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The perfect weekend at Saranac Lake: top activities and planning tips

Saranac Lake, located in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains in New York State, is an ideal destination for those looking to combine culture, nature and relaxation.

Less touristy than neighboring Lake Placid, this small village stands out for its more intimate, authentic atmosphere.

Just a two-hour drive from Montreal, Saranac Lake, steeped in history and surrounded by superb scenery, is the perfect place for a few days’ getaway.

Here are 6 activities to do there, year round, and some useful addresses to help you organize your stay.

Saranac Lake through the ages

Saranac Lake Historic Centre

It was the 1932 and 1980 Olympic Games that put the region and the towns around Lake Placid on the map. But even before that, Saranac Lake already had it’s own renown.

Indeed, Saranac Lake made its name long before these games with the arrival of Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau and the opening of the Trudeau Sanatorium in 1884, the first sanatorium in the United States for the treatment of tuberculosis. Its treatment, based on exposure to cool, cold air, gained in popularity and transformed Saranac Lake into a major center for tuberculosis patients.

This affluence led to the creation of a supportive community, united by the common fight against disease, and greatly contributed to the town’s renown.

At the same time, the Prohibition era in the United States also had a significant impact on Saranac Lake. The town, close to the Canadian border, became a key crossing point for alcohol smuggling.

The best things to do at Saranac Lake

1. Discover the historic center of Saranac Lake

Stroll through Saranac Lake with Hotel Saranac in the background

Saranac Lake is a very pleasant town to walk around.

Among other things, you can take the self-guided tour of the city’s historic center, which allows you to discover the city’s history and architecture.

Historic buildings - Saranac Lake
Historic buildings - Saranac Lake

Another way to discover the town is by following the Saranac Lake River Walk. Approximately 1.6 km long, the promenade begins on Church Street in the city center and runs alongside the Saranac River.

You can also take advantage of these walks to window-shop in the small boutiques or visit art galleries such as the Adirondack Artists Guild Gallery or NorthWind Fine Arts Gallery.

Saranac Lake Wooden Carousel

The Saranac Lake wooden carousel in William Morris Park is also not to be missed. Opened to the public in 2012, it is a true work of art featuring animals representative of Adirondack wildlife such as beaver, deer, trout, moose and red squirrel.

Each finely hand-carved animal was designed by local artisans, and this project symbolizes not only Saranac Lake’s creative spirit, but also its strong community. You’ll also notice that each animal carries one or more ladybugs, the emblem of New York State.

2. Visit the Saranac Laboratory Museum

Saranac Laboratory Museum

The Saranac Laboratory Museum is a must-see for history buffs. Housed in the first laboratory built in the USA for tuberculosis research, this museum offers a fascinating insight into the city’s past.

Built in 1894, the laboratory was originally a research center for tuberculosis founded by Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau, who himself suffered from the disease. Many discoveries have been made about possible treatments for this disease.

At the museum, visitors discover not only the history of scientific research and patient care through permanent exhibits, but also various aspects of local history.

Tuberculosis research attracted a diverse community of people, including many of the public figures of the day, seeking a cure, some even choosing to settle there permanently. A touching feature of the visit is the notes left by visitors, some of whom are descendants of former employees or patients of the center.

The museum plans to expand into Trudeau’s former home, promising even more historical discoveries for visitors. Allow between 30 minutes and 1 hour to complete the tour.

3. Admire the Wild Lights show and walk the Wild Walk at the Wild Center.

Wild Lights at the Wild Center

Until the end of February, the Wild Center presents Wild Lights, an event where nature and light combine to create a magical universe. Thousands of twinkling lights transform the paths and trees into a colorful, magical landscape, perfect for a family or romantic evening stroll.

In addition, the Wild Walk aerial trail lets you discover the forest from a unique perspective, walking among the treetops.

4. Take a trip to Lake Placid

Known for hosting the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, Lake Placid is a charming village with stores, restaurants and historic Olympic sites. Located near Saranac Lake, you can visit the Olympic Museum and see the sports facilities.

5. Explore the surrounding area on foot

The area around Saranac Lake offers many hiking opportunities, from easy trails to more demanding hikes.

A short hike, easily accessible from town, is Mount Baker. It’s a 2.9 km loop that offers breathtaking views of the village of Saranac Lake, Mount McKenzie and the high peaks of the Adirondacks (Departure from 189 Forest Hill Ave, Saranac Lake, NY)

6. Make the most of outdoor activities

The Adirondacks are known for their magnificent nature, and the region is a veritable playground for outdoor enthusiasts.

After all, with a surface area of six million acres, the Adirondacks are one of the largest protected natural areas in the United States.

This park, which also encompasses several small municipalities such as Saranac Lake, is larger than Yellowstone, Everglades, Glacier and Grand Canyon National Parks combined.

There are so many activities that it would be impossible to name them all. In summer, water sports are the order of the day, while in winter, the region is a paradise for downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating.

Organizing your stay

Where to stay in Saranac Lake

Room at Hotel Saranac
Room at Hotel Saranac

During our stay, we stayed at Hotel Saranac. A member of Hilton’s Curio collection, it was renovated in 2018, offering a perfect blend of modern comfort and history. The hotel, which opened in 1927, has stood the test of time.

Where to eat in Saranac Lake and on the road?

On the way

Twisted Carrot: On your way through Plattsburgh, don’t miss a stop at the Twisted Carrot bistro. In a warm, friendly atmosphere, you’ll find a fine selection of beers on tap and cocktails. The menu features salads, gourmet sandwiches and a variety of appetizers(82 Margaret St, Plattsburgh, NY).

Rulfs Orchard: Rulfs is an orchard, bakery, café and grocery store featuring products from the farm and surrounding area. Open since 1952, it offers seasonal activities, but the café and grocery store are open year-round. It’s the perfect place to stock up on snacks or grab a coffee and dessert, including delicious apple fritters (531 Bear Swamp Rd, Peru, NY)

In Saranac Lake

Origin Coffee Co: For coffee lovers, this is the place to be. Coffee is at the heart of the menu, and one of the house specialties is the drip coffee. For breakfast, there’s a selection of pastries, muffins, burritos and breakfast sandwiches, and for lunch, the menu offers a variety of paninis. (77 Main St, Saranac Lake, NY 12983)

Campfire Grill: Located in the Hotel Saranac, Campfire Grill offers comfort food based on local produce, such as burgers, fried chicken, steak, grilled salmon and salads, as well as a selection of craft beers and cocktails. To end the evening on a festive and sweet note, we can’t recommend a tower of S’mores to roast. Pleasure guaranteed! (100 Main St, Saranac Lake, NY)

Smores tower

Riverside Café at Nori’s Village:This small café, located in the Nori’s Village grocery store, is ideal for an on-the-go breakfast. It serves hearty burritos, pastries and gourmet smoothies.(138 Church Street, Saranac Lake, NY)

Early Dawn Confections: Here’s another option for breakfast. It serves classic, gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan pastries, as well as a range of savory pastries, including Dutch Knuckle, a cheese bread, savory puff pastry tarts, breads and bagels. (28 Woodruff St, Saranac Lake, NY)

This visit follows an invitation from the Wild Center to experience Wild Lights as part of a sponsored collaboration. Although the costs of the stay were covered by the Wild Center, the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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