Best Things To Do in Adirondacks
The Adirondacks are mainly for outdoorsy vacationers; there are lots of opportunities for skiing and snowboarding at Whiteface Mountain in winter, as well as hiking and boating at Saranac Lake during the warmer months. But the region holds a range of attractions for other niche travelers. History buffs will appreciate John Brown Farm State Historic Site and Fort Ticonderoga, while families will enjoy learning about Adirondack wildlife at The Wild Center. Meanwhile, sports fans can add Lake Placid's Olympic Jumping Complex, Olympic Sports Complex and Olympic Museum to their must-see lists.
Updated June 18, 2019
- #1View all PhotosfreeSaranac Lake#1 in AdirondacksHiking, Skiing, Swimming/Pools, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDHiking, Skiing, Swimming/Pools, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Located just 9 miles northwest of the bustling tourist town of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake is the perfect escape from the high prices that accompany Lake Placid's Olympics attractions. Filled with shops, hotels and local diners, Saranac Lake is considered one of the most idyllic villages in upstate New York.
Recent travelers characterized the area as a lesser-known gem of the Adirondacks. Whether you visit when the leaves are changing, in February for winter carnival or once the snow has melted, Saranac Lake offers plenty of stunning scenery without hoards of tourists. Canoeing, hiking and kayaking are especially popular here.
- #2View all Photos#2 in AdirondacksHiking, Recreation, Sightseeing, Skiing, SportsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDHiking, Recreation, Sightseeing, Skiing, SportsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
With the largest vertical drop on the eastern seaboard (measuring 3,430 feet), 87 trails and 11 ski lifts, Whiteface Mountain is a skier's paradise. But should you decide to visit during the warmer months, don't fret. Whiteface offers plenty of hiking and biking trails, plus several adrenaline-pumping adventures like 4x4 excursions and an airbag free-fall jump activity. The mountain also serves as a fantastic vantage point: Ride on the Cloudsplitter Gondola to the summit and you'll be treated to an incredible view of the neighboring peaks.
In addition to hiking all the way to the top, visitors have the option of driving part of the way up before hiking or taking an elevator lift the remainder of the way. According to previous travelers, the spectacular vistas at the top are well worth the trek. Former visitors also rave about the ski slopes, noting that while Whiteface offers runs suitable for all levels, advanced skiers will especially enjoy hitting the powder here.
- #3View all Photos#3 in AdirondacksMonuments and Memorials, MuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMonuments and Memorials, MuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Nicknamed the "Key to the Continent" in the 18th century, Fort Ticonderoga sits on Lake Champlain and once served as a strategic focal point during the Revolutionary War and the French and Indian War. After a careful restoration project in the 20th century, Fort Ticonderoga was reopened as a living museum, featuring everything from barracks and kitchens to cannons and an immaculately maintained garden.
Today, the fort is an official national landmark, hosting daily tours and demonstrations as well as battle reenactments. Recent visitors especially appreciated Fort Ticonderoga's historical atmosphere, noting that the reenactors and live demonstrations made it easy to visualize what it was like to be a soldier at the fort.
- #4View all Photos#4 in AdirondacksZoos and AquariumsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDZoos and AquariumsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Nestled within the Adirondacks about 21 miles southwest of Saranac Lake, The Wild Center features 81 acres of forest and plenty of wildlife. In fact, all of the site's exhibits – including movies, hands-on activities and a butterfly garden – focus on the surrounding landscape. But the standout at this family-friendly attraction is the animal encounters, which give kids and adults an up-close look at owls, otters, porcupines, skunks and various reptiles and amphibians.
In addition to the museum's animal encounters, previous travelers highly recommend the property's tree-level nature path, Wild Walk. This outdoor experience features a four-story tree house, swinging bridges and lounging spaces designed to mimic a spider web and a bald eagle's nest. However, this fun exhibit is only open from late May to mid-October, so plan your visit accordingly.
