Over the years, I’ve had a chance to explore many regions throughout New York, including The Catskills, Rochester, and The Finger Lakes, but this was my first time visiting the Adirondacks, known for its wild mountains, scenic vistas, miles of lakes and charming small towns and villages. Accompanied by my family, we packed our bags and set off for a road trip to Saranac Lake in upstate New York. We had a chance to visit The Wild Center, a natural history museum committed to seeing people and the natural world thrive together. But this isn’t your traditional four-walled museum. Sitting on 115 acres, discover the Adirondacks through various fun, hands-on outdoor and indoor experiences.
Some of my favorite outdoor exhibits, which you’ll hear about in this narrative-style episode, include Wild Walk, Forest Music, and Stickwork Sculpture. The Center is home to various animals like otters, turtles, birds — accessible and marked hiking trails, its own river, and more. Perfect for families and people of all ages, visit to learn about what makes the Adirondacks so special.
If you haven’t already, also listen to Episode 110 where at the Climate Solutions Exhibit we discover how different people in the Adirondacks are committing to finding solutions for climate change and how you can too!
A special thank you to The Wild Center for an incredible introduction to the Adirondacks. All opinions expressed in this episode are my own.
Music Credits: Music from Forest Music featured in this episode, “Emma Lazarus” written by Eric Sturr, violin performed by Sarah Franchino, mixed by Tim Segado.
Danielle Desir Corbett: Over the years, I've had a chance to explore many regions throughout my home state of New York, including the Catskills, Rochester and The Finger Lakes. But this was my first time visiting the Adirondacks known for its wild mountains, scenic vistas, miles of lakes and charming small towns and villages. Accompanied by my five month old Baby K and my mom, we packed our bags and set off for a three day adventure exploring Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake in Upstate New York. This was our first road trip with Baby K by the way. The first stop on our five hour road trip was at the Adirondacks Welcome Center to stretch our legs. Here there is a huge, I love New York sign which makes for a fantastic photo opp and an outdoor play area with a zip line that children love. Picnic tables and Adirondack chairs are available for those looking to relax and unwind. There are also vending machines full of food, snacks and beverages sourced from the region and all over the state. Getting closer to Saranac Lake, we drove through winding roads hugging picturesque lakes, small towns and massive forestry mountains. For as far as the eyes can see. We arrived at Hotel Saranac, a historic hotel right in the middle of downtown Saranac walking distance to coffee shops, restaurants, art galleries, museums and more. Built in 1927, Hotel Saranac has been completely restored but stays true to its historic Adirondack heritage. Black and white photographs of the hotel in different time periods, as well as photos of fur trappers and historic events dating back to as early as the 1900s can be found hanging on the walls throughout the hotel.
Katie Welch: Local lore says that back in the day that the bulb's burnt out, leaving "Hot Sara" instead of Hotel Saranac. So we kind of played on that and it's a big marketing area where we, you know, it's works and people want to know who's hot sarah. Well, the other story is some Paul Smith students unscrewed the top of the light bulbs, leaving hot sarah. So what are you gonna believe? Also, um, we are known to have friendly spirits. So bicyclists, a little girl on a bicycle, a gentleman and a suit, a cat meowing. These are all stories we've heard from guests, even some from former staff. I have not heard it, but who knows, you know, I mean we are right now listed in the USA today's top 20 for most haunted hotels. So you know, it's kind of interesting. We have won that award a couple times. Not top, but that's kind of fun. It's just something to play off on and they're not scary guests or ghosts.
Danielle Desir Corbett: That's Katie Welch, Hotel Saranac's concierge and guest services manager who was nice enough to give us an exclusive tour of the property. In the lobby, be on the lookout for the chalkboard sign with a long list of fun things to do in the area, like a sunset stage coach ride, a river walking sensory experience or rent a canoe, kayak, or bike. Enjoy complimentary coffee throughout the day and get a good workout at the gym open 24 hours a day. So yes, you have no excuse. Don't miss visiting the stunning second floor, which transports you back in time, grab a cocktail at the Great Hall Bar where you can meet locals, cozy up around the fireplace or enjoy live music in the evenings.
