Best Things to Do in the Adirondacks: Top 12 Attractions to Visit

by Emil Backup
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Are you thinking about visiting the Adirondacks this year? Here are some of the most fun and unique things to do in the Adirondacks. These breathtaking sights, activities, and attractions are sure to make for an unforgettable vacation experience.

The Adirondacks, a mountainous region in northeastern New York, offers an idyllic escape for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike. Known for its breathtaking landscapes, the area provides a plethora of activities that cater to all kinds of travelers. Whether you’re looking to unwind in serene surroundings or seeking adrenaline-pumping outdoor things to do in the Adirondacks, the area has something for everyone.

The region is not just a haven for hikers and campers; it’s also a destination rich in history and culture. From charming small towns like Saranac Lake to historical landmarks like Fort Ticonderoga, there’s a wide range of experiences waiting to be explored. Winter sports enthusiasts will find Whiteface Mountain irresistible, while families can enjoy educational outings at places like The Wild Center in Tupper Lake.

Planning a trip to the Adirondacks can be overwhelming given the multitude of options available. However, a well-curated list of activities can make your trip unforgettable. Whether you’re traveling with family, a special someone, or friends, the Adirondacks offers a unique blend of natural beauty, adventure, and relaxation that guarantees an unforgettable experience. Here’s everything you need to know about these fun things to do in the Adirondacks.

The best things to do in the Adirondacks right now.
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Best Places to Visit in the Adirondacks

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in the Adirondacks? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this enchanting vacation spot. So keep reading to discover all these unique Adirondacks places to visit.

Are you looking to hike through lush forests and kayak on tranquil lakes? Or would you prefer rock climbing, fishing, and exploring charming mountain towns? Whatever you’re planning, these must sees in the Adirondacks can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in the Adirondacks that you should know about.

1. The High Peaks

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, there’s no better way to experience one of the best things to do in the Adirondacks than by hiking its High Peaks. These towering mountains offer some of the most exhilarating hikes in the northeastern United States. High Peaks is a term that refers to 46 mountain peaks, each standing over 4,000 feet tall. The trails range from beginner-friendly to challenging, so there’s something for everyone.

The sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when you reach the summit is indescribable. The panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes are absolutely breathtaking. It’s a moment that will make you realize why the High Peaks are among the best places in the Adirondacks for hiking.

For those who are new to hiking or want a less strenuous experience, Cascade Mountain is a great starting point. It’s one of the easier High Peaks to conquer and offers stunning vistas at the summit. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a challenge, Mount Marcy stands as the tallest peak in New York and promises an unforgettable adventure.

Don’t forget to pack your camera, as the photo opportunities are endless. From the lush forests to the rocky terrains, every step of your hike will be a visual treat. Looking for the coolest activities in the Adirondacks? Hiking the High Peaks should definitely be on your list.

Sunset casts a golden glow on the rugged summits of The High Peaks.
Sunset casts a golden glow on the rugged summits of The High Peaks.

2. Saranac Lake

So, you’ve decided to explore the Adirondacks, and you’re wondering what to do in the Adirondacks that’s both relaxing and adventurous? Say no more! Kayaking on Saranac Lake is the answer you’ve been searching for. Picture yourself gliding through the calm waters, paddle in hand, as you navigate through a series of interconnected lakes and waterways. It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure book, but way better because you’re living it!

Saranac Lake is a kayaker’s paradise, offering a variety of routes that cater to all skill levels. For beginners, the Lower Saranac Lake provides a tranquil setting perfect for leisurely paddling. More experienced kayakers can venture into the Upper Saranac Lake, where the waterways are more intricate and the scenery even more captivating.

One of the unique places in the Adirondacks, Saranac Lake offers more than just kayaking. You can also try fishing, swimming, or even picnicking on one of the many small islands that dot the lake. And don’t forget the wildlife! From loons to bald eagles, you’re likely to encounter some of the Adirondacks’ most iconic residents.

