Fun and Free (or almost)
May
19
2015

Saranac Lake is a great place to stretch that vacation dollar. Our corner of the Adirondacks has many ways to help anyone have lots of fun, either for free or as a darned good bargain.

Remember, the Adirondack Park has no admission fee!

Pitch YOUR OWN

Our vast wilderness offers one way of combining luxurious grandeur and inexpensive accommodation. Back-country camping requires a setting at least 150 feet from a water body, road, or trail. No camping in Wildlife Management Areas, Historic and Nature Preserves, and Conservation Easements, and anywhere the area is posted as "Camping Prohibited." People are allowed in the same place for up to three nights (for groups of under 10 people). It is free.

For added comfort, look for designated primitive campsites, marked by a yellow and black "Camp Here" marker. This designates some cleared ground or other handy camping aid, in a place where camping will not be damaging to the ecosystem.

For more amenities at a very reasonable price, check out our many incredible NYS campgrounds. Staying mid-week or choosing one of our package deals is another savvy budget strategy.

Primitive camping marker (courtesy AndyArthur.org)

cook your own

Whether we are camping, or saving on food by getting lodging with a kitchenette, we can make our own meals by taking advantage of Saranac Lake's farmers markets, groceries, and delis

from fresh flowers to fresh cupcakes -- explore our many farmer's markets

Our twice-a-week Farmers' Market (Tuesdays and Saturdays) makes it fun to browse fresh produce, local meats and cheeses, jams and honey, baked goods, and other easy, delightful combinations that means we have more time to enjoy a routine very different from daily life.

Camp at my in-laws features lots of easy options like rotisserie chicken with a bunch of side salads, or a selection of deli meats, cheeses, rolls, and condiments. Easy to serve, easy to clean up.

there are eight parks in Saranac Lake -- visit them all!

Of course, the picnic possibilities are as huge as our wilderness. We can have a sumptious feast from the top of a mountain, along a chuckling stream, or deep in a magical forest glade. Be sure that whatever we pack in, we pack out again. Of course, the pack is lighter going back.

Saranac Lake's many parks are wonderful places right in town, with benches or picnic tables. All with a view.

Bring Your Own

Bring your hiking shoes, kayak, canoe, bike, and spikes. The rest is up to imagination and stamina.

Saranac Lake has six highly hikeable mountains, over fifty paddleable ponds, and dozens of hiking trails. And that's just in a twenty minute radius of town. Our Trifecta combines a woods walk, a scenic pond, and a mountain... all within walking distance of downtown, and at a skill level suitable for a wide range of ages.

this glacial erratic on the trail to St Regis Mountain is an example of the fun that can be had, even without climbing the mountain

We have some wonderful, low-traffic, roads that will take a biker through some spectacular scenery that's a bit flatter than our neighboring towns to the east of us. Gear to Go Tandems offers tandem bikes for rent which opens up the whole area to adventurous couples, and their scenic route maps are also available in the Visitor Center.

Just one trail, Bloomingdale Bog, is flat enough for anyone to walk or mountain bike, offers a large variety of flora and fauna for birding and photography, and it ends at Buck Pond, a NYS campground open to anyone for a day use rate that's under ten dollars.

If our group has people not quite up for the deep wilderness, any New York State campground will take a carload of folks in for the day, for a fee ranging from 6-10 dollars a car. Grill on the barbeque in an unoccupied slot, bike on the miles of low traffic blacktop, explore the trails and ponds, even take a shower. It's an inexpensive combination of beautiful nature and civilized touches.

the Saranac River flows from Denny Park all the way to Bloomingdale. A fine morning or afternoon on the water!

Set up the canoe to use our "highway of water" to get to gorgeous, barely touched parts of the Adirondacks. The Saranac Chain offers lake after lake with campground access, while our St. Regis Canoe Wilderness has acres of hiking, fishing, paddling, and primitive camping open for exploration.

An investment in the outdoors is relatively easy to make, and will pay off for years and years to come. One great way to plan is to enlist one of our Adirondack Guides to create a guided trip, tailored to personal interests. By using their equipment, we will get a good idea of what we'd like to acquire for ourselves. With the tips and tricks picked up from a wonderful outing, we are ready to hit the outfitters and assemble our own outdoor kit.

Once we have our basic camping, hiking, and paddling gear, we have an incredible range of potential trips with minimal new expenses.

Make Your Own

We want everyone to “make your own fun” by offering a variety of free events and activities. The Visitor Interpretive Center at Paul Smiths is a wonderland that kids of all ages will enjoy. Miles of hiking trails, a mountain to climb, bogs and ponds, are all enhanced by the wooden bridges, benches, and observation platforms built by students of the college.

Inside, there are art galleries, a wonderful deck to relax on, and a Great Room with views of the marsh and the many birds at the feeders outside the windows. The VIC relies in part on donations, so we can give as our budget allows.

the Butterfly House lets us exist in their world, with many fun facts to share!

Downtown Saranac Lake has many free admisson festivals all year, from the Daffest Celebration to the many free activities involved with Winter Carnival. On First Night, a single button purchase lets us choose from a dozen different shows.

In summer, we truly bloom with the season. The Third Thursday Art Walks each month fill our streets with performing artists, while we can browse the outdoor galleries set up along the sidewalks. This season, the popular Art Studio Tours will be taking place each month in the summer, with a two day extravaganza in the fall.

Every month, the Art Walk makes our downtown into an gallery and theater all in one!

The Waterhole hosts a free Party on the Patio with amazing live music, from a wide variety of bands, every Thursday night from May until September. There are free family movies on Berkeley Green, and every Wednesday night at 7 pm there's a free music concert.

At any time, pick up the brochure to our self-guided Historic Walking Tour at the Visitor's Center, and explore downtown's architecture and historic past. Ask for "Walk Back in Time." Historic Saranac Lake operates the Laboratory Museum in Dr. Trudeau's actual laboratory, and has a schedule of free presentations and inexpensive tours from spring to fall.

Berkeley Green, a family center for activities all summer

There are so many fun and free things to do in Saranac Lake that the limit isn't our budget. It's only our imagination.

Explore our package deals. Find some free or inexpensive live entertainment. Find a thrilling event on our calendar.


Check out these related 'Dack Hacks:

13 Hacks for doing LP on a budget

10 outstanding car camping hacks

DIY guide to beginner bushwhacking

One fish, two fish… 1000 of fish...

Hiking off the beaten path: from peaks to ponds

Planes, trains, automobiles, boats, bikes... if it goes, get it here

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Early May Wildflowers: A Kaleidoscope of Color

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About The Author

Pamela Merritt's picture
Pamela Merritt finds a library's reading room as exciting as a hike through the forest. She met the Adirondacks in 1999 and declared it "home." She's been collecting stories ever since. She declares summer's hiking and kayaking blends beautifully into winter's snowshoeing and reading to create four great seasons of enjoyment. Her published works display her eclectic range, from How-To cat care manuals to literary short fiction.

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