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Adirondacks on a budget

Life is a bit of a juggling act, isn't it? We want to plan a fun and memorable summer getaway for our family, but we don't want to break the bank in doing so. Luckily, there are many things to see and do in Tupper Lake that are free, or pretty close to it. To help make things easy, here's my top ten list of family-friendly and wallet-friendly fun. 

Ten activities under $10

1. Day two is free!

Before I get too far, let me start with a cool fact that many often overlook. Did you know that with your general admission pass to The Wild Center, you get the consecutive day for free? You sure do! And better yet, it's not one of those passes that is good only after checking in after a certain time — it really is good for two days. So feel free to take your time and enjoy The Wild Center at your own pace. Slow down and enjoy some extra time with the otters, check out a featured film or two in the Flammer Theater, or allow your kids that extra time they are begging for in the spider web on Wild Walk. However you slice it, you will be glad to have some extra time on the trails, by the river, and up close to the exhibits at The Wild Center.

2. Discover donuts at the Washboard

Vacation and sweet treats go together like peas and carrots, only sweeter. One of our favorite ways to start off a day of adventure is with a stop at the Washboard Laundromat and Donut Shop for some fresh cake donuts, with all the bells and whistles. And by bells and whistles I of course mean frosting, sprinkles, and other great toppings.

Maybe you are a traditionalist and want to go with glazed, powdered, or cinnamon sugar? Maybe you are into chocolate with sprinkles, or peanut butter with nut toppings? Maybe it's the berry flavors such as strawberry, blueberry, or raspberry that call your name? For me, I reserve this indulgence for the maple bacon because, after all, I truly believe the only way you can possibly make a donut better is by topping it with bacon. However you roll, even if it is with a whole dozen, you will still stay within the $10 budget.

Insider tip: Grab a few extra donuts and then check out this blog for a cool twist on traditional s'mores.

3. Check out the parks and playgrounds

There are a variety of awesome parks and playgrounds to explore in and around Tupper Lake. My favorite is the expansive Tupper Lake Municipal Park, which includes a little bit of just about everything. Start at the Little Loggers Playground, where little ones can stretch their legs and burn off some energy. Then move along to the Waterfront Walkway, where the interpretive signs and interactive displays will encourage them to stretch their imaginations. With docks for fishing and a tennis court, volleyball court, basketball court, baseball fields, and skateboard park, sports are well covered here. Then, of course, there is a variety of sweet picnic spots to choose from.

Insider tip: Make it a treasure hunt! While you are exploring, be sure to keep an eye out for "Tupper Lake Rocks," decoratively painted stones hidden by other families from around the area. Or bring your own painted rocks from your hometown and hide them for others to discover. 

4. Cool off at Little Wolf Beach

We call it our hidden gem! Less then a mile off of Main Street (Route 3) in downtown Tupper Lake, Little Wolf Beach is off the beaten path so many miss out on this awesome swimming hole. With a long sandy beach, two fun swimming docks, beachfront concessions, a playground, and plenty of shaded picnic spots, this is the perfect spot to slow down and cool down. 
Insider tip: Actually, I should call this one a "mom tip." There is a water spigot on the corner of the parking lot, about 50 feet from the concession stand window, that is great for washing off sandy feet instead of taking half the beach home with you in the car. 

5. Conquer the Tupper Lake Triad

What's a trip to the Adirondacks without a hike or two, or better yet, three? If hiking is on your list, the Tupper Lake area has three great peaks: Coney Mountain, Goodman Mountain, and Mount Arab. Each trail is about a mile in length and great for first time hikers. Better yet, if you hike all three you can register for you Tupper Lake Triad patch. Patches are just $5 and the hikes themselves only cost the sweat equity you put into them. As for the views, that is like free money in the bank — simply spectacular!

Insider tip: Does your family have a four-legged member? Bring them too! The Tupper Lake Triad has a special patch just for dogs.

6. Relax at Bog River Falls

After a good hike you are bound to be a bit warm. Your next stop is checking out the much cooler location of Bog River Falls. Just a short jaunt from the Coney and Goodman mountain trailheads you will find Bog River Falls. This beautiful cascading falls is at the southern point of Tupper Lake where the Bog River passes under County Route 421. Follow the footpaths alongside the falls for an up-close look of Mother Nature at her finest.

Insider tip: Pack lunch or a snack and enjoy some extra time with a waterside picnic on the big flat rocks upstream from the falls, or bring your fishing pole for some fantastic fishing downstream where the river merges into the lake. 

7. Dig into Popcorn Tuesdays at the Adirondack State Theater

Bringing the whole family to catch a movie in a city or at a big chain theater can often get a bit pricey. However, if you visit the charming and historic Adirondack State Theater in Tupper Lake, you will quickly learn that this does not need to be the case. Featuring the latest box office hits at only $6 for a matinee, and regular pricing of $6 for children and $7 for adults, you are able to kick back for a featured film at a fraction of the price you may be used to. They even have 3-D screenings for an additional $2.

Insider tip: Tuesday nights are free popcorn nights! Simply bring your own bowl and fill it up at the concession area.   

8. Catch a game

A Riverpigs baseball player swings at the ball.

Tupper Lake is home to the Tupper Lake River Pigs, an independent American professional baseball team that plays in the Empire Professional Baseball League. From June to August every summer, the Riverpigs have a full schedule of games with admission starting at $5 for adults. 

Free bonus: The backdrop to the game is what is known to be one of the Adirondack's best sunsets vantage points.

9. Jam out to live music

Live music is usually something you associate with less family-friendly locations, but in Tupper Lake there are a variety of opportunities to bring the kids along for some free tunes. For free music that is kid-friendly, check out the Sunset Music Series at the pavilion overlooking Raquette Pond or check the local events calendar for live music at some of the other venues in and around Tupper Lake, such as the Childwold Chamber Concert Series. In addition to live music be sure to check out the Little Loggers Kids Shows presented by Tupper Arts during the summer.  

10. Stargaze like a pro

The fun doesn't need to stop when the sun goes down, as there really is something magical about warm summer nights. For me, they usually bring back some wonderful childhood memories of stress-free days surrounded by friends and family. So on that note, number 10 is an after-dark visit to the Adirondack Sky Center & Observatory. It's not only free to visit, it's also educational and fascinating at any age.  After sunset on Friday evenings the roof rolls off of the observatory and the state-of-the-art telescopes show the wonders from above in spectacular form. Volunteer astronomers will assist you with working the telescopes, explaining exactly what it is that you are looking at, and pointing out any unique night sky events that may be occurring. 

Insider tip: Have your kids bring their phones or iPods to this one, as the astronomers will put them to good use by attaching them them to the telescopes. Then the kiddos can have a photo of their view through the lens to share this experience with friends and family back home.

Get planning!

In the Adirondacks, fun on the cheap doesn't need to stop with these ten items. Keep the fun moving — and the money staying in your pocket — by simply planning ahead.

  • Like to bike? Bring them! With a beautiful bike trail running through town and miles of backcountry roads in every direction, you will be glad you did.
  • Like to paddle? Bring the boats! Tupper Lake is located in the heart of paddling country — you can even visit The Wild Center by boat. What a great way to tackle #1! If you don't have your own, Raquette River Outfitters can fix you right up for an affordable price.
  • Like to fish? Bring your poles! There are plenty of accessible fishing holes waiting for you to wet your line.

Don't wait, summer will be gone before you know it! Find a room, cabin, or campsite and start planning your next summer getaway today.