New York state’s celebrated park boasts hiking, biking and watersports opportunities for all ages, all abilities, and every season, as well as charming B&Bs to house the whole family.
Keene Valley & High Peaks
The High Peaks area of Adirondack Park most typifies the grand evergreens, plunging rock faces (ideal for rock and ice climbing) and roaring rivers that lured Theodore Roosevelt to the region.
With a few days for exploring, we suggest a visit to pretty Keene Valley, one of those hip mountain towns where young people baking organic treats, weaving contemporary knits and crafting New Age ceramics have settled, opened businesses, and thrive on the passing tourist trade.
In little Keene Valley, you’ll find delicious take-out hikers’ lunches, shops like The Birch ( 518/576-4561 ) filled with local artisan goods, stylish weekend clothing and birch furniture; The Mountaineer ( 518/576-2281 ) collection of various backpacker supplies and superb regional maps; and home-made ice cream at the local diner.
To prolong your stay in a quiet town which might be considered the antithesis of busy Lake Placid, check in at the off-road, small and friendly Trails End Inn ( 800/281-9860 ), a ca. 1902 Adirondack Camp property, or a pretty yellow 1910-era home, now the Keene Valley Lodge ( 518/576-2003 ) on the main street, both within a half-hour’s drive of Lake Placid. For information on the classic B&B’s in the surrounding countryside, call the Lake Placid & Essex County Visitors Bureau (800/44-PLACID) or visit www.lakeplacid.com.
Lake Champlain Region
From May to October, families may want to visit the small but interesting Adirondack History Center Museum( 518/873-6466 ) in Elizabethtown. We were drawn to their collection of Mountain Men and the local legends surrounding them and the hunting paraphernalia, but the miniature doll collection upstairs may be more palatable to kids.
The Adirondack Museum ( 518/352-7311 ), about an hour from either Lake Placid or Lake George in scenic Blue Mountain Lake, is a much larger collection of rustic furniture; local crafts such as mosaic twig work; displays about the history of children’s camps, logging camps and the like; inland watercraft; and hands-on activities such as rowing or climbing on a historic train. There’s also a one-room Reising Schoolhouse from 1907 that houses family activity center for games and crafts representing life in the early 1900s. This is our next stop, as we’ve been told by other families that it’s worth a drive north just to spend the day there.
In historic Westport, the upscale Inn on the Library Lawn ( 888/577-7748 or 518/962-8666 ) has 10 elegantly-furnished Victorian-era rooms overlooking the town square and Lake Champlain, the Adirondack Mountains and Vermont’s Green Mountains. Opposite the fairgrounds on the edge of town, is the family-run, ca. 1876 Westport Hotel ( 518/962-4501 ). With grandparents in tow, we enjoyed this friendly B&B, and the surprisingly gourmet fare prepared at lunch and dinner in their porch-shaded restaurant. Large family rooms with a double and bunk beds, sleeping four, go for $90/N. Inexpensive single rooms for your fussy teens are available, too.
Just behind the hotel is Westport’s own regional Depot Theatre ( 518/962-4449 , set in an old train station that rocks (when trains are not coming and going) with summer musical shows like “Kiss Me, Kate” and “Showboat.” Plan to spend a sunset at the fancy Le Bistro ( 518/96…) at the Westport Yacht Club, dining Ã la franÃ§aise in a lakefront marina, and visit the local Essex County Fair if you arrive in mid-August.
For a look at the primeval Adirondack Forest and the dramatic erosion caused by the powerful Ausable River, allow a half-day to tour Ausable Chasm ( 518/834-7454 ). You can stroll marked hiking trails, board a guided raft for a gentle float trip through the canyon or, even more fun, hire your own inner tube for a “self-guided” tour of the river and towering rock formations along it. There’s also a small campground at the site.
The Northern Part of Lake George
Fort Ticonderoga ( 518/585-2821 ), site of the first American victory of the American Revolution, is in the historic town of the same name, at the spot where Lake Champlain and Lake George nearly meet. You may tour the very scenic ramparts, visit the collection of armaments, and see the King’s Garden daily from June to mid-October; in July and August a Fife & Drum Corps performs and costumed re-enactors introduce the daily life of 18th century soldiers and citizens to visitors.
Farther south near Lake George, itself a very popular summer destination with dozens of old and new family hotels, is Gore Mountain ( 800/342-1234 , 518/251-2411 ). The popular ski area in North Creek offers mountain biking as well as whitewater rafting in summer.
Younger children especially will enjoy the Upper Hudson River Railroad ( 518/251-5334 ), a post-Civil-War-era branch of the former Delaware and Hudson Railroad. Contact them to inquire about the scheduled train trips called “Payroll Robberies;” reservations are recommended for this real crowd-pleaser.
In our travels we’ve barely left the North Woods region of the Adirondacks, but with so much to explore you can’t go wrong, winter or summer or any time of year.
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