The Adirondacks Park is a spectacular region, brimming with thrilling attractions and scenic views. Waterfalls, lakes, and rivers sparkle across 6-million acres of natural wonder, an outdoor enthusiast’s dream just waiting to explore. Tucked away among the towering landscape are a host of cute towns in the Adirondacks, simply waiting for adventurers to arrive.
These hidden gems offer a plethora of activities for you to experience the beauty of upstate New York in every season. With endless local attractions, these quaint spots are the perfect respite to escape from, especially for those of us living in NYC.
How to Get Around the Adirondacks
As New Yorkers, we understand that not every traveler owns a car. But owning a car is not necessary to get around these charming towns in Upstate New York. There are several alternative modes of transportation visitors can consider when navigating the region:
- Buses: Bus travel is an excellent option for those looking to travel to and around the Adirondacks. Trailways and Greyhound bus stops (including a joint terminal in Albany) are located conveniently throughout the region. Many towns also offer shuttles and local services to help visitors travel between attractions.
- Car Rentals: For those who want to drive, Enterprise and Hertz car rentals are the most popular and best-reviewed in the area, located outside some local Adirondack airports.
- Adirondack Train (Amtrak): Amtrak train service to the Adirondacks begins at Penn Station, with nine stops in the region from Saratoga Springs to Rouses Point.
- Flights: There are a few airports in the Adirondacks.
Cute Towns in the Adirondacks to Visit
Please Note: Because nature preservation is vital to the region, the communities of the Adirondack Mountains encourage all visitors to take the Love Adirondacks Pledge by practicing Leave No Trace ethics that help to keep wildlife and natural resources healthy and flourishing.
Pssst… If you love hiking, check out our favorite hikes in Upstate New York.
1) Lake Placid ★
The town of Lake Placid is one of the most beloved Adirondack villages, sitting on the northern tip of the Adirondack Park region between the towns of Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake. Thus, making it the perfect launching pad to visit the nearby Adirondack towns and top attractions.
Lake Placid’s Olympics Culture: Most famously, the town of Lake Placid was home to the 1936 and 1980 Winter Olympics! So you’ll see cultural remnants of the Olympics scattered around the town; such as the Olympic village, sporting attractions, and the Olympic Museum. And most recently, Lake Placid is undergoing vital upgrades as it prepares to host the 2023 World University Games! How exciting!
Lake Placid Highlights
You can visit Lake Placid year-round and still have a seemingly never-ending list of fun things to see and do in this magical lake town. Here are some of our favorites:
- Winter sports: In the winter, you have to try at least one winter sport. Take a cross-country skiing class, hit the slopes at Whiteface Mountain, or if you’re not athletic, go on a leisurely snowshoeing trail. The winters at Lake Placid are never boring!
- Hiking: In the summer, don’t miss the stunning hiking trails in Lake Placid. Whiteface Mountain Summit, Cobble Lookout, and Indian Head are three of our top favorites for some epic scenery.
- Biking: Cycling fanatics will enjoy the Iron Loop extending 56 miles along the gorgeous Cascade Lakes along the Ausable River. Other popular routes include the River Road and Wilmington Notch.
- White Water Rafting: Guide services for white water rafting are available to take visitors through Ausable Chasm and Indian Lake to raft along the Hudson River.
- Take a scenic drive at any time of the year along Adirondack Loj Road, one of the most stunning roads overlooking the High Peaks.
Cute Places to Stay in Lake Placid
- Mirror Lake Inn: A gorgeous resort and spa retreat overlooking the sensational Mirror Lake and a short drive from several ski attractions in the area. They also have one of our favorite restaurants in Lake Placid!
- Whiteface Lodge: This luxury spa resort features such a homey and beautiful rustic design that it was featured in the popular HBO show: Succession (about an affluent business family). This lodge offers lots of activities and amenities, including a heated pool and a skating rink.
- Lake Placid Lodge: This waterfront hotel is known for offering all-year-round activities, including boating, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing, and more.
2) Saranac Lake – Hidden Gem ★
Ahhh, this is one of our favorite towns in the Adirondacks year-round! In the winter, Saranac Lake offers a true winter wonderland that’s quaint and more local. In the summer, you can indulge in the outdoors. Also, there are endless options for historical exploration here.
Cool Things to Do in Saranac Lake
- Winter Carnival: The Winter Carnival is a 10-day event filled with family-friendly games, exhibits, live music, a parade, and more.
