I am an avid traveler, having visited many countries in Europe, South America, and various parts of the United States. I genuinely enjoy exploring new places, meeting small-town locals, touring regional landscapes, and having fully immersive experiences.
One place I had always wanted to visit was the Adirondacks, but over the years, more “exotic” locations seemed to push the Adirondacks further down my travel list. That is – until I received an invitation to visit the newly-built Saranac Waterfront Lodge in Saranac Lake, Upstate New York.
Saranac Lake is a small welcoming village in the Adirondack region. According to historians, it was a favorite destination of Albert Einstein. He reportedly sought refuge in the town’s charm and breathtaking natural landscape with its mountainous terrain, wildlife, deep green forests, and calm lakes.
Saranac Lake’s history as a settler’s territory dates back to the 1800s when the first Europeans arrived. But before then, most of those living in the Adirondack forest in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were Native Americans. The town and lake that flows through it were named ‘Saranac’ by its first inhabitants, The Iroquois Native American tribe. In the Iroquois language, ‘Saranac’ translates to “cluster of stars.”
Now that I have experienced this beautiful part of America, I highly recommend it. Should you make the trip yourself and are looking for welcoming accommodations, I suggest you consider the Saranac Waterfront Lodge. Perfectly tucked away amid landscapes where the Adirondack Mountains meet the lake, Saranac Waterfront Lodge is just a five-hour drive from New York City. The lodge welcomes visitors year-round to enjoy its hospitality and amenities and to participate in various activities as they discover life in the Adirondacks.
Since it was my first time there, I had no idea what to expect. I wondered, “What was the town like, and were the locals friendly? What was there to do for a city slicker like me? I had questions. But any angst I had quickly subsided once my partner Joe and I saw the lodge in the distance as we drove upon it. It looked like a postcard with beautiful honking geese and boats on the water in the early afternoon sun.
We checked in a little after noon, greeted by a young receptionist with a big smile who shared that the property featured 93 guest rooms, watersport rentals, and an indoor heated pool and hot tub. We also learned that eco-friendly operation methods and sustainability are among the defining characteristics of Saranac Waterfront Lodge, the only LEED-certified hotel in Saranac Lake and the Adirondack territory.
A circular-shaped lobby set the tone for the lodge’s overall design aesthetic — both quaint and classy; a combination of rustic and modern, with cozy touches such as a round chaise lounge, plush throw pillows, and fresh-cut roses.
Our King Guest Room was lovely, one of the premium accommodations offered. As evident by the name, the room features a comfortable, king-size bed, fluffy pillows, high-thread-count bedding for restful sleep, and nearly floor-to-ceiling windows. This room has two options: a city view or facing Saranac Lake. We were privileged to have a lake-facing room, and the view was gorgeous, especially at sunset.
A very personable brand ambassador — Sous Chef Alicia Hooker, gave me a fun and informative tour of the lodge. She led me through the sprawling grounds where the serene lake connected to a mix of lush greenery and wildflowers. Monarch butterflies were abundant, enchantingly fluttering from petal to petal. Multiple firepits with seating added a clever and festive campfire vibe at night, and making smores was encouraged. They even provided a smores-making kit with Hershey’s chocolate bars, graham crackers, marshmallows, and long wooden dowels. Yummy Fun!
Throughout my stay, I met various staff members who were kind and accommodating, even endearing, as they shared their love for the Saranac Lake community. Many of them reaffirmed that the lodge’s location was perfect for a stroll downtown, where a host of boutiques, art galleries, shops, and restaurants converged with nature’s adjacent lakes and hiking trails. As we explored the town, it had a real chill vibe. Everyone smiled and said hello in passing. No divisive political conversations were overheard at the local bars, where there seemed to be an eclectic mix of artsy types, hipsters, gays — presumably, and ‘regular Joes.’
Speaking of bars, if I had one gripe about Saranac Lake — and I mean — only one, the bars close between 10-11 pm. That is such an early last call. I mean, come on! Honey, in NYC, we don’t even leave the house to go out until midnight! But, in any event, for that weekend, I prevailed in my early night sobriety.
