Sparkling lakes, soaring mountains, and stunning views – that’s what you’ll find in the Adirondack Mountains in the state of New York. Established in 1892, this region encompasses millions of acres and is filled with the sights and sounds hundreds of thousands of visitors enjoy each year, from serene nature to quaint streets. However, that’s not all you’ll find here. The Adirondack region is also home to many unique towns with natural, historic, and man-made features that set them apart from anywhere else in the country. When you’re planning your next trip, consider these six destinations. You are sure to create once-in-a-lifetime memories here.
If you’re a fan of the Olympics, then Lake Placid is a must visit. This Adirondack town is where the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics were held – and you can still enjoy the event sights on your visit. For example, race down the Olympic bobsled track or try speed skating in the Olympic oval. Next, get off the slopes and head into the town where you can visit the Olympic village and browse through the Olympic Museum. If you’re not a fan of cold-weather Olympic sports but still love working out in the outdoors, you can take part in the annual summer Ironman race that’s held here.
For many visitors, there is no place like Saranac Lake in the heart of the Adirondacks, thanks to the massive winter events held here each year. The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival has been held annually for over 120 years. The story of how the carnival began is a unique one: it is said that tuberculosis patients flocked to the town because of the refreshing cool, mountain air and how it helped to ease their symptoms. While there, they needed some entertainment, and the carnival was born. These days, you won’t find many tuberculosis patients at the carnival, but you will find an ice palace complete with an ice throne, as well as elaborate floats, spirited dancers, and a game known as the Ladies Frypan Toss.
If American military history is your thing, you’re going to love the Ticonderoga. This small Adirondack town is home to Fort Ticonderoga, formerly known as Fort Carillion, built in the eighteenth century. Of great strategic military importance, this fort played an important role in the Revolutionary War as well as in the many colonial rifts between the British Empire and France. The town of Ticonderoga also offers other pursuits, such as portaging, paddleboarding, kayaking, for when you need a break from the military history. If you’re a Star Trek fan, you’ll enjoy walking the set of the original series, also located here.
What makes Tupper Lake unique is the Adirondack Sky Center and Observatory. Being up in the mountains already gives you a boost, but the state-of-the-art facility elevates the stargazing experience. The pitch-black nighttime skies coupled with the roll-off roof observatory means you’ll be able to see all of the wonders the night sky has to offer. The observatory contains four mounted telescopes, including an award-winning one, as well as many smaller telescopes and astrophotography equipment. When you’re done gaping at the stars, head to The Wild Center, named a People’s Choice Top Attraction, to check out the live exhibits and walk the guided trails.
Keeseville is a go-to Adirondak town for those who seek adventure. Here’s where you’ll find Ausable Chasm, which is known as the “Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks.” You can hike stunning mountain-scapes, float through majestic bodies of water, and experience the almost-unnerving quiet of the Mystic Gorge. While you can do these activities individually in other towns in the Adirondacks, you can only do them all together in Keeseville. If those natural attractions aren’t enough, you can also scale the stone walls over the river and put your rock-climbing skills to the test. And if you’re brave enough, try rappelling over the Ausable river.
If you’re coming to the Adirondacks from any big city, you’re going to want to stop in Lake Clear. Why? This small town is a really small town, with a population of only 388 residents in 2023. It’s eerily quiet, incredibly pristine, and full of natural wonder, such as the crystal-clear lake and massive surrounding forests. While you’re here, be sure to visit (or stay at, if you’re lucky) The Lake Clear Lodge which boasts a private 1,000-acre beach. If you come in the fall, you can enjoy the fresh harvest menu served at the lodge. For wintertime, the lodge will take you on romantic sleigh rides through fresh piles of snow.
Old Forge is a highly regarded small town situated along the scenic shores of First Lake, offering an ideal setting for individuals seeking tranquility and outdoor leisure pursuits such as fishing and camping. The town is also known for hosting the annual Adirondack Canoe Classic, a challenging 90-mile race that attracts professional paddlers and provides enjoyable spectating opportunities.
The town's main thoroughfare is adorned with a diverse selection of locally-owned boutiques and dining establishments. Among these, the Front Door Diner (adjacent to The Back Door Bar), Mountainside Smokehouse & Grill, and Slickers Adirondack Tavern stand out, each presenting distinctive culinary offerings and beverage choices. Furthermore, the Strand Theater offers a culturally enriching experience, catering to those interested in the arts, while the Fulton Chain Craft Brewery is recognized as the premier destination for refreshments.
The Adirondacks offer varied natural scenery and small-town charm at every corner, but there are some towns here with unique attractions that are hard to pass up. Whether you’re looking to be left breathless by the beauty of nature, want to immerse yourself in American history or the wonders of science, or just want to go somewhere that is truly off the beaten path, you’re going to find it in this mountain range.