Have you ever wondered what makes people decide to move to Saranac Lake? What it is about this town that draws people back like a magnet? I have. Many times. So, I set out to answer that question.
I fall into the category of magnet people - those who have moved away, but returned, like there was some stronger force at play, drawing me here. I moved back to Saranac Lake after calling the Florida Keys home for many years, then spending a subsequent year traveling cross-country through Central & North America. After all of the traveling, I decided it was time to press pause and settle in somewhere. Saranac Lake, being the place I was raised, was perfectly suited. The community was inviting, it was comfortable to be back amongst family and friends, and it felt right. My husband, who is not from the area, shared my same sentiments. I didn’t question his motives, and after one summer in the area we decided this was home, so we purchased our first house in Lake Clear.
After settling in, this return home begged the question “why Saranac Lake?” There were a lot of other perfectly good options. When we were roaming the country, we had considered staying on the Big Island of Hawaii, in the Pacific Northwest, finding a bungalow on the coast of California, and most realistically, setting down roots in the Crystal Coast of North Carolina, where my husband is from. But in the end, Saranac Lake won.
This had me wondering, again, because I’m not the only one, “why Saranac Lake?” I’ve seen so many friends return to this town after years of being away. Friends who had started careers in bigger cities, friends who had travelled around like I had, and friends who “just couldn’t stay away." So I wanted to see what it was about Saranac Lake that drew so many people back. And what about the people who weren’t from here, but decided on Saranac Lake just the same? I know plenty of people who have relocated here as well. People who, like my husband, had no ties to this community, but loved it like it was their own.
A unique community
I sat down with a few of these people, and here is what I’ve learned: above all else, there was an overwhelming emphasis put on the type of community Saranac Lake is - the unspoiled beauty, and how much this area has to offer. You’ve probably heard the term “decidedly different” by now, and it should come as no surprise that Saranac Lake truly is that. The community here is like no other. We are authentically Adirondack, but there’s so much more! This area and our community are like no other I’ve ever experienced, and this was the same response I received from everyone I spoke to as well.
Take Mary, a native of Saranac Lake, who shares a similar story to many who were able to return during the changing times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mary left the area to attend college in 2006. She moved back on Memorial Day weekend of 2020. Mary said that she had always spent a good amount of time at home, and spent several summers living back in the Adirondacks, but a big part of her leaving was related to her career. “I was able to move back in 2020 because I was working remotely during the pandemic. It originally wasn’t meant to be permanent but the longer I stayed, the more I realized I wanted to finally move back full time.”
When asked about the community, Mary shared that “Saranac Lake is filled with incredibly hard-working people. I think that work ethic is at the core of the community. It’s also incredibly charming, from the look of Main Street to our traditions like Winter Carnival.”
“I’ve often referred to my childhood here as magical. It’s such a safe community and we were able to play in nature in a way that is incredibly rare. I’ve been able to go work and live in other major cities, but I’ve realized I’d much rather give back to the community that shaped me. My father always told me that Saranac Lake is the best place in the world to live, but it’s also the hardest place to make a good living. With the amount of young people moving here or moving back, I think we can change that without disrupting the character of the town.”
This brings up a good point. Saranac Lake has held a reputation for its small town charm for a while, but if you take a look downtown, at some of the newly emerging businesses, and the type of person moving to Saranac Lake, it becomes clear that where opportunities once were slim, Saranac Lake is growing. We see young professionals moving here, families with children, and despite the struggles of COVID, there are an abundant amount of employment opportunities to be filled in this area.
Finding a connection
Next I spoke with Lizzy and Aaron, a couple that recently moved to Saranac Lake from different parts of Ohio. Lizzy and Aaron met here in the Adirondacks back in 2017. Aaron was interning with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and Lizzy at a company in central New York. After falling in love with the area (and each other), it was always a plan of theirs to return. They have visited the area over the last four years, to enjoy the hiking, camping, and cross-country skiing opportunities this region has to offer.
“Ever since Aaron and I finished our internships in 2017 and moved back to Ohio to complete our degrees at University of Cincinnati, we knew we wanted to end up back in New York following graduation. We actually each had accepted seasonal positions with the DEC at the beginning of 2020, but, due to the pandemic, we were unable to make the move work at that time. We then moved from Cincinnati to Cleveland and had full-time jobs there for about a year. I was then offered a full-time position with an engineering firm in Saranac Lake, and Aaron was offered a full-time position as a Union Carpenter based out of Plattsburgh. We both saw this as the perfect opportunity to make our dream move to Saranac Lake happen.”
Lizzy says that her favorite part about living in Saranac Lake is the community. Through her job, she has been able to meet many professionals in Saranac Lake, and outside of work she has gone to ArtWalks and dined at some of the local restaurants. “Everyone I’ve met has been very welcoming, and it is wonderful to be living in a community where everyone is friendly and helpful towards one another.”
When asked what makes this town so special, Lizzy said it was the rich history that Saranac Lake embodies. “I can appreciate that while times change and trends come and go, Saranac Lake pays tribute to its historical roots while still growing and developing. Not only is the natural scenery of lakes, rivers, mountains, and wildlife timeless in beauty; the town's history is also put on display through its museums, monuments, and architecture.”
Authentically Adirondack, Decidedly Different
I heard from several other decidedly different locals, whose stories mirrored these; whether they were relocating to Saranac Lake, or returning home, everyone shared the same feeling of community, the same appreciation for our beautiful surroundings, and enjoyed all there is to do in this area. So the answer to my question became clear: it was the same things that drew me back to this area that welcomed so many others. Saranac Lake truly is a special place.
Whether you're a first time visitor or a seasoned Saranac Lake pro, there is always something new and exciting to discover. Locals, visitors, neighbors, and new friends all feel right at home in Saranac Lake.