- Art galleries: Saranac Lake is home to several art galleries supporting local artists, including Saranac Lake Artworks and the Adirondacks Artists Guild.
- Snowshoeing: The sport of snowshoeing is well established in the Saranac Lake region. The town features a range of trails for snowshoers from beginner to expert, with the Dewey Mountain Recreation Center just a short drive from the downtown.
- Ampersand Hike: You can hike this rail in the summer and winter for some epic mountain lake views.
- Ice Fishing: This is a popular local sport in the Adirondacks! Especially in the nearby Lake Colby.
- History: Visitors in the downtown area can follow a brick path leading to grab a bite or discover the rich history of this logging region.
- For instance, history buffs may enjoy the Saranac Laboratory Museum, originally built in 1984 and the first in the country to study tuberculosis.
3) Saratoga Springs ★
Though technically not in the Adirondacks region, we love situating ourselves in the city of Saratoga Springs while doing day trips all around the Adirondacks. Saratoga Springs is just 30 minutes from Lake George and is more affordable for accommodation while still offering amazing gastronomy and lake-side culture. On top of that? There is an Amtrak station that goes right into town!
Even more interestingly, this college town/small city was named after the discovery of refreshing mineral springs surrounding the area. Saratoga Springs is most popularly known for its beautiful Saratoga Lake as well as being the home of Saratoga Spa State Park (one of our favorite New York State parks).
We love Saratoga Springs as a year-round destination. Winter or summer!
Best Places to Visit in Saratoga Springs
- Saratoga Spa State Park: Visitors far and wide come to this special New York State Park for culture, spa treatment, and to get a taste of the natural spring water!
- Saratoga Performing Arts Center is a spectacular outdoor amphitheater in the Saratoga Spa State Park. It’s home to the New York City Ballet and is considered a popular stop for touring artists.
- Roosevelt Baths & Spa: Also located in Saratoga Spa State Park, this spa offers mineral baths, massages, and other spa treatments.
- Gastronomy: Saratoga Springs has some excellent restaurants to choose from. We LOVE getting Iberian food/drinks at Boca Bistro. And the chicken wings at the local pub Nostalgia Ale House & Wine Bar were good with a nice view of Saratoga Lake.
- Drinks: Grab a cocktail at the historic Adelphi Hotel. Or head to Caffe Lena, a cozy hidden gem with live music.
- Horse Race Track: We’re not really into horse racing at Dominican Abroad, but the Saratoga Race Track is arguably the most popular attraction in Saratoga Springs. It’s the fourth oldest racetrack in the U.S. and hosts racing days from mid-July to early September.
Where to Stay in Saratoga Springs
The Adelphi Hotel is a unique accommodation in the heart of Saratoga Springs that guests will adore. With a Great Gatsby design, guests feel like they are stepping back into time at every turn. The Adelphi Hotel is close to the Saratoga Automobile Museum, the Saratoga Winery, and a handful of acclaimed local restaurants.
4) Lake Champlain REGION, New York
The waters of Lake Champlain spread across the northeast corner of the Adirondacks region, partially spilling over into western Vermont and southern Quebec– so bring your passport if you’d like to cross over into Canada! The lake also touches the New York towns/cities of Plattsburgh and Ticonderoga; making the region of Lake Champlain an easy launching pad to the region’s highlights.
What to Do in/around the Region of Lake Champlain
- Fort Ticonderoga: Many Adirondack travelers already have Fort Ticonderoga on their bucket list. Built in 1755, this Revolutionary War-era relic is always hosting demonstrations and events, including the Heritage, Harvest, and Horse Festival.
- Ausable Brewing Company: Grab a cold brew at this small brewery which also offers food trucks and live music on some days.
- Blueberry Hill Trails: These trails can be enjoyed year-round for mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, and much more.
5) Paul Smiths – Hidden Gem ★
Paul Smiths is a quaint little town is located along the Lower Saint Regis Lake and is most popularly hme to the prestigious Paul Smiths College. Surrounded by mountain peaks and lakes fronts, Paul Smiths visitors tend to be outdoor enthusiasts looking to tuck away from touristy spots.
Local Attractions of Paul Smiths
- Paul Smiths College Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) is rich in outdoor recreational activities. Highlights of the VIC include ski lessons, hiking, snowmobiling, bird watching, and nature explorations.
- Six Nations Iroquois Cultural Center: Eight miles from town sits the Six Nations Iroquois Cultural Center. The rich culture that shaped the Adirondack region is often hidden under flashy attractions on the landscape, originally belonging to six Native American tribes. This beautiful museum honors the history of the indigenous people of the Adirondacks.
