Explore the Real New York at The Wild Center in the Adirondacks
September 4, 2019
Before we get too far, let’s make one thing clear: New York is more than just Manhattan. Yes, Times Square is great and all, and New York City is one of my favorite places to visit around Christmas, but there is so much more to New York State. (Something that I constantly have to tell people when I’m traveling or lived abroad.) One of the best ways to experience New York at its finest is to take a trip up to Tupper Lake and visit The Wild Center in the Adirondacks.
Thank you to the wonderful staff at The Wild Center for hosting my husband and I on our visit.
The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, Adirondacks
The Wild Center opened on July 4, 2006 after 8 long years of planning. The goal of the center was to create awareness and draw attention to the “biggest natural park in the lower 48 states”… Yes, the Adirondack Park region is THAT big. And every single inch of it is purely amazing. Conservation is incredibly important and that mission is clear throughout.
Walking into The Wild Center is an experience in itself. The main lobby has tall ceilings full of windows so you’re immersed in the nature around you. Straight ahead you’ll see one of my favorite features – the pond. When designing the center, the architects wanted the museum to be as immersive as possible, and the water line of the pond meets up to the bottom of the windows, so you are right there next to the water. Take a peek to see the fish, frogs, birds, plants, and other wildlife native to the pond.
To the left is the ticket desk where you’ll decide which parts of The Wild Center you want to experience. The standard admission of $22 provides you entrance to The Wild Center and its main exhibits for 2 consecutive days, with discounts for youth, military, and seniors. Members and children under 4 are always free. There are also experiences that you can purchase for an additional fee – behind the scenes tour, canoeing, etc. But more on that later. Also, don’t feel obligated to visit in the summer – The Wild Center is open year-round! And with autumn coming soon, the fall colors are sure to be amazing.
Across the lobby to the right you may see a staff member with a live animal. From owls and snakes to birds and porcupines to whatever animals the center is rehabbing, you’ll have the chance to get up close and personal to some local animals. (You can check the website or the ticket desk for the daily animal encounters; they rotate so all of the animals get lots of rest!)
Can’t get enough of the animals? Head over to Otter Falls exhibit and watch the otters splash around! On the day of my visit, the two newest additions – Tawi:ne and Rohsno:re – were playing so much… though when we went back later they were snuggled up in their little cave after tiring each other out. Curious how they got named? The Akwesasne Boys & Girls Club named the otters in their native language of Kaniehkehaka. Tawi:ne means “otter” and Rohsno:re means “he’s fast”! Just like the other animals, the otters rotate who goes on exhibit, so these two share the spotlight with three others.
The History of the Adirondack Mountains
The main exhibit at the museum is set in a circle, meant to guide you through the history of the Adirondack region. As you go through the exhibit, you also ‘climb in elevation’ to see the difference in the flora and fauna of the mountains. You’ll find plants and animals native to the region, starting from the ducks and turtles in the pond to the pools of salmon and ending with the otters. Signs throughout the museum teach you the importance of each piece of the ecosystem and how to spot the plants and animals while you’re out exploring. Plus, I’ve been to lots of museums around the world, and this one tops the charts. The displays are beautifully thought-out and informative.
Partnership with the Akwesasne Nation
The staff at The Wild Center want to teach people not only about the plants and animals of the Adirondacks, but also about the native people. So, last year began a partnership with the Akwesasne people from the Mohawk tribe. Since Native American people have such a unique view of the natural world, you’ll notice signs in the Kaniehkehaka language with stories from the Akwesasne people.
That’s not all!
Other exhibits in the main museum include… Planet Adirondack – Interact with a digital globe. Flammer Theater – Watch movies about the Adirondacks. The Naturalist’s Cabinet – a scientist’s dream! Touch artifacts from the area. … Plus there is a café with a variety of options to choose from for lunch.
The Wild Walk
In 2015, The Wild Center opened up its most unique experience – The Wild Walk. I learned about The Wild Walk on exhibit at that year’s New York State Fair and yearned to visit ever since. What is it? The Wild Walk is an immersive experience in the forest outside the museum. Walk to the other side of the parking lot to reach the entrance to several hiking trails and the starting point of The Wild Walk.
The platform that you’ll walk on has a slow incline, bordered by teepee-like structures. While the structures look like they are changing, they are actually all the same height, showcasing the rise in elevation as you walk through the exhibit.
An Interactive Experience
The very first section of the Wild Walk includes a bird blind. Peek through the slats of wood to see birds that are native to the Adirondacks enjoying the bird seed and nectar that is put out for them. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to get some great photos!
As you meander up the path, you’ll see signs and interactive pieces so you can engage as much as possible and learn about the nature around you. Take the time to read about the nature of the Adirondacks so you can fully appreciate the wonder that it is.
Be a spider, a bird, or a bear!
So many animals call the Adirondack region home. From small insects to large bears, The Wild Walk lets you experience life as the animals native to the area. This part is a kid’s dream come true! Or a kid at heart, like me. 😉 Climb across the giant spider web, get the best view of the mountains from the bird’s nest, and explore the inside of a snag (a dead tree). There are so many things to do and photo opportunities that The Wild Walk has become one of the most popular attractions as The Wild Center in the Adirondacks. And it’s a truly unique experience! Feel free to take your time and enjoy every moment.
Even better, The Wild Walk is fully accessible! Because of the slow incline, wheelchairs and strollers can easily venture to the top.
By far the most emotional part of my visit to The Wild Center was my walk through iForest. British composer Pete Wyer created a soundtrack for the walking trail, performed by The Crossing, a Philadelphia-based choir. THe composition, titled “I Walk Towards Myself”, is played on a continuous loop through speakers hidden through the forest, so visitors are surrounded by the music.
Are you a more active person who wants to get out and engage with the environment? Lucky for you, there are add-ons to your experience at The Wild Center! Choose between stand-up paddleboarding and canoeing the oxbow of the Raquette River. We opted for the 2-hour canoe trip, and are so happy we did. While hot, the weather was perfect for a trip out on the canoes.
Led by two guides, you can explore the oxbow and the plant-life that lives there. See some of the water plants that are unique to the area and learn their importance to the ecosystem. You’ll notice evidence of the otters, beavers, and other animals that live along the banks of the river. The gorgeous views of the mountains in the background make it even better. Don’t forget your camera!
Behind the Scenes Tour
Another option you can add on to your experience is a behind-the-scenes tour. The tour runs once daily at a cost of $10 and preregistration is encouraged because it operates in small groups. If you choose to do the tour, you’ll get to go downstairs to see all of the equipment that helps make the center as energy efficient as possible – some of which was designed specifically for The Wild Center.
The best part of the tour? Seeing all the animals! Yes, there are some on exhibit in the main hall, but most of them are “behind the scenes” because they are being rehabbed. Most of them are there because they were found injured in the wild and rescued. Whenever possible, the staff rehabs them until they are safe to return to the wild. They have a quote on the wall stating “Our quality of work is their quality of life,” so it’s clear just how much the staff cares for the animals. On the tour you’ll meet turtles, a variety of birds, a possum, snakes and other small amphibians, porcupines, and the rest of the otters. You can bet I enjoyed this part the most!
Curious to know which other zoos, aquariums, and wildlife centers I’ve visited? Check out this list!
Visit The Wild Center and Stay the Weekend in the Adirondacks