By Katie DeTar
History, nature and culture come together in northern New York’s Adirondack Mountains, and one small town’s serendipitous mix of these three essential destination elements creates a magical vacation setting.
Lake Placid’s charming alpine-esque Main Street is the central hub for activities that surround the village.
Package that up with the unique story of being a two-time Olympic host, and you’ve got a perfect four season getaway.
Athletes from around the world descended on Lake Placid in 1932 and 1980 for competition and camaraderie, and that spirit continues today. Olympic facilities host thousands annually for training, coaching, and events. It all lends a unique spark of international hospitality and diversity. And, despite its ease of accessibility, gives visitors the sense they’ve stamped their passports and landed overseas.
The landscape, too, feels at times otherworldly. There is beauty in the Adirondacks unlike anywhere else. Wildflower-filled meadows open up to expansive views of misty mountains and bright blue skies. Thousands of lakes, many surrounded by untouched state land, welcome pairs of elegant loons to their cool, dark waters. Rivers tumble into waterfalls as they glide over rocky cliffs and creeks. The six million acres of protected wilderness–a patchwork of public and private lands–feels vast and expansive.
Lake Placid locals are a tremendous mix of rugged and refined. There’s a laid-back causal nature here, with hiking boots and polar fleece being the standard wear. Friendly and unassuming, you’re bound to encounter someone eager to give you hiking advice just as readily as sharing where to find an elegant five-course meal and an evening concert.
And everyone appreciates the charm of Lake Placid. Unparalleled beauty meets Olympic history to create and inspire the unique culture that is the Adirondacks.
What To Do…
The 1980 “Miracle On Ice” defeat of the Soviet Union by the USA Men’s Hockey Team played out in a deceptively small ice arena right on Main Street–and just next door to the oval where American Eric Heiden skated into history that same year, earning five gold medals and breaking five Olympic records. Relive these and other sports moments at numerous venues in and around town. Or, get into the action with an interactive experience! The bobsled and luge tracks offer thrilling summer rides down a wheeled track. Other options include indoor and outdoor skating at various ice rinks, a biathlon shooting range, cross country ski areas, and 86 trails of downhill skiing at nearby Whiteface Mountain.
An up-close experience and hidden gem is the USA Luge team’s training facility. This is only one of two indoor start tracks in North America. Daily tours offer a glimpse inside the up-and-coming team USA headquarters, its indoor training facility, and the technology behind the team’s sleds and gear.
In the summertime, one of the most unusual and entertaining Lake Placid sights can be viewed from the bleachers at the Olympic Jumping Complex. Freestyle skiing athletes launch off of ski jumps to twist and twirl through the air, before landing into a 750,000-gallon pool! The soft landing into the pool allows the skiers to perfect their twists, flips and spins before launching off the jumps and onto hard-packed snow the following season. It makes for a thrilling show.
For an incredible view of the village and surrounding mountains, take the chairlift to the base of the neighboring 120-meter ski jump, and then hop on the glass-walled elevator to the top. The view is stunning, and puts into perspective the rush of ski jumping. Just peering down the ramp of the steep jump gets your heart racing.
Even beginners can capture the fun of rock climbing thanks to experienced guides and trips like those offered through High Peaks Mountain Guides.
Royce Van Evera’s love of the Adirondacks and all things outdoors radiates through his positive go-get-’em attitude and warm smile. As one of the high peaks most experienced guides, he’ll get you suited up at the Guide House on Main Street, and then lead you to your climbing destination. A good bet is the Wilmington Notch; an imposing bare rock face that’s tall and vertical enough to provide a real thrill, yet approachable enough for first-timers to make it to the top.
Learn footwork and climbing techniques, voice commands, how to tie proper knots, and safety precautions–all with the encouragement of an experienced guide like Royce pushing you beyond your personal limits. You’ll have fun, surprise yourself with your accomplishment, and be nice and hungry for lunch back in town.
Eager to explore mountains and trails on foot? Check. Searching for the perfect spot to launch a kayak and head downstream? Check. On the hunt for the perfect fishing spot? Check. Whatever adventure you’re seeking, it’s within easy reach from the village.
Anglers from all over the world visit the Lake Placid region and the AuSable River, famous for its trout populations and accompanying fly fishing. Guide services offer half and full day trips, and well as gear and instruction.
Nearby waters are also prime locations for kayaking and canoeing. Right in the village, the small but charming Mirror Lake’s calm waters are ideal for a quick afternoon paddle and sightseeing. For a longer paddle, try the nearby Lake Placid Lake. Rentable canoes, kayaks, and stand up paddleboards, as well as half-day trips, are available from numerous local outfitters.
