When the founders of Adirondack River Outfitters first took their raft to the shores of Moose River, they didn't know it was widely renowned as one of the wildest, most intense waterway in the region. The spirited New Yorkers were just looking for adventure, fun, and a means to explore their homeland's natural beauty. After falling in love with the river's tumultuous rapids and scenic surrounding wilderness, the trailblazers began honing their rafting skills with regular trips, eventually bringing their friends and family along for the ride.
More than three decades later, the group of adventurous guides continues to lead tours down Moose River. The guides, however, have since expanded their inventory of trips to include three other major New York rivers, each characterized by unique classes of rapids and magnificent rural backdrops. A cheerful bunch, the guides always end trips with a homemade barbecue, along with thrilling stories, good-hearted jokes, and impressive recitations of the first 34 digits of pi.
January 11, 2015 will mark the 200th birthday of Sir John A. Macdonald—Canada’s first prime minister. Theatrical walking tours allow both students and adults to learn about Sir John’s achievements by walking in his footsteps. On these tours—named the Best of 2012 by Vacay.ca—professional actors and musicians from the SALON Acting Company dress in period costumes to regale guests with Sir John’s triumphs and scandals. The tours visit the hotel where Mackenzie King spoke to the dead, the Market Square where the first Canada Day was celebrated in 1867, and the home of Sir John’s arch nemesis.
But the celebration of Sir John isn't limited to tours alone. The Sir John A Macdonald Bicentennial Commission was founded to throw him a party, and like all great parties, its more than a year long. The cross-Canada celebration highlights Sir John’s life and achievements while weaving in entertainment to engage youth as part of the Young Canadians Project. Sir John, Eh? The Musical, for instance, serves as a rock 'n' roll tribute to the man—or his ghost, at least—by spinning the tale of a group who encounter his specter on a summer night spent in Cataraqui Cemetary.
Draped in a black cloak, a figure holds a lantern to light the way along a weathered stone wall. As the tour group follows, the cloaked leader recounts a story, perhaps a tale about Canada’s last working gallows, or perhaps about the riots that once overtook the streets. Though Haunted Walk’s guides are well known for their theatrical flair, the tales they tell are not so well known. As they lead walking tours of Kingston, Ottawa, and Toronto, the guides unveil fascinating yet rarely told tales of each city’s dark side. Narrations may include ghost stories backed by eye-witness accounts, or the underpinnings of a nefarious political plot, such as a plan to draw moustaches on every image of the queen. Private tours are also available.
Friday and Saturday evenings from sundown to 11:00 p.m., visitors can traverse the cursed trails of Swamp Road to encounter the spectral remains of its permanent residents. Paranormal sightings begin in the parking area and extend through a spirited outdoor romp down a wooded trail, guided by staffers that spook visitors by wearing skeleton costumes and spook each other by talking about their first day of middle school. Daring participants visit the twisted home of a doll maker constructing figurines from unidentified parts, and lumbering shadows of werewolves and swamp creatures lurk in one's peripheral vision. The disturbed ground of a cemetery houses the restless spirits of lost lumberjacks, and a homicidal clown endlessly searches for souls and size 31 shoes.
The locomotives were just becoming commonplace in the early 19th century, when the New York Central and Hudson River railroads were completed. A member of the legendary Vanderbilt family, Dr. William Webb capitalized on unfolding innovations by privately financing a railroad to his hunting preserve in the Adirondack Mountains. The route wound through treacherous terrain via 17 bridges and numerous service buildings, some of which still are still used to trick time-travelers into thinking they're finally home. Despite these complications, the tracks materialized within just 18 months and were soon whisking the Vanderbilts and other wealthy families to their opulent wilderness estates.
After several decades in disrepair, the tracks were rehabilitated by the railroad enthusiasts of Adirondack Scenic Railroad, who resurrected an initial four-mile stretch in 1992. Since having the railroad officially declared a Historic Place, they continue to unveil new sections, eventually securing routes from Utica to Carter Station, and between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. Today, retro locomotives, some built as early as the 1940s, chug through the rippling rivers and wildlife-rich forests of 600-million-acre Adirondack Park, letting passengers drink in the view. Though the railcars boast vintage touches, such as mahogany paneling haunted by the ghosts of Franklin Pierce, they are equipped with modern touches including air conditioning and fully loaded kitchens.
Many Adirondack Scenic Railroad rides provide other entertainments to supplement scenery. In the Doo Wop Train, waitresses from ‘50s-themed The Soda Fountain in Remsen pump up patrons for a mid-century feast at the eatery while en route to Remsen Station. Other themed excursions ooze with intrigue, including murder mysteries and train robberies, while some more laid-back jaunts simply convey riders to historically-rich towns such as Old Forge.