can Google either trail name for information.
For regional and contemporary art, stop at the Art Garage just the road from the Clark Trail parking.
An Old English Manor
Hyde Hall (www.hydehall.org) is a national historic landmarked mansion completed in 1834 located nine miles north of Cooperstown.
This stone Palladian-style structure has 50 rooms with 60% of its original furniture. It is said to be the largest home built in the United States between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Before leaving the park, take a walk across America’s oldest documented covered bridge.
If you enjoy small-batch spirits then take a tour and taste at Cooperstown Distillery (www.cooperstowndistillery.com).
Our favorites here included the smooth three years aged Select Straight Bourbon and their Lafite French Traders Gin aged in used bourbon barrels.
Their patented baseball bottle is the perfect drinking souvenir. If you can’t make it to the distillery, visit the Cooperstown Beverage Exchange on Main Street.
For evening entertainment consider the Cooperstown Candlelight Ghost Tour (www.facebook.com/GhostlyGallery). I found our guide’s stories entertaining and the town’s history interesting.
Outstanding Car Museum
If you are a fan of rare old cars, take a scenic one hour drive from Cooperstown to the Classic Car Museum (www.classiccarmuseum.org) in Norwich.
This incredible museum has 170 classic cars and 28 motorcycles dating from 1899 to the 1970s.
Rare vehicles include Duesenberg, Pierce-Arrow, Cord, Packard, Studebaker, Cadillac, Franklin, along with a dozen muscle cars. There is even a working electric car from 1914.
The Hawkeye Bar and Grill in the Otsego Hotel is an excellent gastropub. The food here was presented well, with good size portions. Get here early to enjoy the lake view and dine outdoors if the weather allows.
Toscana on Main Street reminded me of my favorite Long Island Italian restaurant. Their red sauce is slow-cooked and tasty. Everything we tried was delicious. They also pour a generous glass of wine.
For all things in the Cooperstown, region click www.thisiscooperstown.com