By Teresa Farrell
Alexandria Bay is often considered the entertainment capital of the Thousand Islands. The village has long been known to provide a great time, first as a summer getaway for Gilded Age royalty and then as one of the most popular vacation destinations in Upstate New York—and with good reason. With beautiful scenery and plenty to do, the Thousand Islands is a summer paradise. First- time visitors will find plenty to see and do, and the regulars find themselves coming back to enjoy longtime traditions as well as experience what’s new.
Alexandria Bay is a great place to get on the St. Lawrence River. In addition to local marinas who rent pleasure craft by the day, Uncle Sam Boat Tours offers multiple touring options and leaves from the Bay each day. Uncle Sam offers lunch cruises with a narrated tour and light fare, and dinner cruises, where you can enjoy a first-class buffet while watching the sun set on the river and enjoying live music on the upper deck. Uncle Sam also offers a wine and craft beer tour, including sightseeing and a variety of finger foods. Narrated sightseeing tours are also available and offer a glimpse into the history of the region. Travel the watery border between the United States and Canada on the Two Nation Tour, see the region in a whole different light on a Twilight tour, or listen to tales of the Thousand Islands’ history as a gilded-age playground for the rich and famous. Enjoy the view of Millionaire’s Row as you cruise past privately-owned islands complete with mansions.
Uncle Sam also offers access to the region’s two famous castles. Boldt Castle, located on Heart Island in view of Alexandria Bay, and Singer Castle, located a few miles east along the river on Dark Island. Both have become staples of a summertime visit to the islands. These two icons of the St. Lawrence River actually have very different stories to tell. Boldt Castle was built as a labor of love, a tribute from New York City millionaire George Boldt to his wife Louise. George was having the castle built as a summer home for the family but also as a testament of his love for his wife. Louise Boldt never got to enjoy her palace, though; she fell ill and died before construction was completed. George, heartbroken, ordered all work on the island to stop. For years the castle sat dormant and unfinished before being purchased by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority in the 1970s. After reviewing Boldt’s initial plans for the castle and securing funding, renovations began on the castle in the 1990s. Today, the castle has been completely refurbished, and the public is welcome to come and tour the opulence and luxury that could have been.
Singer Castle was not only a dream, but a home to its residents during the Gilded Age. Owned by a number of different families over time, Singer Castle saw much use as a hunting camp for the Bourne family, who enjoyed the island for generations as a place to relax. The castle is not only open to visitors today, but provides an opportunity to live like royalty with the option to rent out the master suite overnight. The master bedroom faces the river on both sides, offering a spectacular opportunity to experience both an American sunrise and a Canadian sunset on the river.
Back on land, there’s plenty to see and do. “The Bay” is well known for its shopping and dining, offering the chance to pick out the perfect souvenir before enjoying lunch or dinner overlooking the river. Take a stroll down the James Street Pier or pack a picnic to enjoy at Scenic View Park, where a small-scale replica of the Thousand Islands Bridge stretches to Casino Island. Boutiques and galleries specialize in gifts of every variety, including many items that reflect the river’s special heritage. When it’s time to eat, you don’t have to look far for a delicious meal. From burgers and fries to pizza and wings and barbecue to fine dining, many eateries have patios or dining rooms overlooking the river. A treat from an ice cream shop can easily put the cherry on top of a beautiful day in the Bay. If you’re looking for fun once the sun goes down, Alexandria Bay is the place to be with pubs, clubs, and live music venues. The summer’s roster of musical acts includes something for everyone. Country music, rock and roll to acoustic and oldies take the stage at various venues at night.
Thousand Islands Winery is just down the road from Alexandria Bay, in sight of the American Span of the Thousand Islands Bridge. Thousand Island Winery was first winery in the area and was started over 12 years ago. They offer tours and tastings daily, with many varieties of wine to suit any taste. The winery is also home to a host of events throughout the summer with live music, food, and festivities tailored to each event’s theme. New in 2016 Otter Creek Winery, located just down the road in Philadelphia, NY, is opening a second tasting room on Rt. 12 in Alexandria Bay. They will be serving wine, craft beer and hard cider.
Alexandria Bay is also home to events and special weekends throughout the summer season. The most famous is Bill Johnston’s Pirate Days, a ten-day festival honoring the region’s ties to prohibition and featuring pirates performing swordfights in the streets and invading the town on a pirate ship. Music festivals such as late August’s “Rockin’ in the Bay” and early September’s “Blues in the Bay” offer even more opportunities to enjoy when it comes to live music and a night out on the town. Local resorts and motels offer a range of lodging options from basic to luxurious and can accommodate any budget, ensuring a comfortable stay.
For more information, an event schedule and to plan your trip, go to www.visitalexbay.org.
