Family fun and summer adventure in New York’s Adirondack Region

Indian Head

By Rebecca Steffan

This summer, escape the heat and retreat to the mountains, lakes and family-oriented attractions of the Adirondack Region of Northern New York.

Located about a three-hour drive south from downtown Ottawa, the region is easy to get to and offers an array of activities and attractions for all ages to enjoy.

From a new rappelling (skill-based climbing activity for descending cliffs and mountains) adventure, to exploring the great outdoors, to hearing the boom of cannons echoing over Lake Champlain, reclaim your summer vacation and reconnect with your family at one of the region’s top summer attractions, including:

in the Adirondacks 

Even if you don’t have time to plan a paddling trip to the Adirondacks, your family can enjoy the region’s many waterways aboard a scenic boat tour, with many of the Adirondacks’ biggest lakes boasting guided tours, dinner cruises and more. Kayak, canoe and boat rentals can be found at marinas and on main streets throughout the region. For more information about paddling routes, marinas, guides and rentals in the Adirondacks, go to

Scenic Tours of Beautiful Lake George: At almost 52 kilometres, Lake George is one of the longest lakes in the Adirondacks, offering endless shoreline, lakeside restaurants and scenic boat tours. Families can hop aboard one of the Lake George Steamboat Company’s three sailing ships for a cruise around the lake, complete with lunch, fireworks and captain stories. The Mohican Discovery Tour sails the entire length of the lake, offering captain’s narration, breakfast or lunch, a cocktail bar and incredible views of the surrounding mountains. Tickets start at $14 (USD) for children and $31 (USD) for adults.

The Outdoors Come in at The Wild Center: The Wild Center in Tupper Lake is the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks, offering innovative exhibits, nature trails and guided group expeditions perfect for families who love exploring and being outside. Join experts for a guided Owl Prowl or paddle down the Raquette River, shop for fresh veggies and more at the museum’s Thursday Farmers’ Markets, or simply enjoy their living exhibits, which include two very cute, very active otters. Tickets are $10 (USD) for children ages 4-14 and $17 (USD) for adults.

History Comes Alive at Fort Ticonderoga: Overlooking Lake Champlain, Fort Ticonderoga offers exciting historical reenactments, summer family programs, ghost tours of the Garrison, outings in the King’s Garden, self-guided scavenger hunts, and so much more. New exhibits include Founding Fashion, a look at the variety of military clothing worn during the 18th century. From patriotic celebrations to daily activities, there’s always something brewing at the Fort. Admission starts at $8 (USD) for children ages 5-12 and $17.50 (USD) for adults. 

The Adirondack Museum: Tucked away in the centre of the Adirondacks, Blue Mountain Lake’s prized gem offers world-class exhibitions and is often called “The Smithsonian of the Adirondacks.” Perfect for a day of exploration, many exhibits are interactive, so kids can climb aboard an antique train carriage, fish in a pond from the museum’s boat exhibit, and run wild in the Great Outdoors exhibit featuring hands-on “discovery stations,” try rock climbing, “cook” a meal over a campfire, and more. Admission (in USD) starts at $6 for children ages 6-12 and $18 for adults.

Adirondack Seaway Waterfall Safari: For another great outdoor adventure, take a self-guided hiking tour of the Adirondack Seaway’s multitude of waterfalls, starting with Harper Falls on the Grasse River, in the Downerville State Forest. Stops include Moody Falls, Stone Valley Falls and Lampson Falls, the last of which spans 30 metres (100’), cascading for 12 metres (40’).

Summer wraps up with the 10th annual Cream Cheese Festival in Lowville, NY, on Sept. 20, featuring the Adirondacks Tug Hill Region’s No. 1 export – Philadelphia Cream Cheese. This free family festival features contests, vendors, live music and all things cream cheese. Home to the world’s largest cream cheese plant, this is one savoury festival not to miss.

For the water babies in your family, the Adirondacks of Northern New York State are home to 3,000 lakes, streams and rivers, offering endless opportunity to paddle, kayak and stand-up paddle board on pristine waterways all summer long. 

