Adirondack heritage is intertwined with distinctive styles of crafts and folk art. Inspired by the forest, 19th- and 20th-century craftsmen designed furniture with twig details, bark veneer, burls, and branches to bring nature into their homes. Traveling between lakes and rivers in the wild woods inspired the creation of small "carryable" wooden guide boats and packbaskets. As old craft traditions are passed down, new ones evolve. Some crafts are practical; others are simply decorative. As you discover the fine works of the artisans and craftspeople that cherish the traditions and beauty of the Adirondacks, your appreciation will be enhanced for both the natural world and the creative arts.
DAY ONE: Saranac Lake, home of the arts, sciences and natural beauty
Saranac Lake offers more than just the beauty of "The Great Outdoors." At Saranac Laboratory Museum, the first laboratory in the United States devoted to research on tuberculosis, you can visit the cottage where composer Bela Bartok spent the last summer of his life. Take a walking tour of the town where ‘cure' cottages and TB treatments fueled the local economy until 1952 when successful antibiotic treatments were discovered.
At the Adirondack Artists' Guild, a co-op style gallery, you can view the diverse works of Adirondack artists and find perfect treasures for your home. The Fortune Studio on Main Street houses the studio/gallery of an award-winning native son and painter whose work is inspired by the surrounding High Peaks. Browse more galleries nearby, including Saranac Lake Artworks and North Wind Fine Arts (just next door to a charming place for a French-style rendez-vous, The Left Bank Café); Mark Kurtz Photography; and BluSeed Studios, housed in a transformed 1930 train warehouse building. Want the bigger picture? Catch a ride on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, which runs from Saranac Lake to Lake Placid.
DAY TWO: Queensbury, Lake Luzerne and Lake George
Step inside the Chicken Coop Forge in Queensbury (near Lake Luzerne) and immerse yourself in an iron-clad quandary: traditional or modern? Thankfully, no firm decision is needed. You'll find heirloom quality furniture, ornamentals, fireplace accessories, chandeliers and more, all forged in various styles by local blacksmiths who use iron, steel, bronze and copper. Browse the showroom gallery, or order pieces made to your specifications.
In Greenfield Center, the General Bailey Homestead Farm has all things wool, including the sheep it grows upon. You may purchase hand-knit sweaters; stock up on needlework supplies and products (from yarn and buttons to spinning wheels and rug making necessities); attend classes in knitting and other fiber arts; and even learn to care for sheep.
There's no shortage of artisans in the Lake George area. You'll find Arts & Craft Festivals in warm weather months, plus year-round events promoting all the arts: visit the Courthouse Gallery at Lake George Arts Project for one such venue. In the busy central shopping district, admire the works of fine regional artists and craftspeople that are inspired by the breathtaking Adirondacks.
At the Ralph Kylloe Gallery outside town on Rte. 9N, you'll enter a one-of-a-kind world of rustic arts. The 7,000 square foot log cabin gallery, operated for 30+ years, offers hundreds of high quality furnishings and antique accessories; they're happy to make custom pieces too.
Just west of Lake George village in Lake Luzerne, visit the Adirondack Folk School, the only school in America devoted completely to teaching the unique arts, crafts and culture of the Adirondack region. Half-day to week-long courses by skilled artisans teach how to make your own twig and rustic furniture, pack baskets, quilts, canoe paddles, soaps, hooked rugs, herbal salves, stone walls, home accessories - and you could even learn to build an Adirondack cabin! Check the schedule for evening fireside gatherings; visit the gift shop; or just stop by for a look-see.
DAY THREE: Keene and Keene Valley
The Town of Keene and the surrounding Keene Valley boast several shops and galleries offering an authentic Adirondack experience. Driving into town from the south (on Route 73 off I-87), The Birch Store (which opened its doors in 1890), captures the true spirit of an old general store plus local art, home furnishings and more. The large barn behind Bald Mountain Rustics (at the corner of Main and Market Streets) houses the workshop where many of the proprietor's unique root chairs, dining tables, arbors and other creations are made (featured on PBS' Rustic Living). A sculpture gallery in the old Methodist Church is open most summer afternoons. Like thrift and vintage items? The Adirondack Attic carries the work of local artisans, plus furniture on consignment and "a little of everything," from antiques to collectibles.
The Dartbrook Lodge, ADK Café and Dartbrook Rustic Goods Store is a peaceful "High Peaks" oasis of Adirondack charm and artisan crafted works of art. If you want a little hustle and bustle too, downtown Lake Placid and the Olympic competition and training sites are nearby.
Owl's Head Mountain Rustic Furniture Gallery (two miles west of Keene on Rt. 73) specializes in early Adirondack Great Camp designs using locally harvested woods. In 6,000 square feet of showrooms, you'll find much more, including a shop devoted to quilts and gifts. Between Keene Valley and Keene, on 9N towards Elizabethtown, the Mitchell Heritage Gallery features paintings and other works of art in a gallery across from the Baxter Mountain trailhead.
Dartbrook Lodge - intersection of Routes 73 and 9N in Keene)
Fortune Studio - Saranac Lake
General Bailey Homestead Farm - Greenfield Center
340 Spier Falls Road?Greenfield Center, New York 12833-2005
Keene and Keene Valley
Lake George Arts Project
Lake George's Festival of Arts & Crafts
Left Bank Café - Saranac Lake
Mark Kurtz Photography - Saranac Lake
Mitchell Heritage Gallery - Elizabethtown
North Wind Fine Arts - Saranac Lake
Owl's Head Mountain Rustic Furniture Gallery - Keene
Ralph Kylloe Gallery - Lake George
The GPS address is 1796 Rt. 9N, Lake George, NY 12845