Recently, I had the chance to experience the beauty of the Adirondacks in upstate New York for the first time. Before actually going, I wasn’t quite certain what to expect. Sure, I expected a lot of greenery and some nice scenery, but would it have fun attractions and enough to keep me busy during my five day trip? I don’t want to spoil it for you just yet, but I will say that the area quickly blew me away. There were multiple wheelchair accessible trails and so many hidden gems in the various towns of the Adirondacks (check out my in-depth accessible guide to the Adirondacks by clicking here!). However, one place in particular really showed me just how spectacular of a destination this is and that place is called The Wild Center.
The Wild Center is located in Tupper Lake, New York in the heart of the gorgeous Adirondack mountains. In short, The Wild Center is a museum dedicated to showing visitors how awesome the Adirondacks, and nature in general, are. But it is SO MUCH MORE than that.
The Wild Center is a place with indoor and outdoor experiences that connect people of all abilities with nature in innovative ways. I spent half a day here and had a ton of fun. As a fan of anything outdoors-related, I couldn’t believe that there were such unique accessible experiences all in one attraction.
Since 2006, The Wild Center has been connecting people with nature and I am so glad that I finally got to experience it. From rolling above the trees of the Adirondacks to enjoying animal encounters and more, The Wild Center has something for everyone and is wheelchair-friendly throughout. Here are some of the best wheelchair accessible things to do at The Wild Center during your visit –
Wheelchair Accessible Things to Do at The Wild Center
Learn about the Adirondacks in the indoor museum
While much of The Wild Center is outdoors (and we’ll get to all of that in just a bit), my visit started indoors in the main museum. As soon as I rolled indoors, I was in awe at the beauty of the center. The lobby has tall ceilings and huge windows, so you can have a full view of the outdoor pond from inside. Since The Wild Center aims to be as immersive as possible, the waterline of the pond goes up to the bottom of the windows, so while looking out of the windows, it feels as though you are actually in the pond. When I tell you they have thought of everything to make this a fully immersive experience with nature, I do mean everything. They’ve thought of it all!
The indoor museum has multiple exhibits and attractions worth seeing. There is also a cafe, Waterside Cafe, serving food and drinks, and a souvenir store, Wild Supply Co., with all kinds of goodies to remember your time in the Adirondacks. Admission for The Wild Center is $20 per adult and $12 for children ages 5-17. That’s quite a deal considering that there is so much to do in the 115-acres that make up The Wild Center.
The indoor museum’s main exhibit and attraction is the Hall of the Adirondacks. This is a circular loop that takes visitors on a journey through the various aspects that make the Adirondacks a place to love. As you circle the vast exhibit, you also figuratively “descend in elevation”. For example, at the beginning you will learn about the snowy and icy upper parts of the mountains and by the end of the circle loop, you’ll be viewing what is in the streams and rivers at the bottom of the Adirondack mountains. I loved the setup because it gave me a chance to truly understand and learn about every aspect of the Adirondacks, from top to bottom.
In the Hall of the Adirondacks, there are turtles, fish, plants, and even otters, all of which are native to the area. There are signs throughout the entire exhibit talking about the importance of specific animals, plants, and more in the Adirondacks. To be honest, I’m usually not a huge fan of reading my way through a museum, but these were really interesting. The Wild Center did a phenomenal job of making it fun to learn.
Aside from seeing the animals, two of my other favorite exhibits in the Hall of the Adirondacks were Planet Adirondack and the Akwesasne Nation area. Planet Adirondack is a giant interactive globe, where visitors can view airplanes taking off or even watch storms around the globe in real-time. It was a cool interactive attraction.
I also loved the Akwesasne Nation exhibit, which was at the end of the circular loop in the museum. Using the authentic voices and perspectives of the Akwesasne people from the Mohawk tribe, this exhibit shares their relationship with the nature of the Adirondacks. It was a beautiful exhibit and so important to hear that perspective.
Inside the museum, there is also the Flammer Theater, where you can watch movies about the Adirondacks. The films range from 15-25 minutes, so you can easily watch a quick informative film after browsing the Hall of the Adirondacks for a while. And right beside the theater is the cafe, so be sure to grab a drink before heading outside for even more fun!