As the sun sets, the lake transforms into a magical landscape, with the sky’s colors reflecting on the water’s surface. It’s a sight to behold and a perfect way to end your kayaking adventure. Truly one of those Adirondacks attractions you don’t want to miss!

The tranquil shores of Saranac Lake, stand guard under the soft hues of dawn's embrace.
The tranquil shores of Saranac Lake, stand guard under the soft hues of dawn’s embrace.

3. Fort Ticonderoga

Are on the hunt for Adirondacks attractions that blend history, adventure, and jaw-dropping scenery? Look no further than Fort Ticonderoga. This 18th-century star-shaped fort is a living museum, offering a glimpse into the Revolutionary War era. And guess what? It’s not just for history buffs!

The fort sits on the shores of Lake Champlain, providing a stunning backdrop for your exploration. You can roam the well-preserved ramparts, check out the old cannons, and even watch live reenactments. It’s like stepping back in time, and it’s one of the best places to go in the Adirondacks if you’re keen on history.

But wait, there’s more! Fort Ticonderoga also offers boat tours on Lake Champlain. You’ll get to see the fort from a different perspective and learn about the strategic importance of this waterway during the Revolutionary War. It’s a double whammy of history and natural beauty.

And if you’re up for a little physical activity, the Carillon Battlefield hiking trails are right next door. These trails offer varying levels of difficulty and lead to viewpoints where you can soak in the vistas of Lake Champlain and Vermont’s Green Mountains. Wondering about the coolest things to do in the Adirondacks? Exploring Fort Ticonderoga pretty much tops the list.

Exploring Fort Ticonderoga: One of the best things to do in the Adirondacks, where history echoes through ancient stone walls.
Exploring Fort Ticonderoga: One of the best things to do in the Adirondacks, where history echoes through ancient stone walls.

4. The Wild Center

Alright, if you’re compiling a list of must-see in the Adirondacks, then you absolutely cannot miss The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. This isn’t your average museum; it’s an interactive celebration of the natural world that surrounds you in the Adirondacks.

First off, the Wild Walk—an elevated trail through the treetops—offers a bird’s-eye view of the forest. You’ll feel like you’re floating above the world, and you might even spot some wildlife from your lofty perch. It’s a great way to connect with nature and one of the unique things to do in the Adirondacks.

Now, the indoor exhibits. The museum is chock-full of interactive displays that dive deep into the ecology of the Adirondacks. From the life of a river otter to the intricacies of a beaver dam, you’ll walk away with a newfound appreciation for the complexity of life in this region.

And for the cherry on top, The Wild Center offers guided canoe trips. Paddle along the Raquette River and learn about the local flora and fauna from a knowledgeable guide. You’ll get a whole new perspective on places in the Adirondacks that you can’t get anywhere else.

So, ready to add The Wild Center to your Adirondacks bucket list? Believe me, it’s an experience you won’t want to miss.

Immerse Yourself in the Wonder: The Wild Center Awaits
Immerse Yourself in the Wonder: The Wild Center Awaits.

5. Lake George

If you’re searching for cool destinations in the Adirondacks, then you’ve got to set your sights on Lake George. This stunning lake is often referred to as the “Queen of American Lakes,” and for good reason. It’s a paradise for anyone who loves to be on the water, especially if sailing is your jam.

Picture this: You’re on a sailboat, the wind in your hair, the sun warming your skin, and the majestic Adirondack Mountains framing the horizon. Sounds like a dream, right? Well, it’s time to make that dream a reality. Lake George offers numerous sailing opportunities, from renting your own sailboat to guided tours with experienced sailors.

Looking for where to visit the Adirondacks for a multitude of experiences in one destination? Lake George is home to over 170 islands, many of which are open for camping. So why not make it an overnight adventure? Sail to an island, set up camp, and enjoy a night under the stars. 

As you sail back to shore, you’ll realize that this isn’t just another item to tick off your travel bucket list. It’s an experience that captures the essence of what the Adirondacks are all about. Sailing on Lake George is a must-do, not just a might-do.

