Keeping it coolI remember my first trip to Saranac Lake, now hailed as, and what probably has been the coolest place in the Adirondacks for a long time. Not knowing it then, the events of that trip became the catalyst of my eventual residency here. It was the winter of '99 and we were 4 hours into our trip. We were headed to a place I had no thoughts of, no prior preconceptions of, and no idea even where it was. Only, that my best friend was there and we were following a list of directions and maybe a map.
The day's light had been lost on the approaching hillsides as we winded through Cranberry Lake and the snow in the trees seemed to glow a color I had only seen in sunsets. Night had fallen and the darkness of the unlit roads surrounding our car full of warm bodies made us seem small in the wilderness's comfortable silence. As we climbed higher in elevation, the snow banks became steeper and the falling thick flakes flew directly at the dash. We were headed out of the 'burbs and into the woods. We could definitely feel the increasing isolation as we drove further into this blizzard or what was just another snow day here. The plan was to meet our friend John at some place he called the Waterhole #3, a place he also said would be “easy to find”.
You have arrived
The Waterhole was definitely the first place I noticed among the sea of people. Oh, so what I didn’t tell you that this was Winter Carnival weekend. So, when we drove down the hill and over the Saranac River… a town arose out of the darkness, lit by lights under ice and adorned with snow huts selling sausages to costume covered patrons. The energy of everyone around was powerful and you couldn’t help but smile at everyone you saw. It was kind of like a player's club for people who like to party in the cold!
We finally met up with John and squeezed into the upstairs music lounge at the Hole. I was really taken aback by how rough and cold outside had been and then you walk into this huge beautiful barn-like music space, filled with heat and everyone on or near the same page finding a beat or talking 'til they walk. In this late night atmosphere you can’t help but be overwhelmed at some point or all night if that’s the plan!!
Our next stop was across the street to Snuffy's Pub, now Grizle-T’s, which still happens to have a pizza joint attached with a window you can order from. They also have a back porch and tons of games to get into. After meeting a few overly friendly locals and a few more drinks we headed down the street to the Backdoor to see Big Boss Sausage… and the overly friendly locals came with us, hah! The Backdoor, now called Captain Cooks, is were you can find a good chicken sandwich, wing night, and some live music. We spent the rest of the night here but John said we had to go to one more bar before we caught a cab. Sure why not? Next stop the Rusty Nail! Not sure of anything much past that conversation but we ended up waking up safely where we had planned on.
Over the next few days we met lots of people who were so inviting and the places we went all had the same feeling of openness but now may look a bit different. Time has seen some things change, but the attitude and feeling remains the same, be it during carnival or on a random Tuesday open mic night at the Rusty Nail. On Wednesdays if you head out to Paul Smiths at the end of Split Rock road you’ll find the Shamrock. Tucked back among the trees, just off from busy RT 86, the Shamrock provides a comfortable space for a folk and bluegrass style jam session.
To me it still doesn’t matter where you end up going out for dinner or a drink, you'll still find good people to connect with. If you don’t feel like picking up a guitar and standing on stage you can head to Romano’s for a bit of Karaoke. They also have bowling if public performance isn’t your game and, if you stick around long enough, you may get sucked into the town pool league that bounces from bar to bar.
The night life in and around Saranac Lake can be determined by your day. If you were inside all day and need to get out, there are trails to explore. Under the stars is the perfect place for a campfire and good friends. Or, if you had a big day out and you’re just up for hanging out on Thursday or Friday you can normally find an art opening at one of the many galleries in town. You can also just take an art walk down the main street and visit artists working in the galleries or their own studios. From the Artist Guild, to Tim Fortune, to North Winds and all the way down to Bluseed Studios which also hosts music events.
Our little town can be overloaded with events or music on any given night, especially if you throw in events at the Pendragon. I’ve seen it all too many times where there are two art openings and an awesome theater performance at the Pendragon all on the same night. Plus, they'll have music at one or two of the restaurants for dinner and to cap it off, if you’re not tired you can hit the Waterhole to dance all night. The hardest part is choosing what to do or daring to try and catch a piece of all the action. In a way, it’s not hard to find something to do at night, you just have to walk down the street and a door will open and you will be welcomed in, offered a drink and maybe some cheese! The odds are better on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night because we still need to make time for the woods and campfires. So come on out and join in the fun or meet someone you're sure to remember for a long time!