Things to do in the Adirondacks: Experience The Magic of Upstate New York

The list of things to do in the Adirondacks of New York is astounding. From riding the rails in North Creek to the views of Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid, these are our top places to visit in the Adirondacks.


Visiting the Adirondacks region of New York State is a popular getaway for my family. Each year we make several road trips through the state down to visit family in New York City. Along the way, we’ve made it a habit to experience as many things as possible along the way. A lot of that time has been spent exploring all of the amazing things to do in the Adirondacks of New York State.

It seems that each year these trips become more epic as we dive deeper and deeper on a quest to discover the most scenic places in the Adirondacks. And while some of the Adirondack destinations have become popular for tourists and travelers, there are still some hidden gems left to be found for those who love to explore.

Whether you are on an Adirondacks family vacation or just looking for the best places to see in the Adirondacks yourself, strap on your adventure hat, and hang on for the ride because these Adirondack vacation ideas are going to be wild!

This article is all about our favorite things to do in the Adirondacks during the summer. If you are thinking about a winter trip, you may want to check out our Adirondacks in winter guide here.

Where Are The Adirondacks Of New York State?

Although we drive through Upstate New York regularly, the borders of the region have always baffled me. There are several mountain ranges in north-eastern North America including the Green Mountains and the Laurentians. So when I asked myself, “Where are the Adirondack Mountains?” I kept getting confused!

The Adirondacks NY is a range of 5-million-year-old mountains located just a few hours north of New York City in Upstate New York. The mountain range stretches west from the shores of Lake Champlain and Lake George to encompass the largest protected area in the lower 48 states.

The Adirondacks region is home to more than 2,000 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, over 3,000 bodies of water, and 1,200 miles of rivers. The Adirondack region stretches across to Syracuse and up to the Canadian border.

Things to do in Tupper Lake NY Canoe at the Wild Center
Paddling The Oxbow In Tupper Lake

The Best Places To Visit On An Adirondack Vacation

Exploring the Adirondack Mountains in New York makes for one of the most ideal summer vacations imaginable. But the region is huge. My list of the best things to do in the Adirondacks is based on many trips to the region spanning several years.

If you’re looking for the best Adirondacks vacation you’ll want to choose your places to visit carefully. Unless you’re planning an RV or Adirondack road trip, you’ll probably want to pick a few of these destinations and plan your trip around a few of the towns. Otherwise, you might spend as much time driving as you do to experience these amazing Adirondack activities.

Get Sporty In Lake Placid

Things to do in the Adirondacks - Lake Placid Olympic Center
Christina and the boys take in the views from the Olympic Ski Jump Tower in Lake Placid, New York

The town of Lake Placid, New York is the center for adventure activities in the Adirondacks of New York. This small mountain town was home to not just one, but TWO Olympic Games. The region is still a major training facility for US national teams. And for visitors with a love of sports, the Lake Placid Olympic Park is a great way to test out your athletics.

During summer in Lake Placid visit the Olympic Park and take a ride on the epic bobsled run. If you’re visiting Lake Placid in winter, you can also try your hand at ski-jumping. But if you’re exploring the Adirondacks in summer you can always just admire the views from the top of the Olympic ski jumping towers. Keep reading here, or you can find more things to do in Lake Placid here.

Where To Stay in Lake Placid

There are some great hotels and resorts in Lake Placid. One of the most popular is the Golden Arrow Resort on scenic Mirror Lake. It gets bonus points for being home to Generations. With one of the best views in the region, Generations is one of the most popular restaurants in Lake Placid. You can check out some more great places to stay in Lake Placid here.

Take In The Scenic Views From Whiteface Mountain

Things To Do in Upstate New York - Whiteface Mountain
Looking over East Lake and the Adirondack Mountains from Whiteface Mountain Summit

Just outside of Lake Placid is the towering peak of Whiteface Mountain. In the winter, this is one of the top ski resorts in the Adirondacks. But, during the summer in the Adirondacks, Whiteface Mountain makes one of the most inspiring things to do.

The drive up Whiteface Mountain involves a trip up the Veteran’s Highway along winding switchbacks that take you up thousands of feet to the base of a castle! Yes, a castle in Lake Placid!

When you reach the top, a narrow and steep hike takes you to one of the most scenic viewpoints in all of New York State. Here you can gaze out over East Lake while the rolling Adirondack Mountains gently kiss the overhead clouds.

We spent the better part of an afternoon lazing on the rocky peak and gazing down on Lake Placid from 4,449 ft (1,450 meters) above sea level.

Where To Stay Near Whiteface Mountain

Although it’s easy to combine Whiteface Mountain with Lake Placid. You can also treat yourself to the views and hospitality of the Whiteface Lodge. It’s as close as you can get to all the amazing hiking and biking trails at Whiteface Resort.

