Is the Wild Center in Tupper Lake Worth Visiting in 2023?
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We love to visit the Adirondacks. Not only is it an easy drive from Toronto, but there is so much to see and do And we want to conquer it all! The best part – most of the things we plan are outdoor activities. Last October, we decided it was time to see the fall colours in the Adirondacks, so we began planning our weekend away. As always, a kid’s museum is high on the itinerary list. And did we ever find the perfect one to visit! The Wild Center combines both indoor museums and outdoor exhibits, making it a one-stop shop for learning and adventure!
Where is The Wild Center?
Located in Tupper Lake, The Wild Center can be found near the heart of New York state’s Adirondack Park. It is approximately a 40-minute drive from Lake Placid and just under a 2-hour drive from Lake George.
If you are planning to spend some time in the Adirondacks with kids, then the Wild Center is definitely a must-do attraction to add to your itinerary.
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What is The Wild Center?
Formerly known as the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks, The Wild Center is both museum, a conservation area, and an adventure park. Occupying 115 acres of Adirondack forest, it’s a place where families can learn and get active, all while having fun!
The Wild Center is all about conservation and the relationship people have with nature. As a result, the Center provides a truly unique and immersive learning experience for both adults and kids. We were pretty excited to spend the day there!
What is There to Do at The Wild Center?
1. Check Out the Indoor Exhibits
Starting indoors, you can walk through the interactive museum, which is home to several awesome exhibits. “Ways of Knowing” features the history and stories of the Indigenous people who once called the area home.
In the Hall of the Adirondacks, you can learn about the plants and animals which are native to the area. There are aquariums full of live turtles, fish, otters, and plants that will entertain even the younger crowd.
2. Make a New Friend at Animal Encounters
And you definitely won’t want to miss Animal Encounters in the Big Wolf Great Hall. Here, naturalists bring out a variety of creatures (owls, snakes, porcupines, etc.) for a close-up look.
The kids had the opportunity to ask questions and learn all about the ambassador animals. They absolutely loved it!
Lastly, there is also a theatre playing various educational films, and the Naturalist’s Cabinet, which is an exhibit filled with a variety of items for kids to touch and explore.
Unfortunately, with the current situation, all indoor exhibits are still closed until further notice. However, the Animal Encounters experience has now been moved outside to the outdoor classroom.
Now called the Creature Feature, see how many quick facts you can learn in 5 minutes, as you meet one of their many Adirondack animals. Creature Feature happens daily, and is pretty much the same experience as Animal Encounters, only it happens outside.
Either way, the animal ambassadors are pretty awesome, and something you will definitely want to fit into your day.
3. Explore the Outdoor Exhibits
Once you head outdoors, there are 115 acres to explore! We started with the Wild Walk, which is a suspended trail of bridges through the treetops. With educational plaques and knowledgeable guides/docents along the way, it is impossible NOT to learn an interesting fact or two.
Something a little new to the Wild Center – although visitors will not have access to the indoor otter exhibit, staff are bringing guests behind the scenes to catch a glimpse of the otters in the outdoor otter play yard—a spot normally off-limits to visitors.
Definitely, something you don’t want to miss! We saw the otters indoors during our visit in October, and the kids couldn’t get enough!
4. Enjoy The Wild Walk
The Wild Walk experience includes a 4-storey twig treehouse, a full-sized bald eagle’s nest, and a gigantic rope spider web:
“The Snag”, or hollowed-out giant white pine, is big enough to hold a 4-storey stairwell inside. Here, you will find all kinds of displays about who calls these pines home.
Fun Fact: the tallest white pine in the Adirondacks, and New York State for that matter, measures 160 feet tall. This is taller than the Statue of Liberty, from her base to her torch!! That’s huge!!
5. Get a Birds Eye View at the Eagle’s Nest
The full-scale eagle’s nest, which is big enough for a crowd to walk around in, is perched up high enough to offer amazing views of the surrounding forest. The sheer size of the nest is mind-blowing! Measuring approximately 10 feet wide, the nest is the size of a small room!
6. Climb Around on the Giant Spider Web
But the attraction that the kids were most excited about was the giant rope spider web. It is massive! There was more than enough space for Mr. Bump to run and chase his sister around on!
The ropes are pretty tightly woven, with a layer of netting underneath. This made it easy and safe for even younger kids to navigate. These hands-on displays were an absolute hit with the kids.
We spent quite a bit of time at the giant spider web! Good thing The Wild Center provides benches for parents to lounge, while kids burn off some energy!
From the Wild Walk, we decided to explore some of the hiking trails. They are well marked, not too long, with some leading down to the Raquette River. The trails were easy to navigate, so no need for hiking boots or poles.
We even found one trail which led to a “secret forest” filled with colourful hammocks! Hubby and I loved that! But since we only had one day to spend at the Wild Center, we couldn’t “hang around” here for long (insert eye-roll)!
⛰️ If you are looking for some more outdoor adventure, then head to the Ausable Chasm! We have a full guide here.
7. Use Your Imagination at the Pines Wild Play Area
Our next stop was the Pines Wild Play Area. There are no swings or traditional play structures here. Instead, the kids can climb on giant tipped-up trees, build things with logs and piles of sticks, or beat on log drums.
There is plenty of space for kids to use their imagination, as well as burn off some of the boundless energy they have!
8. Listen Carefully at the Forest Music Walk
The last exhibit we visited outdoors was the Forest Music installation. This immersive experience combining nature, technology and art, is a quarter-mile-long trail that winds through the forest. The trail has 24 speakers which play a composition of nature sounds and music.
The kids were not really interested in the installation but were happy to run along the trail, finding treasures of their own in the forest. We were more than happy to stroll along the path and enjoy the peaceful compilation.
9. Explore the Oxbow River on Paddle Boards or Canoes
Because we went to the Wild Center in October, we weren’t able to take advantage of paddleboarding on the Oxbow, or their guided canoe trips. This is definitely something we will do when we head back during the summer. The area is so scenic, that I can just imagine how peaceful a guided canoe trip could be!
Will I need to plan my visit?
The Wild Center has now transitioned to a new timed ticket reservation system. This enables them to manage capacity and limit the number of visitors on campus during a given time.
Everyone must now reserve tickets for a specific date and time. Reservations can be made online, by phone or by email.
The Wild Center website does mention, however, that the time frames listed on the reservation page represent your actual arrival time only. Once at the Center, you are able to stay as long as you would like.
Admission is $22 per adult and $13 for kids ages 5-17.
The Wild Center FAQs
Plan to spend at least 2-3 hours at the Wild Center as there is plenty to see and do.
The Wild Walk is a 0.9-mile loop trail at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, New York. Generally considered a moderately challenging route, it takes an average of 21 min to complete.
The Wild Center is home to several species of birds including American kestrels, blue jays, Eastern screech owls, and wood ducks. You will also find turtles (wood turtles, painted turtles, snapping turtles), amphibians (wood frog, gray tree frog, American toad, Eastern newt, common mudpuppy), and snakes at the Wild Center.
Final thoughts on our visit to The Wild Center
All in all, we had an awesome time during our visit to The Wild Center. While the experience may look a little different now, we wouldn’t hesitate to return! The outdoor portions of this adventure park are not only great for families but truly allow you to experience everything nature has to offer.
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