Mountains and wilderness surround the village, and a nearby hike can be anything from an easy afternoon stroll to a day-long outing to the top of a nearby peak. Both options are rewarding, energizing, and will leave you coming back for more.
Whatever option you choose, just be sure to respect the natural environment, leave it cleaner than you found it, and always follow the proper safety precautions when setting out on a trail.
Learn more with Lake Placid Visitor’s Guide to the Outdoors
In addition to numerous sporting events, Lake Placid plays host to special events and festivals of all kinds. The long-standing annual horse shows take place every June. The events feature some of the best riders and horses from the United States, and draws more than 5,000 spectators. The annual I Love BBQ and Music Festival is quickly becoming a July 4 tradition, bringing to town some of the top grill masters from the country. And in July, triathletes from all over the world come to Lake Placid for the Ironman 140.6-mile race, drawing more than 2,500 participants and thousands of spectators to the Adirondack course.
Where To Eat…
Artisans, located at the upscale Lake Placid Lodge, beautifully blends Adirondack elegance and local cuisine with world flavors and inspiration. Seasonal, rotating menu options include elk, rabbit, and salads designed by the seasons. Treat yourself to the multi-course tasting menu while you soak in the magnificent view from your table of the lake and Whiteface Mountain. Don’t miss the expansive wine list.
Liquids and Solids at the Handlebar boasts a James Beard-nominated chef at the helm, thus expectations are high for this unassuming restaurant just outside of town: It does not disappoint. A deliciously creative and ever-changing menu of small and large plates, combined with some of the most unique cocktail creations around, make this a not-to-miss culinary destination. An added bonus: creative “mock-tails” and house made sodas ensure anyone can imbibe.
Simply Gourmet puts a fun spin on sandwiches, with 46 options named for all of the 46 high peaks of the Adirondack Mountains. From “Iroquois Peak” (chicken salad) to “Sawteeth” (peanut butter and banana), there’s a sandwich for every taste and style. Creative sides, desserts and an in-house specialty foods market round out your lunch options.
Emmas ice cream parlor hearkens back to the days of soda fountains, malt milkshakes and jukeboxes. Owner Emma Hughes and her team serve up waffle cones, chocolate-dipped soft serve and sundaes in an oh-so-charming Main Street location, complete with old-fashioned red and white stripe décor. Grab a cone before strolling the shops of Main Street, or heading down to the bandshell at Mid’s park for an evening outdoor concert.
Lake Placid Chocolatier creates confections that are almost too gorgeous to eat. This recently-opened addition to the Lake Placid culinary scene offers genuine locally-made truffles in ever-changing flavors like margarita and earl grey tea. It also following suit with a mountain theme, creating chocolate barks in flavors like “birch bark” and “switchback almond bark.”
Where To Stay…
Lake Placid Lodge
144 Lodge Way
Lake Placid, NY 12946
The only full service hotel on the shores of Lake Placid Lake, this five star resort destination caters to guests’ every need, while maintaining a rustic elegance that defines the Adirondack Mountains. Choose from a beautifully appointed Lodge room or suite, or expand out from the main lodge into one of the individual and private lakefront cabins. The views of Whiteface Mountain from either option are stunning, as is the artwork and ambiance of the property. Relax fireside while roasting marshmallows, enjoy the daily Hacker-Craft boat tours, borrow a mountain bike for the afternoon, or simply sit back and enjoy a meal on one of the many stone patios and balconies. The location is easily accessible to town and the surrounding area, but with many options right on property and the beyond helpful staff, you may find yourself drifting away in the on-site lean-to for a restful afternoon right at the Lodge.
- Free Wi-Fi
- Some pets allowed (in private cabins)
- Thirteen guests rooms, seventeen private cabins. All have stone fireplaces, private baths, and hand-built furniture.
- While there is a stone fireplace in every room, you won’t find a television. The Lodge strives to maintain a tranquil mountain setting and offers one TV for guest use in Maggie’s Pub.
- Room rate includes and full made-to-order breakfast, turndown service, and stocked refrigerators and snacks.
- Two on-site restaurants: upscale Artisans and casual Maggie’s Pub.
- Odds of Encountering Children: Lower than average! Children over the age of 12 are welcome. All younger children are welcome during special family weeks only!
Flights are available via regional carrier to the Adirondack Regional Airport in Saranac Lake, NY, about a 20-minute drive from Lake Placid. The international airports of Burlington, VT, Albany, NY and Montreal, Canada, are about a two-hour drive from Lake Placid. Bus service via Adirondack Trailways is available from New York City.
For More Information…
Lake Placid is a hub of activity all year round. For a full schedule of events, activities and ideas, contact the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism/Lake Placid CVB.
– Photos Courtesy Katie DeTar and David Lalley.