The Adirondacks of New York have been a refuge from the hassle of everyday life since early 20th century... and in many of the tiny resort towns (or as they call them in this neck of the woods, hamlets), time has seemed to stand still since then. Old-school lodges, small-town diners, classic roadside attractions, dense forests, towering mountains and peaceful lakes mark the six-million-acre Adirondack Park. So as you wind your way through all there is to see and do here, take your time and enjoy the fresh mountain air. You'll leave refreshed, rejuvenated, and feeling one with nature.
Just outside Adirondack Park is a fascinating state park that is worth exploring: Saratoga Spa State Park, located in the city of Saratoga Springs. The mineral springs here have been used for their medicinal properties since the Native Americans lived in the area, and were preserved in 1909 to keep the water from being depleted. In addition to the only spouting geysers east of the Mississippi, the park features swimming pools, a golf course, old bathhouses, walking trails, a performing arts center, museums, and spas. Cruise the Avenue of the Pines, then check out the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame, and/or the Saratoga Automobile Museum, or take in the mineral water benefits at the Lincoln Mineral Baths and Spa.
Then, head into the mountains. Adirondack Park has six million acres to explore, so there's a lot to see. Lakes like Lake George or Lake Champlain are great for swimming and boating, and hamlets like Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Plattsburgh, and Old Forge are loaded with culture. From old hospitals to the former farmstead of notorious abolitionist John Brown, a lot of history can be discovered as well. Hiking trails, mountains, caves, winter sports, water sports, waterfalls, scenic backroads, and more can be found here.
Lake George is one of the many lakes that offers swimming in the Adirondacks. If you're looking to take a dip, check out Million Dollar Beach. It has sand and a little visitor center with changing rooms and a snack bar. The water is cool and shallow, which makes it perfect for kids, and there's also a boat launch if you happen to have your boat along. Park here for the day and explore the rest of what the town has to offer as well.
Camping is always a good idea in the Adirondacks, especially if you're staying in a top-of-the-line RV or camper. Lake George is home to Hearthstone Point Campground, right on the shores of the lake. There are plenty of sites, and nice amenities like hot showers and a sand beach for swimming. You can also hike to the top of Prospect Mountain from here, and take in 100-mile views into five states once you reach the top! Or, fish for salmon, trout, pike, and bass in the lake, and spend the evening around a campfire.
Immerse yourself in the beauty of this part of the country at Natural Stone Bridge and Caves Park. There are a few different ways to experience the cave and natural bridge: Explore on your own, taking in the lakes and waterfalls in the cave at your own pace; go on a guided adventure tour that gets you access to more parts of the massive marble cave; or take a "cave float.” Mine for gemstones, dig for dinosaur bones, and treat yourself to soft serve ice cream afterwards. There are always activities going on at the park, so check the schedule ahead of time!
Nothing pairs better with summer in the Adirondacks than an ice cream cone... except maybe a banana split. You can find both at Scoops Great Ice Cream and More, along with shakes, snacks, and other goodies. It offers both soft serve and scooped ice cream, all of the classic toppings (from organic granola to gummi worms), sundaes, and floats. It's the perfect way to cool off and stretch your legs.
The Wild Center is a place unlike any other. The Center is dedicated to sharing the story and natural beauty of the Adirondacks with its visitors. There's a massive museum with loads of interactive exhibits and live animals; the Wild Walk, an outdoor treetop trail that teaches you about the forest while offering stunning views; the iForest, a sound and art installation that projects a beautiful vocal performance along a woodland trail via hidden speakers; and events like guided hikes and stand-up paddleboard excursions. The entire campus is 81 acres and has trails, playgrounds, and tons more. The whole experience is a fitting tribute to the Adirondacks, and you'll leave with a new appreciation for the park.
Feel like a kid again with a visit to the Adirondack Carousel. The antique-style merry-go-round features adorable animals that live in the Adirondacks, including a moose, a skunk, a salamander, a deer, an otter, a bobcat, a black bear, even a fly! Despite opening in 2012, the plan to pay tribute to the Adirondacks with a woodland-themed carousel has been in the works since 2006. And it's only through the hard work and dedicated of the people of Saranac Lake that it finally became a reality. Take a spin on the ride, and then explore the rest of the cozy village.
As you explore Adirondack Park, you should make a point to stop in Lake Placid—most famous for hosting the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics (Remember the Miracle on Ice? That happened in Lake Placid!). It's also a hamlet that serves up some seriously vintage winter resort town vibes. Enjoy a nice dinner at Great Adirondack Brewing Company (formerly called Great Adirondack Steak and Seafood). Whether you're here for lunch, dinner, or just a pint, you'll leave stuffed full of deliciousness. While the menu leans classic steakhouse, they offer lots of appetizers and salads, so there should be something for everyone on the menu. From sessions to saisons to stouts, the brewery makes a good variety, and all named after places in the Adirondacks.
High Falls Gorge is a 22-acre privately owned park, the highlights of which are the four spectacular waterfalls that you can view along the trail. Suspended walkways, bridges, and pristine trails make wandering around the grounds a pleasant experience. You can choose to take a route that's either a quarter-mile, half-mile, or mile long, depending on how much time and energy you have. Afterwards, grab a seat by the fire in the picnic area, get a bite to eat in the cafe, or just plop down in an Adirondack chair by the river, and take in the views.
Whether you're climbing mountains and boating across lakes, getting to know each hamlet and village, or just enjoying camping out in the fresh mountain air, the Adirondacks are perfect for a vacation. Natural beauty, charming towns, and activities for everyone will have you daydreaming about another adventure here for years to come.