Last year, Mike and I went to Lake George for a long weekend and had an absolute blast. We went in mid-August, and it was such a fun end-of-summer trip that we decided to make it a tradition and head back up there this August! It’s only about four hours from NYC, so it’s an easy enough drive for a four-day weekend. Once you’re up at the lake, there is plenty to do if you want to keep busy. Or…you can always just spend your time lounging by the lake or pool if you prefer a more relaxing vacation. We, personally, like to incorporate a little bit of both!
Lake George is definitely a unique and interesting place. It does have that feeling of a place that must have had its heyday about 40 years ago and now everything seems as though it is in need of a bit of an update. A lot of places have a very rustic feel (I saw the phrase “Adirondack pine” thrown around a lot), and though you will find some larger national chains in town, they themselves may also have a bit of a need for some sprucing up.
That said, Lake George is a fantastic place to visit for a long weekend, and the lake itself is absolutely gorgeous. So clean and clear! If you’re okay with what some may consider more laid-back accommodations, you’ll have a perfectly delightful time.
Where to Stay in Lake George
There are two main areas that people seem to stay: Lake George Village and Bolton Landing. Depending on what kind of vibe you’re into, you should pick your part of town accordingly.
Lake George Village
Personally, I found Lake George Village to be way too crowded with far too many t-shirt shops and candy stores. It seems like a great place to be if you have kids, as there are plenty of arcade games and such around, but it also seems to cater to the late-night heavy-drinking crowd as well. Here, though, you have more national chain hotels to choose from and a lot of restaurants, bars, and shops all within walking distance. There are also public beaches, several dinner boats, and fantastic views of the lake, so if you want it all in one place, this is the part of town for you.
Bolton Landing is a bit less touristy and not quite so busy, but it still has several bars and restaurants all clustered together so you have a nice little center with plenty of options all in walking distance. There aren’t a lot of hotels around the main drag, though, so you’d likely need to drive or take the local trolley to get to this concentrated section of town from wherever you’re staying. Not far away from town is the beautiful Sagamore Hotel on Green Island, but you will need to book well in advance and be prepared to pay a pretty penny in the summer months if you want to stay here.
Or…you can skip both Lake George Village and Bolton Landing and stay in between the two at a section called Diamond Point. This is where we have stayed the past two times we went up there, and it’s just right for us. The plus to Diamond Point is that it’s quieter and less crowded. Unfortunately, though, nothing, really, is in walking distance. However, Diamond Point does have several hotels that are actually right on the lake which is part of the reason it appealed to us.
Last year we stayed at a place called Golden Sands. The rooms were small and dark. (The shower was so tiny I had to stand outside of it to shave my legs!) However, we had a lake view with a cute patio and our own charcoal grill right outside. They also have a private beach and kayaks you can rent and take out for free. And when our car battery died last year, the owner was super helpful with getting us back up and running, so it’s definitely a place worth staying if you think you’ll spend time outside and want to be able to be in and on the lake a bit.
This year, though, we decided to try a new place in Diamond Point, and we picked the Olympian Village Motel. The rooms were bigger and brighter here, they have a big swimming pool, and they also had a game room with a pool table, which was a big selling point for us. Like Golden Sands, they also have their own private beach, but they also have a really lovely little deck right on the water. And though they didn’t have private patios, there were several picnic tables around, grills you can use, a volleyball net, and a swingset, so the place just felt a bit more spacious in general. Overall, the Olympian Village is in a great location, the owner is really friendly, and we loved the view and private lake access. We will likely continue to return here for future trips!
A final option that is not on Lake George is to stay in Queensbury. This is where the Great Escape amusement park is located, so there are lots of hotels nearby, particularly larger national chains. There are also plenty of mini-golf courses, outlets, and restaurants around, but again, you’ll likely need to drive to most places depending on where your hotel is located.
Pro Tip: Wherever you stay, though, be sure you know the check-in times. Some places only have a very limited window during which you can check in and if you arrive outside those times, you’re out of luck!
Where to Eat
They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so you’ll want to find a good place to start your day off right. We’ve mostly stuck to Diamond Point and Bolton Landing for breakfast when we’ve been in town, but several of the hotels in Lake George Village will offer breakfast on site. In Diamond Point, we ate at the Lone Bull Pancake & Steak House last year, which offered a good, standard breakfast with plenty of eggs, waffles, and (of course) pancakes.
In Bolton Landing, we absolutely loved Bolton Beans, though you’ll need to be prepared for a wait. It’s in an old original 1946 Worcester, Massachusetts Service Diner (that looks like a train car), and it is adorable! Not to mention, the coffee and food were both fantastic. We had breakfast burritos and split an order of their apple cinnamon french toast, which was amazing. The first time we tried eating there, the wait was too long, but we were so happy to get in the next day because it was soooo good. (The day we couldn’t wait we went to nearby Iva and Audie’s instead, and let’s just say…nothing was good about the experience, so maybe steer clear if you’re in the area.)