- #5View all Photos#5 in AdirondacksHiking, Historic Homes/Mansions, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDHiking, Historic Homes/Mansions, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
For those who are interested in history but don't want to drive too far to find it, John Brown Farm State Historic Site is worth a visit. Located less than a mile southwest of the Olympic Jumping Complex and Lake Placid Airport, this landmark provides travelers with a bit of history about the iconic abolitionist John Brown. Prior to his famous assault of Harpers Ferry's arsenal in the late 1850s, Brown resided at this property. After being captured and hanged on Dec. 2, 1859, the revolutionary leader's body was returned to his home where he is now buried alongside several of his followers.
On the property, visitors will find Brown's former farmhouse, a small graveyard, a barn and a small pond. While many find the home and graveyard informative and enjoyable to browse, the majority of travelers said the standout here is the stunning landscape. During the warmer months, visitors highly recommend taking advantage of the area's hiking trails, which feature prime views of the nearby Olympic Jumping Complex. (In the winter, these paths double as snowshoe and cross-country ski trails.) However, John Brown Farm does not provide trail maps, so plan to print out some maps from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation's website to bring with you.
- #6View all Photos#6 in AdirondacksRecreation, Sightseeing, Skiing, SportsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRecreation, Sightseeing, Skiing, SportsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Less than 2 miles southeast of downtown Lake Placid, the Olympic Jumping Complex is another popular (and convenient) outing for winter sports enthusiasts. Once used as an event site during the 1980 Winter Olympics, the complex now acts as a training ground for many Olympic hopefuls. And for those who aren't as athletically inclined, the site also serves as an educational facility that offers visitors a glimpse into the life of a ski jumper.
Recent travelers praise the attraction for its stunning views of the Adirondack High Peaks and unique opportunities available, such as watching a ski jump competition or snow tubing down a 700-foot chute. But visitors who have a fear of heights might want to pass on this site. As some reviewers noted, the complex's soaring heights can be a bit terrifying.
- #7View all Photos#7 in AdirondacksRecreation, Sightseeing, Skiing, SportsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRecreation, Sightseeing, Skiing, SportsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Situated on Mount Van Hoevenberg about 7 miles southeast of Lake Placid, the Olympic Sports Complex is an ideal attraction for those interested in the Olympics and winter sports. The training facility features more than 30 miles of cross-country ski trails, plus multiple snowshoe paths and a biathlon shooting range. But perhaps the most heart-pounding part of this winter sports paradise is the combined bobsled-skeleton-luge track, which is the only track of its kind found east of the Rockies and can be experienced firsthand through a bobsled, skeleton or luge ride (additional fee applies).
Although the complex's add-on activities can get a bit pricey (biathlon packages cost $55 and a bobsled experience will set you back $95 per adult), many former visitors insist that the one-of-a-kind opportunities are more than worth the high rates. To help lower costs, invest in a $35 Olympic Sites Passport, which includes admission to the Olympic Sports Complex, Olympic Museum and Olympic Jumping Complex and a discounted rate for all sports experiences. This combined ticket comes highly recommended by previous travelers.
- #8View all Photos#8 in AdirondacksMuseums, SportsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseums, SportsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
For a glimpse into the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games, make a stop at the Lake Placid Olympic Museum. Although some past travelers found the property to be a bit on the smaller size, many appreciated the artifacts found inside, including equipment that belonged to the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" U.S. hockey team, uniforms worn by Lake Placid Olympians during several opening ceremonies and a collection of sleds and sliding sports gear. Four ice complexes also sit within feet of the museum, including Herb Brooks Arena, where the miraculous 1980 hockey game between the U.S. and the Soviet Union took place.
Housed within the Lake Placid Olympic Center near Mirror Lake, the museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on IRONMAN Sunday (in July), Thanksgiving and Christmas. In addition to multiple exhibits and ice rinks, the museum complex includes restroom facilities, on-site parking, a gift shop and a cafeteria on the Olympic Center's upper level. Tickets cost $7 for teens and adults and $5 for seniors and children 7 to 12 years in age. For children younger than 7, admission is free. Remember, though, that the entrance fee is waived for those who have an Olympic Sites Passport. For more information, visit the museum's website.
Explore More of Adirondacks
If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.