Hiking is one of the most satisfying ways to experience the Central Adirondacks. Hikers in this area — which includes the hamlets of Old Forge, Inlet, Eagle Bay, Big Moose, and Stillwater– can take advantage of a diverse 2,000- mile trail system, with hikes that include steep mountain ascents, pond-and lake-circling loops, and destination walks to special spots begging to be explored. Hikers of every age, ability and comfort level will find something to suit their tastes in the Central Adirondacks. One of the area’s unique features is that while it is nestled amongst the mountains, there are also plenty of low-grade loop hikes in the area. Flat, beginner-level hikes can be ideal when schedules are tight and the mercury is high, and more forgiving for families with pets and small children. Located just few miles outside of Inlet, Lost and Mitchell Ponds require a drive into the Moose River Plains Wild Forest, but the 2- and 3.8-mile routes, respectively, are considered easy and suitable for beginners. The trail to Lost Pond, a favorite fishing spot, follows a circuit of campsites and picnic areas, and branches off into spur trails, including one that leads to an outlet dam and another that reaches a remote, boggy pond, providing the opportunity for hours of exploration. Mitchell Pond (the former camp of World War I veteran Robert West) is an experience in the seclusion of nature that affords hikers views of the area’s unique cliff faces. There’s also the opportunity to add on a 5.8-mile spur excursion to Lower Mitchell Pond, where additional picnic and observation areas frame another gorgeous Adirondack shoreline. West of Eagle Bay on Big Moose Rd., you’ll find ever-popular Moss Lake, a 2.5 mile loop that follows the path used at a girls’ camp that was formerly housed on the site. The trail crosses over bridges and sandy areas as well as past the landmark of an tree growing out of a rock, and its proximity to the water makes for excellent vistas all the way around. The Moss Lake trailhead is also one starting point for the Bubb and Sis Lakes trails, with the other on Route 28 between Old Forge and Eagle Bay. Bubb and Sis Lakes can be hiked on their own or as an extension of the Moss Lake loop—if combined, the excursion becomes a 6.5-mile trek. Bub and Sis share their Route 28 trailhead with the Vista Trail, which traces the ridgeline around Fourth Lake for its namesake–excellent vistas. Just across the road from Moss Lake’s parking area lies the Cascade Lake trailhead, a family favorite that demands a photo op. The 5.5-mile trail winds around a lake and through the woods before revealing excellent views of Cascade Falls, a local icon; visible remnants of another girls’ camp- which stood here in the 1930s – adds an historical aspect to the journey. Cascade Lake’s trailhead is also a starting point for a network of additional trails, so tacking on extra miles of exploring is easy to do. There are plenty of trails to explore toward Old Forge, too; on Route 28, between Eagle Bay and Old Forge, the 8/10-mile Fly Pond trail passes Scenic Mountain as well as Fly, Carry Mountain, and Mountain ponds on gentle terrain. Within Old Forge itself, the 6.4-mile Nick’s Lake Loop at Nick’s Lake Public Campground accommodates hikers looking for a longer trail on flat terrain and offers plentiful views, from marshy areas to beaches to a boardwalk. Because the trail goes through the Nicks Lake Public Campground , visitors can extend their trek with a walk around one of the many loops or enjoy a break at a picnic area. Nick’s Lake’s beach is a perfect spot to stop and take a swim. A favorite mountain bike trail to Nelson Lake also begins here, which hikers can use as well. A walk of 3.5 miles will bring hikers to Remsen Falls, with an 11.5-mile loop trail option for the more adventurous souls. Hikers that enjoy a steeper trek can take advantage of the intermediate climbs on Bald, Bear and Rocky Mountains, all located on Route 28 just south of Inlet. Rocky Mountain is a one-mile round trip, with a fairly easy ascent that winds through pretty forest before leveling out at a rocky outcropping that overlooks the Fulton Chain of Lakes. Black Bear Mountain, which shares Rocky’s parking lot, offers hikers the option of a 3.8-mile round trip or a shorter 2.1-mile alternate trail with steeper spots along the ascent. At the end of either path, the summit offers similar views to Rocky Mountain’s, and it’s easy—even popular—to complete the hikes one after the other for a new twist. Bald Mountain, one of the most popular hikes in the area, winds through woods and over interesting rock slopes for a two-mile round trip with the Bald Mountain Fire Tower, part of the Adirondack Fire Tower Challenge, perched at the top for maximum views. In Old Forge, McCauley Mountain, famous for the skiing opportunities it provides in the winter and the scenic chairlift that runs in the summer and fall, is also a prime hiking destination.
Expert-level Trail A runs about 5.2 miles and includes views of McCauley itself as well as Perry’s Pond and Little Moose Mountain; intermediate Trail B is 3.5 miles long and passes by nearby Gray Lake on its way toward Maple Ridge and back to McCauley. Inlet’s Arrowhead Park, Old Forge’s community waterfront, and Nick’s Lake and Limekiln Lake state campgrounds all provide paved paths to walk, and the ambitious can even trek the 15-mile roadside walk along twisting South Shore Road, which connects Inlet and Old Forge and passes by each of the first four lakes in the Fulton Chain with a handful of vistas and pond- or lakeside stops.
