From May to October, visiting Fort Ticonderoga is always great, but I particularly like visiting in the autumn months. The changing seasons play a role in creating new experiences for visitors every month. Though we are not quite into the fall season yet, it is not far away. Let me share some reasons why I find fall a great time to visit the Fort.
To provide you with the most updated information, I made a recent late-summer visit. I know there is always something new and different at the Fort — features, exhibits, demonstrations, and tours are ever-evolving. I’m always anxious and excited to go check it out. At this visit I began by watching the Cannon Firing Demonstration that takes place daily at 2 p.m.
All in the details
This year the Fort is reflecting on 1777, a critical year during our American Revolution. The fort’s occupation, after early July of that year, was British. As you may be aware, Fort Ticonderoga authentically follows every historical detail when taking us back to a specific year in our American history. I was immediately captivated by the colorful British uniforms of the soldiers at the Fort; particularly the hats. The red fringe on the top is actually horsehair. I learned there was some compromise in the design of those hats back in 1777. Essential supplies for the original design did not arrive. The design had to be modified for the amount of materials that were available. I love the creative, colorful, scaled-down result and give a thumbs-up to that designer. Thank you Fort Ticonderoga! Their extensive research in uncovering and revealing these historical tidbits, makes history so much more interesting for me.
If you love gardening, as I do, you will be thrilled with the abundance of blooms on display in the formal and Discovery Gardens at the King’s Garden. The plants have had the entire season to develop. This year appears to have been very productive with promises of even more colorful exhibitions as blossoms continue to peak throughout the fall. The views inside the formal brick wall garden are jaw dropping. I didn’t know where to look next.
Outside the walls, the Discovery Gardens were also bursting with colorful blooms. I wanted to crawl in the natural sunflower hut and relax a bit in seclusion. It’s designed for children, however, with appropriately-sized, bright Adirondack chairs.
When you visit keep your eyes open for the Dominque chickens — they like to hang out in the sunflower hut, too. This heritage breed of chicken is America’s first chicken breed dating back to the early 18th century. They have a very classic appearance in their black and white “tweed” coats.
A short stroll from the gardens toward the lakeshore will reveal Fort Ticonderoga’s new dock for the M/V Carillon boat tours! My visit was also the first day of operation for the new dock. Guests at Fort Ticonderoga can now easily break up, or conclude, their day with a relaxing boat ride boarding directly from the Fort grounds. After August 28th, the 90-minute tours will continue Wednesday through Sunday, twice daily, at 1:30 and 4:00 pm. The M/V Carillon is a 60-foot, 35-passenger, replica of an early 20th Century run-about; a very dignified vessel with historical character revealed in its wooden construction and trim. Large side windows allow for plenty of visibility, even if closed during cooler or inclement weather.
I rode the Carillon for a tour last summer and I highly recommend this “on the water” experience. Views from the water give one an enhanced perspective of the historical importance of this waterway, Fort Ticonderoga’s strategic peninsula location, and also reveal what soldiers must have witnessed approaching by water. The landscape hasn’t really changed much. The onboard interpreter pointed out key – not to be missed - features and uncovered more interesting historical details that one can not appreciate, or even grasp, from land. Fall is an optimum time to be on Lake Champlain. Often winds are minimal, with the water practically flat and highly reflective. When the shorelines are lined with autumn color the effect is dramatic — mirrored and multiplied.
Another reason for a later-season visit is the ability to accept the challenge of the Heroic Corn Maze. The maze opened on August 13th and will remain open until the close of the season - Columbus Day. Find the entrance adjacent to the parking lot at the King’s Garden.
The corn is huge this year! You get to immerse yourself in a six-acre living, growing, work of art; an actual puzzle that also changes every year. The main maze is divided into two phases so you can create your own personal experience.
There is also a separate Kiddie Maze for youngsters that is shorter and without dead-ends. Exploring the maze is included with general admission, but on two special event nights this year, October 28th and 29th, you are able to experience the maze in the dark using flashlights.
Also included with general admission to Fort Ticonderoga, is the ability to venture to the top of the nearby Mount Defiance and take in some awesome views. Getting this bird’s eye view of the Fort and Lake Champlain will reveal much more understanding of America’s history.
The entrance to the road to Mount Defiance is a short trek from the Fort through the Town of Ticonderoga. The road to the top is gated, but you are provided with a “gate opening token” with your admission ticket to the Fort. Detailed directions included with your admission also make it an easy find. The automated gate at the base of the road is also prepared to take a credit card if you are venturing up for that experience alone. The road climbs several hundred feet in a relatively short distance. Hikers and cyclists may want the challenge on foot, or by pedal power, but the road accommodates vehicles, all except large buses or motor homes. Once at the top parking lot, the actual summit is steps way. There, a large pavilion with picnic tables inside welcomes you and offers a relaxing place to take in the breathtaking scenery overlooking the Champlain Valley.
If you can, get there at 4pm when Fort Ticonderoga provides daily tours. Clad in his 1777 British uniform the Fort Ticonderoga interpreter pointed out many things I might have missed, and identified sites and other features we were seeing. He elaborated on the history and significance of this summit. Looking down at the Fort, I could easily see what an important juncture this was of many waterways — Lake Champlain, Lake George connected by the La Chute, and looking east, what was known then as the East River. It became obvious this was a hot-spot for travelers on these “blue highways.” It is no wonder the French originally established a trading post on this site. Even today you often find a shopping mall at the juncture of major interstates. This possibly was America’s first!
Taking in views in every direction, I was reluctant to leave the summit of Mount Defiance. It was hard to imagine it could be any more beautiful than on this particular late-summer day, but fast-forwarding in my mind to foliage season, I envisioned how spectacular this awesome scenery will look when dressed in all the colors of autumn!
This week in related ADK awesome autumn activities: