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Adirondack towns and villages capture the region's essence

The Adirondack Park has 6 million acres, more than 100 towns and villages, dozens of scenic roadways, and hundreds of things to see and do. Unlike other parks, it has no gates and no admission fees -- just an imaginary line surrounding it on the map.

How does one begin to learn about and explore such a vast area? The best way is to head to the middle of the region and visit four towns and villages which, as I learned last summer, pretty much captures the essence of the region. While my family visited during the summer, this area would be a great place to visit in early fall, when the leaves are just beginning to change.

The first place we visited was the hamlet of Blue Mountain Lake, which is home to the Adirondack Experience: The Museum at Blue Mountain Lake (formerly called the Adirondack Museum). This museum is open seasonally from the end of May to mid-October. You could easily spend a whole day exploring the more than two dozen buildings on the museum’s grounds which have exhibits on the history and culture of the Adirondacks. Note that admissions are valid for a second day within a one-week period, so you can take your time going through the 120-acre site.

The museum, which is celebrating its 60th year, just opened a new 19,000-square-foot exhibit this spring. “Life in the Adirondacks” features five major galleries, each focusing on a different time period of Adirondack history.

Hoss's Country Corner (Photo by Christine A. Smyczynski)

While you may spend most of your time in this building, be sure to allow time to visit the other buildings on the s campus. The boating building has exhibits explaining the essential role that boats played in transportation in the area. Another building has exhibits on the logging industry. You can even climb to the top of a 1919 observation tower used to watch for forest fires, which once stood on Whiteface Mountain. The museum even has a very nice café that overlooks Blue Mountain Lake.

The next town you’ll want to visit is Long Lake. One of the must-see attractions, besides the picturesque lake, is Hoss’s Country Corner. This variety store has all sorts of items on two floors, including Adirondack-themed gifts, jewelry, a large selection of books about the region, toys, clothing, camping supplies and more. We spent a lot of time (and money) at this store!

If you have time, you can take a two-hour scenic boat tour on the lake with Long Lake Boat Tours. Although we didn’t stay overnight here, the historic Adirondack Hotel, which has two verandas overlooking Long Lake, is here.

Our next stop was the Wild Center, in Tupper Lake, about a 20-minute drive from Long Lake. This nature center focuses on the natural world of the Adirondacks. There is a lot to see and do, both indoors and outdoors, so your admission is good for two consecutive days.

The fire tower at Adirondack Experience (Photo by Christine A. Smyczynski)

Our favorite activity here was going on the Wild Walk, an elevated, tree-top walk that has more than 1,000 feet of walkways, bridges, and platforms. My kids especially liked the huge spider web that is suspended 24 feet above the forest floor. You can jump into it, walk across it, and bounce around on it. You can also climb into a huge eagles nest to get a bird-eye view of the surrounding mountains. The Wild Walk remains open until the end of October. There is also a nature trail at ground level that takes you to the picturesque Oxbow Marsh.

In addition, the Wild Center has 34,000 square feet of indoor exhibits, open year-round, that features many hands-on exhibits, live animals, videos to view, and much more.

From Tupper Lake you’ll follow tree-lined Route 3 to Saranac Lake, which has a number of interesting attractions. Check out the Adirondack Carousel, which has hand-carved animals. Instead of the usual horses, this carousel has animals native to the Adirondacks, like large-mouth bass, squirrel, beaver, and bob cat, to name a few.

Saranac Lake is also home to the author Robert Louis Stevenson Cottage and Museum. During the winter of 1887, Stevenson and his family lived in this cottage while he recovered from tuberculosis. The museum has the largest collection of Stevenson items in the United States. He is best known as the author of the book Treasure Island.

We enjoyed a walk along the Saranac Lake Riverwalk, a 1½ mile long multi-use trail through the downtown area along the Saranac River. As you stroll along the trail, there are signs with information about Saranac Lake’s history. The downtown business district features gift shops, as well as the Left Bank Café, which has a dining porch overlooking the river.


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