An Adirondack vacation is the perfect time to try something new or relive favorite memories, but sometimes it can be challenging to fit everything you want to do into one trip. That’s why day trips are an excellent way to experience all the diversity that the Central Adirondack region has to offer. They can include almost any activity, so piece together different activities and ideas to form an itinerary for a few hours or a few days, or mix and match old favorites with new experiences to create your most memorable vacation yet. What you choose is up to you; there’s plenty for everyone in the Central Adirondacks!
Woods & Water: One of the most famous draws to the area, outdoor opportunities in the Central Adirondacks are favored by legions of new and returning Adirondack visitors. The area’s variety of outdoor recreation opportunities is immense, but here are some good places to start. Hikers can choose anything from level, flat lake and trail loops to steeper mountain grades to trek, and there’s no shortage of routes around.
Cyclists can take advantage of Old Forge’s extensive snowmobile trail system, which becomes a recreational mountain biker’s playground once the snow melts. Follow the trail system laid out on the snowmobile maps and create a customized route, or take a spin on the trails that run close to Carter Station for a few miles of wooded rides with ponds to stop by for a rest or a picnic. Dedicated trail networks for each level of cyclist are available at Fern Park, Maple Ridge, and McCauley Mountain. And road bikers rejoice: the loop that Route 28 and South Shore Road forms around the first four lakes in the Fulton Chain is an excellent excursion. South Shore has much less traffic and gentler hills, while Route 28 is best for a more experienced biker due to higher traffic volume and steeper grades. This stretch connects Old Forge to Inlet, and there are plenty of things to do and see along the way; take advantage of the fun that one town has to offer, and then hop on your bike and head to the other.
Paddling is extra-sweet in the Central Adirondacks. Over 12 miles of the upper section of the Moose River are open for flatwater paddling from various put-ins with only one portage. Furthest upstream, near Eagle Bay, Rondaxe Road’s bridge is a great launch; just outside of Old Forge, at North Street, the red, white and blue bridge is an excellent start. Green Bridge, further downstream, has a put-in spot as well. If lakes sound more appealing, check out the put in at smaller lakes like Moss, or take on the Fulton Chain. The First through Fourth Lake segment sees more motor traffic, but Seventh and Eighth lakes, just past Inlet, offer more in the way of secluded paddling. Big Moose Lake is a short drive from Eagle Bay and provides a quiet paddling experience. A few miles past Big Moose, Stillwater Reservoir features dozens of designated campsites on one of the most remote and pristine bodies of water in the Adirondacks. Stillwater provides enough exploratory opportunities for a week, but smaller sections can be explored in an afternoon. Motor traffic is allowed, but stays largely within the designated channel, and the fishing is some of the best in the area. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, try whitewater rafting. Whitewater Challengers and Adirondack River Outfitters run trips suited for adventurers of every skill and experience level on the Moose River from May to October.
Tours and Attractions: For a different take on nature, take off for a scenic seaplane ride or saddle up for a horseback ride. Seaplane rides from Seventh Lake allow a one-of-a-kind view of the Adirondacks. The extensive trail network in the region provides enough terrain for anything from an hour of horseback riding to a full-day adventure, and trips to Cascade Lake, Cascade Falls, Moss Lake or a general Adirondack woods tour are popular options. Those who crave a bird’s eye view of the area but don’t want to hit the trail or board a plane can still take in the sights at the McCauley Mountain chairlift, which remains open during the summer for scenic rides. The views extend to the whole Fulton Chain, and the ride is an excellent way to take in world-class Adirondack views without a strenuous hike.
Enchanted Forest/Water Safari in Old Forge is one of the area’s most famous attractions, and New York State’s largest water theme park has earned its reputation as one of the best. The park offers more than 50 rides, including over 30 water rides. Games, food, a petting zoo and a kids’ area round out the selection to make this an all-ages favorite stop. They also offers stay-and-play packages with the Old Forge Camping Resort and the Water’s Edge Hotel, for those looking to make the experience last longer than a day.
The Loomis Brothers’ modern-day counterparts “rob” the Adirondack Scenic Railroad’s passenger train on scheduled rides throughout the summer. This unique ride is ideal for adventurous kids and adults alike, or anyone who has wondered what the 1800s were like in the Adirondacks. Scenic boat tours along the Fulton Chain range from two to four hours and choices include sunset, sightseeing, and heritage cruises; and on certain summer nights, fireworks cruises. Other unique options include a mail boat tour, where up to ten passengers can ride along on a narrated historical tour with stops to deliver mail to lakeshore homes.
Museums and Art: Local museums and galleries make the Central Adirondacks a culture enthusiast’s playground. Old Forge’s new Arts Center, the View, is a local treasure. A brand new, eco-friendly building was unveiled in 2010. Beautiful architecture and a state-of-the-art facility are just a few the View’s highlights. With an extensive list of exhibits and a growing list of workshops and classes, the View is the nucleus of the Central Adirondack arts community. Nearby, local artists and business owners form a patchwork of unique art shops and galleries in Old Forge and Inlet, each with its own distinctive feel. Set aside a few hours to explore, and you’re sure to walk away with a new understanding of the area, its arts and culture, and even a new piece of artwork for your collection.
