Mention “The Adirondacks” to a travel-lover, and they imagine sitting in an iconic Adirondack chair, next to a deep blue lake. They envision a mountain view of vivid Fall foliage and a glass of wine in their hand.
Well, it is exactly like that, and you need to go.
Pack your favorite sweater, some hiking shoes and definitely your camera. Get ready for mountain and lake adventure but also a unique craft beverage experience.
The growing season is short. The air is crisp, and the wine is complex. And New York’s Farm-to-Glass program is the cornerstone to a unique tasting room experience. It’s an experience that we can not quite replicate in Virginia.
We drove our motorhome to NY and wandered the backroads and tasting rooms for a month. You can fly into Albany, rent a car, and explore the Adirondacks over a long Fall weekend. Keep reading, and I will map out a fantastic four-day mini escape.
We drove into the lower Hudson Valley and stopped at the Applewood Winery in Warwick, NY. The Applewood Winery is also the home to the Naked Flock brand of Hard Cider and Meads. They also distill spirits including vodka and gin from local apples. Order a pizza and pair it with a cocktail. Perhaps your cocktail will be a wine blended with a vodka or even made with the hard cider.
It was here that I learned about New York’s Farm-to-Glass program. If your beverage is part of the program, you can also serve the beverages of other participants in your tasting room. Craft beer, wine, cider, and spirits can all be found on the same tasting menu. The cocktails and pairings are only limited by your imagination.
I am a fan of wine or cider blended cocktails. My favorite from this NY adventure was found in the Hudson Valley. A blackberry-infused Merlot, a shot of small-batch bourbon, muddled blood oranges and Morello cherries with a splash of sparkling water over crushed ice.
I decided early in the trip that I would take this signature NY cocktail home, to Virginia. It would be a Hat Tip to the NY Farm-to-Glass Movement.
Four Nights in the Adirondacks
If you are short on time, cut the drive time from Virginia and fly into Albany, NY. Rent a car, and you will quickly be on the edge of the Adirondacks. I have picked four towns and an array of experiences that all provide a peek into the Adirondacks.
Night One: Saratoga Springs
Saratoga Springs is considered, and marketed as, the gateway to the Adirondacks. It boasts a quaint historic district with boutique shopping, cafes, museums, and coffee shops. We enjoyed the restored Victorian houses in this eclectic town center.
I visited the Saratoga Winery, Artisanal Brew Works and the High Rock Distillery, all a quick drive from the center of Saratoga Springs. The Saratoga Winery offered a multi-tasting experience that fits nicely into a four-day adventure. At the winery, you can taste spirits from the High Rock Distillery and local craft beer. Or, pair their wine collection with local chocolate or cheese. Be sure to check their live music calendar. You may want to wind down your day on their patio while listening to some local music.
Determined to re-create my favorite NY cocktail, I purchased The Saratoga Winery’s Blackberry Reserve—Fortified Melomel Wine. The Blackberry Reserve is “fresh blackberries pressed and blended with honey. Aged two years in a bourbon barrel and fortified with distilled melomel.” It is going to make a great cocktail for my DW&S friends back in Virginia.
Night 2: Lake George Village
There are faster ways to arrive, but we drove to Lake George Village on scenic Route 9. The route is dotted with dark redbarns, fields, cabins, lakes and waving American flags. “The Village” is a mix of 1960’s diners, B&Bs, retro motels and a few chain hotels. Drive along the lake on RT 9N and stay in one of the many private cabin rentals.
Lake George is a 36- mile natural lake with Lake George Village at one end and Ticonderoga at the other end. You can rent a boat in the village and explore the lake or, I suggest going on a Lake George Steamboat Cruise. Take the cruise and then follow it with dinner at one of the many restaurants with lake-side seating.
If you enjoy kayaking, stop by Rogers Rock State Park. With a day-pass and a kayak rental, you will be treated to a true Adirondack experience. In this park, you can also sit at a picnic table, next to the lake, and enjoy a view of vibrant Fall foliage. It was the perfect place to enjoy a picnic lunch.
