Last summer, my teenage daughter announced that she’d rather take a family trip to Paris than go to camp. With the realization that there was only a finite window when the kids would still want to travel with us, I jumped at the chance. However, upon investigation, I realized that the steep airfares would have eaten up a huge portion of our travel budget, and I wasn’t certain that my then almost 12-year-old son was ready for such a trip.
I had always wanted to visit Montreal and Quebec City, and heard both were like Europe on this side of the pond, so I began researching places to stay and things to do. Then, I Googled where to stop along the way. Since Montreal is about a six-hour, 15-minute drive from mid-Nassau County, I searched for a fun midway point.
Fortunately, I found Six Flags Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Waterpark, a kid-friendly hotel adjacent to an amusement park about three-and-a-half hours away, just a mile off I-87 in Queensbury, NY. Bonus: The rate included access to the hotel’s indoor water park, as well as day passes to the amusement park rides and outdoor water park.
The day we arrived, we unwound from the drive at the hotel’s 38,000-square-foot indoor water park. A few rounds in the lazy river started the vacation off right. After hours in the water park, we were ready to explore the area. For dinner, we decided to try Davidson Brothers Restaurant & Brewery, four miles away in quaint Glens Falls. The Davidson brothers have been brewing and serving beer on-site for nearly 20 years at their brewpub. The menu was extensive with an impressive variety of typical appetizers, such as wings and quesadillas, as well as more unusual items like fried pickles; hearty soups and chilis; a handful of refreshing salads; lots of sandwiches and burgers, including a build-your-own option; and entrées to suit every member of the family. Back at the hotel, there was plenty to do at the arcade, spa, gym and water park.
The next morning, we decided to go for a country breakfast overlooking the scenic, 32-mile-long Lake George, less than 10 minutes away, at Grandma’s Back Porch Restaurant. Fortified and euphoric from the country air and mountain views, we were ready for a full day of fun at Six Flags’ Great Escape & Splashwater Kingdom, a quick walk from the lodge. With 135 rides and attractions to choose from, the day flew by as we tried a combination of thrill, family and outdoor water park rides.
As excited as we were to cross the border into Canada, before hopping into the car, we had to cross the street to visit the famous Martha’s Dandee Creme. For a few dollars, we were able to choose from the tastiest—and the largest—homemade soft serve ice cream in flavors, such as a strawberry cheesecake swirl, apple pie, banana chocolate twist, birthday cake and pistachio. After a long, hot day at the amusement park, my son was determined to challenge himself with the large, which was more than a foot tall.
Montreal is only two hours, 45 minutes north from Lake George, but you truly are entering another country and need either a passport or Trusted Traveler’s Card. Be prepared to add an hour to the trip waiting at the border—and to lose cell reception as you cross into Canada. Though most people will speak English, even high school French will help you navigate: nord (north), sud (south), est (east), ouest (west), sortie (exit), arret (stop), pont (bridge), travaux (work), ile (island). When parking, signs are in French, too, so you must know the days of the week Lundi (Monday), Mardi (Tuesday), Mercredi (Wednesday), Jeudi (Thursday), Vendredi (Friday), Samedi (Saturday), Dimanche (Sunday), and know that the time is shown in 24-hour increments, such as 16h30 for 4:30 p.m.
When you see Canadian money, you will be certain you are in another country. Not only is it waterproof, but the maple leaf actually smells like syrup. You can exchange American dollars at your hotel or at local banks, but be sure to compare rates. Before leaving home, check with your credit card company to determine any surcharges for using your card outside the U.S. Shop around. Certain cards, such as American Express Gold, don’t impose foreign transaction fees. Expect to receive change in coins instead of one-dollar bills; Canada stopped printing them more than 25 years ago, after the releasing the loonie in 1987. And don’t be surprised when your change isn’t exact down to the penny; Canada discontinued their use about two years ago, so your change will be rounded to the nickel.
Read about our Montreal adventures in Anton’s Sept. 2 Vacation & Travel section.