Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lake George, New York | Adirondack Mountains

Random Lake George Road Trip 10/3/10

Pros: Tons to see and do, Generally decent prices, Beautiful lake, Outdoor adventure
Cons: Very crowded, especially on Holiday weekends, Honky Tonk elements

The Village of Lake George is located at the southern end of Lake George and almost at the southern Boundary of the Adirondack State Park, which allows it to act as one of the gateways to the Adirondack State Park.  The village and the surrounding areas offer a number of attractions from dining and shopping to boating and hiking with a little bit of everything else in between.

Lake George does have its share of honky tonk, but it is a fun place to visit and makes for a great weekend destination with enough activities to fill anyone's schedule.

Finding Lake George

Lake George is one of the most easily accessible places in the Adirondacks.  It's located about 60 miles north of Albany and the village is just off the Northway (I87), New York's north-south highway through the Adirondacks.  Exits 21 and 22 from the Northway provide access to the bulk of the village.  Exits before and after that provide access to the attractions and locations in what I'd call the "Lake George area."  The village of Lake George is quite compact, but the overall Lake George tourist area encompasses the village itself along with the Lake Area to the north and Route 9 to the south, one which you can travel through a number of outlet shopping areas and visit the Great Escape Amusement Park.

Places to stay?

Lodging runs the spectrum from primitive camping to nicer hotels and inns.  The price ranges also have a large range.  There is a state campground just outside of the village that offers inexpensive camping but no hookups (they do have hot showers) for trailers and campers.  There are also a number of private campgrounds surrounding the village and in the neighboring towns.  On the next tier are a number of motels and lodges that offer a room for a somewhat reasonable price.  Then you have bigger hotels and then those are followed by Bed & Breakfasts and Inns.  The price continues generally to go up as you go through these.

We've always stayed at either the State run Lake George Battleground campground in town or at one of the more inexpensive motels or lodges.  On our last stay, we stayed at the Howard Johnson Tiki Resort in town.  It was a decent room and while it was as touristy as one would expect, it met our expectations.

The one thing I would say is a necessity is for you to make reservations for all but the most off-season times of the years.  If you are planning on going for a weekend, have reservations in hand before you go, otherwise you may end up quite far out of Lake George before you find something available.

Honky Tonk Touristy?

Yeah, there is some of this in the village itself.  I can remember coming as a child and it was even more touristy than it is now, but some of it is still there.  There's the Wax Museum, the various arcades along with a ton of shops selling souvenirs and other trinkets.  I kind of like it though.  It is not as over the top as some other tourist areas that I have been in and the village itself is quite fun to walk around and enjoy.  Plus once you leave the village itself, that kind of atmosphere pretty much melts away and you're enjoying the natural beauty of the Adirondacks.

Must Do Sights and Activities

There are a couple of things that I would consider as "must-see" kinds of things when you visit Lake George:

The first thing you should do after you get settled, if it is a clear day, is pay the $8 to drive up Prospect Mountain on the Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway.  These easy to drive, paved road takes you nearly to the top of Prospect Mountain.  From the parking area you can either walk or take a shuttle bus to the summit.  From there you get a 360 degree view of the surrounding area and you look directly down on to Lake George village and the rest of the Lake.  You can see the Adirondack's High Peaks to the north, Vermont's Green Mountains to the east and the Catskills to the South.  It is simply an amazing view that is very easily accessible.

Second, take a walk through the village to get your bearings and find where everything is.  Along Main Street are a number of shops and restaurants.  There is also a historical museum in the old courthouse, a beach area on the lake, a lake-side park and pavilion (where there are concerts) along with a number of other attractions.

Third would be the Fort William Henry Museum.  The admission is a bit steep, but the museum offers a realistic recreation of the original Fort William Henry, which was the scene of an intense battle during the French and Indian War.  It offers a window into what life was like in the area back then and the demonstrations of things such as musket ball making and cannon fire are very interesting to watch and experience.

Fourth if you like outlets, head south of the Village on Route 9 and there are a number of Outlets and Outlet malls that let you shop to your hearts content.

Fifth, even further south on Route 9 is the Great Escape Amusement Park.  This park, while small, does make for a fun day's worth of activities.  They have a couple of roller coasters along with all the other rides you would expect at an amusement park.

Getting around Lake George

The only way to get to Lake George is in a car or another vehicle and really the only way to get around the area, unless you are saying in the village only, is by automobile.  Outside of the village, there really is nothing within walking distance.  This is something to consider if you take a bus tour to the area.  You will basically be stuck in the village itself unless they offer side tours.

Parking in Lake George

On the big tourists weekends there's one word for parking in Lake George..."ARGH!"  Parking can be a real pain.  There are a few private lots along with public, metered parking along the streets.  There are also other public lots that are located further out of the village center and require quite a walk to get to the downtown area.

During off-peak times it can be easier to find a spot right in town, but all the on-street parking is metered and you have to pay 7 days a week (no free Sundays!).

Lake Activities

Lake George has some of the cleanest waters in the region and is a wonderful lake to enjoy.  In addition to the Town Beach at the southern end of Lake George, there are a number of boat tours of the Lake that leave from Lake George.  You can also bring your own boat and explore the lake.  Since the islands in the Lake and the eastern shore are mostly public lands within the Adirondack Park, you can go on a canoe trip and camp on your way around the lake.

Hiking and Camping

There are a number of hiking trails in the immediate area surrounding Lake George.  The majority of the major trails are to the east of Lake George village, in the large chunk of public lands between Lake George and Lake Champlain.  There are also trails and public lands to the west and to the north that are easily accessible from the Lake George area.

Further Out...

If you're willing to travel a bit from Lake George, there are a number of areas to visit in the Adirondacks.  The Natural Stone Bridge and Caves is about ½ an hour north of Lake George.  You can take a self guided hike through the various rock formations and you can also go on a guided cave diving tour.  Gore Mountain, with a Gondola Ride is about an hour away from Lake George.  The Lake Placid Olympic area is about an hour and a half north of Lake George.  There you can tour the Olympic Facilities from the 1980 Winter Games and watch athletes training for future Olympics year round.  Whiteface Mountain, which was home to the Olympic downhill skiing events has a summertime chairlift ride and there is an Auto Road that goes to the summit.


Even though it is a bit touristy at times and can be very crowded on holiday weekends, Lake George was an integral part of my childhood and subsequent to that, has always been a place I have enjoyed visiting with friends and now with my own family.  There is a lot to do in a little area and I think just about everyone can find something to enjoy in Lake George.  If you don't like the hustle and bustle of the village, there is the entire Adirondack Park to explore and enjoy right around you.

Final Thoughts

I think a trip to Lake George is well worth it.  There are a ton of places to eat, shop, explore and have fun in. Plus Lake George is nestled in the Adirondacks with almost unlimited opportunities for hiking, skiing, boating and exploring.

Lake George offers a lot that should be able to keep everyone entertained on their trip to the area.  I'm never disappointed with a visit, I don't think you will be either.

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