Stroll Through High Falls Gorge

Things To Do in the Adirondacks - High Falls Gorge
The High Falls Gorge walkway near Lake Placid, New York

High Falls Gorge is one of the most popular things to do in the Adirondacks of New York. This series of trails brings visitors on a gorgeous 30-minute walking experience where mind-blowing waterfalls and raw natural scenery surround them.

Even with the walkways and bridges, the views remain relatively unobstructed thanks to glass floors that could make even the bravest explorer’s heart skip a beat.

Get Back To Nature At The Wild Center

Things To Do in Upstate New York - Wild Walk at The Wild Center
Kevin and the boys taking in the views of the Wild Center Bird’s Nest

The Wild Center in Tupper Lake New York is an absolute must for those exploring the Adirondacks with kids. The Tupper Lake Wild Center is part museum and science center and part adventure park. The Instagram-worthy Wild Walk is one of the most popular parts of the Wild Center, but this beautiful Adirondacks attraction much more to offer as well.

This multi-level treetop viewing and activity center is a visual spectacle. It houses a massive viewing platform built like a bird’s nest. There’s also a sizeable walk-through tree house filled with educational information about the wildlife of the Adirondacks region.

The Wild Center also has other great features that make it a perfect place for an Adirondacks family vacation. The Wild Center museum has incredible wildlife, science, and nature exhibits that are fun to explore for adults and kids alike.

On the property, you can also find nature walks through the sprawling Adirondack wilderness. And there are behind-the-scenes tours on offer with the Wild Center science and nature teams as well as guided canoe trips through the unique oxbow turn of the Raquette River.

You can read more about our experience at Wild Center in Tupper Lake NY here.

Where To Stay Near The Wild Center

There are surprisingly few hotels in Tupper Lake, NY, as many people opt for a day trip from nearby Lake Placid. Faust Motel is a great option in town. These small cozy cabins offer a nice Adirondack cottage experience. But if you are looking to stay close to the Wild Center, check out nearby Lake Clear Lodge and enjoy the beautiful sunset.

Enjoy The Suds At A Family-Friendly Breweries of Tupper Lake

The town of Tupper Lake sits on a picturesque spot on the shores of the lake which shares its name. Now there are some amazing things to do in Tupper Lake, New York, including the Wild Center and the Adirondack Sky Center and Observatory, but what I find really stands out in Tupper Lake are the incredible and family-friendly craft breweries.

The Raquette River Brewing Company is THE place to be in Tupper Lake. Not only do they serve up some delicious suds, they (they are especially known for their sours), but Raquette River Brewing has a “kitchen party” atmosphere that makes it a fun place for the whole family.

This Tupper Lake Brewery doesn’t serve up its own food. Instead, there is a selection of food trucks offering unique tasters and classic eats just outside the door. You’re free to bring them inside to munch as well.

You can find all of our favorite things to do in Tupper Lake, New York here.

Shake The Coppers At the Clear Lake Lodge SpeakEasy

Clear Lake Lodge offers a fun take on dining in the Adirondacks. This historic lodge takes its bootlegging past and turns it into a fun, family night out where you can sneak into the speakeasy through secret passages and even outsmart the police when your dinner gets raided.

Finish your night with a lantern-lit carriage ride through the forested property and you’re all set for a night worth remembering.

You can book your Lake Clear Lodge reservations here.

Raft Through Ausable Chasm

It’s hard not to gaze in awe as you wander through the incredible gorge that makes up Ausable Chasm. This epic feature carved by rushing waters, glaciers, and tectonic plates is one of the most amazing natural attractions in Upstate New York. Young kids can explore the ridges and rope bridges while older kids can take in the epic Adventure Trail along a series of suspension bridges that criss-cross the Ausable River.

You can also take a whitewater ride through the narrow Grand Flume where you can get right up close to some of the coolest features of the Ausable Chasm. It was here that D got his first taste of white water rafting. After watching C and I do it in Letchworth State Park, he’s been begging to try himself!

For some great Adirondack camping, make sure to check out the nearby family-friendly Ausable Chasm campground. Staying here offers discounts on the Ausable Chasm experiences. You can read more about our experiences at Ausable Chasm Adventure Center here.

Where To Stay Near Ausable Chasm

If you don’t opt for camping near Ausable Chasm, both the Best Western Plus and the La Quinta hotels are located within 8.5 miles (14 km) in the scenic town of Plattsburgh. While in Plattsburgh, make sure you check out the beautiful beach and the very cool military plane displays. There are a few other great accommodation choices near Au Sable. You can find them here.

Ride The Rails With Revolution Rail

Things To Do in the Adirondacks - Revolution Rail with kids
Revolution Rail Ride In North Creek, NY

Revolution Rail Co. in North Creek is one of the unique things to do in the Adirondacks. Imagine sitting on a four-person cycle mounted on rail tires. The Revolution Rail route takes you along the Hudson River and through the beautiful Adirondack scenery. It’s a there-and-back route with some time to relax by the Hudson while the skilled crew turns the bikes around.