Exploring the Best Things to Do in the Adirondacks: Serene Beauty at Lake George.
Exploring the best things to do in the Adirondacks: Serene Beauty at Lake George.

6. Lake Placid

Hold your horses—literally! If you’re wondering where to go in the Adirondacks for an experience that’s both rustic and refined, then saddle up and head to Lake Placid for some horseback riding. This isn’t just a trot around a paddock; it’s a full-on journey through some of the most scenic trails the Adirondacks have to offer.

You’ll start at a local ranch where experienced guides will match you with a horse that suits your riding level. From there, you’ll venture into the wilderness, following trails that meander through lush forests, open meadows, and alongside babbling brooks. This is an intimate way to explore the natural beauty of the area. It’s also one of those unique things to do in the Adirondacks that you’ll remember for years to come.

As you ride, you’ll also learn about the history and ecology of the region. Did you know that Lake Placid hosted the Winter Olympics twice? Yep, this place is a blend of natural beauty and historical significance, making it one of the best places in the Adirondacks for a multi-faceted adventure.

Are you ready to trade in your hiking boots for some riding boots? Horseback riding in Lake Placid offers a unique blend of relaxation and excitement, and it’s an experience you won’t want to miss.

Embrace Adventure and Serenity: Discovering Lake Placid's Charms in the Adirondacks.
Embrace Adventure and Serenity: Discovering Lake Placid’s Charms in the Adirondacks.

7. Adirondack Canopy

Get ready for a heart-pounding, adrenaline-pumping experience that will leave you craving more! If you’re compiling a list of coolest activities in the Adirondacks, zip lining through the forest canopy has to be on it. We’re talking about soaring through the air, high above the ground, with nothing but a harness and a cable keeping you aloft. Excited yet?

The Adirondacks offer several zip lining locations, each with its own unique set of challenges and views. One popular spot is the Adirondack Extreme Adventure Course in Bolton Landing. Here, you’ll find zip lines that stretch over 300 feet, giving you ample time to take in the scenery—or maybe just scream in pure joy.

But it’s not just about the thrill. Zip lining also gives you a unique perspective on the Adirondack’s lush forests and rolling hills. You’ll see the landscape in a way that’s not possible from the ground, making it one of the Adirondacks places to visit for a different angle on natural beauty.

If you’re looking to elevate your Adirondacks adventure—literally—zip lining is the way to go. It’s an experience that combines excitement, beauty, and a touch of courage, making it a must-see in the Adirondacks.

Exhilarating Heights in the Wilderness: Adirondack Zipline and the Best Things to Do in the Adirondacks.
Exhilarating Heights in the Wilderness: Adirondack Zipline and the best things to do in the Adirondacks. Photo credits: adirondackextreme.com

8. Whiteface Mountain

Snow bunnies and powder hounds, listen up! If you’re wondering the coolest things to do in the Adirondacks when the snow falls, then you’ve got to hit the slopes at Whiteface Mountain. This isn’t just any ski resort; it’s the very place that hosted the alpine skiing competitions during the 1980 Winter Olympics. So, you know you’re in for a world-class experience at this top destination in Upstate NY.

The mountain offers a variety of runs to suit all skill levels, from gentle slopes for beginners to challenging black diamonds for the pros. And the views? Absolutely stunning. As you make your way down the mountain, you’ll be treated to panoramic vistas of the surrounding Adirondacks. This makes it one of the best places to go in the Adirondacks for winter sports.

But skiing at Whiteface isn’t just about the downhill action. The resort also offers snowboarding, snowshoeing, and even bobsledding for those looking to mix things up. Plus, the apres-ski scene is on point with cozy lodges and hot cocoa to warm you up after a day on the slopes.

Wondering where to go if you’re looking to add a dash of winter wonder to your Adirondacks adventure? Whiteface Mountain is the place to be. It’s not just a ski resort; it’s an entire winter playground waiting to be explored. 

Conquering Heights and Capturing Views: Exploring Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks.
Conquering Heights and Capturing Views: Exploring Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks.

