Before New Jerseyans are forced to deal with our never-ending winter, we are blessed with fall, a season so packed with colors and activities that I refuse to go on any long-distance trips during September or October – to me, fall weekends are precious, and needed for pumpkin picking, apple picking, haunted hay rides and cider donuts.
However, for the last two years, my family and I have been taking a trip designed for fall – a long weekend getaway to Seneca Lake, the largest of the Finger Lakes. For a few days, we check out fall foliage, visit wineries throughout the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, stay in a rustic cabin and sail down the lake.
This year, however, Seneca Secrets, our usual hangout, was all booked up and we figured we would mix it up and head to Lake George, which has always seemed to be a favorite destination of New Jerseyans.
Setting up this trip to Lake George was not easy. We wanted to stay in a rustic cabin similar to the trio of cabins we stay at in Seneca Lake, however, it became immediately obvious to me that Lake George did not have that same vibe – instead, all I could find was huge, built-up resorts, at least some with a rustic cabin vibe. Plus, where I really wanted to stay – the northern part, near Hague – was basically shut down by the weekend of Oct. 14 when we wanted to go, so bustling Lake George Village was the only option.
I soon stumbled across O’Connors Cottages, though, which was at least a cabin community and not too close to touristy Lake George Village. Plus, since it was the off-season, we were one of only three groups of guests staying in the entire resort.
Although I had a good time in Lake George and we were able to completely fill two full days plus one extra night and morning with activities, it became obvious to me throughout the weekend that Lake George, despite its upstate New York setting, is a summer destination not optimal for fall getaways. However, here’s how we – and you – can get a taste of fall at the notorious vacation spot.
Take a sightseeing cruise
Even though many of the dinner cruises end in mid-October, we were still able to catch a one-hour sightseeing cruise that took us throughout the area that also encompasses Lake George Village via wooden yacht – the Horicon.
Being that it’s very windy and frankly, there’s only so many colorful trees one can look at, the one-hour cruise is perfect. Plus, the captain briefly narrates as the cruise passes points of interest, relaxing music plays in the background and there’s a full bar.
Visit the Adirondack Pub and Brewery
Although the Adirondack Pub and Brewery was holding its annual Oktoberfest during our visiting weekend, we opted not to take part due to the high cost and our wanting to do other activities during our short time in Lake George.
However, we did head to the brewery for dinner one night and had an awesome and cost-efficient meal. Their wide selection of housemade beers were also very good – I recommend their Oktoberfest, a traditional German-style beer that is brewed with 100 percent New York State-sourced hops.
Climb Prospect Mountain (or at least take the bus there)
Being at least somewhat outdoorsy and athletic, I did some brief research and came across the Prospect Mountain hike, which starts on Smith Street in the Village and ventures up about a mile and a half to the top of Prospect Mountain, where one can see an incredible view of Lake George and the surrounding mountainous area.
However, what I didn’t realize was that the word ‘hike’ is slightly misleading – this journey is a straight-up rocky climb to the top and I would definitely not recommend this to the faint of heart. Frankly, if I had known what I was in for, I probably would have driven to the top and paid the $10 fee. Regardless, it was a scenic (and sweat-inducing) way to kill two hours.
Taste wines at the Ledge Rock Hill Winery
Unlike Seneca Lake, Lake George is oddly not full of wineries and instead, they have one sort of lame winery tasting room in Lake George Village – the Adirondack Winery – and another winery – the Ledge Rock Hill Winery – nestled in the forest about 30 minutes from Lake George.
Although it isn’t close, the drive is scenic and pleasant and for $6, you can sample six generous pours of the winery’s wine selection, most of which use grapes sourced from California. Still, the winery has a distinctly different vibe than those with expansive fields in their backyards as well as a pleasant fire brewing in the back that you can hang out by.
Sample local goods at the Glens Falls Farmers’ Market
Although the Lake George Village Farmer’s Market is shut down by mid-October, the bustling Glens Falls Farmers’ Market is still going strong, located about 20 minutes from the Village in a much less-touristy area with a modern, industial vibe.
Here, you can listen to local music, taste wines and liquors, buy artisan home items, pet foods, pickles, baked goods, vegetables, cheeses and more. If you’re looking for a non-tacky souvenir to take home, this is where you’re going to get it.
Although Lake George clearly lacks the quiet, rustic charm of Seneca Lake and is meant for summer visitors, there are plenty of things to do during a long weekend away at one of the country’s clearest lakes.