Those looking to get a glimpse into the area’s history will be pleased to find the variety of resources available to them here. In Old Forge, Town of Webb Historical Association’s Goodsell Museum is includes an Adirondack exhibit, and the museum’s research library houses an extensive collection of books, maps, vintage photographs, business records and genealogy records are all available to the public.
Shopping and Dining: Shopping and dining in the Central Adirondacks provide as much diversity as outdoor pursuits do. Specialty stores, souvenir shops, bookstores, clothing stores, art galleries, craft shops and more line the streets, providing hours of browsing potential. Locally created Adirondack-inspired art, books, jewelry and souvenirs can be found behind every window and storefront. Some shops, like Old Forge Hardware, even boast a bit of local history themselves; the “Adirondacks’ Most General Store” is housed in an historic building, constructed in 1922.
When stomachs start to growl, remember that the area has no shortage of pubs, restaurants, ice cream stands and other eateries. Main Street Station from Big Moose and Tony Harper’s from Raquette Lake bring a taste of the Adirondack’s favorite establishments into Old Forge. You’ll find authentic Italian at Billy’s Restaurant, American fare at the Old Mill and diner classics and local specialties at Walt’s Diner. A gourmet bistro with vegetarian and vegan offerings, a full-service coffee shop and a variety of pubs and diners round out the sit-down options. Ice cream stands and arcades offer informal fare. Stop by Old Forge’s Montezuma Winery for a tasting of all their signature varieties, including a honey wine called mead and a variety of summery fruit-based options. Pick up a bottle of wine then stop by one of the local farmer’s markets to gather the rest of your picnic. Old Forge’s Farmer’s Market, behind Main Street on Joy Tract Road, is open from 2 – 6 every Friday of the summer season and provides shopping as well as a chance to pick up the freshest ingredients and try some new foods. Inlet’s ongoing produce market boasts a selection of plants and flowers in addition to its fresh food offerings for an extra splash of summer.
However you choose to spend your time here, be sure to take time to sample every chance for vacation fun that can be found in the Central Adirondacks. With just a little bit of planning, it’s easy to create the perfect trip to suit your tastes and keep you coming back for many summers to come!
Albany is the center of New York State’s Capital Region. But this area is not only the center of the state’s government. It’s also a beehive of activity, a center for business and education, and hub of arts and culture, with a rich history that reveals itself in layers—in museums and institutes, but also along the city’s very streets.
Downtown Albany is a thriving marketplace and a center for culture. The New York State Museum houses an extensive collection of the state’s most treasured artifacts and preserves the history of the Empire State with ever changing exhibits. Lark Street, Albany’s “Village in the City”, is a haven and a hot spot for all varieties of arts and culture. The ten-block community is home to many of Albany’s favored bars, restaurants, and shops as well as the home of many festivals and events. May brings Tulip Fest, an annual celebration that features live entertainment and dozens of vendors and food stands as hundreds of flowers bloom in Washington Park. June features the premier arts and crafts festival Art on Lark and the crowd-drawing Friehoffer Jazz Festival. July’s Independence Day celebrations, include the 1800s-era celebration “Grand Old Fourth Of July”, and Price Chopper’s Fabulous 4th And Fireworks”, with live music and fireworks over Empire State Plaza. And from August to September, the area comes alive with an impressive annual events lineup. History takes the spotlight at Canal Splash and the 101st Apple Harvest. The Sangria Festival and the At the Plaza Food Festival bring local tastes to the forefront. The Albany Latin Fest, Capital District Scottish Games, and Iroquois Indian Festival of Arts celebrate unique aspects of local culture, while the famous Altamont Fair brings the true summertime fair experience to the area. Plus, Alive At Five showcases a huge variety of bands—local and beyond—each Thursday of the summer season downtown, and on the first Friday of each month, the city’s galleries and art centers open their doors to showcase local work for the aptly named First Friday event.
Further downtown, the Palace Theater sprawls across a corner of Clinton Street, drawing acts from around the country and crowds from a distance to take in its history and architecture as much as its shows. Built in 1931, the Palace weathered the Depression, three renovations, generations of social changes, and the advent of motion pictures. Still, much of the theater’s luxurious original décor has survived its many turns as a concert hall, theater, movie house and civic auditorium. Today, the Palace is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is the official home of the Albany Symphony Orchestra, and remains one of the most successful event venues in the area.
The Hudson River is the site of much activity; river cruises and tours are available at the downtown waterfront, including a special half on land, half on the river trip aboard an amphibious bus/boat combo called a Duckboat. The tour winds through the city and ends with a splashdown in the river. History is alive at the Destroyer Escort Historical Museum aboard the only surviving World War II Destroyer Escort, the U.S.S. Slater, which is moored on the Hudson in Albany. Open for tours Wednesday through Sunday from April to November, this piece of floating history has undergone fifteen years of restoration to bring her former glory as one of the 563 destroyer escorts employed to protect American forces from Nazi U-boats in the North Atlantic and Japanese submarines and Kamikaze air attacks in the Pacific during World War II.
