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Lake George: A perfect end-of-summer getaway

Lake George, about a five-hour drive from Buffalo, is the perfect place for a late summer/early fall getaway. There are many family-friendly activities to enjoy, including amusement parks, mini-golf, waterfront activities, and even a scenic drive up Prospect Mountain.

One of the highlights of my recent visit was the drive up Prospect Mountain, which has a spectacular view of the area. It is worth the $10 per car fee to travel on the Prospect Mountain Memorial Highway, which was built in 1969 and dedicated to American war veterans. If you have the stamina, you can save the money by hiking the 2.7 mile out and back loop trail to the top of the mountain.

On the day we visited, it had just started to rain as we drove up the highway and I was afraid I was going to have a mutiny on my hands, as my family wasn’t too happy about going here in the rain. However, the weather gods took pity on me and by the time we got to the large upper parking lot, the weather began to clear. Brilliant sunshine accompanied us on the shuttle to the summit.

On a clear day, you have a 100-mile panoramic view of the Adirondack Mountains and Lake George. A number of picnic tables are an invitation to bring your lunch so you can enjoy the view while eating.

The world’s tallest Uncle Sam statue in the parking lot of Magic Forest Amusement Park. The 38 foot tall, 4,500 pound fiberglass statue has been a fixture here since 1982. (Photo by Christine A. Smyczynski)

As you explore the summit you can read about the Prospect Mountain Hotel, which stood here at the turn of the 20th century. To get to the hotel back then people could either take a carriage ride up the mountain on rough roads, or they could splurge and pay 50 cents to ride up the Prospect Mountain inclined railroad from Lake George village, which was in operation between 1895-1903. At the time it was the longest and steepest inclined railroad in the country. The bull wheel, as well as the masonry ruins of the railroad and hotel, are still visible today.

On our way down the mountain we stopped at each of the three scenic overlooks, which have great views of the Lake George area. Once we exited the scenic highway we stopped for lunch at the Lake George A & W; one of the must-do’s when you are in town. You can stay in your car for car hop service or get table service at one of the many outdoor tables. The seasonal restaurant is open early May to early October.

Other notable restaurants in the area include Martha Dandee ice cream, which features 95 flavors; Bella’s Delicatessen, with the best sandwiches in town; and Caffe Vero, known for its baked goods, breakfasts and gourmet coffees.

Later in the day we stopped at the Lake George Visitor’s Center. But what you really want to do is head behind the center to the big circular cement area and stand on the X in the middle of it. This is known as the Lake George Mystery Spot. Now start shouting and you’ll hear an echo like you are in a cone. Why does this happen? No one knows for sure. It is especially fun for adults to do if your teenage children embarrass easily.

Activities in Lake George will keep the younger set busy for days. We played mini-golf at the 18-hole Pirate’s Cove mini golf, voted one of the best mini-golf courses in the capital region. Another course, Around the World Mini-Golf, has two courses; one that takes you around the world, the other across the United States.

Shepherd Park and beach in Lake George. (Photo by Christine A. Smyczynski)

If an amusement park is what you seek, Six Flags Great Escape & Splashwater Kingdom in nearby Queensbury is open daily until Labor Day and then weekends only in September and October. It features 135 rides and attractions, along with an outdoor waterpark open during the summer. The nearby Great Escape Lodge and Indoor Waterpark is open year-round.

Just south of Lake George village is the Magic Forest, a much smaller park with only 25 kiddie rides that are geared toward younger children. Although my kids are too old for this park, we did make a brief stop to see the world’s tallest Uncle Sam statue in the parking lot. The 38 foot tall, 4,500 pound fiberglass statue has been a fixture here since 1982. The Magic Forest is open weekends only starting at the end of May, then daily from the end of June until Labor Day.

Other attractions in Lake George include Fort William Henry, which was constructed by the British in 1775. Today it serves as a living history museum. The fort is open from early May until the end of October. One can also take a scenic steamboat ride on Lake George with the Lake George Steamboat Company, which operates three different vessels.

Visitors will want to check out Shepherd Park on Main Street, which overlooks the lake and has a nice beach. The park is the site of many events during the summer and the annual Jazz Festival in September. You can also go swimming at Million Dollar Beach at Lake George Beach State Park.

Shoppers will enjoy the many boutique and gift shops along Beach Avenue right in the village, as well as the Lake George Outlets, located just south of town. Another unique shop in the area is Oscar’s Smokehouse, located about six miles north of Lake George in Warrensburg. For more than 70 years they have specialized in smoked meats and cheeses.

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