Adirondacks, New York Family Vacation Guide - Family Traveller (USA)

Why Go

New York’s Adirondack Region is home to a six-million-acre state park, the largest protected natural area in the lower 48 states. You could fit Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, and Grand Canyon National Parks combined all within the boundaries of Adirondack Park. There are plenty of attractions and activities including 2,000 miles of hiking trails, 46 Adirondack high peaks (over 4,000 feet), and 3,000 lakes and ponds.

 

A magnificent view of Lower Ausable Lake from the Indian Head Lookout in the high peaks region of the Adirondack Mountains of New York.

Where to Go

Adirondack Park is a patchwork of public and private land with 103 towns and villages scattered amongst the wilderness, major towns include Lake Placid, Lake George, and Plattsburgh, NY.  The Adirondacks lie four hours north of New York City and stretch all the way to the Canadian border.  From the north, Montreal is a one-hour drive south to the Adirondacks.

Adirondack Chairs on the Heart Lake dock on a misty morning in the High Peaks region of the Adirondack Mountains near Lake Placid, N.Y.

What to Do

Outdoor adventures are key to enjoying the Adirondacks, and there are ample opportunities for hiking, climbing, boating, fishing, skiing, and more.  Below are highlights of some of the attractions of the Adirondack Region.

  • Lake Placid – famous as the host site for two Olympic Winter Games (1932 & 1980), it’s easy to catch Olympic fever touring the venues of Lake Placid.  From the top of the 90- and 120-meter ski jump towers you get incredible views of the Adirondack High Peaks.  Head to Mt. Van Hoevenberg for a high-speed bobsled run year-round at the Lake Placid Bobsled Experience.  Whisk to the top of Whiteface Mountain, site of the cross country ski events during the 1932 Olympics and the downhill and slalom events for the 1980 Winter Games, in a high-speed gondola ride.  And cap your day off with a scenic 8-mile drive up Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway to the summit of the fifth highest mountain in the Adirondacks.
  • Ausable Chasm – a two-mile long gorge carved into the sandstone by the Ausable River on its way to Lake Champlain.  A natural wonder since the Ice Age, Ausable Chasm has “officially” welcomed guests as a tourist attraction since 1870.  This Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks includes an adventure trail with cable bridges and ropes course, hiking trails, walking tours, horseback riding, rock climbing, rappelling, and rafting opportunities.
  • Lake George – one of the quintessential Adirondack vacation lands, Lake George has invited families for generations to relax in the namesake chair by the water.  The setting for James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans, Lake George is filled with history and not far from Fort Ticonderoga (on Lake Champlain) important in both the French and Indian War and American Revolution.  In addition to lake fun, this area is also home to a major amusement park – Great Escape and Splashwater Kingdom.
  • Museums – there are a number of museums in the Adirondacks highlighting art, culture, and the natural history of the region.  One of the best is The Wild Center near Tupper Lake.  For those new to the Adirondacks, this family friendly museum gives an overview of what you can expect to find in the area including animals and ecosystems.  The Wild Center recently added Wild Walk, an elevated trail through the Adirondack canopy.  Other museums include The Adirondack Experience (formerly Adirondack Museum), Hyde Collection Art Museum, Frederic Remington Art Museum, 1932 & 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame, and American Maple Museum
  • Outdoors – the #1 attraction of the Adirondacks is, the outdoors.  There are numerous hiking trails from scaling the 46 Adirondack High Peaks (near or over 4,000 ft) to a leisurely walk around a lake or pond.  The Adirondacks has thousands of waterways perfect for kayaking, canoeing, and paddling or to enjoy motorboats and scenic cruises on the lakes.  There are plenty of family-friendly places to camp including your own private island on Saranac Lake.

Getting Around

A car is definitely required to get around the vast (and relatively remote) Adirondacks region.  There are some small, regional airports in the area, but, even if you fly to the Adirondacks, you will definitely want a car to check out the many scenic byways.  There is also train service via Amtrack’s Adirondack, voted one of the Top 10 scenic train rides in the world.