Roll on the Wild Walk above the trees
After enjoying all of the indoor exhibits, it’s time to go outside and interact with the Adirondacks in new ways. My first outdoor adventure was on the Wild Walk and despite seeing a ton of awesome photos of it before my visit, it still managed to surpass my expectations.
The Wild Walk opened at The Wild Center in 2015, so it is fairly new, but it has quickly become a favorite attraction in the Adirondacks. Why?? Well, the cool thing about Wild Walk is that it gives visitors a brand new perspective of the Adirondacks from an angle that you really can’t get anywhere else.
The Wild Walk starts on the ground, but slowly climbs in elevation as you walk/roll on it. There are over 1,000 feet of platforms, bridges, and walkways until you get to the highest point, where you will be above the trees. From the tallest point, you can see McKenzie Mountain and Whiteface Mountain in the distance. There is also an oversized eagle’s nest replica at the top, which is only slightly larger than the biggest eagle’s nest ever found, but to get in this nest, you do have to climb a set of stairs.
For wheelchair users, the Wild Walk is fully accessible to roll on and it isn’t steep at all. It gently raises above the trees and since it is so long, you can’t even hardly notice that you’re going up. It’s a smooth, gentle walk/roll to the top and you never know what you’ll see along the way. I saw birds and really enjoyed all of the signage along the path. The various signs describe different animals that call the Adirondacks home. For example, I learned that deers have ears that are seven times the size of humans, allowing them to hear very well, and bears can smell things up to 20 miles away.
Along the Wild Walk, there is also a giant spider web, which children (or adults like my mom pictured below) can climb on, hanging bridges, and play areas. Unfortunately, the hanging bridges are not quite sturdy enough for a wheelchair to roll on, but on a nice day, I could easily roll on the accessible Wild Walk pathway a few times and take in the stellar views.
Listen to Forest Music on an accessible trail
Forest Music, also known as iForest, is another wheelchair accessible outdoor experience at The Wild Center. It is an easy to roll on trail that winds through the woods, but what makes it unique, aside from the fact that it’s so accessible, is that 24 speakers are spread out along the trail and play peaceful music to heighten your overall experience.
I was able to easily roll on the Forest Music trail in my powered wheelchair. There were some steeper sections on the trail, but nothing too steep. Whether you use a manual or powered wheelchair, I think you should be able to handle it. I completed the trail’s loop in about 20 minutes.
In addition to the music, there are also steel sculptures throughout the trail by local Adirondacks-based artist Barney Bellinger. This trail aims for you to use multiple senses to gain a better appreciation of the Adirondacks. This was one of my favorite experiences at The Wild Center and while it may not be as popular as the Wild Walk, I can assure you that it is definitely worth doing.
Meet the animals of the Adirondacks
I am a huge animal lover, so any time that animals are involved, it’s going to be a highlight for me. As mentioned earlier, there are fish, turtles, otters, and more that can be viewed inside the museum in the Hall of the Adirondacks, but if you want to see even more animals, you can!
There are more than 900 live animals at The Wild Center, all of which are native to the Adirondacks. Throughout the day, Naturalists lead animal encounters with snakes, birds, and more. On the day that I visited, I was able to meet and learn about birds and even porcupines from the experts.
They were fun encounters and like everything else at The Wild Center, it was a cool way to learn more about the Adirondacks in a unique way. To see the full schedule for Creature Features, where you can interact with animals, just click here and choose the day of your visit.
Quick tips for your trip to The Wild Center
• Plan at least 3-4 hours to fully explore The Wild Center, but you could stay longer if you want. There’s a LOT to do and see here!
• The Wild Center is open seven days per week and tickets should be purchased in advance of your visit here.
• Since you will be outdoors, have bug spray and sunblock with you (and use it!).
• Restrooms are in the museum and there is an accessible stall. It’s quite spacious.
• If you need overnight accommodations in the Tupper Lake area, consider staying at Saranac Waterfront Lodge in nearby Saranac Lake, NY. I stayed in a wheelchair accessible room with a roll-in shower and it was great for my visit!
The Adirondacks are truly a stunning, and vastly underrated, destination and The Wild Center made me fall in love with the area even more. No matter what your abilities are, The Wild Center is sure to impress you and become one of your favorite attractions in all of New York State!
*Thank you to The Wild Center for hosting me. While my experience was complimentary, all opinions expressed are authentic and my own.