The Adirondacks Region is well known for its amazing outdoor attractions. However, if you want to learn more about the history, ecology, and importance of this region, there are few better places to head than the Wild Center.
The Wild Center is located in Tupper Lake in Franklin County, New York. Originally known as the National History Museum of the Adirondacks, this museum focuses on the natural history of the region, including the geology and ecology of the Adirondack Park.
This complements nicely with the nearby Adirondack Experience, which focuses more on the human history of the region. And while there is some overlap between the two museums, visiting both offers a fantastic and well-rounded overlook of the park.
What I love most about the Wild Center is that it isn’t just static displays. Instead, there are a ton of fun and unique interactive areas, both indoors and outdoors, including a giant treehouse that’s a ton of fun for kids and adults alike to explore.
While there are many great outdoor attractions to check out, start your visit inside the Wild Center’s museum.
This museum opened to the public in July 2006 and offers a fantastic look into the region. Even better, it was the first LEED-certified museum in New York, which means that the entire facility is quite eco-friendly.
Throughout the space, there is a mixture of signage, photos, videos, and many interactive elements to help visitors learn about the region’s geology, animal life, and history.
One of my family’s favorite parts was the many tanks that held local species of fish and river otters. The river otters were especially fun to watch as they played in their large enclosure. (Note that during the warmer months of the year, the otters can often be found in an outside enclosure.)
There were also several really unique exhibits within the space including a giant “floating” ball known as Planet Adirondack that was projected with images of the earth and other planets.
The video programs here were a lot of fun to watch and cycled through a lot of interesting content, some of which was pulled nearly instantaneously from weather maps around the world.
I also really enjoyed the display of flesh eaters, which showed bugs helping to decompose the carcasses of several dead animals. They even had signs that showed when the animals had died.
While this particular display might not be for everyone, I found it quite unique and fascinating, and it’s definitely the kind of display that you don’t often see at natural history museums.
Overall, the museum space is incredibly well done and is probably one of the best museums I’ve visited not just in the Adirondacks, but throughout New York.
It’s also worth noting that if you are looking for a great souvenir or gift from the Adirondacks, the Wild Center has a great gift shop, and proceeds go towards helping to fund the museum. Definitely take a minute to check out this space before leaving the indoor portion of the center.
Once you’ve finished enjoying the interior space, it’s time to move outside.
The Wild Center is 115 acres in size, and several fantastic trails run through the land offering a wide variety of things to see and do in the outdoor space.
The highlight of the Wild Center’s outdoor area, however, is Wild Walk, which opened in 2015.
The Wild Walk is a massive treehouse-esque structure with more than 1,000 feet of walkways that are raised high above the forest floor. It features a wide variety of fun places to explore, all connected by both stable and swinging bridges.
My family and I especially enjoyed the giant eagle’s nest and the giant spider’s web, both of which you could play on. The suspension bridges connecting the different treehouses were also a lot of fun to walk across.
What’s even better is that much of the Wild Walk is fully handicap-accessible, meaning that anyone can go out onto these paths and enjoy the feeling from the forest canopy.
In addition to the Wild Walk, there are also several beautiful trails to explore on the grounds of the Wild Center.
The trail to the Raquette River was a highlight and was a relatively short and easy hike, especially by Adirondack standards. The trail ends at two nice overlooks along the river, which are connected by a beautiful wooden boardwalk.
Definitely take a few moments to enjoy this beautiful spot.
During the warmer months of the year, you can pay extra for a guided canoe trip on the river, which is a great way for those without much boating experience to get out on the water.
A variety of other trails exist within the park, some of which pass natural outdoor play areas and art pieces. Walking these trails really offers a nice variety of scenery and the trails are easy enough that most people should be able to walk them.
Another neat outdoor attraction at the Wild Center is the small animal rescue facility located behind the museum. While access to the animals is limited, there are regular talks done by the handlers where visitors can learn about specific animals that are being kept at the center.
Overall, the Wild Center is a fantastic spot to check out in the Adirondacks. While some of the attractions are a bit more geared towards kids, during my visit, most of the visitors were adults, all of whom seemed like they were having a fun visit (I know my wife and I did).
In my opinion, the Wild Center is a great addition to any Adirondack itinerary as it will help you appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of the Adirondack Park even more fully.
Definitely add this spot to your list of places to check out when exploring the region.
The Wild Center
Hours: Days and Hours Vary
Cost: Adults: $20, Children: $12
Address: 45 Museum Drive