Wherever your interests lie, Albany has an event, an attraction, or an experience that will suit your summer sense of adventure perfectly. Visit Albany.org to plan your trip and find yours.
When most people think of paddling in Upstate New York, they imagine the endless rivers, streams and lakes of the Adirondacks. While that region is teeming with opportunity, but paddling enthusiasts and first-timers alike will be surprised and excited to discover a different paddling playland in Upstate New York: the Thousand Islands. The Thousand Islands is famous for its natural beauty, buzzing tourist spots, romantic islands, and fishing and boating opportunities that are second to none. But the size of the St. Lawrence River, as well as boat traffic and the St. Lawrence Seaway, mean that many people never consider the beautiful paddling opportunities that the region has to offer. The Thousand Islands region is full of little surprises—quiet channels, inlets, and bays that are primed for exploration by a sleek, maneuverable craft small enough to fit through tight spots yet versatile enough to handle varying depths of water. Jan Brabant, owner and operator of Thousand Island Adventures, has been renting kayaks, giving tours and educating people about paddling in the Thousand Islands for over 23 years, with 40 years experience in paddling. Still, Jan says, there’s more to learn—and more to discover—about paddling this gorgeous region.
USM: What makes this area different from the Adirondacks?
JB: First of all, we have no bugs. [laughs] And within close proximity, I have to say: we have the best paddling in the eastern United States.
USM: Wow, that’s incredible. Most people don’t associate kayaking with the river. They think oh, there’s boat traffic, there’s a lot of high waves, there’s so much going on, I can’t paddle up here. But that’s not true.
JB: It’s not. You stay away from the boat traffic, but the high seas are a good thing. That’s what makes us unique over the Adirondacks: we can go right up against those ocean paddlers. On Lake Ontario the waves are closer together, and that makes them more intense. We have water conditions for every level of paddling experience, but this area hasn’t been marketed as an ocean kayaking area. It’s largely untapped. And, if the wind’s blowing and you don’t want to be out on the river you can paddle French Creek, Crooked Creek, or Chippewa Creek. There are marshes for bird watching. A half mile up French Creek there’s a big wide open area called the Flat. It’s about a foot and a half deep. Peregrines and terns fish that area. Just paddle out there, sit and chill for 10 minutes and the show will start. There’s mink and muskrat, snapping turtles. You never know what you’ll see. Right here is a paddling paradise. It really is untapped. It is a jewel.
USM: That’s really something special, because you don’t find a lot of places where you can paddle so many diverse waters. That’s a big deal.
JB: It is a very unique area. I think it has a lot to do with being able to go out and paddle the islands. On the Canadian side we have St. Lawrence Islands National Parks. On the American side Both Burnham Point and Grass Point State Parks have a designated site for kayakers only right down by the water. There’s also Sugar Island, you can camp there if you join the ACA. Avoid the last week of July and the first week of August and almost nobody goes to Sugar Island. The diversity of the undiscovered in the area is really appealing.
USM: So what’s the protocol with Canadian islands? There’s some great kayaking over there, but would you have to go through customs?
JB: As long as you don’t touch ground. As soon as you touch the ground, you’re in Canada, and you have to register. You can go over to Misty Isle and report in. They give you a number and record how many days you’ll be in Canada.
USM: So, you’re the expert. Where would you send someone, a fairly new paddler, let’s say—where on the river would you suggest they start out?
JB: If you’re a beginner, I’d say try Cedar Point to Clayton. What’s unique is you paddle alongside the shore there, so it’s better for a novice paddler. Between Cedar Point and Burnham Point you’ll find a lot of big seas, so I’d say that’s more advanced. If you set in at Tibbets Point Lighthouse in Cape Vincent, you can get real big seas. That’s probably an expert area. Further upriver, some people recommend putting in at Keewaydin, but you have powerboats everywhere. Once you get away from that concentrated area, down around Chippewa Bay, it’s gorgeous. You could go to Fisher’s Landing, even—anywhere from Grass Point down river is all unique. For the simplistic trips its nice to do Eel Bay over to Cat Point. The going across can get to be a pain, but you can also start this trip from Wellesley Island. There’s a good trip from Grass Point to Rocky Island. Or try the head of Grindstone down the backside to the beach. It really is a smorgasbord.
USM: Is there anything you would suggest for more advanced paddlers?
