We’ve officially been at Fort Lewis for over a year, and I’m only just starting to dig into the archives about our three+ years at Fort Drum. There’s a common misconception that there isn’t much in way of kid-friendly activities around Fort Drum. Because it’s the Army’s northernmost post and only about 30 miles from Canada, the winters are long, and the summers are short. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that every single season there has its charm. And yes, the grass is always greener, but Fort Drum is gorgeous – and full of things to do – if you’re willing to get out there and look.
When we moved there, Spencer wasn’t even a month old, so the concept of kid-friendly activities around Fort Drum wasn’t high on our list of priorities. By the time we left, however, we had a three-year-old and an almost two-year-old. Plus, while Ryan was deployed, I forced myself out of my comfort zone and got outside – literally. This list has been a long time coming, but I’m thrilled to share some of our absolute favorite excursions from our time at Fort Drum.
Old McDonald’s Farm – Sackets Harbor, NY
Old McDonald’s Farm is seasonal, but it’s open from early May through late October. They also open around Christmas for a meet-and-greet with Santa that’s too much fun, and Ryan actually got to experience that our last year at Fort Drum. They have over 200 farm animals, many of which offer a hands-on experience (my kids loved petting the goats, in particular.) You can check out one of our many trips to Old McDonald’s farm here. My kids still miss this one!
Black River Trail – Black River, NY
We were lucky at Fort Drum. The Black River Trail was only about 2 miles from our house, which made it the perfect place to explore every single season. In the summer, it was perfect for long runs while training for the Chicago Marathon, or for late evening walks chasing fireflies. In the winter, it made for great snowshoeing, as well as for puddle jumping in the spring. We spent many a day on that trail. It’s beautiful (and free) every single season. Does it get better than that?
Southwick Beach State Park – Henderson, NY
Fort Drum may not have any direct ocean access, but there is no shortage of lakefront living in the North Country. Southwick Beach State Park quickly became a favorite of ours during Ryan’s last deployment. About 45 minutes from post, it’s a simple lake beach, though it’s undergoing some significant improvements this year including concessions, laundry, arcade, and seating, which should make it an even more ideal place for summer fun.
Alexandria Bay & Boldt Castle – Alexandria Bay, NY
This is another seasonal offering in A-Bay. Take a quick 20-minute ferry ride from Alexandria Bay directly to Boldt Castle just a short distance from town and in the heart of the 1,000 Islands region. If you’re in town, there’s no shortage of seasonal shops and dining. There’s also a playground for year-round use if you’re bold. If you’re heading to Boldt, take snacks for on the grounds, and be sure to explore. While the inside of the castle is slightly less kid-friendly, my kids loved exploring with us.
Tug Hill Vineyards – Lowville, NY
It’s not all about the wine here! Tughill has great wines, as well as a fantastic brunch that you won’t want to miss, but Tug Hill Vineyards also has some of the best berry picking in the North Country. We loved visiting to pick raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries during the spring and summer months. You pay per pound like most places, and you have veritable free reign on their abundant crops. Our kids loved to eat their way down the rows.
Billy Beez – Syracuse, NY
I’ll be honest, sometimes the cold in NY was just too much to take the kids outside, regardless of snow gear. Days like that made the hour-long trip to Syracuse worthwhile. One of our favorite spots was Billy Beez, an indoor playground at Destiny Mall. It’s a bit on the pricier side of things, but tickets provide full-day access, so if you’ve got older kids, it’s totally worthwhile. We only managed to go once, but it was amazing, and we all had a blast.
Indoor Ice Skating – Watertown, NY
Spencer had his first ice skating experience at the Watertown Municipal Arena in NY, and it’s what convinced him he wanted ice skates (which he got this past Christmas…finally 😉 ) This rink provides year-round access to public, you just need to search their site for public free-skate hours. It’s not expensive to rent skates and ice time, and it’s well worth it.
Fort Henry – Kingston, ON
One of our absolute favorite parts of Fort Drum was its proximity to Canada. Would you believe that Ryan’s first trip to Canada was for our honeymoon? I know…I digress. Fort Drum is just about 30-40 minutes from Kingston, ON, and it was one of our favorite day trips to make all year round. Walking Princess Street and visiting the boys’ favorite toy shops was always a hit during the cold months, and Fort Henry was fun and exciting to visit during the spring and summer months (it’s seasonal, too). Also worth noting is that it’s a perfect place to try some poutine or visit yelp-worthy restaurants!
Have you been to Fort Drum or been stationed there? What were some of your favorite places?