Factor in this Stunning Region on Your Gap Year in the US of A
Located in the north of New York state the Adirondacks are the perfect spot to mix up a bit of country living with your Big Apple visit. As you make your way through the countryside, you’ll see rolling hills dotted with Amish farms, farmers’ markets in little villages, and Walmart, Applebees and Starbucks, as drive thrus.
Here are just seven of the many reasons to visit.
Summer outdoor adventure
The Adirondacks are prime terrain for hiking, canoeing, kayaking and fly fishing. I tried all four while I was there, with varying success.
I’ll admit my ‘whipping the rod’ technique didn’t bring all the fishies to the fly, but I did manage to hike up Mount Arab. It was the other members of my group that demanded to be bought back by speedboat from the island we kayaked to, and we did 8 miles in a canoe, in the rain.
I was in the Adirondacks to try the area out and have some fun, but there are plenty of options to really push yourself physically, if that’s what you’re into. In addition to the above, you can also find wakeboarding, mountain climbing and water skiing. Also, be sure to look up on a clear night in the wilderness, the stars burn bright in this part of New York, and I’m not talking about the ones on Broadway.
Winter outdoor adventure
Whiteface Mountain, Gore Mountain and West Mountain are the main attractions when it comes to ski terrain. There are other smaller mountains, if you’re not feeling too confident, such as Oak Mountain and the Ski Big Tupper Ski Area.
One of the best-known places in the Adirondacks, Lake Placid, was the last small town host of the Winter Olympics back in 1980. Thanks to that there are ski jumps, bob sleigh runs and ice hockey rinks all set up for your fun times.
There’s also the opportunity to go cross country skiing, snow shoeing, ice skating and ice climbing. Come winter and the Adirondacks turn into a wonderland – there’s even an actual place called North Pole up there, home to Santa’s Workshop year round.
So close to Montreal and NYC
The Adirondacks are about 90 minutes from Montreal in Canada and four hours from New York City, depending on which part of the region you visit. The main town of Lake Placid is well fed by trains, buses and shuttle buses, so it’s easy to get public transport out of Montreal and New York.
Personally, I think the best idea would be to shuttle out the cities on the trains and then rent a car once you hit the countryside (Albany for NYC, Montreal Airport for Montreal). This way you’ll get to explore how you want, where you want, and you won’t have to carry all your stuff around. Add to that the fact you’ll miss all the traffic and parking issues of the big cities and you’re winning.
All the craft beer breweries
The micro-breweries of the Adirondacks were one of the biggest surprises for me. Who knew there was such a burgeoning scene popping up in hobbyists’ gardens, hey? A few of the brewers I met admitted their passion had escalated quickly and just a few years on from trying brewing out they find themselves working all hours just to keep up with demand.
I visited three breweries while I was there, just a dent on the potential 7+. I’d strongly recommend the Raquette River Brewery for the interesting flavours; ever had strawberry and cilantro before? Save space for some of the pulled pork from the van next door. I can’t personally vouch but the plates some of the patrons were bringing back had me drooling.
And all the wineries
And if you’re going to hit up the breweries it’s only fair to check out the wineries too. There’s a whole wine trail in the Adirondacks that’s getting more and more additions as the years go by. The Vesco Ridge Vineyard up at Tupper Lake was one of my favourites. The owner, Dan, started with a kit to home brew and seven years later he now has a tasting room, a vineyard and a whole winery set up. You can test a flight of wine for around $5. Make sure to try the wine ice cream, and the wine jelly, too.
On that note, I don’t feel like I can make it a separate point but it should be, there’s also many a cidery around in the Adirondacks. It’s one of the biggest apple producing regions in the world.
Schedule time for the Elfs Farm Cidery in Plattsburgh. I thought I’d gone off cider, but all I needed was some of the good stuff from here. I even bought a few cans to bring all the way back to England, it was that good. It’s also just a really cool bar with a sweet vibe; I’d definitely like to spend some more time here one day.
Learn about the American Revolution
Now, I’m not that big on my American history, in fact I barely knew a thing, but a visit to the Fort Ticonderoga and the Adirondacks Museum definitely gave me a lot to think about.
Fort Ticonderoga is run like one big re-enactment. They change the year they’re replicating every year. All the costumes, rooms, armoury, food they’re seen to use has to be reminiscent of that year. The staff make their own costumes and even have to eat what they would’ve at the time – which was pea soup when I was there – every single day.
There’s a whole exhibit of clothing and weapons from the British Army here – which includes one of only five 18th Century blankets left in the world today.
The Adirondacks Museum claims to cover where the American Revolution began. They have one of the most impressive collections of cars, trains, carriages and sleds throughout the years that I’ve ever seen. They also had buildings on the 11,230-acre site that had been left as they were, some with a sound installation to help you imagine you’re in the house as it would’ve been back then. There’s a whole room dedicated to the long held Adirondacks tradition of canoe making. It was fascinating to watch them working on one while I was there.
For the road trip
If you want to spend more time exploring rather than sitting in the car, but you still want a road trip, the Adirondacks is the perfect distance. You could cover a good amount and do a lot within a week, or stay longer if you want to explore more of those 46 mountain peaks. The roads are big, they’re relatively quiet and the forest and lake scenery is stunning.
I loved my week in the Adirondacks. It’s a hidden hive of action sports in America and I’ll definitely be back again, asap. Hope to see you there!