Last year, we had breakfast in Queensbury at a place called the Silo. The entrance has a gift shop similar to what you’d see at a Cracker Barrel, and the wait was just as long, too. However, they have a little patio we were able to sit out on, and we enjoyed our food immensely despite the long wait.
Lunch & Dinner
Once you’ve moved on to the rest of the day, there are tons of places in Lake George Village and Bolton Landing you can find as you wander. This year, we had dinner at a place in the Village called the Boardwalk Restaurant, which is right on the lake. They have a huge patio on the top level, which serves their smaller bar menu. Downstairs is the dining room, which has a larger menu. They also have a nice deck with lots of lounge chairs if you want to sit outside with a cocktail and enjoy the lake views.
Also near the Village is a place called the Garrison Restaurant and Bar. We ate dinner there last year, and it was fantastic! We tried to go back again this year, but it was already 8:00 and there was a 45-minute wait, which my belly just wasn’t going to be able to make. We shared an order of their mac and cheese last year, and I had their steak special–both were delicious. They have a good craft beer selection as well!
In Diamond Point, there is a place called the Diamond Point Grill, which is actually right across the street from the Olympian Village Motel where we stayed. It’s a small place, but they’re always packed. It seems to be more of a locals type of place, and since we usually sit at the bar, we tend to meet a lot of friendly folks from the area. I can’t speak to the quality of most of their food since both times we’ve gone we’ve gotten their burger. But if you want a good burger, THIS is the place for you. The bun doesn’t look like anything special, but it’s soft and fresh and delicious. And the burger is well seasoned (though they tend to undercook so bump up your doneness preference a notch to get what you’re looking for.)
Our favorite place, though, is the Tavern on the Lake at the Blue Water Manor. This is definitely for your splurge meal, but they have a lovely view of the lake (you can even watch the comings and goings at the dock below as diners take advantage of the valet docking) and the food is fantastic. We enjoyed it so much last year that I made a reservation for this summer just to be sure there wouldn’t be any chance we wouldn’t make it back. Mike has gotten the NY Strip with a blue cheese crust and a lobster tail on the side the last two times. I had filet mignon last year, but this year I went with the special which was a slab of prime rib the size of my head. SO. FREAKING. GOOD. Funny enough, we also had the same waiter both years!
And finally, you can’t have summer vacation without ice cream, and the place to go is Martha’s Dandee Creme. They have all different kinds of soft serve that are really cheap despite the MASSIVE serving sizes. Seriously, stick with a kiddie size or a small and don’t plan to get the banana split unless you have a few people committed to eating it! It’s a walk-up window kind of place, and there will be tons of people waiting in line when you arrive, but stick around–it’s worth it! It’s also located right across from Great Escape, so it’s the perfect end-of-day stop if you’re spending the day in the park.
What to Do
There is so much to do around Lake George, and depending on what you’re into, you’ll have more than enough options to keep you busy.
Enjoy the Lake
Since it’s a lake and all, it seems pretty silly not to spend some time, you know, in the lake! The water is cold, even in August, but on a sunny day, it’s still nice and refreshing. A lot of hotels have free kayak rentals, and if your hotel doesn’t have lake access, there are several public beaches in the area where you can take a dip. Or you can take a ride on one of the dinner and tour boats departing from Lake George Village, including the old paddle-wheeler, Minne Ha Ha.
If you prefer rivers to lakes, there are some river tubing companies nearby as well. We did a 3-hour trip through Adirondack Tubing Adventures last year during the solar eclipse, which was awesome! They even have cooler tubes so you can bring some ice and refreshments along with you as you float down the river.
But perhaps being in the hills is more your thing, in which case you can take a drive up Prospect Mountain or find the Shelving Rock Falls. Or you can drive a bit further away and find the Natural Stone Bridge and Caves (which I’ll talk about more in a future post!) Even further afield is Ausable Chasm, aka the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks, which has hiking trails, tubing, rafting, and adventure courses. Gore Mountain also isn’t far and offers gondola rides up the mountain in the summertime as well.
If you are interested in doing some day tripping from Lake George, Saratoga Springs and Ticonderoga are both nearby. We went to Ticonderoga for the day this year, and I’ll have more on that in my next couple posts! We also passed through Saratoga on our way home from Lake George and have already decided we’ll be doing a day trip there next summer.
There are several breweries, wineries, and distilleries in the Lake George area, including nearby Glens Falls, which is just south of Queensbury. In Glens Falls, we’ve visited Cooper’s Cave and the Davidson Brothers, both of which also serve food. Mean Max is right across the street from Davidson Brothers, but we didn’t get to stop in yet. In Lake George Village, we visited the Lake George Distilling Company last year, and we stopped in at Bolton Landing Brewing Company and the Adirondack Winery in Bolton Landing this year. And if you make it over to the east side of the lake, the Battle Hill Brewing Company in Ft. Ann, was also very good.
As you can see, there is plenty to keep you busy in Lake George! And the mountains and lake offer such a beautiful and peaceful setting, making Lake George a picturesque and relaxing place to take a summer vacation, even if just for a long weekend.