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The best life has to offer is found in novel experiences. From scaling mountains with outrageous views, to tasting delicious and photo-worthy foods, to making memories you and your best friends will never forget, the Lake George Area has a nearly endless list of the experiences that make life truly worth living.
You’ve been holding down that desk job for a while now. You've earned yourself a vacation. Text your buds, click “purchase” on those bathing suits and sandals sitting in your Amazon shopping cart, and fire off an email with vacation dates to your boss. Summer means vacation in the Lake George Area.
The Lake George Area is a collection of lake towns and wooded communities with hidden ponds, massive mountains, and crystal-clear lakes serving as entertainment to locals and visitors. Lake George, a 32-mile long beauty, is the anchor for any trip to the region. Visitors spend all summer on the lake, boating the shorelines, meeting friends at vibrant waterfront hangouts, and soaking in those precious rays that disappear all too quickly. Since your visit to the area will be short (until you quit that desk job and move here), we’ll cover the hits that you have to experience if you’re going to earn that “lake life” bumper sticker.
Lake George is often called “the Queen of American Lakes.” Once you see the lake, you’ll understand why this fancy nickname has stood the test of time. The water is royal blue and sparkling, nestled in a crib of lofty mountains. It’s clean as a whistle and a comfy 70 degrees all summer long. Don’t leave the Lake George Area without doing a cannonball or two into the lake. Finding a place to jump in is easy.
Beaches in the Lake George Area
Beach days are the best days when you’re near the water. The three public beaches in Lake George Village ensure that you, your cooler, and your beach chair all have a plot of sand. Flip those Ray Bans over your eyes, rub in a bucket or two of sunscreen, and relax on the shores of one of the most gorgeous lakes on the planet. The view from Million Dollar Beach is a miles-long panorama of blue waves and forested mountains that you can admire from the comfort of your towel. Shepard Park Beach is just off Canada Street in the heart of Lake George Village, so a sizzling slice of pizza or an air-conditioned bar is always only a few steps away. Usher Park Beach is a quiet little sandbox on the east side of Lake George, farther from the Village but often less busy.
The smaller community of Bolton Landing, a quick 10-miles north of Lake George Village, has two public beaches. Again, while both spots have that white, clean sand that is required at a beach, the views from the sand are the highlights. From Rogers Memorial Park, take in a side view of the famous and regal Sagamore Resort. From Veterans Memorial Park, the long tip of Tongue Mountain sticks out in the forefront and The Narrows section of Lake George cascade beyond. Both of these beaches are a short stroll from Bolton’s thriving restaurant and shopping district.
Quiet, hidden beaches can be found all over the Lake George Area for those who prefer their beaches less sat on. Drive north from Bolton to Hague Town Beach on Lake George to see the wide, sparsely populated mid-section of the lake. Don’t leave town without grabbing a deli sandwich at the Hague Market. Travel to Brant Lake Beach in Horicon or the Loon Lake Town Beach for different but still jaw-dropping views of the Adirondacks. Stop for lunch and a craft beer at the Hub, an eclectic mix of a bike shop, deli, and bar.
Check out our in-depth blog on Lake George beaches!
Adventure on the Water
The Adirondack Mountains are the definition of panoramic. You’ve got plenty of options if you want to see the lake and mountains from every possible angle. Start with a parasail ride at Parasail Joe’s in Lake George Village. The view of 32-miles of lake spreading out below you from the height of the mountains is one that is hard to replicate. And if you’re afraid of heights – do it anyway! Bring a friend to scream along with and you’ll be just fine.
Speaking of screaming, if you want to get that heart of yours pounding, take a guided waverunner tour out of Chic’s Marina. Either take a machine out on your own or double up with a friend. You’ll follow a guide out behind Dome Island on Lake George and rip around for 30 heart-pounding minutes on machines that can reach 60 MPH. Warning: wear a bathing suit. You will get soaked.
After you’ve safely made it back to the dock after your waverunner tour or parasail ride, relax with a Tiki Tour in Lake George Village. This new tour of the lake began in the summer of 2017. Tiki Tours invites you and five of your friends on their fake palm tree-covered, engine-powered barge with a bar in the middle for a float along the shoreline of Lake George. Your captain does all the navigating, allowing you to have a drink or two and snap some pics of those sweet, sweet lake views. Tiki Tours are BYOB, so make sure to pack your favorite beverage.
If you’d like the freedom to search out every large bay and small nook of Lake George, rent a boat. Several marinas rent boats ranging from small and manageable 13-footers perfect for couples to large-and-in-charge pontoon boats that can fit your entire crew. The possibilities are endless once you get on the water – enjoy the summer sun, swim off the boat, attempt to wakeboard, catch a few keepers, whip your buddies around on a tube, and more. There’s no such thing as a bad boat day.
You Can Climb Those Mountains!