JB: If the wind’s blowing, you can go up to Cape Vincent, off Tibbet’s Point, to surf and play in the waves. If somebody wants to do the big expeditions, there’s Galoo Island on Lake Ontario. There’ll be a designated camping and nature observation site on the head of the island. There’s also an observation area and campsites on Main Duck Island, which is about 20 miles out into Lake Ontario. I wouldn’t recommend these trips to very many people, though. They’ve been very intense when we’ve done it. We’ve caught storms and high winds more than once, and it took 8 ½ hours to finish the trip. There’s no place to stop–when you’re in a kayak and a storm comes, there’s not much you can do. You hunker down and throw your sea anchor out, and just make sure you stick together, because with the wind blowing, you can’t even hear the person right next to you.
USM: That sounds intense! How about day trips? Is there anywhere you suggest people go?
JB: There’s an easy trip downriver a little. Put in at The State Park Nature Center on Wellesley Island (there is a fee) and do a short, 2 mile paddle across Eel Bay to Canoe Point. It’s a short trip, so it’s good for kids, and there’s hiking and all sorts of stuff you can do on the island. There’s another day trip, Eel Bay based out of Fishers Landing. You can do a tour of the lighthouse.
USM: So obviously you send a lot of people out on trips. Which kayak in your lineup would you say is most popular up here?
JB: When you talk the river, you want length. And I sell a lot of sit on tops. For awhile I was the largest Ocean Kayak dealer in New York State.
USM: Would you say that’s the best kind to use?
JB: I would recommend a sit on top. A lot of places don’t talk safety, the way the market’s going. But when you’re at a place where they sell kayaks from a safety perspective, a lot of people have sit on tops. Safety is our theme: I don’t sell dark colored kayaks either.
USM: Is flipping over a concern?
JB: I always say, “What if?”. If you have a ship bearing down on you and you’re in a kayak that’s full of water, you’re not getting out of there. But if you have a sit on top you can crawl back up on it and get out of there. People say, “Oh, I want a sit inside so I can paddle early in the season”. But when it’s cold you should dress for the water. If you get thrown off, big deal, hop back on and go for the gold again.
USM: What type of trip would you suggest with a sit-on-top?
JB: You can do French Creek, or do a nice little jaunt from Grass Point to Rock Island and have lunch. That’s where you want the sit on tops so if you flip over you can get right back on top. You’re on the edge of the main, narrow shipping channel, because you’re in a cluster of islands. The ability to self-rescue with a sit on top is paramount. And I don’t know if you know this, but we’re offering a new sport: stand up paddle boarding. Some of the best paddle boarding is on the stretch from Cape Vincent to Clayton. What makes it neat is you can go into Cape Vincent, have a little lunch, and hop back on your board. On a windy day, with the way the prevailing winds blow, you can go off on a little stretch down there. You could do Burnham Point to Cedar Point, and then it’s 6.5 miles to Clayton.
USM: Besides the paddling, I know there’s great fishing on the St. Lawrence. But would it be possible to go fishing from a kayak?
JB: The fishing potential is here, for sure. We have some of the best bass fishing in the country. Some of the biggest muskies in the US have been caught right here in 40 acres. What people don’t understand is this river is so big, there’s room to do everything. People who have never been here sometimes have never seen a river this big. They refer to it as the lake. But either way, just being out on the river is a great experience. It’s beautiful. And to be in a kayak or on a paddleboard and watch a ship go by really puts things in perspective.
Old Forge is the perfect summer destination, no matter what you and your family enjoy doing. Situated in the heart of the Adirondacks, Old Forge blends the breathtaking outdoor appeal of the Adirondacks with all the charm and amenities that small, rustic hamlets have to offer. What makes the Adirondacks different from other mountain regions is the abundance of lakes and rivers. Old Forge, situated at the start of the Fulton Chain of Lakes and the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, is the perfect place to enjoy the water. Boating, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, or swimming – whatever your favorite water sport is you can enjoy it here. If you don’t have your own boat you can buy or rent everything from canoes to motor boats at local outfitters and marinas. And if you’re looking for adventure Whitewater Challengers and ARO offer guided whitewater trips on the the Moose River. On the land, Old Forge is home to a wide variety of hiking trails that take you to remote ponds, quiet forests and mountain tops. If your feet want to take a vacation, look into a mountain biking excursion for a fun twist on exploring the great outdoors—rentals are available at Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company for those who didn’t bring their own bike.
New this summer, Montezuma Winery is opening a gift shop and will feature tastings of their award winning wines. Local eateries offer everything from ice cream and burgers to cafes, bistros, full service restaurants. New this summer, Montezuma Winery features tastings of their award winning wines and a gift shop. Entertainment is on the agenda with special events, concerts, and Enchanted Forest/Water Safari. Over 30 water rides, plus a dry-land amusement park complete with a daily circus will keep you smiling all day. With a setting like this, you’ll find sightseeing is a must. Hop aboard the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, but be careful – the Loomis Gang and Bonnie & Clyde rob the train twice a week. Cruise the Fulton Chain with Old Forge Lake Cruises. They offer sightseeing, dining, and specialty cruises. If that isn’t enough you can also ride along on the Old Forge mail boat’s delivery route. It’s the longest running fresh water mail route in the country. And if trains and boats don’t move you, try the scenic chair lift at McCauley Mountain. To round out your Old Forge experience, visit the public tennis court and beach, the Thendara Golf Course, and the new arts center View, which features gallery exhibits, workshops, art shows, and theater. Rainy days aren’t a problem either: there is a four-screen movie theater in town, as well as history and art museums. With all of these things do see and do you’ll need to stay awhile. Luckily, Old Forge has all types of lodging. Motels, cabins, cottages, bed and breakfasts, house rentals, or tent and trailer sites await your call. What are you waiting for? It’s time to visit Old Forge for some real summer fun!