Katie Welch: Great Hall is designed after a palazzo in Italy and the floors are original 1927 as well as the ceilings. When we renovated to just back up a little bit Paul Smith's College did sell the property to a private entrepreneur who had it for several years and it fell into disrepair. The Roedel Companies who has roots here in the upper Saranac area bought it and added it to their portfolio. So it took four years to renovate this property. Besides the ceiling falling down, crumbling. All this paint work was done over a six month time frame by two women that were on scaffolding. It's all intricate work done by hand. So we kept the integrity of what was there.
Danielle Desir Corbett: During the day it's really quiet so this may be a good place to pop open your laptop and get some work done. The next day we walked over to Blue Moon Cafe for breakfast and drove to The Wild Center located in Tupper Lake, New York. It's about a 25 minute drive. The Wild Center is a natural museum committed to seeing people and the natural world thrive together. But it isn't your traditional four walled museum. Sitting on 115 acres you can discover the Adirondacks through a variety of hands on outdoor and indoor experiences. Hike nature trails, take a guided canoe trip, meet some of the 300 animals that call The Wild Center home, watch educational films, and so much more.
Nick Gunn: I think The Wild Center is a really interesting mix of a few different things. First and foremost our natural history museum, but we're also a science center, a zoo and an aquarium and a trail system. And I think it's all of those things mashed into one. I think one of the things that we excel at is that idea of the cross section between education and entertainment. Right? There are traditional hands on exhibits with traditional exhibit signage and interpretive pieces. But then also there's something like Wild Walk right, which goes 40 ft above the ground and kind of is a, is a little bit of a show stopping attraction. So I think that our niche is a fun and interesting and really unique one that I think, like I said, it's kind of a mash up of all the best parts of all of those things that I mentioned.
Danielle Desir Corbett: So a lot of times when people are traveling, they equate museums to a rainy day destination. So I personally don't see The Wild Center as that and I would love to get your take on why it's more than just come visit when it's rainy.
Nick Gunn: Yeah, I think that that's a great point. I think to your previous point when people traditionally think about museums, it is that place to go when the weather is not great. For The Wild Center, you know, we're on 115 acres and of those 115 acres, only a couple of them are indoors. Right. There's so many things to do outside whether it's going on a naturalist led canoe trip or like we've mentioned Wild Walk or the Pines play area, which is an all natural playground or just discovering the trail system that we have here. There's enough indoor, outdoor things to do to suit literally any day. You know, we do think that we are a great place for rainy day activities but shoot when it's 70 and sunny out. It's also, I think it's almost better time to visit just because of all there is to do outside.
Danielle Desir Corbett: And you know, with us having a little five month year old, a lot of times we're like, is it accessible via strollers? You know, it's a little bit of a concern that we have. But from my experience, we were able to go outside and it was no problem with the stroller, which was really great and really thoughtful. So it's great for families with young and small babies as well. Just really good.
Nick Gunn: Yeah, yeah. You know, we had accessibility of all kinds in mind when The Wild Center was built. So regardless if you're in a stroller like you said, or a wagon or a wheelchair or regardless of any accessibility concerns, you know, The Wild Center was built with that in mind. So a lot of the trails, not all of them, but a lot of the trails are accessible in a wheelchair or like you said, Wild Walk, you know, which brings people 40 ft above the trees that is accessible by wheelchair or by stroller like you said. So yes, we hope to eliminate those barriers that may have been in place in other places that may have held people back in or made them reconsider. You know, as a destination we try to remove those barriers and those walls.
