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Winter wonderland at the Wild Center: a luminous, magical experience at Tupper Lake

This article is sponsored by The Wild Center

During summer, the Adirondacks are a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, attracting countless visitors. And when winter drapes the region in its white mantle, the Adirondacks reveal a different kind of beauty, offering other unique and captivating attractions.

These include the Wild Lights experience presented at the Wild Center, in the small town of Tupper Lake, about a two-hour drive from Montreal.

Wild Lights - Wild Center, Tupper Lake NY

The Wild Lights

Renowned for its commitment to environmental preservation and education, the Wild Center transforms into an intimate, magical winter wonderland.

With the early arrival of night in this cold season, the Wild Lights light show, which runs until February 24, 2024, transforms dormant nature into an enchanting universe of color and light.

Wild Lights - Wild Center, Tupper Lake NY

Since its first edition in 2020, this experience has evolved, offering an even more spellbinding light show every year.

The event takes place in two main areas: the Forest Music and the Wild Walk, next to which is the Hopscotch art installation.

Wild Lights - Wild Center, Tupper Lake NY

The Forest Music trail stretches for half a kilometer and can be covered in 15 to 20 minutes.

This looping trail, with over 130 trees wrapped in coloured lights, illuminates the forest to the rhythm of music composed by Whatever Penny.

Wild Walk and the Hopscotch installation are in the same area and are relatively short walks.

A family on the Wild Walk during Wild Lights
Photo: Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism

The Wild Walk elevated trail takes on a whole new look after dark, when it glows with a thousand lights.

Brightly coloured hexagonal light tunnels guide visitors along the various paths, and are also great photo opportunities.

Another highlight is Patrick Dougherty’s Hopscotch art installation, which lights up spectacularly after dark.

Hopscotch in Wild Lights - Wild Center
Hopscotch at the Wild Lights event
Photo: The Wild Center

Once the tour is over, warm up inside with a hot chocolate bar or enjoy a Wild Lights Light Lager, a special collaboration between neighboring microbrewery Raquette River Brewing and the Wild Center.

Other things to do at the Wild Center

View of the Wild Walk from the eagle's nest
View of the Wild Walk from the eagle’s nest

To make the most of your visit to the Wild Center, it’s a good idea to arrive in the late afternoon so you can explore the site in natural light. There’s a lot to see and do once you’re there.

Between its interactive exhibits, nature trails and captivating installations, the center offers a rich and diverse experience.

In addition to the Wild Walk and the Musical Forest, you’ll find :

  • The Pines Wild Play Area, a natural playground where children can climb a leaning tree,
  • The Indoor Living River Trail, an indoor exhibit that takes you from the highest peaks of the Adirondacks to the bogs and marshes of the lowlands. You can also see otters, turtles and many other animals. The exhibition is very interesting, and even grown-ups will make discoveries.
  • Birdly, a virtual reality experience that makes you feel like you’re flying.
Wild Center hiking trail

There are also several trails on the 115-acre campus that can be explored on foot or snowshoe.

About the Wild Center

Wild Center lobby

Opened in 1999, the Wild Center at Tupper Lake redefines the traditional notion of a museum or nature park.

The Wild Center aims to uncover the history of the Adirondacks and explore new ways for humans and nature to coexist. It also holds the distinction of being New York’s first LEED-certified museum, underlining its commitment to the environment.

Website – 45 Museum Drive, Tupper Lake, NY 12986

Practical info – Organizing your visit

  • Wild Lights runs until February 24, 2024, on Fridays and Saturdays from 5pm to 8pm.
  • Tickets can be booked online, which is recommended to avoid waiting times.
  • The site is vast, so bring comfortable shoes for exploring and warm clothing.
  • Allow between 60 and 90 minutes to visit all the Wild Lights installations.

Where to eat near the Wild Center?

During our visit to the Wild Center, we had the opportunity to try two great places, Raquette River Brewing and Woodshed on Park.

Raquette River Brewing

Raquette River Brewing

Raquette River Brewing is a microbrewery offering some 15 house beers on tap, as well as a selection of ciders, wines and other beverages.

Food trucks parked in front of the microbrewery offer a variety of dishes all year round: wood-fired pizzas, nachos, sandwiches and even poutine.

Pizza and beer at Raquette River Brewing
Pizza and beer at Raquette River Brewing

In summer, two street food trucks add to the offer, serving tacos and other Mexican specialties, sandwiches, burgers and smoked meats.

Take a seat in the huge room, with its large fireplace, and enjoy your meal accompanied by one of their fine beers, such as the Maple Cream Porter.

Dogs are also welcome, adding to the welcoming atmosphere.

Website – 11 Balsam St, Tupper Lake, NY 12986

Woodshed on Park

Woodshed on Park interior

Woodshed on Park offers a dining experience with a menu that celebrates the region and its French-Canadian roots. So don’t be surprised to find a shepherd’s pie on the menu.

In a chic, eclectic setting reminiscent of the houses of the past, the atmosphere is warm and the service particularly careful, ensuring a memorable experience.

Other menu items include a mix of comfort foods such as burgers, chicken casserole and fried chicken, as well as refined dishes like yellow beet salad with whipped ricotta, braised pork and daily specials.

Beet salad with whipped ricotta - Woodshed on Park
Beet and whipped ricotta salad

Using local ingredients is a priority, and many items, such as bread and ice cream, are made on site.

The wine selection focuses on natural wines and original cocktails.

Website – 218 Park St, Tupper Lake, NY 12986

Where to stay?

The Wild Center, where Wild Lights takes place, is about a two hour and a half drive from Montreal, New York.

For those wishing to make the most of their visit or avoid the evening drive home, the region lends itself perfectly to a weekend getaway.

Room at Hotel Saranac
Room at Hotel Saranac

Just 30 minutes from the Wild Center, the charming town of Saranac Lake is an ideal destination to stretch your stay.

During our visit, we stayed at the Hotel Saranac, part of the Curio by Hilton collection, combining comfort and history. Opened in the 1920s and renovated in 2018, this hotel is also a member of Historic Hotels of America, offering a unique experience that combines modern luxury with historic charm.

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