6) Lake Clear – Hidden Gem ★
We LOVE the village of Lake Clear. It is yet another New York State hidden gem. This tiny village technically only has two small restaurants and a population of 508 people! But hear us out on why it’s one of our favorite places to visit in the Adirondacks. Even though it’s less than two miles from the Adirondack Airport, and even though it offers tons of cute things to do, this quiet village remains a relatively off-the-beaten-path destination in the Adirondacks.
Highlight Attractions in Lake Clear
- Canoeing: Nearby Lake Clear is the Saint Regis Canoe Center, a major draw for paddlers looking for motor-free waterways.
- Donnely’s Ice Cream: No matter what else you have planned, guests have to stop at Donnely’s for an ice cream treat. This local favorite has been standing since 1956, and there’s a reason for it.
- Snowmobiling: Snowmobilers love the well-groomed trails of Lake Clear as they explore the nearby trails of the Saranac Lake region. Go to Charlie’s Restaurant for the rentals.
- Lake Clear Lodge: This is one of the coolest cabin rentals in Upstate New York. Read why below.
Where to Stay in Lake Clear
Lake Clear Lodge & Retreat has a slew of cool things for visitors to do during their stay. One of the last of the original Adirondack Great Lodges open to the public, this establishment strives to establish a community among its guests. They offer a Fireside Speakeasy, history workshops, cooking demos, food tastings, sleigh rides, and more!
7) Tupper Lake
Tupper Lake is loaded with opportunities to explore the serene natural beauty of the Adirondacks. Regardless of whether it’s winter or summer, there are plentiful things to do in this Adirondacks town.
Best Attractions in Tupper Lake
- The Wild Center: This is a fantastic natural history preserve located on a 31-acre campus, featuring indoor and outdoor exhibits, including the Wild Walk– a thousand feet of bridges and platforms rising over the treetops.
- Adirondack Sky Center & Observatory: Astronomy and astrology lovers must visit the Adirondack Sky Center & Observatory on the northside of Tupper Lake, one of the best destinations for sky viewing on the East Coast.
- Looking for a quirky treat? Washboard Donuts is a famous local donut shop selling delicious treats inside of a working laundromat!
8) Schroon Lake
Schroon Lake is an iconic small lake town located halfway between Lake George and Lake Placid. Featuring several lakefront rentals and an RV park in proximity to the boat launch, Schroon Lake can provide for a low-key family getaway.
Popular Attractions in Schroon Lake
- Stroll the Downtown: In the busy downtown area, visitors can pop into the vintage Towne Store or trendy 9-Mile Coffee before overlooking the lake on Towne Beach.
- Natural Stone Bridge & Caves: This unique attraction is worth the trip. It’s been family-owned for over 200 years and features the largest marble cave entrance in Eastern New York.
- Schroon Lake Golf Course: a multipurpose landscape, transforming into the Schroon Lake Ski Center during the winter and open to the public for skiing, tubing, and sledding.
- Sticks and Stones Wood Fire Bistro and Pub: This is by far a favorite eatery, especially for their pizza and pulled pork sandwiches.
- Schroon Lake: In the summer you can go kayaking or canoeing on the lake. There is also the Schroon Lake Hobie RegattaAnd in the winter, this lake is booming with ice-fishing tents and snowmobiles.
Located in the Whiteface Mountain region, Wilmington is just 20 minutes from Lake Placid. This town is perfect for outdoor lovers since most of it is Forest Preserve land. It’s also home to the majestic Whiteface Mountain!
Highlights of Wilmington
- Adirondack Wildlife Refuge is home to local majestic animals visitors can see, such as wolves, moose, bears, and other keystone predators like the bald eagle and great horned owl.
- The North Pole: This is a magical community in Wilmington and home to one of the first theme parks in America, Santa’s Workshop. The park has been in operation since 1949 and features a village of lights, weekends with Santa, and other holiday-themed events. This is one of the most unique things to do in Upstate New York!
- Wilmington Beach: In the summertime, come here for a refreshing swim and cool off.
- Chase waterfalls: Check out Flume Falls (which has a swimming hole) and High Falls Gorge. These are some of the coolest waterfalls in New York State to visit!
Where to Stay in Wilmington
The Wilderness Inn Chalets offers cute cabin rentals for travelers looking for the authentic feel of an Adirondack getaway. On-location barbeque facilities and terraces provide a serene experience in the forest, with hiking, cycling, and skiing opportunities available in the area.