by Teresa Farrell
The Lake Ontario area offers a unique blend of attractions: a rich historical background, a variety of gorgeous parks and wilderness areas, unparalleled fishing, and a relaxed , farm-country atmosphere that puts visitors at ease the moment they arrive. The variety of things to do means that every member of the family can unwind in their own way. This area has a long tradition of historical significance. During the Revolutionary War, it served as the western frontier of the state. Today, with over 20 historic sites, from museums to lighthouses to historic societies, it’s easy to find something interesting to explore. Area museums include focuse on war, local waterways, firefighting, railroads, fishing, and town histories. The National Historic Register recognizes 11 churches, shops, and houses in Oswego County as Underground Railroad sites, and visitors may experience the Freedom Trail firsthand, either on foot or via a driving tour. Of course, on-water recreation is popular. Anglers can try their luck on the lake or one of the many rivers and streams that flow into it. The Salmon River offers excellent fly-fishing opportunities, and all of the area waters are full of fish waiting to be caught. Species include Atlantic, Chinook and Coho Salmon; Brook, Brown, Lake and Rainbow Trout; Steelhead; Large and Smallmouth Bass; and Walleye, Northern Pike, Chain Pickerel, Black Crappie, Bullhead, Panfish, Sheepshead and Carp. Non-fishermen can try their hand at boating, canoeing, kayaking or whitewater rafting. The density of rivers, lakes and other waterways provide excellent options for everyone from the beginning to expert. You can get outside and enjoy nature at one of the many State Parks (7 from Fair Haven to Chaumont Bay), State Forests and Wildlife Management areas. Enjoy swimming, hiking, picnicking, or just lounging around in the sun at any of these places. Fabulous shopping, dining, and special events add to the fun. Take in a movie or shop at stores, boutiques, farms and flea markets for everything from novelty gifts to handmade treats. You’re sure to find those one-of-a-kind perfect souvenirs. Antiques are also a hit here; shop at the many stores to find a hidden treasure. Before you call it a day, visit an ice cream shop or bakery.
An ancient Native American myth says that the Finger Lakes were created when the hand of the Great Spirit touched the region in an effort to send a piece of Paradise onto earth. When you visit this area, the legend seems to make sense. Scenic beauty is one of the biggest reasons people come to the Finger Lakes, and who can blame them? The combination of luscious vineyards, steep gorges and sparkling lakes makes for breathtaking beauty around every bend in the country road and affords possibilities that other places just can’t offer. With over 9,000 square miles of lakes, land and natural wonders, plus museums, historic sites, and great shopping, dining and entertainment spots, the Finger Lakes region has something for everyone. It’s possible to spend a week or more here and do something different every day.
It’s rare to find gorges, lakes and vineyards in the same location, but the climate and geography of the Finger Lakes that support the diverse landscape also provide the perfect conditions for grape-growing. With over 100 vineyards and wineries in the area, it’s easy to see why this region produces award-winning wines. The unique climate also means that summer fun is a breeze in the Finger Lakes. It’s not uncommon to find caverns and gorges in the Western half of the country. Well, it’s also not uncommon to find them here, in Western New York State. Most people have heard of Watkins Glen, but may not realize that there are quite a few similar gorges in the region, most of which afford gorgeous and memorable hiking opportunities. Three of the best are in the Ithaca area: Taughannock Falls, Robert Treman, and Buttermilk Falls State Parks. All three offer gorge trails, picnic grounds and camp sites for an unforgettable summer experience.
When it’s time to cool off, take to the lake: there are 12 here to choose from. The unique features of each lake mean that visitors can enjoy virtually any on-water experience. Fish, swim, canoe, wind surf, snorkel, water ski, sail, kayak, rent a boat or go white-water rafting—there are opportunities for all of it here. Prefer dry land? You have options, from hiking, biking, or golfing to rock climbing, to bird watching. If you’re feeling bold, take to the skies in a hang glider or hot air balloon, or satisfy your inner thrill seeker with the ultimate stunt: a skydive. Having trouble deciding what to do first? Each county in the Finger Lakes has developed touring packages and suggested itineraries for visitors.