Danielle Desir Corbett: That's Nick Gunn, he oversees all of the marketing efforts at The Wild Center. With so many things to do at The Wild Center, we started with Wild Walk, the only treetop walk in the Adirondacks. Through a trail of bridges stroll across the treetops up to four stories high and experience the Adirondack forest from a new vantage point. I'm big on viewpoints so I absolutely loved the views from the oversized bald eagle's nest and when Baby K gets older we know he'll appreciate playing in the bouncy human sized spider web. Wild Walk is accessible. Pushing a stroller. We did not even feel the incline going up. Overall the experience was effortless and absolutely awe inspiring. Another interesting sight to see is Stickwork, a large outdoor sculpture made of saplings that blends into the natural landscape. See it from Wild Walk, but I also recommend walking through it like you would a house for example. Enjoy hiking? Don't miss the many nature trails at The Wild Center. Doable with the stroller and easy to navigate, the trails were clearly marked. Our reward for all of our effort, enjoying the views at Oxbow Overlooks along Raquette River. There's a bench here, so no need to rush and head back if you don't feel like it, chill out and relax. This was actually a great spot to take photos and attend to Baby K. For someone who enjoys hiking but wasn't necessarily ready to hike with the five month old. The nature trails at The Wild Center were approachable and honestly exactly what we were looking for. An easy hike that wasn't strenuous. On our way back, we visited the magical Forest Music, a quarter mile loop with 24 speakers hidden throughout the trail. Fusing art and nature Forest Music celebrates the natural sounds of the forest. Hands down this was my mom and I's favorite experience. As you walk through the forest, take a look at the art installations and listen to the calming music blended with the natural sound of birds chirping and the wind blowing. Forest music is serene and peaceful and for that, it's an experience I'll never forget.
Danielle's Mom: They place the speakers perfectly, you know, you can hear the base here.
Danielle Desir Corbett: Overall, The Wild Center is a unique and wonderful museum for families with children and folks of all ages. Whether this is your first time being in the woods or you grew up camping every weekend, there's something to connect with at the center. I recommend planning to spend 3-4 hours at The Wild Center. We spent that much time exploring the outdoor exhibits alone. You can easily spend half a day or even more here. Now there's way more to share about The Wild Center. So tune into the next episode for an overview of the climate solutions exhibit, which inspired me to think about how we can take action and create climate solutions within our lives and our communities. A special thank you to The Wild Center for an incredible introduction to the Adirondacks and welcoming my family with open arms. For photos from our trip, visit our website podcast dot thought card dot com and also follow me on instagram @thedanielledesir. Visit wild center dot org to learn more about The Wild center and plan your own trip. The music from Forest Music featured in this episode, "Emma Lazarus" is written by Eric Sturr, violin performed by Sarah Franchino, mixed by Tim Segado.
Danielle Desir Corbett: I hope you enjoyed this episode, but don't forget there's way more where that came from. When you become a supporter of the show, you'll get bonus episodes, additional tips on affording travel, real time updates as well as strategies for building wealth and creating multiple income strings Head over to podcast dot thought card dot com forward slash join to support. Also be sure to follow me on instagram. I'm @thedanielledesir slide in my DMs and share with me your thoughts about this episode. What did you enjoy? What stood out to you? Let me know. I'd absolutely love to connect with you outside of the podcast. See you in the next one.
Nick Gunn: I think what we want people to take away is how special this part of northern New York is right. I think a lot of people when they think of New York state, they think of, you know, obviously the city or the Hudson Valley or even like Saratoga and sometimes forget about all points north. I think that this place is really special for what it has to offer regardless of whether you're into, you know, the scenery or the outdoor adventure. There's also so much more to see when you're up here, whether it's gourmet dining or micro breweries or wineries or if you're into live music and and all of those other things. This place is pretty special and has a lot to offer and hopefully The Wild Center is a small part of that that makes people's trips to the Adirondacks that much more memorable. We hope when people leave that they're taking with them lifelong memories that they can remember for a long time.
