Kids get back to nature in a big way at the Adirondack Park. With over six million acres, Upstate New York’s forest preserve is larger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Parks combined.
Birch and spruce covered Adirondack Mountains, over 10,000 lakes, and more than 30,000 miles of rivers and streams provide lots of opportunities for exciting outdoor adventures. But because the Adirondacks surround and include vibrant towns and communities, the region also hosts gracious resorts, world-class museums, and even an Olympic Village.
So where to start? Check out these four family-friendly activities, plus one great place to eat and one great place to stay while visiting Adirondack Park with kids.
Activity 1: Visit the Wild Center
Learn about the Adirondack environments at The Wild Center. Designed by the same folks behind the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., this cutting edge museum excels at connecting people and nature. Families will love the focus on discovery through play, whether it’s on a “Wild Walk” along treetops, child-friendly nature trails, or a play area fueled by dirt, sticks, and a healthy dose of imagination. Junior Naturalists earn their badge at exhibits that encourage exploration of wetland habitats, bog ecosystems, and shifting weather. Do be sure to check the schedule for wild animal encounters—daily otter feedings are hilarious.
Activity 2: Float Down Ausable Chasm
Dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Ausable Chasm is breathtaking, especially when seen from an inflatable raft along a scenic float tour. There’s just enough white water for thrills, but the scenic ride is gentle enough that children (30 lbs and up) are welcome aboard. More extreme options for older kids include tubing, rappelling, rock climbing, and the Family Adventure Trail.
Activity 3: Bag a High Peak
Start ‘em young on the quest to become a “Forty-Sixer,” the name earned by hikers who have climbed all 46 Adirondack high peaks. Begin with an introductory hike like the Sleeping Beauty Mountain trail. Follow a gradual 1.8 miles ascent to the summit, past gentle streams and gnarly giant trees that look like they were transplanted from a fairy tale. The reward is a spectacular view of Lake George and the southern Adirondack peaks.
Once they’re hooked on peak bagging, tackle the easiest of the Adirondack high peaks—Cascade Mountain.
Activity 4: Tour an Olympic Village
Take the guided walking tour of the Olympic facilities in Lake Placid, home of the 1980 Winter Games. At the Olympic Center, see the site of the “Miracle on Ice” hockey game and check out the virtual bobsled and ski jumps on the Sports Simulator. Ride an elevator to the top of the Olympic Ski Jump—only 26 stories high!—for a gut-wrenching view of what championship skiers face. And if that’s not enough of an adrenalin rush, go for the gold on a bobsled ride where the bobsled teams train. When the mercury drops, join family and friends at the oval outdoor skating rink (rental skates available.) Tip– Pick up an Olympic Passport at the ORDA store and ticket offices for discounted admission to all sites.
1 Great Place to Stay: Mirror Lake Inn
The elegantly romantic Mirror Lake Inn is also one of the best hotels for family vacations in the Adirondacks. Centrally located on the edge of the main strip in Lake Placid, it’s within walking distance from a bunch of great restaurants, interesting shops, and the photogenic Mirror Lake. The resort itself boasts indoor and outdoor pools, boathouse and beach, a luxury spa, as well as organized activities and seasonal sports. But it’s the details that make the Mirror Lake Inn special: welcoming cookies, afternoon tea service, and complimentary dinner for children accompanied by an adult at Early Family Dinner. Read more about Mirror Lake Inn in this review.
1 Great Place to Eat: Lake Placid Pub & Brewery
You could rationalize family dinner at Lake Placid Pub & Brewery because of its fun game-stocked kids room. But it’s the comfort food—Pizza, Burgers, and Shepherd’s Pie—that brings you back. That, and the Ubu Ale.
Thanks so much to Sandra Foyt for contributing this great 411 post! For more help planning your trip to Adirondack Park with kids, be sure to see her Adirondacks Guide on the “Albany Kid” website, and follow her through the links in her profile below. You can also take advantage of the free resources and special offers on the official Lake Placid/Adirondacks visitors website.