10) Au Sable Forks
Au Sable Forks is a small hamlet in the Adirondack Park containing two branches of the Au Sable River. Named after the French word “Of Sand”, Au Sable Forks is the perfect location for visitors looking for small-town activities, outdoor fun, and big-time wildlife adventures.
Highlights of Au Sable
- ★ Ausable Chasm: Often called the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks, the Ausable Chasm is an outdoor lover’s playground, providing access to Rainbow Falls, Column Rock, and the Mystic Gorge.
- Asgaard Farms & Dairy: One of the best parts of Au Sable Forks is Asgaard Farms & Dairy. Here, guests can purchase quality goods at the farmstead creamery and visit baby goats in the nursery.
- Tahawus Center: plays a critical role in inspiring community growth and culture, featuring an art gallery supporting local artists and creators.
11) Indian Lake + Blue Mountain Lake ★
Some of the more affluent communities in the Adirondack region are in the Blue Mountain Lake and Indian Lake regions. This Blue Mountain Lake village is located 15 minutes from the downtown of Indian Lake, and both are hailed for their abundance of outdoor attractions such as boating, camping, and hiking. Blue Mountain Lake is named after the High Peak, Blue Mountain, providing a wondrous view from an elevation of 3,759 feet.
Attractions in Blue Mountain Lake + Indian Lake
- Hikers can travel through the Blue Mountain Forest, stopping to gaze over Blue Mountain Lake from the historic Fire Observation Station. The trail to the summit travels over Blue Mountain in the direction of Long Lake, attracting more than 15,000 hikers a year.
- Art lovers can check out local vendors and attend live musical performances at the Adirondacks Lakes Center for the Arts all year-round.
- Museum: Blue Mountain Lake is home to the Adirondack Experience, featuring 40,000 square feet of exhibitions exploring the landscape’s logging, mining, and history.
12) Old Forge
Old Forge is an active hamlet in the region’s center, serving as one of the western gateways to the Adirondack Park. Known for sporting killer snowmobile trails in the winter, Old Forge has recorded some of the lowest temperatures in New York State– if you’re going in the winter months, dress warm!
Highlights of Old Forge
- Downhill and cross country skiing adventurers will love McCauley Mountain Ski Resort featuring a 633-foot drop and biking trails for summer visitors.
- Moose River Farm offers year-round llama trekking on their farm for visitors 8-years-old and up, a unique and highly recommended experience.
- Water recreation is huge in Old Forge, and Grasse River Adventures offers visitors a true north country outdoor experience with fishing, hiking, paddle boardings, and even hunting tours.
13) Lake George
Finally, known as the “Queen of American Lakes” and the most popular town in the Adirondacks, Lake George is a favorite destination for annual Adirondack travelers. Its proximity to New York City (3 hours) makes it also one of the busiest towns to visit. Located at the southern base of the Adirondack Park, Lake George is a narrow oligotrophic lake that stretches 32-miles long into the upper Great Appalachian Valley.
The downtown area can become highly overcrowded in the summer months, with many tourist shops and pop-up vendors. But the Lake George region is massive, and there are endless options to stay busy on your visit. By the way, if you’re living in NYC, here is our guide to the five ways to travel to Lake George from NYC.
Favorite Things to Do in Lake George
- Lake George dinner cruises are very iconic and romantic attractions. You don’t have to get caught up in the crowds when you schedule ahead.
- Outdoor water lovers can go tubing, whitewater rafting, or cruise around on the lazy river at Adirondack Adventure Center. Ziplines and treetop adventures are also available.
- Separate yourself and book a campsite on the Lake George Islands. Some of the islands are large, offering 90 campsites, while others are private, offering only two to three.
Where to Stay in Lake George
- Guests who love an antique feel to their hotel will be thrilled with The Inn at Erlowest. This stone Queen Anne revival castle sits perfectly on the lake, with stunning views of the water and a ton of amenities.
- The Blue Moon provides quaint and cozy rooms only a two-minute walk from the beach and close to Lake George village for a low-key stay.
Read Our New York Travel Guides
If you loved this blog post, check out a few of our many other New York State travel guides below:
- 27 Beautiful New York State Parks to Explore this Year – A Bucketlist!
- 30+ Things to do in Oswego, NY – Our College Town
- Best Beaches in New York State to Enjoy this Summer
- Places to Visit in Upstate New York + Hidden Gemes
- 17 Unique & Interesting Cities in New York State to Visit (Instead of NYC)