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Family guide to the Adirondacks

The Adirondacks offer New York family vacations with something for everyone

Lake GeorgeThere’s no other place in the world like the Adirondacks. Named a Top 10 best US vacation destination in 2017 by Lonely Planet, it’s a six-million acre wonderland of tall pines, pristine lakes and 46 High Peaks in Adirondack Park. With activities ranging from Lake George steamboat cruises to fast-track Olympic bobsled runs at Whiteface Lake Placid, there are countless outdoor activities for kids! Create happy memories via tranquil canoe rides, intergenerational craft workshops and evenings around the campfire at family resorts, from lakeside retreats to historic Great Camps.

Adirondacks natural wonders

Ausable Chasm Falls_Ausable Chasm - Photo by Adirondack Coast Visitors BureauLooking for a thrilling adventure? Take a scenic hike, raft or tube tour through the two-mile-long Ausable Chasm, one of America’s oldest natural attractions. In summer, family floats on the river weave through breathtaking waterfalls and towering rock walls. The Adventure Trail (age 8 and up) includes cliff walks and other daring elements like cable bridges across the roaring river, so there's plenty of outdoor activities for kids. Thirty-minute winter walks and snowshoe adventures feature spectacular views of frozen waterfalls and unique rock formations. The on-site campground has cabins and activities like swimming, gemstone mining and biking on miles of trails, making it a special place for Adirondack camping.

High Falls GorgeSturdy bridges, walkways and groomed trails provide safe access for all ages to spectacular views and Instagram ops at High Falls Gorge. Amid this 22-acre nature park, just a mile from Whiteface Lake Placid, you can follow glass-floor walkways over splendid waterfalls, deep pools and ancient gorges carved by the Ausable River. Open year-round, the gorge offers fun in every season: spring wildflower walks, panning for gemstones in summer, fall foliage trips and winter snowshoeing amid dazzling ice flows—followed by songs and s’mores around a crackling campfire. 

Choose from a full schedule of themed rides on the vintage Adirondack Scenic Railroad. Summer trips departing from Thendara, near Old Forge, feature nature excursions, a clown train and the Loomis Gang Train Robbery run. Kids come in costume for pumpkin train visits to Wally’s pumpkin patch in October. The Hiking Whiteface Mountain - Stag Brook Falls TrailSanta Train’s magical holiday journey visits Santa and Mrs. Claus, making it one of our favorite things to do in New York with kids. Round trips take about 90 minutes.

There's a trove of things to do in Lake Placid, from skiing down Whiteface Mountain to riding the eight-passenger Cloudsplitter Gondola. Travel from the main base lodge to the top of Little Whiteface for awesome views of the High Peaks, Lake Champlain and the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex. Take a family photo and have lunch at the picnic area and observation deck at the summit.

Adirondacks family fun

Along with boating and swimming in the Queen of American Lakes, families love the friendly walkable village of Lake George, dotted with restaurants, gift and ice-cream shops, mini-golf and fun arcades. Hour-long cruises on the Minne-Ha-Ha, one of the last steam-paddle wheelers in America, are an ideal add-on to your list of family-friendly things to do in Lake George. Kids are thrilled by the ship’s calliope concerts and fireworks cruises. With kiddy rides, a petting Six Flags Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Waterparkzoo and a fairy tale trail, nearby Magic Forest suits kids from toddlers to age 7. 

Just outside Lake George village, The Great Escape & Splashwater Kingdom thrills with more than 125 rides for all ages, summer through October. Places to stay include Six Flags Great Escape Lodge, a cozy Adirondack lodge with a huge indoor waterpark open year-round. Tubby Tubes in Lake Luzerne offers fast and splashy summer tubing on water-misted lanes and lazy-river rides on the Upper Hudson River. In winter, seven snow tubing lanes, from straight and fast to curvy and twisty, offers even more year-round fun things to do in Lake George. 

Water Safari Overview Photo Courtesy of Enchanted Forest Water SafariEvery day is Christmas at Santa’s Workshop in North Pole, NY. Nestled on Whiteface Mountain, the theme-park is full of jolly holiday fun year-round, from Christmas in July events to merry winter weekends with Santa. Step through the gates into a storybook village with cheery elves, live reindeer, a carousel and thousands of twinkling lights.

Photo ops start with legendary Paul Bunyan’s statue at Enchanted Forest Water Safari in Old Forge, rated a top American waterpark by TripAdvisor. More than 50 rides and attractions include 32 heated water-rides, a storybook village, barnyard petting zoo, Wild West city and family circus show. There’s something to delight all ages, from toddlers through grandparents. 

An all-season pavilion houses the hand-carved Adirondack Carousel, decked with 18 local woodland animals, paintings of regional landscapes, and a wheelchair-accessible chariot (replica Chris-Craft boat). This unique carousel twirls next to the Adirondack Scenic Railroad’s Union Depot in the village of Saranac Lake.

Adirondacks educational experiencesWild Center - Photo Courtesy of the Wild Center

Get an eagle’s-eye view of Adirondack Park in Tupper Lake with a walk along The Wild Center's treetop trail. A suspension bridge leads you above the trees to a giant spider web, a life-size eagle’s nest, and a four-story twig tree house full of animal tales. Watch local wildlife like otters, porcupines and woodpeckers. Plan to spend a full day amid 81 acres of indoor and outdoor activities, from exploring the museum with hands-on everything, to naturalist-led animal encounters, to guided canoe and stand-up paddleboard trips.

Lake George -ADK experienceTap your toes to fiddle music, create regional crafts and learn about lumberjacks, stagecoaches and steamboats at the Adirondack Experience on Blue Mountain Lake. One of many things to do in New York with kids that offers hands-on learning, the Adirondack Museum is home to cool additions to 121 acres of indoor and outdoor exhibits. From a hermit’s cabin to a posh private railroad car, galleries offer hands-on experiences of Adirondack heritage. Kids can break up a virtual log jam, set a mine with “dynamite,” learn Mohawk words and explore a one-room schoolhouse. Feed the fish in Minnow Pond, take a nature hike and join the fun on scavenger hunts. Open daily, May through October.  

Dark skies, high elevation and dedicated astronomers create the perfect setting for star gazing at Tupper Lake’s Adirondack Public Observatory, a state-of-the-art facility adjacent to Little Wolf Beach & Campground. A hidden gem spanning the eastern shoreline of Little Wolf Pond, sandy Little Wolf Beach is one of the region’s largest beaches and a perfect spot for Adirondack camping. Located near Tupper Fort TiconderogaLake, it has a sweet playground, a toddler swimming dock, and for big kids: a large floating dock with a rope swing and trampoline.

Plan to stay at least one full day at Fort Ticonderoga, a 2,000-acre adventure on Lake Champlain. Step into history at battle reenactments, musket and cannon demonstrations and engaging family programs with costumed guides and soldiers. Outdoor activities for kids include corn mazes, canoeing and tours aboard the Carillon. With so many programs and so much to see and do, you might want to spend several days. 

Adirondack French Indian War reenactment at Fort Ticonderoga

Adirondack special events

From hot air balloon shows to food and wine festivals, you'll find seasonal events all over the Adirondacks.

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Olympic Jumping Complex - Ski Jumps

Adirondack history

Explore the storied past of the Adirondack Mountains where you'll discover the history of Underground Railroad, Olympic Games, 46 High Peaks and much more.

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