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Best Family-Friendly Attractions in the Adirondacks

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The American tradition of family vacations traces its origins to the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York. Back in the early 1900s, summer heat and deadly fevers drove those who could afford it to “vacate” cites in favor of the fresh clean air of the Adirondacks. Somehow, the term “vacation” stuck, while our friends across the pond favored going on “holiday.”

More than a century later, visitors still appreciate the pristine setting and fragrant balsam air of contiguous America’s largest park. At over 6 million acres, the Adirondack Park is bigger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier, and the Great Smokies combined. With so much rugged natural beauty, outdoor adventures abound. But what can you do with children in tow? Here are the five best things to do in the Adirondacks on your next family vacation.

Adirondacks Wild Center

Outdoor play space at The Wild Center (Photo credit: Sandra Foyt)

The Wild Center

Young curious minds observe nature closely at this state of the art, but quirky, science center. An outdoor play space is composed entirely of sticks and dirt. Enjoy lunch from the on-site Waterside Cafe at outdoor tables with a view of the pond. Indoor seating is also available. Afterwards explore the several live animal encounters. Tip – Check the day’s schedule for otter feedings. On a recent visit, my family was both enthralled and appalled by the sight of an otter playing with, and later consuming, live fish.

Adirondack Museum

A “camp” featuring artifacts at the Adirondack Museum (Photo credit: Sandra Foyt)

Adirondack Museum

Come here to discover the story of the people who make their home in the Adirondacks. Afterwards, stay to play among the exhibits and on the extensive grounds. Kids can climb aboard a stationary train, play house in a number of camps, and experience the great outdoors through hands-on outdoor sports discovery stations. Tip – Check the calendar for special events with fun things to do just for kids such as the Harvest Festival with apple-pressing and stagecoach rides, Familypalooza, and Family Camp.

Fort Ticonderoga

Soldiers at Fort Ticonderoga (Photo by Dawn Bishop, with permission)

Fort Ticonderoga

See first-hand the daily lives of colonial soldiers: watch musket demonstrations; learn how to eat like a soldier; listen to the fife and drums; and follow the troops as they march on parade. Bring a picnic to spread out at the King’s Garden, or hike Mount Defiance to look out on Lake Champlain. Tip – Look out for Reenactment Days, weekend events when armies relive battles from the French and Indian War or the American Revolution, that line up with your Adirondack family vacation.

Fort Ticonderoga

Natural Stone Bridge and Caves (Photo by Jeff G. Moore, Creative Commons 2.0)

Natural Stone Bridge and Caves

Enter through the largest marble cave entrance to find grottos, potholes, waterfalls, and the oldest rock in North America on a self-guided, ¾ mile, mostly above-ground, natural stone step nature trail. After learning about the geology of the rock formations, kids can play at a number of fun activities – Disc Golf, Bouldering Wall, Gem Stone Mining, and the Gold Rush Mine – available for a small fee. Tip – The Dino Dig and playground are free. And do bring good rubber-soled enclosed walking shoes for the trails.

Adirondack Olympic Center Jumping Complex

Olympic Center Jumping Complex (Photo by Graham Alton, Creative Commons 2.0)

Olympic Center

Get a glimpse into the training regimen of champions as you visit the Olympic Museum, go on a guided tour of the Olympic Center, or head out to the Olympic Jumping Complex. A chairlift takes you from the ski jumps’ base to the top of the 120-meter jump where, even in the summer, Olympic hopefuls launch into aerial acrobatics. Leave time to lace up skates at the same rink that hosts world-class events from figure skating competitions to hockey tournaments. Tip – Splurge on the bobsled adventure, but only with kids taller than 48-inches.

Getting Here

Interstate 81 and 87 bring you within easy reach of most of the things to do on this list of Adirondack attractions, accessible through fourteen that crisscross the region. Tip – Getting there is half the fun in early autumn when fall foliage stages a spectacular display!

Sandra Foyt writes about fun and educational family adventures on Albany Kid. Based in upstate New York, she stars in her own version of “Where’s Waldo?” on road trips across the US and return engagements to the Virgin Islands.

About Sandra Foyt, Travel Mamas Guest Blogger
  1. Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

    Sandra – Thanks so much for writing this story for Travel Mamas! As a writer, I love finding out the origins of words and as a travel lover, it’s fun to know why we call our hard-earned time away “vacations.” The Adirondacks look gorgeous – would love to visit someday!


  1. The Wild Center Connects People and Nature | Albany Kid Family Travel says:

    […] 5 Best Family-Friendly Attractions in the Adirondacks (Guest post on […]

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