9. Adirondack Scenic Byways

Gear up, cycling enthusiasts! If you’re on the hunt for unique places in the Adirondacks that offer both challenge and charm, then cycling the Adirondack Scenic Byways is your ticket to paradise. Picture yourself pedaling along winding roads, flanked by towering trees and sparkling lakes. It’s the kind of experience that makes you feel alive and connected to the world around you.

The Adirondack Scenic Byways consist of several routes that crisscross the region, each offering its own set of breathtaking views and interesting stops. One popular route is the Olympic Byway, which takes you through the historic towns of Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. Along the way, you’ll pass iconic landmarks and have the chance to explore local shops and eateries.

But the real star of the show is the scenery. From the vibrant fall foliage to the serene lakes and rivers, the views are nothing short of spectacular. In fact, I’d consider the Adirondacks to be one of the top places to see the fall foliage in America. It’s one of those Adirondacks things to do that offers a perfect blend of physical activity and natural beauty.

Hop on a bike and explore the Scenic Byways. It’s a ride you won’t soon forget and easily one of the best places in the Adirondacks to capture the essence of this incredible region.

Journey Through Time and Beauty: Exploring Adirondack Scenic Byways.
Journey Through Time and Beauty: Exploring Adirondack Scenic Byways.

10. Lake Champlain

Let’s switch gears and talk about a winter activity that’s both chill and thrilling. If you’re wondering where to visit in the Adirondacks when the lakes freeze over, then you’ve got to try ice fishing on Lake Champlain. This isn’t your grandpa’s fishing trip; it’s an adventure that combines the serenity of the outdoors with the excitement of the catch.

Lake Champlain is a freshwater giant, straddling the border between New York and Vermont. In the winter, its frozen surface becomes a playground for ice fishing enthusiasts. You’ll set up a cozy ice shanty, drill a hole in the ice, and wait for the fish to bite. Species like perch, pike, and trout are abundant here, making it one of the coolest things to do in the Adirondacks during the colder months.

And don’t worry if you’re a newbie. Local guides are available to show you the ropes, ensuring you have a safe and successful outing. They’ll even provide the gear, so all you need to bring is your sense of adventure.

For a unique twist to your Adirondack getaway, ice fishing on Lake Champlain is a must. This offers a chance to connect with nature, enjoy some solitude, and maybe even catch dinner. It’s one of those Adirondacks attractions that offers a different kind of thrill. As such, it’s easy to see why this is among the coolest East Coast lakes.

Where Waters and Dreams Meet: Embracing the Magic of Lake Champlain in the Heart of the Adirondacks.
Where Waters and Dreams Meet: Embracing the Magic of Lake Champlain in the Heart of the Adirondacks.

11. Shawangunks

Hold on tight, adventurers! If you’re compiling a list of Adirondacks attractions that will get your heart racing, rock climbing at the Shawangunks is a must-add. Known affectionately as “The Gunks,” this climbing mecca is technically just outside the Adirondacks but is often included in any serious adventurer’s Adirondack bucket list.

The Gunks offer a variety of climbing routes that cater to both beginners and seasoned pros. The cliffs here are made of solid quartz conglomerate, providing excellent grip and a unique climbing experience. And don’t forget the views—oh, the views! As you ascend, you’ll be treated to sweeping vistas of the surrounding forests and valleys, making it one of the best places in the Adirondacks for a bird’s-eye perspective.

Safety is a priority here, with numerous outfitters offering guided climbs and equipment rentals. So even if you’re new to the sport, you’ll be in good hands.

Ready to reach new heights? Rock climbing at the Shawangunks is not just an activity; it’s an experience that challenges your body and soul. It’s one of those best things to do in the Adirondacks that you’ll be talking about long after you’ve descended.

Unveiling Nature's Masterpiece: Exploring the Shawangunks' Beauty Among the Best Things to Do in the Adirondacks.
Unveiling Nature’s Masterpiece: Exploring the Shawangunks’ Beauty Among the best things to do in the Adirondacks.

