1 // Visit any of the small towns in ADK
In small towns like Old Forge and Inlet, we found shops that sell souvenirs, local area guide and history books, and hand-made crafts. Old Forge is the go-to place if you are in search of souvenirs and want to go on a shopping expedition. Beyond shopping, they have a lot of restaurant options (hot dogs, pizza, beach fare, and even more expensive and formal options) as well as entertainment (Strand Theater and Enchanted Forest Water Safari). However, we liked the smaller town of Inlet more because we weren’t as overwhelmed by the number of shops and tourists. It really is a matter of preference. I’m sure other ADK visitors have their favorite small town. Lake George is a favorite of many friends.
2 // Get out on the any of the 3000 lakes and ponds in ADK
Our friends recommend Lake Placid and Lake George. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that far into ADK. We camped at Racquette Lake and the lakeviews were stunning from our campsite especially during sunset. There are many options for water sports in ADK: swimming, body surfing, fishing, jet skiing (if the lake allows it), kayaking (many vacationers brought their own and used their campsite’s lake access to get into the water), boating (some tow and dock their boats at the marinas and beach grounds in ADK), and renting a kayak/pontoon/boat. There are plenty of places to rent or charter. There’s even a place to charter a sea plane. For recommendations, ask staff at campgrounds, visitor centers, and shops.
3 // Chillax at the beach
We brought our camp chairs to the beach to enjoy the sound of the waves while the girls build in the sand or swim in the lake. Some vacationers brought huge pool floaties or tubes that they staked to the beach so they could chillax in the water by the beach. If you’re out there at dusk or night, be sure to bring a lot of bug spray to keep mosquitoes and horse flies at bay and a flashlight to help you find your way back.
4 // Learn about the history of ADK at museums and visitor centers
We visited the Adirondacks Experience (ADX) also known as Blue Mountain History Museum. We loved hearing about the history of guide boating, logging and mining, and summer recreation/vacationing in this area. There are activities for the kids to keep them engaged throughout. They particularly enjoyed watching a guidebook being built, hunting for items in the taxidermy exhibit (although they thought it was creepy), feeding the lake and rainbow trout, making their own nature scene in the art studio, washing linens with a washboard and wringer, going through a simulation of clearing logs and blowing up a mine, and completing the museum’s kids’ activity book to get a prize afterwards. We lucked out at the museum because we met a “local” a retiree who moved out to ADK and is researching and writing about the local history and people in ADK. He was so knowledgeable and we learned quite a bit about the ship and train transit routes wealthy vacationers took to arrive at Blue Mountain for the summer.
5 // Escape into the woods by camping, renting a cabin (or lakehouse), and/or taking a hike
There are so many things to see. More remote areas are ideal for observing animals in their natural habitat (like moose, otter, bears, birds, ducks, loons, etc.). We stayed at Brown Tract Pond Campground which we thought was somewhat remote. We had to travel on miles of gravel roads to get there. We did get a chance to see some toads and hummingbirds at the campground. There were bear take caution warnings and reports of sightings in the area although we didn’t see any.
Because we have a photographer amongst us, we try to get to a peak to take photos from a bird’s eye view. We did the relatively easy, 2-mile hike to Rondaxe Fire Tower on Bald Mountain near Old Forge. At one time, there may have been as many as 52 water towers set up on mountains as safety/fire lookout stations and observation decks in ADK. There are less towers today. If you’re feeling ambitious, you might even take up the fire tower challenge to climb at least 23 towers in ADK as well as those in the Catskill Mountains. There’s a similar challenge for hikers to climb all 46 mountain peaks in ADK. There’s an organization named the 46ers for hikers who have met this challenge.
If you don’t like hiking, it’s ok. That’s why there are chairlifts and other observation arenas with views from a peak. There’s a chairlift at McAuley Mountain (2 miles from Old Forge) that we took for $5/person (less for kids) that gave us a nice view from the top. The café in the Adirondacks Experience museum had a fantastic view of the lakes below. Last but not least, don’t miss the waterfalls. You might have to hike to see them but no matter what, they are always worth it. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to see any but here are several that are recommended.