Winter in the Adirondacks is a treat. Skiing, tubing, and snowshoeing fill the days. Hot cocoa with plump marshmallows warm us up after a day of play. One of the most unique ways to spend winter days is at the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival, an annual event of epic fun, games, and a palace made of ice, all celebrating the wonders of winter. Best of all, most events are within walking distance — or a very quick drive — from many of our hotels and motels! This year's event takes place January 31 - February 9, at locations throughout the village and is a great reason to visit the scenic winter wonderland that is Saranac Lake. Below, check out some of our favorite parts of carnival, which we think you'll love, too.
Strolling around the village during carnival, you'll notice a lot of people wearing big, colorful buttons. Every year since 1981, Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, who grew up in Saranac Lake, has designed a special button for carnival that matches that year's theme. Recent designs have featured a bear (Adirondack Wildlife), woolly mammoth (Prehistoric Park), and a sparkling ice palace (Adirondack Festival). This year's theme is Myths & Legends and features Trudeau's beloved character Zonker riding Pegasus. Join in the festivities and purchase your button at a number of locations throughout town, including Carnival Headquarters near the palace. It'll serve as a fun reminder of a memorable vacation.
Pro tip: buy your button at Carnival Headquarters (130 River Street), then walk down the street view the palace and grab a bite to eat at locally legendary Lakeview Deli.
A sparkling palace
If you made snow forts as a kid and reveled in crawling into and over and around your personal winter palace, you must visit the Winter Carnival ice palace. Every year, dedicated volunteers cut blocks of ice from Lake Flower and assemble a beautiful, sparkling palace of ice — with slush for mortar! — that is the centerpiece of carnival's celebrations. The design of the palace changes every year, is specially lit from within the icy walls, and offers kids of all ages the opportunity to explore. Pose for a photo out front, or put your arm around an ice sculpture. There are even special, kid's only spaces.
In town on the first night of carnival? Then don't miss the official lighting of the palace and vibrant fireworks display.
Pro tip: visit the palace for fireworks, but come back in the daytime to take a peek at special activities held on the ice throughout the day, especially on the first Saturday and Sunday.
Join in the fun
Winter Carnival is full of entertaining, quirky activities that visitors can participate in, with no experience needed! Simply dress for cool weather, bring your sense of humor, and get ready for winter fun! Events include snowshoe races, learn to curl, a children's scavenger hunt, and FlowerBall, a wild and wacky combination of shuffleboard and curling, played with a bowling ball!
One of carnival's most popular activities is the Ladies' Fry Pan Toss. A cast iron frying pan is tossed across the snow in Riverside Park. The woman who tosses the pan the farthest wins a medal and eternal bragging rights! There's even a Little Ladies' Fry Pan Toss for the younger crowd!
Families always love Arctic Golf, a mini course set up on the frozen lake and snowy shores of Lake Flower. Teams can opt to join in building the obstacle-style course, or simply putt and play! Maybe you've played some interesting courses, but this may be the most fun yet!
One of those unusual winter sports that many people only hear about during the Winter Olympics, curling, is very popular in Saranac Lake. We have our own curling club! During carnival, local curlers offer fun, interactive demonstrations and the chance to try out this super cool (literally and figuratively) winter sport.
Pro tip: stop at one of our flavorful coffee shops for a hot drink and snack, then stroll through downtown to check out activities!
Saranac Lake on parade
For many, the highlight of carnival is the parade, held this year on Saturday, February 8, at 1 p.m. The parade route begins at the corner of Ampersand Avenue and Broadway, continuing through downtown to the judges' stand in front of the historic Town Hall. Local organizations, community groups, and performers parade through downtown in costume, dancing, playing instruments, and showing off their themed costumes. It's great fun for everyone.
Pro tip: before the parade, enjoy a meal at one of our many downtown restaurants. From pizza to burgers to tacos, it's all there and it's all good. Then find a spot on the Main Street sidewalk for parade views. Be sure to go early!
Saranac Lake is a friendly family vacation destination all year long, but is especially lively and action-packed during carnival. Stay with us and enjoy our classic Adirondack hospitality!
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