Review of Saranac Lake, NY: A scenic little town in the Adirondacks


Saranac Lake Riverside Park, NY

As is usually the case, our slow traveling, where we stay at a location for a month or longer, allows us to see more places during our stay in our temporary AirBnB rental.  Whereas if we were on a typical one week vacation, we would stay in the same area for the most part, slow traveling allows us the time and the freedom to venture out to places we normally wouldn’t.

Because of that, our radius of exploration (how far we’re willing to travel by car) varies on each trip, but in general, we consider up to a 3 hour drive time to be the outer limit of that ‘exploration radius’.  When we’re booking our month long trips, we’re booking it knowing we may not come back to that same AirBnB/Vrbo rental anytime soon. 

It’s because of this fact that we’re trying our best to see as many places near that temporary home as possible.  For example, during our 3 months long trip to South Carolina (December 2021 - February 2022), we didn’t just stay near Myrtle Beach area, but rather we ventured out as far as Congaree National Park, which is about a 3 hour drive from our rental.

Our trip to Tupper Lake in the Adirondacks was no exception, as we ventured out to places like Glens Falls, which is about a 2 hour drive from our temporary home.  It was also during this stay that we decided to check out Saranac Lake, one of the closest towns nearby, merely a 30 minute drive from Tupper Lake.

After checking into our AirBnB rental in Tupper Lake on April 1st, we decided to revisit Lake Placid, where we had stayed 20 years ago to ski the Whiteface Mountain.  On our way over to Lake Placid, we passed the town of Saranac Lake, which we thought was really scenic, and therefore worth our time to explore.

So, on a beautiful and sunny weekday the following week, we decided to check it out!  We absolutely loved the fresh, alpine, crisp air right outside of our temporary home as we headed out.  

Our drive to Saranac Lake from Tupper Lake took about 30 minutes via NY 30 and NY 3 heading east.  Both of these roads are incredibly scenic, with lake views and plenty of trees lining the roads.  We passed seemingly one trailhead after another, as well as ponds/lakes/boat launches along the way.

Saranac Lake is called “the Capital of the Adirondacks”, mainly due to its largest establishment within the Adirondacks region.  It was named the best small town in New York and ranked 11th in the U.S. in the Best Small Towns in America.  

We arrived at Saranac Lake Riverwalk and parked next to the police station.  We commented that that  place was probably the safest place anywhere at Saranac Lake!

After parking, we headed straight for the Riverwalk.  Saranac Lake Riverwalk is a 1 mile (round trip) long walkway that encourages leisurely walks along the Saranac River.  It weaves through historic downtown area where many shops and restaurants are located, and it makes for a nice day trip in the Adirondacks region.

Bit of history at the entrance to Riverwalk
Entrance to Riverwalk, Saranac Lake, NY
View of downtown area

We crossed the bridge to get to the Riverwalk from the parking lot.  Saranac River was churning and raging downstream that day in torrents.  It had rained few days prior, so that made sense.

We started our walk across the river, and noticed plenty of people walking around the Riverwalk.  We read up on the history of the area then made a left turn to head downstream.  The Riverwalk ended around about the 1/4 mile mark, so we crossed another bridge to get to the other side of the river, the same side of the river where we parked our car.

The Riverwalk then headed into the downtown area, towards Broadway.  We turned right on Broadway to check out the stores and restaurants.  We noticed many were closed for the spring break.  We met a friendly local who let us know most of the stores will be reopening around the end of April, when spring break ends.

We didn’t mind.  We still enjoyed our leisurely stroll reading the names of shops/restaurants and seeing famous local celebrities displayed throughout downtown area, ala the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, but displayed on side of buildings like this below.

Bela Bartok, a famous 20th century classical composer 

Broadway was indeed true to its name.  It was several blocks of stores/restaurants/cafes, and the friendly local gentleman we had met let us know how busy the area gets during the summer months.  We believed him, as even on that day, there was a hum of activity throughout Broadway, with trucks making their deliveries, people walking around browsing the stores like us, and lots of vehicular traffic.

We walked all the way out to Broadway, then crossed the road to get to the Riverside Park.  Riverside Park is located on NY Route 3/River St. and it is a fantastic little park with excellent views of the lake and the surrounding mountains. 

Along the way, we met up with several dogs (and their parents) and of course we had to stop by to pet them all (dogs, not the parents!).  We were so happy to see dogs enjoying a beautiful sunny day, with their tails wagging left to right, and happily meeting new humans.

Riverside Park was just fantastic.  The views of the lake with mountains in the distance is something out of Europe, like the Alps, or somewhere in Switzerland.  It was just magnificent.  At the entrance to the park, we saw two extremely cute teddy bear statues made of stone.  They were supposedly father/son duo, with the father wearing a fisherman’s vest, holding a fishing rod, while the son is holding the fresh catch of the day in a basket!  So cute!

Two cute teddy bear statues!
Sign on Route 3
The baby teddy bear!

We enjoyed the serene beauty of the area, taking a stroll towards the boat ramp/launch.  We loved several high end homes overlooking the lake, and wondered how expensive those houses might be…

Riverside Park, Saranac Lake, NY

We followed the walkway that a golden retriever and its owner took, and kept on going until we got to what felt like the main area of the park, the boat ramp/launch area.  We loved the views!

By the boat ramp, Riverside Park, Saranac Lake, NY

We took few moments to immerse ourselves with the surroundings, taking in some deep breaths, and trying to memorize the scenery the best we could.  It’s definitely moments like these that make us grateful that we’re able to travel and see places like these after our early retirement…

By that time, we were getting hungry, so we discussed where we should go to eat.  We saw several delis along the Riverside Park on the other side of the street, but we weren’t in the mood for that that day.  We had secretly hoped the Italian restaurant, Little Italy, might’ve been opened, but that wasn’t the case that day.

We knew this restaurant also has a location at Tupper Lake (where we were staying), so we headed home to eat at the Tupper Lake location.  We’re glad we did, as the coffee and the pastas were awesome!

My wife had the shrimp penne ala vodka and I had the shrimp pasta.  The pastas were perfectly cooked (al dente), the sauces were both phenomenal, and even the dinner rolls were superb.  We loved the food!

After a satisfying meal, we headed to our temporary home about 3 blocks away.  It was a perfect day trip from Tupper Lake!

In conclusion:  

Saranac Lake is the lesser well known but definitely much less expensive option (compared to the more famous Lake Placid), to set up as home base when visiting the Adirondacks region.  Compared to Lake Placid, streets are less busy and is more idyllic.

Views of Saranac Lake is arguably more beautiful than the Mirror Lake at Lake Placid, in my personal opinion.  Although you can’t go wrong staying at either place, if less bustle (and more bang for your buck) is your thing, then Saranac Lake might be a better option for you.

No matter where you’re staying in the Adirondacks, a visit to Saranac Lake is a must, as there’s so much to do.  It has a legitimate Main Street/Broadway with plenty of shops/restaurants/bars/cafes, and it boasts the beautiful Riverside Park and Riverwalk.  

To make things even easier for families on budget, there’s even an Aldi supermarket right in town at Saranac Lake, which we went twice so we can cook our own meals at our temporary home!

We hope you enjoy your visit to the Adirondacks region in your future!  Happy trails!

Thank you all for reading!


Wandering Money Pig 

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