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Tuesday, May 14, 2024

3 Adirondack Towns to Check Out This Summer

Hiking, fishing, boating, to be sure. But also browsing, lounging and snacking.

It’s wouldn’t be a Capital Region summer without some quality time spent in the Adirondacks, and this year offers up some fun new hotspots. Whether you want to tackle a few high peaks, shop ‘til you drop in the cutest small towns this side of the Mississippi, or just chill by one of the many lakes with some great sips and snacks, we’ve got you covered.

Schroon Lake: Recreational Bliss 

Schroon Lake—idyllic, tranquil, scenic—is an underappreciated reality set deep within the Adirondack mountains. Unlike Saranac Lake and Lake Placid (which you’ll read about in a moment), Schroon doesn’t have a sexy backstory. Founded after the American Revolution around 1800, it has always managed to draw in-the-know visitors to its glittering lakes and fantastic hiking trails. 

Stay at the newly minted Lodge at Schroon Lake, with 116 places to stay, from the five simple, rustic glamping sites (guests have access to a fully stocked bathhouse with a kitchen, communal lounging space, showers and bathrooms) and cabins (which range in size and are suitable for between one and four guests), to classic suites, rooms and vast, two-floor, two-bedroom, two-bathroom chalets. 

The Lodge opened mid-June after an extensive renovation of the 36-acre former Word of Life bible camp, with an upgraded campus of amenities. Visitors have access to mini golf, an oversized chess board (each piece is roughly 36 inches high), pickleball, basketball, volleyball and a playground. Families with kids will appreciate the Cub’s Den, where families can hang for an evening of supervised arts and crafts, games and movie nights. The Game Room, with pool tables, foosball and shuffleboard is also a fantastic amenity for families with kids of all ages. 

There is a 53,000-gallon indoor pool, hot tub and saunas, but probably the best draw is the Lodge’s dock with a boat slip available for overnight guests with boats. (Pontoon, kayak and paddle board rentals are also available.) Schroon Lake is a fisherman’s paradise, with abundant stocks of smallmouth and largemouth bass in the summer, along with northern pike, landlocked salmon and lake trout.

Schroon Lake’s 34,488-acre Hoffman Notch Wilderness Area is well worth exploring, with 15 miles of hiking plus ponds and streams for fishing. The popular Hoffman Notch Trail extends 7.4 miles, and while it’s long, the terrain is rated easy to moderate. It’s a beautiful slice of backcountry. 

Culture vultures will want to check out the Seagle Festival’s plays and catch a flick at the charming mid-century Strand Theater. Dine at the historic restaurant at the Lodge, The Brown Swan, or the more casual Bevy—which offers easy, snackable fare and great drinks. Or head off property to the popular Paradox Brewery, which serves up imaginative beers.

Saranac Lake: Nurture Your Inner Artiste 

In many ways, Saranac Lake offers all of the attractions of its glitzier Adirondack siblings (yep, we’re looking at you, Lake Placid), with less hustle and bustle. Come here if you’re ready to slow your roll. 

Stay at Hotel Saranac, which embodies the town’s past and present. Built in 1927 as the first fireproof hotel north of Albany, the hotel was designed to be—and quickly became—an icon of the town, a draw for visitors and a hub for the community. Today, after a five-year, top-to-bottom renovation, it offers both modern comforts and the charm of the Gilded Age—with original details in the arcade-style entry hall, Great Hall Bar and Grand Ballroom.

The amenities—deluxe massages at the Ampersand Salon & Spa, build-your-own s’mores at the Campfire Adirondack Grill & Bar, and cocktails at the Great Hall—mean you don’t ever have to leave the resort. But while you don’t have to leave, you really should. If you want to hit the trails, Baker Mountain offers a moderate 1.8-mile hike from trailhead to summit, located just steps off of Broadway in town and boasting spectacular views of Saranac Lake, Lake Flower and the High Peaks. If you’re ready for a more serious challenge, tackle one (or more) of the six Adirondack peaks surrounding the lake. 

There’s also an array of problematically adorable (and bargain-priced) goodies in stores all centered in the small, walkable downtown. There are books (Book Nook), organic goodies (Nori’s Village Market), artwork (the Adirondack Artists Guild) and clothes (The Village Mercantile). 

And don’t leave town without grabbing breakfast or  lunch at the Blue Moon Cafe (breakfast is served all day, except the French toast and pancakes). And for a rollicking  dinner, round of pool or darts, rootsy live music and locally brewed beer,  head over to Bitters & Bones.

Lake placid: For the Sporting Spirit 

Lake Placid is arguably the most well-known town in the Adirondacks, largely for hosting the Olympic games twice (1932 and 1980), but also for the serene majesty of its setting and the almost painfully quaint browsing, sipping and eating opportunities in the alpine village.

Being a more touristy town means Lake Placid has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to options for places to stay—you can’t go wrong with the High Peaks Resort, Mirror Lake Inn or the newly renovated Grand Adirondack Hotel (formerly North Woods). The main High Peaks Resort has a waterfront location right on Main Street and serves as the resort’s hallmark location. The amenities are modern and luxe but down home  and family friendly: Expect a welcome glass of Champagne, an Aveda Concept Salon and Spa, a fully equipped fitness center, the relaxed Dancing Bears restaurant, a seasonal patio for clinks and drinks, two indoor pools, two outdoor pools and free use of kayaks on the lake. You can even bring Fido (for an extra fee). 

Mirror Lake Inn also has an elaborate spa including an indoor pool, plus an outdoor pool for these steamy summer days. Foodies head there for The View, the area’s only AAA Four Diamond–rated restaurant. Down Main Street from High Peaks, the Grand Adirondack Hotel boasts the rooftop Cloudsplitter Bar that’s perfect for summer cocktails. 

When it’s time to head into town, your first stop should be the Lake Placid Olympic Center and Museum, which turns the sometimes-humdrum recitation of sports stats into a living, breathing, exciting and interactive history and sports experience. Next, you could hit Mirror Lake Beach on foot for some sunbathing, or take a short drive over to High Falls Gorge, an easy hiking trail set on 22 acres, with several paved and flat trails with stunning views of waterfalls. This is a great option for families or those who aren’t in the mood for extreme physical exertion. If you want to work harder for your views, head over to the Algonquin Trail to hike Wright Peak and/or Algonquin Peak.. 

Now, time to browse and graze on Main Street. Explore one of the best indie bookstores in New York, Bookstore Plus; support local craftspeople at Adirondack Decorative Arts & Crafts; shop the best in outdoor-chic gear, Ruthie’s Run; or sample Beef Jerky Experience’s 100+ varieties of jerky, plus hot sauce, spice rub and peanuts. When it’s time to refuel, hit up Salt of the Earth, a small bistro run by women, with homey dinners that taste like a love letter to the region.

Whatever you’re craving, the ADKs have it. So what’s your summer 2023 vibe?        

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