12. Adirondack Public Observatory

Let’s cap off this adventure-filled list with something truly magical. Ever wondered what to do in the Adirondacks when the sun goes down? How about a celestial soirée at the Adirondack Public Observatory? This isn’t just any stargazing experience; it’s an opportunity to peer into the cosmos like never before.

Located in Tupper Lake, the observatory offers some of the darkest skies in the Northeast, making it a prime spot for amateur astronomers and curious souls alike. With state-of-the-art telescopes and knowledgeable guides, you’ll be spotting constellations, planets, and even distant galaxies. It’s a humbling experience that puts life into perspective and counts as one of the Adirondacks places to visit that you won’t soon forget.

The observatory also hosts regular events, from workshops to guest speakers, adding an educational twist to your night under the stars. So, grab a blanket, some hot cocoa, and let the universe awe you.

In a place renowned for its natural beauty, stargazing at the Adirondack Public Observatory offers a different kind of wonder. It’s one of those must-see in the Adirondacks experiences that transcends the ordinary, taking you from the earthly to the ethereal in a heartbeat.

Tupper Lake: Where Time Slows Down and Nature Welcomes You with Open Arms.
Tupper Lake: Where Time Slows Down and Nature Welcomes You with Open Arms.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in the Adirondacks

Looking for more content on the top things to do in the Adirondacks? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to the Adirondacks:

What’s the Best Time to Visit the Adirondacks?

The Adirondacks shine all year round, each season offering its own unique charm. Summer is perfect for water activities and hiking, while winter is a wonderland for skiing and snowboarding. Fall foliage is a sight to behold, and spring brings wildflowers and mild temperatures.

Why do people go to the Adirondacks?

The Adirondacks, a vast mountain range in northeastern New York, attract visitors for a multitude of reasons. Here’s why people are drawn to this natural wonder:

  1. Natural Beauty: The Adirondacks encompass six million acres of forests, mountains, lakes, and valleys. The sheer beauty of the region, with its pristine landscapes, is a significant draw.
  2. Outdoor Recreation: The area offers a plethora of outdoor activities. In the summer, visitors can hike, mountain bike, canoe, kayak, and fish. Winter brings opportunities for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and ice fishing.
  3. Hiking and Mountain Climbing: With 46 high peaks, the Adirondacks are a haven for hikers and mountaineers aiming to become an “Adirondack 46er” by summiting all of them.
  4. Water Activities: The region boasts over 3,000 lakes and ponds. Lake Placid and Lake George are particularly popular for boating, fishing, and swimming.
  5. Wildlife Watching: The vast wilderness of the Adirondacks is home to diverse wildlife, including moose, black bears, foxes, and numerous bird species. It’s a paradise for nature enthusiasts and bird watchers.
  6. Camping: With numerous campgrounds and backcountry camping sites, the Adirondacks offer a genuine wilderness experience for those looking to disconnect and immerse themselves in nature.
  7. Historical Sites: The region has a rich history, with sites like Fort Ticonderoga offering insights into the area’s past. The Adirondack Experience museum in Blue Mountain Lake provides an in-depth look at the cultural and natural history of the Adirondacks.

How Do I Get Around the Adirondacks?

While public transportation is limited, the best way to explore is by car. This gives you the freedom to discover cool destinations in the Adirondacks at your own pace.

Is It Family-Friendly?

Absolutely! From educational centers to outdoor activities, there’s something for every age group. It’s one of the best places to go in the Adirondacks for family fun.

Lost in the rhythm of waves and wind, feeling alive in nature's embrace.
Lost in the rhythm of waves and wind, feeling alive in nature’s embrace.

What Should I Pack?

Pack according to the season. Always bring layers, a good pair of hiking boots, and don’t forget your camera to capture the unique places in the Adirondacks.

Which is better Catskills or Adirondacks?

