Slowing Down or Gearing Up in the Adirondacks

You can be lazy or adventurous in picturesque upstate New York.

Slowing Down or Gearing Up in the Adirondacks


filed under Fun, Travel

When I first started planning a couple’s escape to New York’s Adirondacks region, I didn’t know that I would be 12 weeks pregnant during our visit. I researched all of the best hiking trails and sought out some of the most thrilling paddling, cycling, and climbing opps.

Once those double pink lines made their surprise appearance on a rainy Saturday afternoon, I considered canceling our trip altogether. Then I did some digging and realized that there’s much more to the Adirondacks than just adventure sports.

With 6 million acres of forest and the largest protected natural area in the lower 48 states, there’s no shortage of high-octane activities, but the Adirondacks offers plenty of opportunities to kick back, too. Here’s my take on a couple’s vacation to the region, two ways:

Slowing Down: Lake George

Summer camp—the kind of storied, coming-of-age experience that plays out in the movies—wasn’t really a thing in the Phoenix suburb where I grew up. In Arizona, we spent our summers floating lazily in backyard pools, surrounded by four brick walls and scheming about how to successfully drag our TVs out onto the patio.

Because of this, I’ve always been slightly obsessed with the idea of an East Coast summer. I imagined warm days spent swimming in a lake with chilly nights by the fire roasting s’mores. When we pulled up to The Sagamore Resort in Bolton Landing one afternoon in early August, it was like all of my childhood fantasies burst to life. In the distance, grassy knolls sprang from the dark blue waters of Lake George; kids were running around on the lawn, playing croquet and life-size versions of chess.

Couples were sipping cocktails poolside and people were rowing (even sailing!) boats out on the lake. I’m pretty sure I smelled a campfire somewhere in the distance. It was idyllic, dreamlike. Secluded on a private 70-acre island, The Sagamore is built for romance. Staying in a Lodge Suite, which comes equipped with a gas-burning fireplace and private balcony, makes for added solitude.

You can go for a sail on The Morgan, a replica of an historic Adirondack tour boat, or charter your own vessel for a peaceful float along Lake George. There’s a quiet, adults-only pool terrace and an onsite Opal Spa that focuses on personalized therapies. Dinner at La Bella Vita, The Sagamore’s Italian restaurant (there are eight restaurants on property), comes with a lakeside sunset view and an extensive menu of antipasti, insalate, brick oven pizette and classic dishes like veal piccata and homemade pasta. The Sagamore is an indulgent home base as you explore the towns surrounding Lake George:

In charming Glen Falls, Bistro Tallulah is casual and simple, but the food is creative with a mix of Spanish, French, and New Orleans flavors and traditions. Entrees are a perfect blend of the adventurous and familiar: artichoke, chorizo, and seafood cioppino on a creamy bed of polenta, and roasted suckling pig atop a sweet potato puree with green cabbage slaw.

Near the southern end of the lake, Springbrook Hollow Farm Distillery produces handcrafted spirits—vodka, gin, and moonshine among them—made from local grains and fruits, which you can taste on a free tour from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Meanwhile, The Adirondack Craft Beverage Trail is a go-your-own tour of the area’s best breweries, wineries, distilleries, and cideries.

Because you’re laying low, skip too-crowded Million Dollar Beach and let the pros at Lake George Boat Tours take you to one of the area’s secluded coves instead. You can even opt for a quiet picnic on one of the islands or take in seasonal sights like summer fireworks displays or leaf peeping in the fall.

Gearing Up: Chestertown

I had never been “glamping” before our stay at Posh Primitive, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. What we found at the top of the long gravel drive just outside of Chestertown was basically the best of both worlds: rustic but beautiful canvas tents well-appointed with queen-sized beds covered in fresh linens, antique furnishings from local craftspeople, and old-timey woodstoves, and all of it set amid walking paths surrounded by towering pines and bright wildflowers.

What really made our stay special, though, is Posh Primitive’s owner. Rachael Schafer and family live on property and are friendly, gracious hosts with an intimate knowledge of the area’s best attractions. She and her husband were some of the first people we told about our pregnancy (diet restrictions, you know) and Rachael still checks in to see how our daughter is doing.

The Schafers cook your meals and the food is absolutely a highlight—gourmet and fresh, made from ingredients grown in their garden or provided by ADKS farmers. Their in-house guide service, Johnny Old School, leads interpretive hikes, flat-water paddle excursions, or even backcountry fly-fishing trips.

Just northwest of Chestertown along the Hudson River, barVino is quaint, delicious and family-owned, and sources much of its produce from the area. Dishes are served family-style, so order a few different things to share – like gnocchi in a brandy cream sauce or Prince Edward Island mussels, served one of three ways: swimming in either white wine, parsley and garlic; in an ale sauce with spinach and bacon; or in a green curry of coconut milk, cilantro and lime.

Keep an eye out for the Good Forkin’ Food truck on your way from Posh Primitive to nearby Loon Lake and tuck into some homemade crab cake benedict, huevos rancheros, or duck burritos (yes, you read that right). There’s even smoked ribs, fish tacos or pot stickers. The menu depends on the season, weather and Chef Ope Frederick’s creativity.

There’s plenty to keep adventurers busy near Chestertown. You can hike Crane Mountain or OK Slip Falls. Rent a canoe or kayak and paddle on Raquette Lake or Schroon Lake. Rachael at Posh Primitive personally recommends Square Eddy for whitewater rafting, Adirondack Extreme for zip-lining, and Circle B Ranch for personalized horseback rides.

Katarina Kovacevic is a freelance travel writer based in Arizona. Follow her adventures in travel and new momhood on Twitter or Instagram.

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