Growing up in Upstate New York, Lake George was a place we frequented, and a place that holds a lot of memories for me. After I had left for college in North Carolina (omg, 11 years ago?!), I think we only returned to the area once, my mom and I taking a ride to the outlets one Christmas break from school. So when J and I went home to visit the family with a few days to spare, I knew one of them had to be spent in Lake George.
The lake town is absolutely picturesque. Have you ever seen that scene, in the Simpsons Movie, where a dreary Alaskan view instantly turns into the perfect version of Homer’s poster of Alaska? The drive to Lake George is a lot like that for me. One moment you’re driving down the Northway—as pretty as it is, trees and all—the next, you come upon gorgeous views of the Adirondack Mountains. Before you know it, you’re led into this quaint little town, filled with mom-and-pop shops, restaurants, and, of course, the lake.
Some of my fondest childhood memories are centered in this little town. Family cruises on the lake via historic steamboats (the Minnie-Ha-Ha was my personal favorite). A school fieldtrip to Fort William Henry, where for some ill-advised reason, I purchased a rabbit pelt (honestly, why on earth?). Mini golfing or watching the hot air balloons and parasailers across the sky. Hanging out in the sand and on the playground with my grandparents. Strolling the main strip of Lake George Village. Spending hours in the arcade with my dad, or getting scared silly in the House of Frankenstein Wax Museum. Thankfully, I had a pair of loving and wonderful companions on this last trip; J and my mom agreed to recreate some of those memories with me, to take a little tour down memory lane. Okay, so I purchased three tickets to the haunted house and allowed no protesting. Either way.
The haunted house was just as scary as I remembered. Wax figures of some of the gnarliest monsters and villains waiting to scare you at the push of a button, whereupon you watch a scene come to life; everything from beheadings to electrocutions to shape-shifting. It’s pretty gruesome, even as an adult, but I gleaned an understanding of my ability to brave horror movies, even as a kid, by revisiting. I also realized (already knew?) that I am truly such a weirdo.
A visit to the arcade brought back my favorite memories of my late dad, who would spend hours letting me win match after match of air hockey, and in turn, I would marvel at his target practice skills at the shooting game (the one pictured above). It was interesting, actually, how this visit saw my husband filling that role, across from me at that air hockey table, shooting that same air rifle at those same targets. It was surprising how fulfilling this visit to a simple arcade was; the moments that I thought might be a bit sad, were, but overall I was rejoicing in having a companion to stand across from me and do those same things that used to bring me so much joy—and still do. I’m not sure those in company with me knew that they were participating in some sort of therapy, but it turns out, they were. I felt like I faced something I was a little afraid of, emotionally, and came out all the better.
Being older on this visit to Lake George meant we could have some adult fun, too, and my mom and I had one heck of a time at Adirondack Winery, sampling all manner of wine. Most of them were too sweet for my liking, some of them just plain weird (wine with flavors like cigar and leather? Ick…), but we each came away with a souvenir glass and fond memories. It’s worth a visit just for the fun factor, even if you don’t come away with a bottle of wine.
Overall, though my visit to Lake George was intended to show J a part of my growing up, it ended up becoming this odd little jaunt that meant the world to me. I’m so grateful to my mom and husband for humoring me on this little outing, and I hope to return to do it again sometime soon. Lake George is a wonderful place for families to experience a New York summer, which, in my opinion, is wholly underrated. I always laugh a little when people are so shocked at the natural beauty of New York (most people think New York and immediately think City), so it was a pleasure to be able to share it with J—I’m happy to say that he loved it so much, he still talks about it!
If you plan to head to the Adirondacks, consider a stay at The Sagamore; it was recently rated one of the top hotels in the country by Travel + Leisure, and offers that mix of history and charm, with idyllic views of the lake that I find to really be craving right now… Hmm, maybe I should get to booking a room? The mountains are just beautiful in the fall.