Choosing between the Catskills and the Adirondacks will depend on individual preferences, as both regions in New York State offer unique experiences and attractions. Here’s a comparison to help you decide:

Catskills:

  1. Proximity: The Catskills are closer to New York City, making them a more convenient option for city dwellers looking for a quick getaway.
  2. Size: The Catskills are smaller than the Adirondacks, which can make them feel more accessible for short trips.
  3. Art and Culture: The Catskills have a rich history of arts and culture, with Woodstock being a notable hub. The region has inspired many artists, musicians, and writers over the years.
  4. Recreation: While the Catskills offer hiking, fishing, and skiing opportunities, the trails and ski resorts tend to be less challenging than those in the Adirondacks.
  5. Accommodations: The Catskills have seen a recent surge in boutique hotels, trendy B&Bs, and upscale resorts, catering to a younger, hipper crowd.

Adirondacks:

  1. Size and Wilderness: The Adirondacks cover a much larger area, offering a more extensive wilderness experience. The region feels more remote and less commercialized.
  2. Outdoor Activities: With its 46 high peaks, numerous lakes, and vast forests, the Adirondacks offer a wider variety of outdoor activities, from challenging hikes to water sports.
  3. Natural Beauty: The Adirondacks boast a more diverse landscape with higher mountains, larger lakes, and more extensive forests.
  4. Conservation: The Adirondack Park is a unique blend of public and private lands, showcasing a successful model of conservation and sustainable development.
  5. Accommodations: While the Adirondacks also have luxury resorts and lodges, there are more options for rustic accommodations, camping, and backcountry experiences.

What Is a Fun Fact About the Adirondack Mountains?

Did you know that the Adirondack Park is larger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, Grand Canyon, and the Great Smokies National Parks combined? It’s a sprawling 6 million acres, making it the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States.

Is It Worth Going to the Adirondacks?

Absolutely, the Adirondacks offer a diverse range of activities and natural beauty that make it a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts and peace-seekers alike. From its awe-inspiring landscapes to its rich cultural history, it’s a place that promises both adventure and serenity, making it well worth the trip.

Why is the Adirondacks so special?

The Adirondacks, spanning over six million acres, hold a unique place in the hearts of many due to a combination of natural, historical, and cultural factors. Here’s what makes the Adirondacks so special:

  1. Natural Splendor: The Adirondacks are home to over 10,000 lakes, 30,000 miles of rivers and streams, and a wide range of habitats. This vast wilderness offers breathtaking landscapes, from towering mountains to serene lakes.
  2. Diverse Recreation: Whether you’re a hiker aiming to conquer the 46 high peaks, a kayaker exploring tranquil waterways, or a skier seeking winter thrills, the Adirondacks offer year-round recreational opportunities.
  3. Conservation Legacy: The Adirondack Park, established in 1892, was one of the first protected wilderness areas in the U.S. Its “Forever Wild” clause, added to the New York State Constitution in 1894, ensures that the park’s public lands remain an unspoiled wilderness for generations to come.
  4. Cultural Heritage: The Adirondacks have a rich cultural history, from the Great Camps built by wealthy industrialists in the 19th century to the region’s influence on the American art and conservation movements.
  5. Biodiversity: The region is a haven for wildlife, including moose, black bears, and over 200 species of birds. Its varied habitats support a rich array of plant and animal life.
  6. Human and Nature Harmony: Unlike many other protected areas, the Adirondack Park is a patchwork of public and private lands, where communities, forests, and waterways coexist. This model showcases how conservation and human habitation can harmoniously coexist.

Final Thoughts on Exploring the Adirondacks

So there you have it, folks—a comprehensive guide to the Adirondacks attractions that will make your trip unforgettable. From the thrill of whitewater rafting to the serenity of stargazing, the Adirondacks offer a smorgasbord of experiences that cater to all kinds of adventurers. It’s not just a destination; it’s a state of mind, a place where you can break free from the mundane and embrace the extraordinary. So why wait? Pack your bags, hit the road, and discover the coolest things to do in the Adirondacks. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

Best Things to Do in the Adirondacks for all types of travelers.
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