We had beautiful weather for the first half of our journey. But on the return trip, the skies opened up when we boarded our bikes. It wasn’t long before we were thoroughly drenched! But even with the bad weather, we couldn’t help but smile at this genuinely unique Adirondack experience.

You can read all about Adirondack rail biking with Revolution Rail Co. here.

Where To Stay Near North Creek NY

I stayed at Gore Mountain Lodge during my trip to Lake George in 2019. It’s a great value within walking distance of some of the best trails and attractions in North Creek NY. There are some amazing lodges and bed & breakfasts near North Creek. You can check some of the best out there.

Boat Across Schroon Lake

Things To Do in Upstate New York - Boating on Schroon Lake
Boating On Schroon Lake, New York

The Schroon Lake Region is a picturesque area of the Adirondacks in Upstate New York. The area is perfect for boating, hiking, fishing, and other outdoor activities. For leaf-lovers, visit the Schroon Lake region during the fall to catch the explosion of color. You can rent a boat for the day at Schroon Lake Marina if you don’t have your own.

Schroon Lake is bursting with great shopping and quaint restaurants serving delicious food for those who enjoy a slower pace. Pitkins Restaurant on Main St. is a local favorite.

Where To Stay near Schroon Lake NY

For a more rustic Adirondacks experience, check out Rowes Cabins in Schroon Lake. It’s close to the beach and the Underground Railroad trails. The cabins also get great reviews. You can check out some more great accommodations in Schroon Lake if you’re looking for something a little more classic.

Take A Paddleboat Cruise Through Lake George

Lake George Paddle boat Tour Adirondack Attractions
Lake George Steamship Cruise At Sunset

A visit to Lake George is one of the top things to do in the Adirondacks. During the summer, Lake George explodes from a sleepy town into a tourist mecca. The town is at its craziest during big Lake George events such as the Americade motorcycle rally in early June.

 The water of Lake George is 32 miles of paradise from one end to the other. It’s hands down one of the best lakes in the Adirondacks. This popular and scenic area appeals to families and couples alike. The popularity of Lake George is thanks to its beautiful waters and abundant wilderness. The town itself mixes a bit of the tourist kitsch of Niagara Falls with cottage country serenity. These features make Lake George especially popular with families in the Adirondacks.

Lake George offers some of the best hiking in the Adirondacks. One of my favorites is the easy trail to the Shelving Rock waterfall. You can also join a scenic paddleboat cruise with the Lake George Steamboat Company to explore Lake George’s waters. This experience is similar to the steamship cruise in Ontario’s Muskoka region that we enjoyed. For those seeking a little playtime, Lake George is home to the Six Flags Great Escape theme park. Or you could just choose to relax at the beautiful Million Dollar beach near town. You can find some of the best things to do in Lake George NY here.

Where To Stay in Lake George

For a great Adirondacks experience in Lake George, stay at The Heritage of Lake George. It’s 10 minutes from the beach, has a beautiful heated pool, and a fire pit for those perfect Adirondack summer nights. If you want to treat yourself to some luxury, the Inn at Erlowest is a personal favorite. But Lake George has an accommodation choice for all styles. You can check out some of the best here.

Hop On The Saranac Lake Carousel

Tupper Lake To Saranac Lake Adirondack Carousel
Saranac Lake Carousel

Saranac Lake is a relatively small town in Upstate New York. But despite its small size, it has a big appeal to many looking to escape the grind of the big cities. The natural beauty and booming food scene are two of the big reasons why Lake Saranac continues to be a popular destination in the Adirondacks.

As I mentioned, Saranac Lake has a budding foodie scene. You can find a great mix of unique fusion here. No visit to Saranac Lake is complete, though, without getting some ice cream at the Cone Cabin on Route 30. Want to read all about it? You can check out our complete guide to Saranac Lake here.

Where To Stay Near Saranac Lake NY

Mix a little history with your Adirondacks experience by staying at the storied Hotel Saranac, Curio Collection in Saranac Lake. This hotel has been open since 1927! There are great places to stay in Saranac Lake if Hotel Saranac has availability. You can check out some more here.

Explore America’s Early History At Fort Ticonderoga

Things to do in the Adirondacks - Fort Ticonderoga
Fort Ticonderoga In Upstate New York

Fort Ticonderoga is an old French fort dating back to 1755. Its unique story makes Fort Ticonderoga one of the best places in Adirondacks for history buffs. The fort was the center point for 5 battles during 2 wars. Reconstruction efforts began way back in the early 1800s and continued into the 1900s. Now Fort Ticonderoga is one of the most famous historical attractions in the Adirondacks. Fort Ticonderoga features a museum, re-enactments, and regular programs that are fun for the whole family.

