Where Benedict Arnold Saved the Day (before that whole traitor thing): Fort Ticonderoga

While the Star Trek Set Tour in Ticonderoga was tons of fun, it was only a one-hour tour so we had a lot more time left to explore the lovely town of Ticonderoga, NY! Our next stop was Fort Ticonderoga, which encompasses 2,000 acres of lakefront property in Ticonderoga (the lake up there being Lake Champlain, however, and not Lake George).

Fort Ticonderoga was built by the French in the 18th century during the French and Indian War and was formerly known as Fort Carillon. It played an important part in U.S. history because, during the first year of the Revolutionary War, Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold led a sneak attack on the fort, which was then occupied by the British.

This attack allowed the Continental Army to capture the fort and, more importantly, its cannons and artillery, all of which were moved to Boston to help the Continental Army defeat the British in the Siege of Boston (and thus giving the Continental Army some momentum to continue fighting the Revolutionary War). A year later, the British would position their artillery atop nearby Mt. Defiance, giving them the high ground (literally) and leading to the return of the fort to British hands (though the fort didn’t hold any major significance throughout the remainder of the war.)

The fort was abandoned by the British in 1781, passed through various hands, and then was eventually acquired in 1820 by a private owner, William Ferris Pell.  Mr. Pell initially used it as a summer retreat and tourist attraction, and the property even had a hotel from 1839-1900! In 1909, the Pell family began to restore the fort and create the museum, and the property remained in Pell’s family until 1939 when the Fort Ticonderoga Association was created to manage the fort and its surrounding property moving forward.

When you visit Fort Ticonderoga, your admission ticket is good for two days and gives you access to the fort, its museum, and the on-site King’s Garden and corn maze. You also receive a token that will get you through the gate at Mt. Defiance if you want to drive up to the overlook. And they have a 1920’s style yacht, Carillon, which you can go on as well if you upgrade your ticket.

We arrived at the fort shortly before 2:00 pm, which is when they do their cannon demonstration. In case you bring your kids, know that the demonstration is preceded by about 20-25 minutes of very thorough explanation about how to fire a cannon, which may or may not be of interest to you (or your children). It did interest us, though it was definitely far more exciting when they finally fired the cannon! (Which they did. Twice!)

Fort Ticonderoga Cannons
Just a few of the many, many cannons at Fort Ticonderoga

After the cannon demonstration, we wandered around the fort a bit and enjoyed the various beautiful viewpoints from its hilltop location. We didn’t walk through most of the museum exhibits, but there are plenty of muskets, tools, uniforms and the like if you’re into that kind of thing. They also have a fairly impressive collection of 18th-century cannons along the fort’s walls, and the design work and detail on the cannons were quite beautiful.

Ticonderoga Cannon
Some of the pretty detail work on the cannons

We soon hopped back in the car and drove over to the King’s Garden, which was just lovely. Tons of beautiful flowers and a pretty walled-in garden with a central fountain. We also wandered down to the lake to see the boat, Carillon, and take in the scenery.

The King's Garden, Fort Ticonderoga
The lovely King’s Garden at Fort Ticonderoga

Then we walked back over to the corn maze and worked our way through it. They give you a map, which feels a bit like cheating, but the maze covers six acres so it’s probably not the worst thing in the world to have an escape route! The maze is only available from August to November, but it may be best to visit later in the fall when the corn is a bit higher because we could still see over the tops of the stalks (which also felt like cheating!)

Next, we made our way over to Mt. Defiance, which is outside the fort’s gates and about a 5-10 minute drive away through town. When you arrive, you just drop in the token you received when you bought your tickets and start your drive uphill. The road is pretty narrow, and they do warn you in advance that it’s not suitable for buses or RVs, and I can attest to the fact that you probably shouldn’t try to take one up there. Once you do make it up the hill, though, you are treated to spectacular views of New York and Vermont and Lake Champlain. There is a little picnic pavilion up there as well, which would be a great spot to take a lunch break, though it looked as though someone was setting up for a private party when we were up there. I’m not sure what kind of event it was supposed to be, but what a lovely location to have it!

Mt. Defiance Overlook
The beautiful view from the Mt. Defiance overlook. All that was missing was some sunshine and blue skies!

Eventually, we headed back down the mountain and went over to the Ticonderoga Visitor’s Center, which was, sadly, closing right as we arrived. However, we had previously seen a cool waterfall nearby when we drove through earlier, and so we strolled down to check that out and walk along the path by the water for a bit. There were lots of people out fishing, and we also found a cute covered bridge. I’m not sure how long you can follow the path because we wanted to keep moving, but if you have the time, you might want to follow it and see where it takes ya!

Covered Bridge in Ticonderoga, NY
Covered bridge in Ticonderoga, NY

Once we had our fill of Ticonderoga, we headed back out, briefly continuing north to Crown Point so we could find the Champlain Memorial Lighthouse. It’s inside a campground and there was no one at the gate when we arrived, so I’m not sure if there would normally be any sort of charge to get in. The lighthouse itself was quite beautiful and from where it’s located, you can see the Champlain Bridge that connects New York to Vermont. There’s a nice, covered fishing pier as well, and we walked down there to check things out. (We arrived too late in the day, but the Crown Point State Historic Site is also nearby, which looks like it would have been interesting to see as well, but we got up there after 5:00 pm when they close.)

Champlain Memorial Lighthouse
Champlain Memorial Lighthouse

We considered taking the long way around through Vermont on our way home so we could drive over the Champlain Bridge, but instead, we decided to backtrack a bit and then return via the east side of Lake George. Luckily, this route allowed us to discover the Battle Hill Brewing Company in Ft. Ann and we were able to pop in for a delicious sampling of six of their beers. Definitely check them out if you’re in the area!  Their Burgoyne Red was our favorite.

And all of this, really, is to say that as far as day trips from Lake George go, I don’t think you can go wrong with a visit to Ticonderoga. The Star Trek Tour and Fort Ticonderoga and its included attractions all made for a fun and unique day. If you often go to Lake George, I hope you’ll make it a point to check out Ticonderoga on a future visit. I’d love to hear what you think of it!

In my next post, we’ll take another day trip from Lake George, this time heading off to the west to visit an underground river.  Check back soon to learn more!

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