Adirondacks Mountains is a region in Upstate New York, about 5-hour drive from NYC. It is known for its variety of hikes and scenic trails. But the area offers lots of cool things to do for non-hikers as well.
Here are things you can do in Adirondacks, NY, if you are not into hiking:
1. Swim in Waterfalls, Lakes & Swimming Holes
Adirondacks region has lots of rivers, brooks, lakes, and waterfalls. There are many designated swimming areas (which are gorgeous) but people actually plunge in everywhere they can.
One of the best experiences is to swim in the waterfall, although do make sure to exercise extra caution when doing so. Our favorite is Split Rock Falls near Elizabethtown. It is located right by the parking lot, so no hiking is required to get there. Make sure to pack some snacks as you’ll want to spend your whole day there!
2. Take a Scenic Seaplane Ride
Helms Aero Service provides scenic tours on a pontoon plane, flying over wilderness area of Adirondacks. It starts on the Long Lake, and from the point you see it parked by the dock, you will feel like you are on a movie set.
This is absolutely a unique activity because it is a small privately owned company with very knowledgeable pilots who love the area. You’ll have gorgeous views and lots of cool emotions.
Your pilot will give you an excellent areal tour of the area, so you will learn something new!
3. Go on Lake George Cruise
Lake George is one of the prettiest lakes I’ve seen in my life. It’s crystal clear, has lots of great views and villages and offers a few unique attractions and places to see.
If you really want to remember your trip to Adirondacks for years to come, make sure to go on a cruise along the lake. We tried different ships, but I think Minne-Ha-Ha Cruise boat was our favorite. Take a seat outdoors and enjoy the views! Once you are back, make sure to walk in Lake George village and check out those tiny coffee and gift shops.
4. Enjoy Adirondacks Unique Towns and Villages
Adirondacks area has lots of towns and villages which offer lots of authentic places to shop and dine in. We love spending time in just about any of them. But our favorite two towns are Lake Placid and Saranac Lake.
To clear any confusion right away: Lake Placid (the town) is not located on Lake Placid (the lake). It is over-facing Mirror Lake instead. Additionally, Saranac Lake (the town) is not located on either Upper or Lower Saranac Lakes (the lakes). It is located on Flower Lake.
If you have trouble grasping that, just relax. Any GPS app will take you to either of the towns, just make sure to download your map (here’s your instruction) as there’s no connection just about anywhere in Adirondacks.
When visiting Lake Placid, take a walk along the Mirror Lake (there’s a parking lot right in the center of the town). On your way to your car, stop by Emma’s Lake Placid Creamery for a milkshake or a bubble tea!
When visiting Saranac Lake, take a ride in their carousel: It’s a great experience for both kids and adults. The two towns are 10-minute drive away from each other, so you can easily see both within a day if you are pressed with time.
5. Drive Adirondacks Scenic Drives
Just about any drive in the Adirondacks region is scenic. But we do have three favorites:
1. High Peaks Byway (Route 73)
(Free, open all year around)
The High Peaks Scenic Byway takes you past the Adirondacks’ highest peaks and along some of its most picturesque spots through Keene Valley. It is about 30 miles long, and it is gorgeous all the way.
If you are driving I-87 planning to get to Lake Placid, there’s no missing this scenic drive (just use Exit 30).
Our favorite spots you can park and enjoy along the High Peaks Scenic Byway:
- Chapel Pond: You can swim and kayak here. It is surrounded by rocky mountains and looks very scenic all year around.
- Roaring Brook Falls: The falls are visible from the road, but if you want to approach, it does take you about 5 to 10 minutes of walking. It is absolutely stunning though.
2. Whiteface Memorial Highway
($20 per a car, open mid May to mid October)
Whiteface Memorial Highway takes you Whiteface Mountain Summit at 4,867 feet above the sea level, rising over 2,300 feet in five miles from the Toll House.
The highway was built in 1935 and it provides 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains, lakes and valleys. It is definitely a must-have experience when visiting the High Peaks region. You’ll have breath-taking views. Wait for a sunny day to drive it as clouds may obstruct the views.
As the highway winds its way to the top, there are a lot of stops to pause and enjoy the views. Make sure to use at least a couple of those before you get to the summit.
3. Prospect Mountain Via The Veterans Memorial Highway
($10 per a car, open May – mid November)
The Veterans Memorial Highway takes you on top of Prospect Mountain with gorgeous panoramic views on Lake George and its valley.
The best time to drive this road is mid October to mid November to enjoy bright colors of Adirondacks foliage) but you can really do it any time you are there. You won’t regret it.
This is not as dramatic as the Whiteface Memorial Highway but it is closer to I-87 and takes about 10 minutes to get to the top. And the views are great as well!
Obviously, there are many more activities you can enjoy in Adirondacks besides hiking. These include:
- Camping or glamping
But these are not as unique to the region as those I described above. Do make sure to make the most of your trip to Adirondacks by making it memorable!