The Wild Center Adirondacks: Where Family Adventure Awaits
In this episode, we cover:
- Highlights from our trip to Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake, New York
- Where to stay in Saranac Lake
- Fun facts about the historic Hotel Saranac
- Reasons to plan a trip to The Wild Center in Tupper Lake
- Things to do at Wild Center
- Our favorite outdoor exhibits
- How long to spend at the musuem
What is Wild Center Tupper Lake, NY?
The Wild Center in Tupper Lake is a natural history museum highlighting nature and wildlife from the Adirondacks region. The museum features traditional educational indoor exhibits, animal viewing, and immersive outdoor experiences which offer visitors different viewpoints, from overlooking the forest treetops to canoeing the Raquette River.
Helpful Tip: If you would like a canoe tour of Raquette River with a naturalist, book ahead of time. Tickets are sold separately.
Is Wild Center infant-friendly?
We visited the Center with our 5-month-old baby and felt comfortable exploring the outdoors with a stroller. Wild Center is accessible via stroller or wheelchair, and none of the activities were physically demanding, which was exactly what we were looking for. The majority of the campus is flat and has no stairs.
Is the Center only for children?
Wild Center caters to people of all ages. There’s plenty of things for adults to see and do.
Whether you want to spend time with the Adirondack wildlife, watch educational videos, walk above the trees, listen to music in the forest, or find a quiet place to wander and be alone with your thoughts, there’s something for everyone.
Overall this is the perfect place to visit if you are interested in nature, animals, and the environment.
How long do people spend at The Wild Center?
Plan to get the most out of your experience (and not feel rushed) by spending 3-4 hours at the museum. There are plenty of sitting areas if you need to rest and a cafe on site if you’re looking for a bite to eat.
We spent a half day exploring the outdoor exhibits, including Wild Walk (a treetop walkway), the trail system, and Forest Music.
Is Wild Center worth it?
Yes, visiting is worth it.
I highly recommend families with children of all ages plan a visit to the museum.
Children love running around Stickwork Sculpture, climbing up to the giant bald eagle’s nest, and bouncing on the spider’s web.
No matter your age, there’s something to enjoy at the Center, especially if you are interested in nature, wildlife, climate solutions, and the arts.
Where to stay near Wild Center?
Only 25 minutes from Wild Center, Hotel Saranac is an excellent choice if you’re looking to stay at a central location close to all the action.
This charming hotel was built in 1927 and proudly displays Adirondack heritage and the local way of life. With a 24-hour gym, complimentary coffee, a salon and spa, and a stylish ballroom inspired by a 14th-century Italian palace, Hotel Saranac has everything you need for a comfortable stay in the middle of Downtown Saranac Lake.
Recommended nearby places to eat include Blue Moon Cafe for breakfast and Origin Coffee Co. You can also find museums, art galleries, and other attractions nearby.
Helpful Tip: Since this is a Hilton Hotel, don’t forget to give your Hilton Honors number so you can earn points for your stay.
Plan a Visit to The Wild Center
While we visited in the summer, there’s plenty to do in the winter.
The Wild Center Address:
45 Museum Drive
Tupper Lake, NY 12986
Other Episodes You’ll Enjoy
What To Pack For Road Trips – Episode 101
How To Define Your Travel Style – Episode 102
5 Reasons To Visit Rochester, New York – Episode 86
Tips For Traveling With a Full-Time Job – Episode 55
Danielle Desir Corbett paid off $63,000 of student loan debt in 4 years, bought a house at 27, and has traveled to 27 countries, including her favorites, Iceland, China, and Bermuda. Go here to learn Danielle’s incredible story, from struggling financially and in debt to finding creative ways to earn more and live on her terms. Listen to The Thought Card Podcast, where Danielle shares how you can creatively travel more and build wealth regardless of your current financial situation. Reach out to Danielle by contacting: thethoughtcard (at) gmail (dot) com.