Of course, nature isn’t the only attraction here. There are plenty of shopping opportunities, from specialty boutiques and wine gift shops to malls and outlets. The Finger Lakes is home to an abundance of farm and open-air markets, giving it a homey, country feel. Shop for fresh foods like baguettes, cheeses and fruits, then pick up a bottle of authentic Finger Lakes wine and head to one of the regions many lakesides or overlooks for the perfect picnic. Craft fairs frequent the region, so enthusiasts of homemade gifts and antiques will be happy to find the shopping opportunities are endless. Shopping districts are unique and fun. The Gaffer District in Corning is no exception. Check out specialty shops for eclectic items you might not find elsewhere, and enjoy the cool, laid-back vibe as you explore this great location.
The Gaffer District is where you’ll find The Corning Museum of Glass, a unique place, where visitors can explore the cavernous museum of blown glass and even try their hand at glass blowing during one of the live demonstrations. This delicate art is fascinating to watch, and the end products are stunning. In fact, American Style magazine calls Corning “one of the top small town city art destinations in the U.S.”
As the day winds down relax over dinner at one of the region’s fine restaurants. Take your pick from a variety that includes gourmet restaurants, family diners, dinner cruises, casual fare, fast foods, and gourmet bistros. To make it extra special, snag a table with a view—of either the lake or the land. And when you’re ready to turn in, you’ll find that the lodging opportunities here are as diverse as everything else the area has to offer. Motels, hotels, bed and breakfasts, country inns, resorts and campsites offer budget friendly options whether you prefer fluffy robes or sleeping bags. Before you visit, check out the summer special events schedule at www.fingerlakes.org. From county fairs to laser light shows, you’re bound to find an event you like. Whatever you choose, one thing’s for sure: everyone in the family will enjoy a trip to the Finger Lakes.
Something about the atmosphere of the Thousand Islands calls to a person. For centuries people have been awed by the breathtaking scenery. There is a sense of timelessness here; visitors find themselves wondering how the area has withstood the weathering of progress and change without losing
A vacation in the Thousand Islands deeply affects a person. It’s so refreshing and relaxing that just one taste of the region inspires people to return for years to come. Time spent here is truly unforgettable, regardless of how that time is passed. The sensation is universal. It is impossible to visit the Thousand Islands without experiencing its magic. No matter who you are, where you come from, whether this is your very first St. Lawrence experience or you’ve been spending your summers here for years, there is a quality about “The River” that connects you with the countless others that have fallen in love with this place. The first time you set eyes on it, the first time you jump into that clear and cool water, the river becomes a part of you. It’s something that can’t be erased or removed. It beckons to you when you’re away, and it fulfills you when you return. This region was referred to by the native people as the Garden of the Great Spirit. A more appropriate title could not have been bestowed upon it. Its natural beauty is enhanced by the stately homes dotting the shoreline and islands. Its rich history is woven through the maze of islands and shoals, awaiting discovery. Board a tour boat for an afternoon of relaxation while the guide regales you with the tales of a bygone era. If you prefer a more personal experience, rent a boat or kayak from one of the areas many marinas and enjoy the beauty of the Thousand Islands in perhaps the most gratifying way possible – as your own river pilot. Stop for a swim or cast out a line. These pristine waters are home to a wide variety of fish, and you’re sure to make a catch. For anglers craving the full experience of the St. Lawrence, guides are readily available. Most packages include a shore lunch, a decades-old river custom that makes use of the freshest fish and the most experienced hands to deliver a one-of-a-kind dining experience you won’t want to miss. For those who prefer to stay dry, the villages and towns along the St. Lawrence are brimming with activities and events. The area even boasts its own wine trail, a 78-mile stretch featuring four great wineries with tours and tastings available at each stop. Keeping a cork on the vino? Stop into Alexandria Bay or Clayton for shopping, dining, and special events. The Bay even has a small-scale replica of the Thousand Islands Bridge that you can cross on foot to Casino Island. Don’t forget to wave to the tour boats as they pass by! There’s no shortage of things to do at The River. But who says you have to do everything in one visit? This is vacation! Resist the urge to stay in constant motion, and you’ll discover a wealth of relaxing opportunity from your beach towel or lawn chair. Spend a day on the riverbank. Enjoy the golden sunshine. Soak in the splendor of the blue-green water, vibrant and bursting with crystalline sparkle as it flows lazily past. As the day winds to a close and sun slowly sets, the sky turns a brilliant array of colors; bright red, subtle pink, vivid orange, and light purple replace the daytime blue. Enjoy your front-row seat to one of the most dazzling sunsets you’re likely to find not only in New York State, but anywhere. After the sun goes down, The River’s splendor doesn’t stop. Spend an evening around a blazing campfire, trading stories and roasting hot dogs and marshmallows with your closest friends and family, or head down to the riverbank and enjoy the awe-inspiring stargazing. With unobstructed views far from city lights, the stars look like diamonds sprinkled over black velvet. It’s just one more reason why a Thousand Islands vacation is one of the most enjoyable experiences a person can have. For more information or to plan your own St. Lawrence experience, visit www.alexbay.org, www.1000Islands-Clayton.com, www.capevincent.org, or www.visitthousandislands.com. A thousand possibilities are waiting for you!