Donnelly’s Ice Cream and The Wild Center are winning stops during Adirondacks trip


Do you need toothpaste? Go to the drug store and mull the 18 different types you can buy. Looking to buy a T-shirt to work out in? There are six different styles you might want to consider. A jar of spaghetti sauce? Ooy. Get ready to spend 15 minutes considering the plethora of offerings.

All this is good, most of the time, but sometimes I’m flummoxed by all the options and beset by doubts about making the right decision.

Donnelly's Soft Ice Cream stand

Donnelly’s Soft Ice Cream stand

At Donnelly’s Soft Ice Cream stand outside of Saranac Lake, the decision is already made for you. The longtime Adirondack purveyor of creamy treats sells just one kind of ice cream a day. That’s it. You can choose what size you want, but they only serve one flavor a day and that flavor is mixed with vanilla in a twist.

Oh, you also can buy eggs or butter while you are in the tiny shop.

I got to try this Adirondack staple a couple weekends ago as Daughter B and  I traveled through a few of the Adirondacks’  “Lake” communities  — Long Lake, Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake, and Rainbow Lake.   Daughter B’s friend and college roommate brought us to Donnelly’s after meeting us and walking us through the terrific Wild Center museum in Tupper Lake.

Friend E, who works at Donnelly’s during the summer, had told us about the one-flavor-a-day rule but I just couldn’t believe it was true until we walked in the door and learned the cold, hard truth: it was chocolate with a vanilla twist or nothing at all.

In a world of options, how does Donnelly’s survive this way? Mainly it’s through truly wondrous ice cream. The ice cream is  creamy, smooth, and flavorful. It is produced using the same  machine that was installed back in 1953.

As Friend E explained, there are long lines out the door on warm summer nights. You can visit Donnelly’s Facebook page to see how devoted their patrons are, and also what flavors are available on which days.

The Wild Center in Tupper Lake

The Wild Center in Tupper Lake.

We earned our chocolate twist cones that day because we had walked quite a bit during our first-ever stop at The Wild Center. This outstanding natural history center is a must-see the next time you’re traveling through the ‘dacks.

There are plenty of interactive exhibits for the children, and  beautifully laid-out  spaces that provide a wealth of information about the wildlife that fills the 6-million acre Adirondack Park. We loved watching two of the center’s four otters put on a show for us as they were fed special treats tucked into chunks of shaved ice. We were able to walk through some of the back rooms and see timber rattlesnakes, owls, and porcupines that call the center home.

The interactive Planet Adirondacks exhibition is a must-see.

The interactive Planet Adirondacks exhibition is a must-see.

When you go, make sure you leave time to watch the Planet Adirondack virtual exhibition that features  a floating Earth. Driven by a software program accessed by a guide using an iPad, some 500 data sets are available for display on the Earth. Four projectors showed vivid illustrations of hurricane patterns, airline traffic, and water currents. We could watch how Super Storm Sandy crawled up the East Coast and how powerful tsunamis can be, oohing and aaahing as data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was displayed through compelling crystal-clear visuals.

The center, which is the first LEED-certified museum in New York state, also offers walking trails, a playground, and a chance to canoe on its 31-acre campus. It really is a great place to enjoy and learn about the Adirondacks.

An exhibition includes a display of the average brain size of a trout and a human. Who out-thinks who on the Adirondack waterways?

An exhibition includes a display of the average brain size of a trout and an angler. Who out-thinks who on the Adirondack waterways?

Buttermilk Falls in Long Lake was absolutely roaring during our visit. A 40-year visitor said he's never seen the falls running so fast

Buttermilk Falls in Long Lake was absolutely roaring during our visit. A 40-year visitor to the region said he’s never seen the falls running so fast.

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One thought on “Donnelly’s Ice Cream and The Wild Center are winning stops during Adirondacks trip

  1. Donnelly’s is a mandatory stop when in the Saranac Lake area.

    The Wild Center is great except for the snakes !

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