You know those vibrant adventure Instagram accounts you follow? They usually star a guy riding a fossil of a rented dirt bike through the bustling streets of a city in China, or a woman about to leap from the top of a magnificent cliff, rope swing in hand and dazzling blue water below. While we can’t guarantee you the nomadic blogger lifestyle that everyone seems to live these days, we can guarantee you the outdoor experiences that will have your friends at home more than jealous.
The Lake George Area sits on the southern border of the Adirondack Mountains, a vast state park of some six million acres. There are dozens of hiking trails in the Adirondacks, ranging from easy strolls through the woods to grueling, day-long climbs. Prospect Mountain is a hike squarely in the middle of “easy” and “grueling,” that can be found on a backstreet in Lake George Village. The hike is a short 2.8-mile round trip, but it’s tough and steep with few opportunities to rest. However, the climb is worth it. The views of southern Lake George and the distant Adirondack High Peaks from the top are absolutely gorgeous. For those who are non-hikers – you can drive to the top of the mountain on the Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway, but we recommend you earn those photos with the hike.
You don’t have to torture your body or pass out on the trail if you want to climb mountains. Travel to the town of Chester and hike some of their Chester Challenge trails. These climbs are short and simple, with most of them leading to awesome views of Loon Lake. Stewart Mountain is about as quick and rewarding as it gets. It’s a less-than-a-mile out-and-back trail that will have you “oh, wow”-ing before you finish your cup of coffee. Kipp Mountain is a tougher hike of about 2-miles round trip, but once you reach the ridgeline near the top with constant views of Loon Lake and more distant peaks, that extra mile will be worth it. Complete six of the Chester Challenge hikes you earn a patch. This can be completed in one day if you’re committed!
Explore the Mountains While Sweating Less
While the Adirondacks are ancient (about 5 million years old, but who’s counting), there are some brand new ways to explore the wilderness. One of those new ways to explore is through Revolution Rail Co. These folks placed railbikes on the historic D&H Railroad line on the shores of the Hudson River. You and your pedaling-partners will bike through swathes of deep, rarely-seen Adirondack forest. It ends with a pedal over an old trestle bridge that passes over the Hudson River. The ride is about 6-miles round trip and is as easy as, well, riding a bike.
Speaking of the Hudson River, after you’ve railbiked across it, hook up with a rafting company and take a ride through it. The Lake George Area is home to several professional rafting companies that will safely lead you through a thrilling day on the river. If you’ve never rafted the Upper Hudson River Gorge, you are in for a day. Depending on what season you raft, the rapids can be angry and raging Class IV rapids (spring, when the river is high), or casual and relaxing Class II rapids (summer, when the water is lower and warmer). If pure adventure is what you’re after, it doesn’t get much more harrowing than rafting the Upper Hudson River Gorge.
Don't Forget to Eat
One of the best parts about visiting a new place is devouring food at new restaurants. Dozens of restaurants are open and waiting for you to stroll in, grab a seat at the bar or a booth, and place your order. Here are a few spots you’re pretty much required to eat at when you visit the Lake George Area.
You are an adult, and you are allowed to eat ice cream for dinner. One of the best places to get ice cream in the Lake George Area is Martha’s Dandee Crème. Martha’s is a legendary ice cream mecca across the street from Six Flags Great Escape & Hurricane Harbor. Their flavors change daily and range from regular ole chocolate or vanilla to rambunctious combinations that somehow taste heavenly. They’re also recognized for their humongous portions. Expecting a medium cone’s worth of ice cream? Order a small. Want a small dish of ice cream? Better have a kiddie-size. Want the full Martha’s experience? Order a large and get licking. Pro-tip: after you’ve finished your ice cream, order from Martha’s Grill and have an actual meal. Their burgers, chicken sandwiches, and other options are fantastic.
Picture this: you’re in your drying-out bathing suit with a cold, crisp, local craft beer in hand, leaning back against the railing of an outdoor deck, jamming to some local live tunes with the glimmering lake behind you. This image can be yours in the Lake George Area. A slew of waterfront restaurants dot the shoreline of Lake George, both in Lake George Village and Bolton Landing. In the village, try the Lake George Beach Club or King Neptune’s Pub for multiple floors of food, drinks, and live entertainment overlooking the lake. Both of these watering holes are only minutes from the beaches in Lake George Village. Check out Blue Water Manor or the Algonquin Restaurant in Bolton Landing. These locations are in picturesque bays on the lake, offering panoramas from the bars that are almost impossible to find anywhere else. Here’s another pro-tip: Did you rent a boat or trailer your own to the region? Boat to the Algonquin or Blue Water Manor for lunch or dinner and take advantage of their free docking.
