the Adirondacks


If your idea of “getting back to nature” is staying as far away from actual “nature” as possible, then the Adirondacks might just be the place for you.

The term “Adirondacks” refers to the mountain range in northeastern New York State as well as to Adirondack Park, the state-run entity that encompasses most of the land, both private and public, within the mountain range. Lake Placid, which hosted the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, is situated within the park.

The Adirondack Mountains, which take up nearly a third of all the land in New York State, were largely unexplored before the 1870s, when the Adirondack Railroad began to take tourists into the region. This led to the building of grand hotels and what came to be known as the “Great Camps,” luxurious compounds built by wealthy industrialists to host their families and dozens (sometimes even hundreds) of guests.

While theoretically allowing their guests to experience the natural wonders of this lovely region–mountain peaks, gorges, lakes surrounded by dense forests, meadows of wildflowers, tidy farm land studded with quaint towns and villages–these hotels and “camps” were often just as luxurious as the homes guests and owners left behind in New York and other Northeastern cities.

Designed in the Craftsman style, using timber and stone from the region, late-19th-century Adirondacks lodgings often had amenities like gold-plated bathtubs, bowling alleys, and movie theaters. (Nature always looks better when you’re viewing it from a gold-plated tub.)

While many of these luxe properties have fallen victim to the ravages of time, there are still plenty of posh places to stay in the Adirondacks.

Top of the list?

The Sagamore, set on its own island in Lake George, is the quintessential Victorian hotel, its long, horizontal wings swathed in crisp white clapboard and red shingles. A Governor’s King Suite in the main hotel (sleeps four with a lake view) will set you back $1000 a night. No one said nature was cheap.

On the off chance you actually want to experience nature, there are more than 2,000 miles of foot trails in Adirondack Park, as well as opportunities for swimming, hunting, fishing, horseback riding, and boating. And for those of you interested in a little culture, the park is home to numerous museums, historic sites (primarily old forts), and antiques shops.

Suggested snob usage: “Disney World? Are you kidding? We’re spending July in the Adirondacks at the Sagamore.”