No, I’m not being sarcastic. There are SO many reasons to love Fort Drum and it really is one of the Army’s best kept secrets. If I’m being completely honest though, Drum had to grow on me. It didn’t help that we arrived during a January snow storm. But, once the snow melted and North Country came alive, I grew to love this woodsy, tucked-away post and the beauty of Northern New York.
Fort Drum boarders six towns: Evans Mills, Calcium, Black River, Felts Mill, Carthage and Watertown. Each town has its own feel and offers a range of boutiques and family-owned restaurants. Not only is Fort Drum close to Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, but it’s only 30 minutes to the Canadian border. Have your passport ready for quick access to Kingston, Ottawa and Montreal!
Aside from the great location, there are plenty of reasons why Fort Drum is one of my favorite posts. I managed to roll them up into my top 5 reasons!
1. Hiking and the Great Outdoors!
Look just outside Fort Drum and you’ll find plenty of activities to fill your calendar and boost your appreciation for the great outdoors.
There are a plethora of state parks to explore off the shores of the St. Lawrence River in the Thousand Island Region (which, yes, features more than one thousand islands).
Two of my favorite are the Black River Trail Head, which is just minutes from Fort Drum’s Black River Gate, and Keewaydin State Park just outside of Alexandria Bay.
Now, if you truly want to embrace the great outdoors, then definitely seek out Fort Drum Family and MWR-Outdoor Recreation. This facility allows you to rent all the summer and winter gear you’ll need, plus there are hiking and whitewater rafting groups you can join.
Thompson Park is a little gem in the heart of Watertown. Situated on one the highest vantage points in town, this park offers breathtaking views, trails and playgrounds. Plus, it is home to the New York State Zoo.
For a full list of gorgeous hikes, click here!
2. Zoo + Brews
Every summer the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park hosts the Brew at the Zoo, which benefits a great cause: indigenous wildlife. You’ll enjoy craft beers and local wines and learn about the threatened and endangered animals native to New York State.
Thompson Park also hosts several seasonal festivals and the Orchestra of Northern New York’s summer series, American Pops and Summer Jazz. Don’t forget to bring a blanket, picnic basket and anything else you’ll want to enjoy this night under the stars.
3. Wine Not?
Photo of Coyote Moon Vineyards via TripAdvisor
Wineries, Oh My! Did you know The Thousand Island region has some of the best wineries? I sure didn’t. Thousand Island Winery, Coyote Moon, Venditti Winery, Tug Hill Vineyards and Otter Creek are just a short drive from Fort Drum. Be sure to pick up a Thousand Island Sea-Way Trail Guide for a complete list.
Right and Up tip: Remember to bring your military ID since some wineries offer discounts on bottle purchases.
4. Farmers Markets
Photo from Watertown Market
I love a good farmers market, and North Country has no shortage of vendors offering a variety of fresh produce, herbs and animal products. The Watertown Farmers Market, which offers a huge variety of products from gourmet ice cream to seafood, is open every Thursday throughout the summer. There are also great markets in Carthage, Black River, Philadelphia and Evans Mills.
5. Foodie’s Paradise
There are plenty of delicious options in the area ranging from authentic Italian, Asian, locally owned joints and hole-in-the-wall diners.
Sackets Harbor is where I spent a good portion of my springs, summers and falls while living in North Country. This historic village has amazing seasonal restaurants. Most locally source their ingredients and all have outdoor patios overlooking Lake Ontario. Tin Pan Galley, The Boathouse, Sackets Harbor Brewing Company, The Barracks Inn, Goodfellows and The Hop Spot are all amazing.
Exploration is the key to falling in love with Fort Drum and the surrounding area. Talk to locals at farmers market, restaurants and wineries to find out the happenings of the area. Plus, it’s a military-friendly area and there are lots of discounted things to do if you present your ID. With an open mind and positive attitude, you’ll quickly discover that Fort Drum is the one of Army’s best kept secrets.
Featured image by Decaseconds
About the Author
Brittany Rakowitz is an Ohio native and became an Army spouse in 2012. To date she has PCS’d to Fort Leavenworth, Fort Drum, Fort Irwin and is currently stationed in Fargo, ND. She is a graduate of the State University of New York and holds a Bachelor’s of Art in Arts Management. Brittany enjoys traveling with her husband, finding the best spots in a new town, and spoiling her dog child, Rip.