BY: OLIVIA BELANGER
The next time you are looking to get away and de-stress, you don’t need to travel too far. There are plenty of “staycation” destinations in the Adirondacks that are family friendly, educational and, most importantly, a blast!
If you’re looking to slide into your next adventure, Enchanted Forest Water Safari is perfect for you. The park, 3183 State Route 28, Old Forge, is the state’s largest water theme park with more than 50 rides and attractions, with a focus on fun for all ages.
The park also features classic amusement rides, food, games and the original storybook characters from its inception in 1965.
Additionally, the park has been ranked as one of the top water parks in the country by Trip Advisor for the past five years.
It’s pretty easy to see why it’s ranked so highly — whether you are a thrill seeker or want to relax, the park truly enforces its “fun for everyone” mantra.
One of the newer rides, Curse of the Silverback, allows riders to experience a 100-foot drop into a large 40-foot-diameter bowl, where they circle the bowl dropping out the middle into a pool below. Killermanjaro, is also one of the popular rides, and is considered a maximum thrill level. At 280 feet, riders are dropped down into the pool below, hitting speeds over 30 miles per hour.
For those seeking something calmer, there are several classic water slides to enjoy. Visitors can also head over to the tidal wave pool for a chance to relax.
If you want to stay dry, the park has several amusement rides, such as a Ferris Wheel, The Scrambler, bumper cars and a Tilt-O-Whirl. There are also arcade games, a barnyard full of live animals, a zipline, go-karts and the infamous storybook characters. Visitors young and old can say “hello” to Paul Bunyan, Cinderella and more.
The park is open seven days per week from June 12 to Labor Day weekend, with varying hours of operation depending on the day.
Admission to the park is $39.95 for ages 12 and older, $31.95 for ages three to 11 and free for ages two and under. The park also offers a siesta savings promotion which gives those who come in after 3 p.m. a free pass for the next day.
If wanting to plan a trip overnight, Old Forge Camping Resort and the Water’s Edge Inn are located next door to the park.
The campground, nestled on Lake Serene, has heated cabins and cottages, as well as RV and tent sites. It also provides boat rentals, a camp store, outdoor games and a playground.
At the inn, guests can book a standard room or a luxury suite at the lakeside location. Included with their stay is a continental breakfast, heated indoor pool and dry sauna.
Visitors interested in staying overnight at one of the two locations are able to do so at a discounted rate through the water park Sunday through Thursday nights.
THE WILD CENTER, Tupper Lake
For a more educational experience, a trip further north to the Wild Center is the ideal destination.
Opened in 2006, the center, 45 Museum Dr., Tupper Lake, was designed to be a celebration of the Adirondacks. The center was named one of the Top Eleven Things to Do by I Love New York, and was called “The place to see” by The Boston Globe.
Visitors can explore an elevated trail of bridges across the treetops at the new Wild Walk, with informative signage along it. It’s designed to transform the way we see into the natural world by offering up the perspective of the rest of nature.
The walk puts you in the perspective of the animals that see, hear, smell and feel the world in ways that we can only imagine. Through the walk, visitors can go into a four-story twig tree house, swinging bridges, climb onto a spider’s web and view the highest points in a full-sized bald eagle’s nest.
Into the woods of the 115-acre campus, also providing a new perspective, is iForest — one of the first immersive sound and art installations of its kind. Created by British Composer Pete M. Wyer, the forest features his place-based musical composition “I Walk Towards Myself.” The composition features choral members broadcasted through 24 hidden speakers in the surrounding woods.
As you walk along the iForest’s path, each step evokes a new feeling, sound and voice. The iForest experience is it’s unique to each person. It differs depending on your pace, as well as shifts in weather or season.
Aside from those two experiences, the outdoor campus also has several trails, which can be guided or on your own.
The center also offers canoe trips on Raquette River’s Oxbow, led by a state licensed guide and one of the center’s naturalists. Stand-up paddle board trips are also an option, at any experience level, with boards, paddles and lifejackets provided.
Each boat can hold up to two adults and two children, at any age, and paddle boarders must be ages 10 and up. Children ages 10 to 15 wanting to paddle board must be accompanied by at least one adult.
The cost for both a canoe trip or paddle boarding is $30 for members and $45 for non-members.
Inside the center, the fun continues, with several hands-on exhibits full of environmental education on the region.
In partnership with the Akwesasne Cultural Center, the Six Nations Indian Museum and the Native North American Traveling College, the center holds the Ways of Knowing. The exhibits explore traditional ecological knowledge and invites visitors to consider different perspectives of nature.
The exhibits — Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address, Sacred Foods and We Are All Related —offer insight into the culture of the Indigenous Haudenosaunee people who’ve inhabited the region for thousands of years.
As you continue through the center, the Hall of the Adirondacks shows fish, turtles, and other animals. The center is home to more than 900 live Adirondack animals, such as otters, porcupines, owls, snakes and fresh-water fish. The animals can be found throughout the exhibit halls or up-close during one of the Animal Encounters with a naturalist.
The daily encounters are held in the Big Wolf Great Hall, allowing you to see one of the region’s animals up close. One of the staff’s naturalist will lead a presentation on the animal, with time left for questions about the animal’s activities and behaviors.
The center is open seven days per week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets, which are for two consecutive days, are $22 for ages 18 to 64, $20 for seniors or military, $15 for ages 5 to 17 and free for ages four and under.