Family vacations might have special challenges. We usually have a mix of ages and interests, with some people who are adventurous and some who can only take so much change at a time.
We're on it! Ideally, families want places which make exploring and learning fun, with a mix of indoor and outdoor activities, and offer interesting and fun souvenirs. Here are three great places which have what it takes to please the masses.
Almanzo Wilder Homestead
The birthplace of Almanzo Wilder is full of interesting history for all ages, but especially for children. This might be their first encounter with history they can see and stand in. Some of it they can even touch!
Almanzo Wilder is the star of "Farmer Boy," the Laura Ingalls Wilder book which is about the childhood of her husband, Almanzo, on this prosperous farm in Burke, New York. Famous passages in the book describe the fireplace, cookstove, horse and sheep shed, and the rooms where the family slept. All of these places have been lovingly restored and stocked with period items which evoke the 1850s.
This combination of museum and somewhat working homestead sits on eighty-four acres of farmland, woods, and riverfront. It is unique among Laura Ingalls Wilder sites in that it is the original post and beam constructed farmhouse that was built in the early 1840s. This is complemented by reconstructed post and beam framed barns and outbuildings, created as closely as possible to the originals, using archival materials and rare photographs.
The gardens are planted each year with labeled fruits, vegetables, herbs, and other crops of the period. The apple trees near the house still bear fruit.
There's a nature trail to the Trout River, and a short hike through the woods to a delightful period schoolhouse, outfitted with a potbellied stove, desks, and slates with chalk, just as students used in that time period.
Time taken: The guided tour is an hour, and there are hiking paths to explore. Food: Just minutes away from Malone's wide variety. Admission: Adults - $8.50, Seniors - $8.00 , Children 6 - 16 - $5.50, 5 and under - free. Extensive gift shop with period toys, Laura Ingalls Wilder books and videos, period music CDs, and those classic candies.
Visitor Interpretive Center
Just a half hour south of Malone is a nature wonderland for kids. The Visitor Interpretive Center of Paul Smith's College is an amazing mix of hiking trails, scenic boardwalks, natural history museum, and butterfly house!
This 3,000-acre complex has guided nature walks and children's programs throughout the summer. There are twenty-five miles of trails, winding through forests and marshes, and bordering gorgeous lakes, bogs, and ponds. Choose from the six miles of interpretive nature trails to learn the animals and plants along the way. The trails cover every habitat type of the Adirondacks except the high alpine.
Trails are open from dawn to dusk. Leashed dogs (who are cleaned up after) are welcome.
I call the trails at the VIC "luxury hiking." Cleared and mostly level trails can accommodate even the smallest hiker, with lots of benches, observation decks, boardwalks through fragile marshlands, and even privies at strategic spots.
There's also a lovely VIC building with art galleries, a fantastic deck, and Great Room, regular bathrooms, and a small natural history museum. There's always plenty of birds at the feeders on the other side of the huge windows.
Time taken: Bring lunch and spend the day. (Pack it in & pack it out.) There are picnic tables, Aldo Leopold benches, and lookout stands along many trails. Food: Lunch and dinner options less than ten minutes away, in Gabriels. Admission free, donation suggested. Gift shop with local maple syrup made right on the premises, in a wood-fired sugar house. Find memory pieces along the trail in a fallen leaf, pretty pebble, or the fantastic photo opportunities.
Six Nations Indian Museum
The Six Nations Indian Museum displays 3000-plus artifacts celebrating the culture of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. It began with the passionate commitment of the Fadden family, who opened the Museum in 1954, and still operate it today.
The grounds of the museum have an extensive set of walking paths through historical recreations of how the Six Nations lived, worked, and especially, governed. Their representative structure had a great influence on the creation of the governing system of the United States.
For eight hundred years, they had the oldest living participatory democracy on earth. On June 11, 1776, Iroquois chiefs were formally invited into the meeting hall of the Continental Congress. They were there to explain how their system worked.
I love how the outdoors section of the museum is set up with recreations of so many things I didn't know. Like the many different ways a campfire could be set up, from cooking to shaping weapons. The Long House can be entered, the benches from the meetings can be sat upon.
Children love having so many actual things to view and discuss.
Inside, the museum has an incredible amount of history and artwork. The famous beadwork and leather goods are displayed, along with accounts of legends and stories across the millenia. The rooms trace the history, from pre-contact, and post-contact artifacts, to contemporary arts and crafts.
Keeping the Six Nations together, in harmony, was a challenging and complex task.
Time taken: The outdoor exhibits could take an hour or even two, while the indoors has so much interesting material one could spend a week there to see it all. Food: Onchiota is ten minutes away from the dining in Gabriels. Small admission fee, donations accepted. Delightful gift shop with a variety of Six Nations beadwork, baskets, t-shirts, books, silver jewelry, and acrylic paintings.
For more about the deep Iroquois influence on our unique system of government, see the book, "Forgotten Founders: Benjamin Franklin, the Iroquois and the Rationale for the American Revolution" by Bruce E. Johansen.
Get together in the Adirondacks: