Only 20 minutes from Lake Placid, it ironically gets a whole lot quieter…
The first thing you’ll notice on this trip is that life gets a lot quieter in the Adirondacks outside Lake Placid. Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake are smaller towns and much more rural than the glam of Lake Placid.
Quick History of Saranac Lake
Saranac Lake has an interesting history, one of its more well-known aspects is its role in the treatment of tuberculosis, a contagious disease that afflicted people in the prime of life and killed many of those who contracted it.
As the history goes, Dr. Edward L. Trudeau, arrived in the village in 1876 as an invalid after contracting tuberculosis, hoping to spend his last days in the woods he loved so well.
He arrived too weak to walk and yet after three months in the Adirondacks, he had improved enough to return to New York City with “the appearance of a man in good health.”
After that, he made it his life’s work to help treat those with tuberculosis. He became the first person to artificially culture the bacteria that causes tuberculosis and test it on rabbits in his makeshift home laboratory.
From there, in 1894, The Saranac Laboratory for the Study of Tuberculosis was the first lab built in the U.S. for the research of tuberculosis and hundreds flocked there every year to treat their ailments.
This led to a boom in the town and many advancements in the treatment of tuberculosis. There’s a lot more to this story if you want to read up on it here.
Things to Do & See at Saranac Lake
Saranac Lake has a few other surprises other than its medical history. Here are some of the things we enjoyed on our visit.
Historic Saranac Lake Museum
In the present day, Historic Saranac Lake painstakingly restored the Saranac Laboratory and opened it as a museum in 2009 with exhibits on scientific research and patient care.
The museum is open year-round, Tues-Sat, 10am-5pm. Admission is $5.
White Pine Camp
As well as being a mecca for tuberculosis patients, wealthy families of the early 20th century discovered the beauty of the region and many built Adirondack great camps.
Luckily for us, several of these great camps are still around and open to the public today!
One such of these in Saranac Lake is the White Pine Camp.
White Pine Camp offers historic walking tours at certain times of the year. The tours are about an hour and 45 minutes.
They include the history of the Camp and colorful stories about the owners, dignitaries, and celebrities who stayed there. For example, it served as the Summer White House for President Calvin Coolidge in 1926.
You’ll tour many buildings including the Great Room, Bowling Alley, Japanese Tea House, Boat Houses, and Tennis House as well as the Alpine Rock Garden.
The tours start at the White Pine Camp gate and always run rain or shine.
Another highlight you can’t miss while you’re in Saranac Lake is a live performance at the Pendragon Theatre. The Pendragon Theatre is the backbone of the artistic community in this region, performing for over 40 years.
Every summer they have a few different shows. The shows run from June to September and they perform several nights a week! Visit their website to see the current shows and schedule
Tickets range from $20-$35 depending on the show. Their number is (518) 891-1854 and their address is 15 Brandy Brook Avenue Saranac Lake, NY.
Paul Smith's Visitors Interpretation Center
A 15 min drive north out of Saranac Lake is Paul Smith’s College which has a spectacular Visitors Interpretation Center (VIC).
The Paul Smith’s VIC has 25 miles of trails, including 6 miles of interpretive nature trails. They showcase the natural beauty of the Adirondacks and provide great opportunities to view, hear, photograph, and enjoy nature.
The trails weave through woodland and marshland, by ponds, brooks, and bogs.
Many of the trails are scenic 1-mile loops on surfaced trails which make them easily walkable.
There are also a number of guided programs each day including canoe paddles, nature walks, mushroom foraging, and birding.
Right next to the VIC entrance is also the Breck Chapin Memorial Native Species Butterfly House, featuring butterflies and moths in all stages of development. It is open from 11 am to 4 pm, seven days a week between June 23rd and September 3rd.
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Things to Do & See at Tupper Lake
Once you’ve had your fill of Saranac Lake, hop on to NY-3 W for half an hour to reach Tupper Lake. There are a couple of great pitstops along the drive.
Just outside of Saranac Lake, Baker Mountain is a popular short but sometimes steep trail.
Round-trip’s only about 1.8 miles and at the summit. You’ll have outstanding views of the distant High Peaks, the village of Saranac Lake, and the Upper, Middle, and Lower Saranac Lakes.
Another great, quick hike is Panther Mountain on the way to Tupper Lake.
The trailhead is right on the side of the road and the trail is only 0.6 miles to the summit (1.2 miles round-trip). So, it’s about an hour and a half hike up and down.
The Wild Center
The main attraction in Tupper Lake is The Wild Center. The Wild Center is an outstanding natural history museum and integrates between an indoor and outdoor museum.
We really liked how the architecture of the Wild Center blends itself into the forest it’s in!
Inside there are multiple exhibits that will give you a deeper understanding and appreciation of the inner workings of nature in this unique region. There are over 900 live Adirondack animals, including porcupines, owls, snakes, fresh-water fish, and a pair of entertaining otters.
Outside, enjoy the enchanted Forest Music, a place-based sound and art installation on a walking trail, meant to create a novel way of experiencing nature.
The Wild Walk Suspended Platform
The Wild Walk takes you along a series of trails and bridges that lead up to the treetops of the Adirondack forest. You’ll be on a suspended platform up in the trees with a bird's eye view of the surrounding area.
See this video for a really cool view of the Wild Walk suspended platform.
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