Alicia informed me of a fabulous artisanal farmers’ market within walking distance of the lodge. Every Saturday, it features locally-grown produce and handcrafted jewelry, clothing, furniture, food, home decor, and more. We had a blast meeting the locals as we walked through observing, sampling, and purchasing unique finds such as a delicious array of natural nut butter produced by a husband and wife team under their brand name, The Peanut Principle.
And speaking of delicious, here’s a perfect segue to the Saranac Waterfront Lounge’s restaurant, The Boathouse Saranac Lake Pub. No exaggeration, the food here is scrumptious, and hands down, their burgers may be the best gourmet burgers I have ever had.
With its lake views and indoor/outdoor seating, The Boathouse Saranac Lake Pub has become synonymous with the best culinary offerings in the Adirondac/Lake Placid region. I had an excellent opportunity to speak with the Bosnian-born Executive Chef, Ramiz Jasic, who shared his passion for creating menus with ecological consciousness and respect for local farming communities.
Chef Ramiz exuded pride when he explained why he chooses not to work with farmers who are irresponsible and negligent in their farming practices. He blew my mind by sharing that he can tell how an animal has been treated simply by tasting its meat. He recalled once sampling pork from a new farmer,
As I bit into it, it just wasn’t good quality, but more importantly, I could taste the sadness in the meat, and I knew that animal had been distressed.
In preparing menus for The Boathouse Saranac Lake Pub, and Harvest — the lodge’s upscale private dining room, Ramiz supports responsible local farm-to-table producers, which helps small businesses in and surrounding the Adirondack community. He continued,
“We are so privileged to have so many local purveyors in the Adirondack region. I look forward to working with them to create fantastic food that speaks to all our area has to offer.”
Among my personal favorites on the Boathouse menu are the French Toast Challah Bread, with strawberry cream cheese filling and signature Cornell maple syrup. And as for those burgers, the brunch-served Donohue Farms Burger, complete with locally raised Black Angus beef, brioche bun, habanero barbeque pulled pork, fried egg, chipotle aioli, with french fries, was to die for. Seriously, that alone was worth the 5-hour drive to Saranac Lake.
As for the lodge’s activities, the guest services coordinator offered to arrange rentals for paddle boards, canoes, kayaks, and bicycles. Surrounded by beautiful Adirondack mountains, you can bike, hike, paddle, or drift onto the expansive Lake Flower and Saranac Lake chain of lakes right from the hotel. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, they can also arrange a Scenic Flight Tour with Adirondack Aviation Academy, which delivers a soaring, one-of-a-kind 20-30 minute aerial excursion of the Adirondack Lake territory.
Overall I had a delightful 3-day stay at the Saranac Waterfront Lodge. A bonus was that within just 7 miles, we could also take a day trip to the incredibly picturesque Lake Placid. Once there, we shared a bottle of chilled prosecco overlooking Saranac Lake with its layers of mountain ranges looming in the distance. It was fabulous!
Maybe I’ll return to Saranac Lake in the fall. I hear the autumn foilage is otherworldly. Or perhaps I’ll go back in the Winter for the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival, which features festivities, food, fireworks, and a life-sized world-famous ice palace you can walk through —created entirely out of actual ice.
I encourage you to discover this stunning part of New York with its unspoiled beauty, rustically nostalgic architecture, and respect for its human and animal neighbors, including a host of moose, black bears, squirrels, raccoons, foxes, bobcats, Lynx, whitetail deer, bald eagles, and more. It is truly a wondrous display of nature’s beauty. As for Saranac Lake’s gay community, there isn’t one per se, but again it’s a welcoming community in general. And just 30 minutes away is the town of Keene Valley, where rainbow flags are on full display on homes and shop windows. Each year Keene Valley hosts what is possibly the only pride celebration for the Adirondacks.
So, for anyone who normally takes the drive from New York City to vacation in Montreal, keep in mind that there are roughly just 100 miles between Montreal and Saranac Lake, making Saranac Waterfront Lodge a perfect destination to stop, discover and stay along the way — s’il vous plait!