Northern delights: Upstate New York and Maine offer plenty of adventure for families

Ready for a summer vacation? We have a few more months of enduring the cold weather, but that doesn’t mean we can’t dream — and plan!

In Down The Shore, we featured our favorite family beaches within a day’s drive of Central PA.

This week, we’re traveling to the lakes and mountains of New York and Maine. And while heading north may sound chilly now, by mid-July, we’ll be ready to beat the heat.


If you’re an active family that loves the outdoors — hiking, biking, sailing, fishing, tubing, camping and so much more — then you’ll love this area of Upstate New York. The Adirondacks span six million acres, covering one-fifth of the state of New York, and are the largest publicly protected area in the lower 48 United States. We have two favorite regions there.


Lake George. There are lots of well-maintained mountain trails, beaches along Lake George and smaller lakes, waterfront restaurants, resorts, rentals and campsites, too — whatever your lodging preference. The mountains and lakes are the main attractions for this vacation. There are companies that offer kayaking and canoeing trips on Lake George and surrounding lakes. You can also look into class II-IV whitewater rafting on the Hudson River Gorge or the Sacandaga River. If that’s a bit too challenging for you or your young children, there’s lazy river tubing, canoeing and kayaking. For off-water fun, there’s the Magic Forest amusement park ideal for younger kids; all ages will enjoy the indoor White Water Bay waterpark. There’s also a trampoline park, Six Flags Great Escape and Splashwater Kingdom, and an aerial adventure park all nearby.


Lake Placid. Sure, it’s known for hosting the Winter Olympics in 1980 (it also hosted them in 1932), but there’s also plenty of summertime fun to be had here. The landscapes are breathtaking, and there are hundreds of hiking trails offering spectacular views. Among the most popular are the family-friendly (easy to ascend) Coble Hill, and in nearby Wilmington, check out High Falls Gorge. Its quarter-mile trail includes four waterfalls as well as glass-floor walkways. Additionally, you can enjoy canoeing, kayaking, sailing and other water sports on Mirror Lake, visit Olympic venues and try your hand at some summer-modified winter sports. And if you like mountain biking, you’ll be in heaven.


It’s not just the fresh lobster that beckons us. The state boasts more than half a million acres of preserved land, making hiking a top attraction. Consider breaking your visit into half of a week by the ocean, and the other half inland in lake — and moose — country.


Bar Harbor. The main reason to visit this seaside town is Acadia National Park, which offers incredible views of the Atlantic Ocean as well as ponds and Frenchman Bay. Trails are of various lengths and climbing ability. There are some public beaches within the park; be advised that this far up the coast of Maine, the water is very chilly, and there are no lifeguards. The town of Bar Harbor is quaint and has plenty of shops and restaurants, but no arcades or amusement rides, nor a boardwalk. Lobster rolls are on nearly every menu, but so are burgers and steaks. There are also some decent pizza parlors. While the whale watching cruises are hit or miss, the Bay cruises are more reasonably priced and you’ll get to see wildlife up close — including bald eagles and hundreds of seals basking on rocks.


Moosehead Lake Region. The lake itself is huge — the largest east of the Mississippi contained within one state. Peppered with islands, Moosehead Lake is surrounded by vast forests and smaller lakes and ponds. Canoeing, sailing and kayaking are popular, and some motels and rentals even have canoes at their docks that guests can use for free. There are many hiking trails; among the most scenic (and ambitious) are those on Mount Kineo, an island on Moosehead Lake accessible by a water taxi. One thing you’ll want to look for before you leave is moose; they out number people three-to-one in this region. But don’t trust dumb luck; you can get a map of top siting spots; better yet, book a tour with a moose guide service. We like the canoe tours that allow you to come upon the moose in the water.

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