Castles, Cowboys, and Caverns: an Upstate New York “Brave” Adventure

In a summer where a new Scottish princess was introduced to the world in Disney/Pixar’s Brave, we thought it fitting to take our own royal family on a Highland adventure.  However, as a flight across the pond is not quite within our family’s reach, the highlands we’ll be visiting can be found right here in our home state of New York.  Along the way we’ll experience the majesty of castle-dotted islands; come face to face with wildlife and wranglers; and explore a prehistoric underworld deep, deep below the Earth’s surface.  Continue reading for all the details on our ultra-exclusive Adventures by Daddy “Castles, Cowboys, and Caverns” tour of the highlands of Upstate New York.

Boldt Castle, photo by George Fischer courtesy "I LOVE NY" Official New York State Tourism Bureau

Our royal party is led by King Daddy, the bravest and strongest male in the entire household.  Well, actually, the only male in the household.  Similar to King Fergus in “Brave,” King Daddy is a bit of a blowhard, and prone to telling the same stories again and again.  However, this “Brave Adventure” will lead the royal family to new territories filled with fresh stories – so let’s get to the highlights.


New York’s Thousand Islands harkens to a by-gone era where the rich and elite of New York City’s high society would escape to a wilderness playground.  These early 1900’s barons constructed grand castles on individual islands, each attempting to outdo one another.  Adventures by Daddy will visit Boldt Castle – built by the millionaire owner of New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel as a display of affection towards his wife.  Let’s hope the Queen in our family doesn’t get any ideas.  Click here to read about our visit to Boldt Castle.

Boldt Castle, photo by George Fischer courtesy "I LOVE NY" Official New York State Tourism Bureau


Next we’ll travel to mysterious Dark Island (ooooooohhhh, spooooooky, sounds like a Scooby Doo locale), to call upon Singer Castle with its towers, turrets, passageways and even a dungeon.  Dungeon?  Hmmm, maybe King Daddy can get some architectural pointers to keep the princesses in line.

Singer Castle, photo by George Fischer courtesy of "I LOVE NY" Official New York State Tourism Bureau


In “Brave,” Merida loved her dear horse Angus, and spent hours in the woodlands communing with wildlife and firing arrows into the trees.  The next stop on our Upstate New York “Brave” Adventure includes a visit to The Adirondacks engaging in sport at the Lake Placid Olympic facilities and bonding with our own horses at a 70 year old Adirondack Dude Ranch.

Cascade Mountain, Adirondack Park,


The Adirondack State Park the size of the entire state of Vermont, and larger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, Grand Canyon and the Great Smokies National Parks combined.  In the spirit of the 2012 London Summer Olympics, we’ll check out Lake Placid’s Olympic Sports Complex – home of the 1980 Winter Olympics.  No word on whether archery is in store for us here, but our royal family’s bravery will certainly be tested on the Olympic bobsled track.  You can read all about our visit to the sports complex in this article.

Photo courtesy Whiteface/Lake Placid

Next, our two princesses will connect with their own “Angus” as we spend lazy days trotting and galloping through the Adirondack forests searching for the Will o’ the Wisps.  The 1000 Acres Ranch in the Lake George area was established in 1942, and cowboys have guided families ever since on the winding trails through the mists and heather, into the mountains of the Adirondack highlands.

Photo courtesy



While Merida had her “Standing Stones,” the final stop on our Upstate New York “Brave” Adventure will bring us to “Blowing Rock” – Howe Caverns in Central New York.  Stories of the caverns date back to 1700’s Native American tales, but the precise location remained elusive until discovered in the 1840’s by farmer Lester Howe on his neighbor’s property.

Photo courtesy Howe Caverns


“Brave” King Daddy will lead the royal family 156 feet below the surface to explore an underground lake, river, streams, and rock formations.  All the while, we’ll stay on guard for the dangerous giant bear, Mor’du.  We didn’t find Mor’du, but in this article you’ll find out we discovered something even better at Howe Caverns… fudge!

We’re looking forward to exploring more regions of our home state.  Other highlights of the trip will include a visit to the W!LD Center on Tupper Lake to learn about river otters, and it wouldn’t be an “Adventures by Daddy” summer vacation without a stop at an amusement park – we’ll also check out Great Escape & Splashwater Kingdom.  You can follow along live with the “Castles, Cowboys, and Caverns” Upstate New York “Brave” Adventure as we post photos and updates along the way.  For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.