Family fun that's free

One thing about vacationing with children is the constant need for fun activities. There's also the challenge of finding things the whole family can enjoy. There's quite a range of possibility if there's a mix of teens, young children, and different ages and abilities.

To help with with that vacation budget, the Saranac Lake area offers a number of free fun activities and events. Some of them may be just right for you and your family.


Of course, our beautiful Adirondacks has lots of lakes, mountains, and forests that are always open and free to access. But sometimes "rugged" isn't right for the situation. For a more groomed trail experience, the Paul Smith's College VIC has free admission, though donations are appreciated. (Header photo is the VIC complex.)

The Paul Smiths VIC offers every variety of Adirondack environment except high alpine.

There are 25 miles of trails through every variety of Adirondack environment except high alpine. The skill levels are equally varied, from smooth and flat trails, with boardwalks that can be handled by toddlers, all the way to the summit of Jenkins Mountain. There's lush scenery available from all the trails. There's a number of lakes and ponds that have trails around them, or even, across them.

Many of these bog species are miniature versions of what lies ahead.

The wildlife is equally abundant. There are shore birds, raptors in the air, and warblers in the forest. Spot a river otter or find tracks from a marten. Observe the many colorful wildflowers and mushrooms.

There's a large collection of Aldo Leopold benches, the six-piece simple construction invented by the famous naturalist. There are also several lookout points, reached by stairs, that offer high and wide-ranging views of the nature on display. Inside, there are natural history displays, a Touch Table, and a great room and deck with views of the bird feeders.

Every family member is welcome at the VIC!

Bring the doggie, too. Keep them leashed and clean up after them, and they are welcome anywhere on the trails.

In town, enjoy the all-access Riverwalk, a paved path along the Saranac River with gardens, benches, and informative signboards. Part of our townwide park system.


Free music in Berkeley Park happens Wednesdays in the summer.

Part of a fun time in our historic downtown.

This sweet gathering spot has a bandshell and limited bench seating, so bring a blanket or lawn chair if you wish. It is centrally located in our historic downtown, close to shops and restaurants. A fine way to start, or end, an evening.

These concerts offer live music from many different genres. There's a lot of local talent, and many bands make our venues a stop on their tours.

Our Wednesday Concerts on the Berkeley Green are a popular event.

Visit the Adirondack Carousel, just a couple of blocks up and one over. It is in a park with playground equipment. Admire the many Adirondack symbols and animals that have been hand-carved as part of the ride. Artists have decorated the carousel with local scenics and wildflower paintings.

Ride a raccoon or bobcat, or sit in the speedboat. There are activities and crafts available, too. 

The Adirondack Carousel is open every day in the summer, with a playground for children and rides available for a small fee.

The floor to ceiling windows in the carousel building make it a fine place to enjoy a spring shower, and then get out on the swings and slides when it is over. The Stewart's Shop across the street is a great source for hot dogs and ice cream.

Our many art galleries are fine places to browse and be inspired. It's never too early to start cultural appreciation. The last weekend of every month is our ArtWorks Studio Tours. Take scenic drives to artist studios and see where their art gets created.


There's a Saranac Lake Walking Tour, the "Walk Back In Time." Focusing on our walkable historic downtown, this self-guided tour tells surprising stories of Saranac Lake's amazing past. Find the building that stored the Crown Jewels of Luxembourg. Which one adjoined the summer tent theater where Rosalind Russelll got her start? Learn how to tell that a certain house was once a Cure Cottage, by noticing the wraparound porch with the solid railings, or a strategically placed sun room.

Our Main Street has many buildings with long and lively histories!

The Vest Pocket Park by the Saranac Lake Free Library was once the site of a Study and Craft Guild for tuberculosis patients. Our Walking Tour offers many such places for relaxation and refreshment along the way, so take as long and leisurely a time of it as you wish.

This was once a center for education, vocational training, and mental enrichment for TB patients whose former lives had been interrupted.

The first lab in the United States that was built to study tuberculosis is now the site of the Saranac Laboratory Museum. Adult admission is $5 each, and children get in free.

The current exhibit is what it was like to come to a fancy Saranac Lake hotel in the Roaring Twenties.

Check into a fancy hotel at the height of the Roaring Twenties in their new exhibit, which also commemorates the early days of the Hotel Saranac. There are also the exhibits which outline the scourge of tuberculosis in the last century, and the unique curing culture which was created in Saranac Lake.

Bring those bikes and explore miles and miles of lovely country roads.

We have so many low traffic roads to enjoy, with stunning scenery and wildflower enjoyment. (photo courtesy Cycle Adirondacks)

Find routes local bike companies have mapped out in our biking section. Extend your enjoyment of a sport you are already equipped for - bring your bikes and take in our wonderful mix of terrain, scenery, and fun places to stop.

Balancing our relaxed times with high intensity is the key to a fine family vacation. Where everyone gets more of what they want to do, at the level they want to do it at.

For more ideas, see our blog post, Fun and Free (or almost.)

Choose family lodging. Find family dining. See all our attractions.

ADK summer's in full swing:

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Beach, boats, bands, and buffalo

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ADK: new and improved

Author:Pamela Merritt
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