Where To Stay Near Fort Ticonderoga

To get the most out of your Fort Ticonderoga experience, check out Shoreham inn in nearby Shoreham Vermont. This hotel has a great vintage style and is highly rated. There are a few other great places to stay near Fort Ticonderoga as well. You can check them out here.

Can You Camp Anywhere In The Adirondacks?

tents dot a small island campground on Lake George in the Adirondacks of New York State
Island camping on Lake George

If camping is your thing, you’ll be happy to know that there are many places to camp in the Adirondacks. After all, the Adirondacks is one of the largest protected forested reserves in the United States.

The Forest Preserve Lands have primitive (non-maintained, non-serviced, no electrical hookups) camping nearly everywhere. There are rules though. If you are considering primitive camping in the Adirondacks you’ll need to keep your tent at least 150 feet from a body of water, road, or trail.

You will also need to keep an eye out for area’s marked “Do Not Camp” or “Camping Prohibited” as well as be on the lookout to ensure that you are not crossing into private property. You can find the state land camping rules here.

There are also many established campgrounds in the Adirondacks. As mentioned earlier, the Au Sable campground is a popular spot for families. You’ll also find the Saranac Lake Islands Public Campground or, for something more upscale, the Adirondacks Camping Village in Lake George.

Lake George also has some stunning island camping for those traveling with canoes or kayaks.

Are There Bears In The Adirondacks?

The Adirondacks is bear country. There are about 6,000 to 8,000 black bears in New York State with about 50-60% of those bears living in the Adirondacks. But black bears are the only bears you’ll find in the region. There are no Grizzly bears (brown bears) that live in the state, so the berry-loving breed is the one that you’ll need to be aware of.

Being bear-smart is important, especially if you’ll be camping in the Adirondacks. Make sure to store your food out of reach or away from your campsite in bear-proof storage bins to ensure that you aren’t inviting these animals into your bed at night.

Black bears are mostly scavengers who prefer berries and fish, but they are opportunistic hunters. Keeping your campsite clean and making noise while you walk is the best way to avoid an encounter with these majestic animals.

Enjoy Your Adirondack Vacation!

As you can see, whether you’re looking for a family vacation in the Adirondacks or just a place to get out and explore nature, there are a LOT of options!

What are your favorite things to do in the Adirondacks? Let us know in the comments below. Or, head over to our Facebook page and share a photo of your trip there. We would love to share in your journey.

Disclosure: This post was made possible by the support of ROOSTADK, Ausable Chasm, Olympic Regional Development Authority, and The Wild Center. As always our opinions remain our own. Wandering Wagars is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.

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About the Author

Kevin Wagar is a professional traveler and family travel expert living in the Greater Toronto Area. His beautiful wife Christina impressed on him her love of travel and they have made exploring the world an integral part of their life. With the birth of their two boys, Kevin and Christina have made it their mission to show others that traveling with children isn't as scary as it sounds and that kids can benefit from experiencing the world outside of their front door and beyond.

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9 Comments

  1. Whenever I hear lake placid it always reminds of a crappy movie I watched about a big alligator I think anyway it sucked. Glad the area Lake Placid is in looks way more attractive and captivating. Some great places to see and visit here

  2. High Falls Gorge would be my ideal activity. I love waterfalls, but am not an avid hiker so I need relatively easy trails to reach gorgeous views. I really enjoy reading your family adventures and hope to have a family someday to share these memorable experiences.

  3. What fun! With so much to do. The rail bike looks like it must have been such an adventure and the suspension bridge looks amazing, your little boy is so brave. What a nice place to take your family and chill for a weekend, no you will need at least a week here. I have never been to this part of the world but its on that long bucket list.

  4. This is such a great post, as I’ve never heard of the Adirondacks! It looks wonderful, and I know little about NY state, so it was a pleasure to read about the landscape here. Beautiful photos, your family clearly enjoyed it!

  5. I’ve never heard about the Adirondacks until now and I’m blown away at how beautiful they are! Jealous that you’re from Ontario and could drive down so easily. Although I am planning for a fall trip to NY so how perfect I ran into your post and lovely recommendations. Will definitely have to plan to spend a few days here!!

  6. I stayed in Serenac Lake for two days last summer, and I cannot wait to go back. Not only is the scenery beautiful, but there is a calm, healing feeling to the town. For those interested in medicine, the area was the home of Dr. Trudeau, a pioneer in the treatment of TB. Much of the town was developed or converted for the treatment of patients and there is an excellent museum that tells this story. Also, a music festival each summer which draws large crowds.

    1. The medical history of the Adirondacks region is so fascinating. It’s amazing how the health industry shaped the growth of many of the towns including Saranac Lake and Lake George.

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