We’re always on the lookout for a good off-the-beaten-path area to explore and New York’s Adirondacks has quite a few options for anyone looking for active boomer adventures. Thankfully, guest writer, Brette Sember, is well-versed in the ways of upper state New York and is here to show us all the best way to take an active getaway to the Adirondacks.
New York’s Adirondacks is the perfect place for an active boomer weekend getaway, but because it’s such a huge area (the state park alone takes up one-third of the entire state of New York), don’t expect to see it all.
Lake George as a Base
Lake George is a great place to base your operations. In the summer, Lake George is a crazy family-oriented tourist town but in the fall and spring it is quiet and beautiful. If you love swimming, sand, taffy, ice cream, and t-shirts, go in the summer. If not, choose a shoulder season.
It’s close enough to civilization that you can easily dine well in Saratoga Springs but you can get to the park to hike or canoe quickly. The lake also boasts Fort William Henry, Revolutionary War site and star of Last of the Mohicans if you want to explore and learn. Stay at a chain like the Hampton or splurge on The Sagamore, a 100-year-old grand dame resort situated on a tiny island just off the shore.
If you go in the fall, be aware that the next town to the north is Warrensburg which hosts the World’s Largest Garage Sale one weekend every October. This might be an attraction for you (miles and miles of wall to wall tables with trash and treasures for the picking) or an annoyance (hotels book early and traffic is crazy). If you bring a cooler, make a stop at Oscar’s Adirondack Smokehouse, a favorite of Rachel Ray, where you can stock up on amazing smoked bacon, ham, turkey, chicken, sausage, and cheeses.
Visit Lake Placid
Plan to drive up to Lake Placid (an hour and a half from the south end of Lake George). The drive itself is stunning and once you arrive you’ll be stunned by how small Mirror Lake really is.
The 1980 Olympics were held here and you’ll want to visit the Olympic Center where there is a museum to remind you of the past thrills of victory and agonies of defeat. Also here are skating rinks and the amazing Whiteface Mountain where all your winter dreams can come true (skiing, luge rides, snowshoeing and even a bobsled ride with a professional driver and brakeman making sure you don’t kill yourself).
In warmer seasons, hike or drive to the top for a magnificent view. Not on the mountain, but outside of town is the Olympic ski jump. If you want to feel your heart in your throat, just take the elevator to the top of this 120 kilometer tower for a beautiful view and a scary peek down the jump. Don’t miss the quaint village of Lake Placid itself with fun little shops and restaurants, perfect for a mid-day breather.
Enjoy the Adirondack State Park
Adirondack State Park is simply stunning during leaf-peeping season, but there is plenty to do here year round. Because the park is so big (6 million acres), it’s a good idea to narrow your focus to one or two areas and to do this, choose how you want to spend your time which will dictate where to go.
Activities include waterfall hikes, picking a peak for a big hike, whitewater rafting on the Hudson, or spending some time with a hook in the water waiting for the big one to bite at one of the many lakes spread throughout this region. The bottom line is it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you are outside.
My favorite area is Keene Valley, where you simply pull your car to the side of the road and follow a trail into the woods, around a lake, or up a hill. There is nature at its finest everywhere you turn here. This lovely valley is perfectly situated between the Lake Placid and Lake Champlain and is home to the High Peaks, among the most beautiful hills you’ll ever find. There’s a much photographed old barn on the side of the road (join the crowd to get your pics) and a handful of restaurants and shops if you need a meal, picnic supplies, or a little shopping to perk you up.
Dream of the Good Old Days at Great Camp Sagamore
You’ll fall in love with the Adirondacks simply by experiencing them, but you’ll dream of the way of life they embodied when you visit Great Camp Sagamore at Raquette Lake. Built by the Vanderbilts, this great camp is the perfect example of how the wealthy summered in the wilderness.
Gawk at the upper crust version of roughing it when you take a tour of the rustic mansion or stay for the night. The camp also features “Grands Camp” where grandparents and grandchildren stay and engage in outdoor activities together at this beautiful site.
Spend An Afternoon in Saratoga Springs
When your feet need a break from the hiking boots, drive down to Saratoga Springs (half an hour south of Lake George) for some dressier activities. If you’re so inclined, you’ll want to catch a race at the Saratoga Race Track where the ponies run July through September.
Broadway, the main strip in the center of town, offers plenty of places to shop if you win big at the track. There are upscale jewelry, antique, and clothing stores for high rollers.
Any visitor to Saratoga should experience the mineral springs that gives the town its name and made it an elegant destination in the early 1900s. There are eighteen different springs throughout the town, all of which are naturally carbonated, drinkable, and are said to have health benefits due to their mineral content. They each have a slightly different taste, so bring a water bottle or a cup so you can sample and compare. You can even fill a bottle or two to take home if you want.
Plan to drive or walk through Saratoga Springs Spa Park and Congress Park where you’ll find most of the springs as well as historic buildings, structures, and gardens. They are perfect for picnicking and you don’t need to pack any water!
Saratoga Springs has many upscale restaurants where you can relax and eat well (try the Mouzon House and don’t skip the crawfish beignets), but make sure you stop at Hattie’s Chicken Shack for some of the best fried chicken north of the Mason-Dixon line.
The Adirondacks offers a well-rounded vacation no matter the season or your activity level. A weekend spent here will offer more options than you have time for and may likely convince you to come back for a week.