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Bowling with the Vanderbilts

"Roughing it" means different things to different people. To the Vanderbilts and their contemporaries, it meant heading off into the woods . . . and setting up camp in absolutely luxurious estates. These sprawling "Great Camps" -- many built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries -- spanned countless acres of prime forest, with small fiefdoms of beautifully crafted buildings providing shelter and other necessities, such as hot water and indoor plumbing. Several are still standing today, while remnants of others can also be found.

One Great Camp you can visit is the rustic, deserted Camp Santanoni in Newcomb, just north of Route 28N (tel. 518/834-9328). Its 45 buildings are spread out over 12,900 acres. There are no furnishings anymore, and the buildings are closed to the public, but come here to enjoy the beautiful architecture from the outside in this serene, mysterious setting. The camp is open year-round, but there's a catch: You have to hike or ski 5 miles to get here. Guided tours are seldom offered, but interpreters are on-site from late June through August.

Great Camp Sagamore, 4 miles south of Raquette Lake (tel. 315/354-5311; www.sagamore.org), lets you see how the Vanderbilts themselves went camping. Their 27-building summer retreat for over 50 years even included its own bowling alley. Tours are offered daily from late June to Labor Day at 10am and 1:30pm, daily from Labor Day to mid-October at 1:30pm, and weekends from Memorial Day to late June at 1:30pm.

The two camps are about 40 miles apart; on these winding roads, that could take some time to drive, so don't expect to see both in the same day, especially with the hiking involved at Santanoni. Great Camp Sagamore is about 17 miles west of the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, and Santanoni about 25 miles east.

Especially For Kids

The Lake George area is a veritable wonderland for children, providing plenty of indoor and outdoor amusements. For kids -- and adults with a weakness for nostalgia -- it doesn't get any better than Old Forge's Enchanted Forest, 3183 Rte. 28 (tel. 315/369-6145; www.watersafari.com), with colorful giant statues of Santa Claus, Smokey the Bear, and Uncle Sam; amusement park rides; and a huge water theme park (daily May to Labor Day). Speaking of huge, Six Flags' Great Escape, 1172 State Rte. 9, Queensbury (tel. 518/792-3500; www.sixflags.com), includes Storytown, Ghost Town, and the Splashwater water park (May to early Sept). In Lake George, there are thrills of a creepier kind: Dr. Morbid's Haunted House, 115 Canada St. (tel. 518/668-3077; www.drmorbid.com) and House of Frankenstein Wax Museum, 213 Canada St. (tel. 518/668-3377; www.frankensteinwaxmuseum.com). Lovers of kitschy minigolf shouldn't miss Around the World Golf, Beach Road (tel. 518/668-3223; www.aroundtheworldgolf.com), where you can choose to putt around the U.S. (complete with the Empire State Building) or the world (with the Egyptian pyramids).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.