From popular waterways in the Lake George Region, to the remotest corners of the Adirondack Seaway, to the variety of paddling options along Lake Champlain, discover a new adventure with these off-the-beaten path paddling routes: 

For Families:
Glen Lake or the Upper Schroon River

This small residential lake makes for ideal beginner and family-friendly paddling. Explore marshlands on the southwest side and look for nesting waterfowl, including Osprey, on the northern shore. Bring a rod and (NY State) fishing license to fish for large and smallmouth bass, yellow perch, chain pickerel and walleye, among others.

Travel tip: Stop for lunch at The Docksider on Glen Lake for a satisfying family-friendly meal and spectacular views. 

For a family-friendly jaunt, consider a quiet paddle on the Schroon River from North Hudson to Schroon Falls. Perfect for a day trip, the slow current and abundant opportunity for wildlife viewing makes this eight-kilometre trek ideal for families and beginner paddlers.

Travel tip: You may encounter some short rapids at Schroon Falls, near the take out (where you take your boat out of the water). To continue your paddle, portage around the falls and continue for seven kilometres to the Schroon Lake Boat Launch.

For Intermediate Paddlers:
Lower Saranac Lake 

Located in the Adirondack Lakes Region, the Saranac Lake Chain includes the upper, middle and lower Saranac Lakes, and offers incredible kayaking, canoeing, swimming and fishing. Easy to navigate and access, Lower Saranac Lake offers kilometres of recreation, numerous day-use areas and campsites for boat-access-only camping. Access is available at the State Bridge Boat Launch on Route 3 between Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake. Canoe and kayak friendly.

Travel tip: Stay to the outside of the buoys, as those lanes are for motorized boat navigation.

For the Wild-at-Heart: Oswegatchie River or the Black River Trail

The Oswegatchie River in the Northern Adirondacks offers remote paddling on its three branches, east, west and middle, the source of which is the Adirondacks’ Five Ponds Wilderness Area. One of the few waterways in the Adirondacks where motorized boats are prohibited, the Oswegatchie is a paddler’s paradise. For a meandering paddle on gentle water, start on the lower section of the river near Gouverneur and paddle past rock ledges, marshes, scenic cliffs and pastures.

Travel tip: Paddle with a light load, as there will be carries (a portage where you have to take your boat out of the water and walk a short distance to the next body of water) at dams along the route.

In the Adirondacks Tug Hill Region, the Black River Trail winds 64 kilometres through remote farmland and rolling countryside toward the western corner of the Adirondacks. A combination of gentle flatwater and fast-moving currents make this an ideal paddling route for all abilities. Grab a fishing pole and keep your eyes open for a variety of wildlife and waterfowl.

Travel tip: Visit during the Black River Challenge on June 29 and watch hundreds of paddlers race for more than 32 kilometres between Glenfield and Castorland, NY.

For Rapid Shooters: The Upper Hudson River Gorge or the Saranac River 

The Upper Hudson River Gorge offers the pinnacle of East Coast whitewater rafting, and is consistently rated one of the top 10 trips in the U.S. During the spring big water season, and throughout the summer and fall, experience thrilling whitewater kayaking and rafting with an Adirondack outfitter or guide. This 27-kilometre trip drops 200 vertical metres (650 feet).

Travel tip: Adirondack whitewater is nothing for amateur kayakers and rafters to mess around with. You’re better off going with a local guide or guide service.

Or ride the Saranac River from Clayburg, NY, where the gentle flatwater becomes Class II rapids. At Redford, difficult Class II-IV rapids and ledges are not uncommon during the spring big water season. For about 14 kilometres from Moffitsville to Cadyville, the river begins shallow and rocky, but quickly becomes deep and fast moving.

Travel tip: Take out at the beach in Cadyville.

Adventurous Ausable Chasm near Plattsburgh, NY:  Ausable Chasm is one of the oldest and most popular natural attractions in North America, offering on-site rafting, canoeing, rappelling, hiking, mountain biking, camping and lodging. Families can explore the cliffs on a unique, guided evening lantern tour and descend into the chasm to watch the lights dance along towering rock walls, or rappel, traverse and climb along the chasm’s Adventure Trail. This unique family adventure starts at just $25 (USD) per person.

For more information about family fun, paddling routes, local marinas, lodging, events, and more in the Adirondacks, go to