For my Lake George tasting experience, I visited the Adirondack Winery, Lake George Distilling Company and Oscar’s Adirondack Mountain Smokehouse. Oscar’s has been showcased on the Food Network and in the Rachel Ray Magazine. We stocked up on Summer Sausage, smoked cheese and their famous More Than Mustard. All were paired with a Merlot from the Adirondack Winery.
At the Lake George Distilling Company, I picked up some Bull Head Bourbon. It is the second ingredient to re-create my favorite NY cocktail.
Night Three: Wilmington, NY
“Bring your hiking shoes and your camera and get ready for non-stop views.”
Today, you will drive 1.5 hours from Lake George Village to Wilmington, NY. You may want to stop along the way in the town of Keene, NY for a coffee, a hike or a souvenir of your visit. Famous shops that carry Adirondack goods can be found near Keene including Dartbrook Rustic Goods, Dartbrook South and Owls Head Mountain Rustic Furniture.
Wilmington is eight miles east of Lake Placid and only one mile west of Whiteface Mountain. Here, the tasting experience is a natural beauty and a local restaurant with an amazing view.
Bring your hiking shoes and your camera and get ready for non-stop views. Around every corner, I was shouting, “Stop the car…I need to take a photo”. In Wilmington, you are surrounded by the stunning beauty of the Adirondacks. You will find hundreds of miles of hiking trails beside cold mountain rivers, multiple lakes, and high mountain peaks.
A hiking experience that is adapted for all ability levels is found at High Falls Gorge ($). There is a one-mile Nature Trail and also an “Easy Path” without stairs. The Waterfall Walk will provide ample opportunity for stunning photos.
Consider staying at the Hungry Trout Resort. This resort caught my attention with the amazing mountain and river view directly off their patio dining area. This resort has dining to fit every palate, from fine dining at The Hungry Trout to casual dining at McDougals Pub. Of course, trout is on the menu. Also for trout, the resort offers day fishing trips and a fishing school.
Day Four: Lake Placid
Fall is brisk but the town is warm and vibrant. Tall northern pines and log cabins reflect in the dark blue lake. Main Street is bustling with coffee shops, stores and local restaurants. After hiking and then shopping, you may crave a beer.
Stop by the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery. Enjoy lakeside decks and a tour of the brewery. Currently, brewery tours are on Saturday afternoons at 4:30 PM.
Lake Placid Pub & Brewery has been crafting ales and lagers for more than 21 years. Over the years, they have crafted almost 150 different styles of beer. They brew almost 350,000 pints of beer annually. They always have six house beers on tap. You will want to try their popular Ubu Ale, once enjoyed by President Bill Clinton in the White House.
As you drive around Lake Placid, you may remember the 1980 Winter Olympics. That was the year that the USA Men’s Ice Hockey Team beat Team Russia. Just for fun, Google and watch the video while visiting Lake Placid. Lake Placid has hosted two Olympic competitions, in 1932 and 1980. The town still proudly displays its Olympic heritage. Personally, my jaw dropped as we drove past the high ski jump.
As you wrap up your visit to Lake Placid, keep in mind that your journey back to the Albany airport is approximately 2 hours and 10 minutes. And you need to return that rental car.
A DW&S Tip
Is four days enough time in the Adirondacks? No. But it is enough time to get a taste of this beautiful region. It is also enough time to enjoy local craft beverages. My first tip is to fly into the Albany Airport and rent a car. My second tip is to consider taking a craft beverage tour. The Hoppy Trails Brew Bus is my second tip. Hoppy Trails, hoppytrailsbrewbus.com, has tours that start in Saratoga Springs and Lake George. Perhaps you prefer to book lodging in one town and leave the driving to someone else.
I am heading back to Virginia with the ingredients to re-create my favorite NY cocktail. I will enjoy it with family and friends—the best souvenir of all.
We explored the Adirondacks in our Winnebago Motorhome. If you would like a list of campsites and reviews, send an email to [email protected]