Ahhhhh, beer. That tasty, bubbly, refreshing, varied nectar that makes you feel like a million bucks. The Lake George Area has five craft breweries within its borders, all pouring something a little bit different. In Glens Falls, Davidson Brother’s Brewery has brewed tasty brews since 1996 in an old downtown building. Mean Max Brew Works sits directly across the street from Davidson Brothers, so you could spend all day hopping between bars to sample beers. Mean Max has as many as 12 beers on tap ranging from lagers to IPAs. They don’t serve food, but guests to the taproom are welcome to bring their own. Cooper’s Cave Ale Company, located just off the Warren County Bikeway in Glens Falls, serves great food, tasty beers, and has an ice cream window, making the restaurant a trinity of summertime perfection. In Lake George Village, stop at the Adirondack Pub & Brewery, who pour Lake George-themed beers and hold awesome events throughout the year in their Adirondack-style brewpub. The newest brewery in the region is the Bolton Landing Brewing Company. Their types of beers run the gamut, from dark stouts to light IPAs. Their taproom is brand new and is made to look like you’re sipping beers in a boathouse.
Late Night Fun
A day during summer vacation is usually split into two halves. The daytime has its own set of activities, you return to your room, and then you get ready for the evening, which is its own event. The Lake George Area has a few nightlife options that will make both your wild half and your more mild side very happy.
We’ve all been on a bar crawl. You meet up with a bunch of strangers at a set gathering place, exchange awkward “hellos” with your new friends, then stroll to a few local haunts to take advantage of pre-arranged drink specials. At the Lake George Bar Crawl, a man known as Tim will guide you around the Village, exposing you to the most lively bars and clubs in towns. The crawl begins at 10 p.m. sharp, and in between some ice breakers and social games, there will be plenty of time to embarrass yourself on the dance floor. Don’t worry, what happens at the Lake George Bar Crawl stays at the Lake George Bar Crawl (maybe?).
Not everyone loves the late night bar scene, so our next nightlife event can be enjoyed completely booze-free! You already know how gorgeous Lake George is, so it shouldn’t be tough to convince you to go on a fireworks cruise. Board one of the cruise ships at either the Lake George Steamboat Company or Lake George Shoreline Cruises and get ready for a show. You can’t get any closer to the phenomenal fireworks that blast off every Thursday throughout the summer and on holidays. We know you’ve seen fireworks before, but trust us, the colors are worth it.
There’s nothing like lounging on the deck of a lively outdoor restaurant and getting up close and personal with local musicians. The Lake George Area always has a live band here, or a singer-songwriter there. The waterfront restaurants we mentioned earlier often host musicians to entertain the summer crowds. The Fridays at the Lake Concert Series in Shepard Park is a free show held every Friday evening in Lake George Village. The best part about these concerts: you don’t even have to roll off your beach towel. These live, local acts jam out in the Shepard Park Amphitheater, which means turning your back to the water gives you front row seats to the show.
Everyone Needs a Nap Sometimes
When you’re not lounging on the beach, sailing the shoreline on a cruise ship, or taking in the sights after a tough hike to the top of Prospect Mountain, you’re going to need somewhere to actually sleep. The Lake George Area has dozens of rooms and campsites, ranging from Adirondack-cabins, to brand-name hotels, to island campsites, to that new, outdoorsy thing you’ve probably heard about, “glamping.”
The Adirondack Mountains inspire a specific architectural look and feel. Buildings are rustic and lumberjack-esque, with thick log walls covered in bear and moose signs. If you and your crew want to surround yourselves in that Adirondack feeling, there are motels and hotels lining Lake George that specialize in rustic. Many of these lakefront resorts, offering beach access, game rooms, and a convenient stroll to Lake George Village or Bolton Landing when you want to go out on the town.
More traditional hotels can house your entire group. Places like the Fort William Henry Hotel & Conference Center or the Marriott Lake George are in the heart of Lake George Village, making a day at the beach, a fancy meal, or a night of bar-hopping completely walkable. A pricier resort hotel is the Sagamore Resort, a four-star palace on its own private island in Bolton Landing. This is the place where you’ll find (and pay for) the amenities that you’d expect at a luxurious resort. After you see the place, you may not mind shelling out the cash to stay there.
A lot of young people opt for the tent and campfire of a campsite over the king-sized bed and air conditioning of a hotel room. In the Lake George Area, there are hundreds of campsites to choose from. If you want to fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves (who doesn’t), we’d recommend booking an island campsite on Lake George. Each site is like a diamond, beautiful and unlike any other. Some are sprawling, with huge, open areas to relax in under tall pines and long, unbroken stretches of waterfront. Others are small and quiet, perfect for a couple searching for a primitive private getaway. Remember, you’ll need to rent a boat or bring your own to get to one of these sites.
Of course, you could always just combine the outdoor adventure of camping and the lavish amenities of a fancy resort. Let us introduce glamping. Several private campgrounds in the Lake George Area specialize in amenity-rich fancy-pants camping that will have you feeling like you’re on a wilderness expedition while being followed by an expert chef to cook and a porter to carry your luggage. And even if your earth science-major friend says this isn’t true camping, and even if he or she is probably correct, glamping is still a great way to sleep outdoors.
By now you're probably convinced that the Lake George Area is worth burning those vacation days on. What are you waiting for? Choose your dates, send that email, make those plans, and request a Travel Guide!