Submitted by guest blogger Chris Morris
Small towns across the country usually share some common traits. You’ve heard them before: a sense of community, volunteerism, a slower pace of living, being there for each other — the things that separate us from big-city life.
But Saranac Lake prides itself on being decidedly different. What does that mean? Here are five examples:
1: We sort of love to party.
To be fair, everyone loves to party. But Saranac Lake schedules parties year-round, and we have something for everyone.
Let’s start with the big one: Winter Carnival.
One of the country’s oldest winter festivals, our carnival features a giant ice palace, constructed every winter by a crew of community volunteers — they call themselves the “International Palace Workers 101” — who brave frigid temperatures to create carnival’s signature visual. The 10-day event includes a ladies’ fry pan toss competition (which is exactly as it sounds), themed parade, live music every night, snow rugby, and plenty of other weird festivities.
Winter Carnival may be our best-known bash, but it’s far from the only game in town. First Night, Party on the Patio, Music on the Green, and Can-Am Rugby Weekend are perennial favorites, too.
This year, Saranac Lake added two newcomers to the mix: street fests, a half-day celebration that brought stilt walkers, magicians, artists, musicians, and a whole other cast of characters to Main Street, and Northern Current, a free, day-long music festival for the whole community that features an eclectic lineup of bands, food and art vendors, and kids’ activities.
2: We have a traveling cure porch.
Listen. You’re on vacation. You’re busy. Saranac Lake is surrounded by mountains and water, and we have a ton of great restaurants and night spots to explore. You might not have time to take a historic tour — even though you totally should.
Lucky for you, Historic Saranac Lake has figured out how to take history to you with its new Cure Porch on Wheels.
A little background: a cure porch is the signature feature of a cure cottage, the housing used in Saranac Lake for tuberculosis patients in the early 1900s. The cottages feature a wider-than-average door frame that let nurses and doctors wheel less ambulatory patients into the porch, where the cold, clean air was said to ease the symptoms of TB.
The mobile cure porch hosts arts and culture activities and makes appearances at events across the region, including the aforementioned Street Fest, Cycle Adirondacks, and more. Keep an eye open for it while you’re out and about this summer.
3: We have an artisan-crafted carousel.
Those adjectives are often reserved for bourbon, cheese, or high-end furniture, but they truly do apply to the Adirondack Carousel.
Located on Depot Street in downtown Saranac Lake, the carousel operates year-round, seven days a week. The idea was born in 1999 when a local wood carver, Karen Loffler, read about a similar — albeit much smaller — carousel featuring woodland animals.
The idea picked up steam a few years later, and a nonprofit formed to raise funds and make it happen. Now a mainstay in the village, the carousel boasts a handcrafted otter, frog, deer, black fly, and twenty other creatures found in the Adirondacks. Each one is painted by a local artist. In addition, there’s a wheelchair-accessible chariot and a locally-forged weathervane atop the building.
The carousel isn’t just for kids and families, either; the building hosts events including community meetings, birthday parties, and more. And there’s a playground right outside the carousel’s doors. What more do you need for an afternoon with the kids?
4: We like to make sure there’s art EVERYWHERE.
There’s a well-loved Portlandia sketch about hipsters putting birds on things. In Saranac Lake, it’s sort of like that, except instead of birds, it’s art in all forms.
Weird sea creature sculpture art? Yup:
Word art? We got that, courtesy of the Adirondack Center for Writing.
Art in the middle of a busy intersection? Sure!
And if you prefer the more traditional art studio, well, we’ve got a lot of those, too.
5: We like to make outdoorsing easy.
Whitewater paddling, mountain biking down the side of a ski slope, a 10-day backpacking trip — these are all great ways to enjoy the outdoors. But depending on your physical fitness, your bank account, and your general ambition, they might not be the most accessible activities.
In Saranac Lake, we want you to enjoy the outdoors, no matter your comfort level or financial situation. We’re the originator of the easy(ish) hiking challenge, the Saranac Lake 6er—a concept that’s been embraced by several neighboring communities.
We have a year-round, multi-use recreational center at Dewey Mountain that features cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter and mountain biking and hiking in the summer. Newcomers to paddling can try their hand at canoeing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding right in town on Lake Flower or the Saranac River. And if you don’t own gear, no worries — you can rent gear by the hour or day for a modest fee.
Little adventures like these mean you can check out all of the things that make Saranac Lake decidedly different and still get outside and enjoy the Adirondacks. While you're planning, check lodging options, restaurants, and shopping!