Family Vacations to Lake George, New York

Lake George, New York Balloonfest
Lake George Balloonfest (courtesy, Warren County Tourism)

Lake George Highlights

  • Cruise Lake George past mist-shrouded islands and shorefront mansions.
  • Hike to the summit of Prospect Mountain for views of peaks in Vermont and New Hampshire.
  • Take an easy hike along the wooded trails of Crandall Park.
  • Go whitewater rafting, kayaking, and canoeing on the region's rivers.
  • Explore the reconstructed 18th-century Fort Ticonderoga.

New York State's Lake George area offers families a vast playground comprising hundreds of thousands of acres of woodlands and the 32-mile-long expanse of the lake itself. The lake is part of the state's Adirondack Park, six million acres of private and state-owned land, approximately 60 percent of which is wilderness. The first thing you must do, however, especially if you approach the lake from the south, is to have faith. You must believe that there are undeveloped parcels beyond Lake George Village, a strip choked with motels, cottage colonies, eateries, and tacky souvenir shops. Just a short drive north takes you to Bolton Landing, a less built-up town, and beyond that you discover quiet lakeside villages, natural shoreline, and thickly wooded mountains. Bear in mind that the expanse of Adirondack Park is bigger than Yellowstone, Everglades, Glacier, and Grand Canyon national parks combined, so seclusion is there for the taking.

The easiest way to enjoy the lake in summer is by boat. Several companies cruise by the mist-shrouded islands that dot the lake, furrow its less developed eastern shore, and buzz several of the mansions on "Millionaire's Row," remnants of Lake George's 1880 to 1920s heyday as a haven for the wealthy. You can paddle through whitewater on the area's rivers. In spring, especially in April, the Hudson River's Class IV-V rapids challenge experts, while in summer the river is still an exciting Class III-IV ride. With younger kids, head to the Sacandaga River, where the Class II-III rapids make this a popular tubing run. The Wild Waters Outdoor Center in Warrensburg also offers canoeing and kayaking lessons, as well as rafting excursions.

The Lake George region is, of course, prime hiking territory. For easy nature trails through pines and hardwoods, head to the Crandall Park International Trail System, south of Glens Falls on Route 9. The Prospect Mountain trail, best for ages ten and older, is a moderately difficult path to the summit. With kids too young to go by foot, drive the 5.5-mile Prospect Mountain State Parkway to the 2,034-foot-high peak, where on a clear day you can see Vermont's Green Mountains and New Hampshire's White Mountains. The Tongue Mountain Range's foothills feature more than 18 miles of trails for further wild exploration.

Combine scenic overlooks with history by visiting Fort Ticonderoga, strategically located where Lake Champlain meets Lake George. The fort is one mile east of Ticonderoga on Route 74. Built by the French in 1755 and named Carillon, the fort was taken by the British in 1759 and renamed Ticonderoga, an approximation of a Native American name. In May 1775, Ethan Allen, the Green Mountain Boys, and Benedict Arnold (then a loyal soldier) seized the fort in the first American victory in the battle for independence. What you encounter now is a full-scale reconstruction from the ruins. The thick stone walls and battlements punctuated by canons make it easy for kids to envision Revolutionary battles. At various times the "Place of Arms," or interior parade grounds where soldiers once practiced drills, come alive with the marching beat of a fife and drum corps. Bring a picnic lunch and take your time here.

On June 24-25, more than 800 men, women, and children assemble at the fort for the annual Grand Encampment of the French and Indian War. Tour a bustling 18th-century military encampment and watch as re-enactors bring clashes between British, French, and American regulars to life.

Tip: The Sagamore Resort in Bolton Landing, situated on its own 72-acre private island in Lake George, offers families a pampering retreat with a kid's program for ages five to 12, July 1 to Labor Day.


Away.com's resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from Amazon.com.

Published: 3 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 17 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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