Over the course of many years my family and I passed the exit for Lake Placid, New York on Highway 87 and wondered when we would actually visit the former Olympic Village. Well, over the recent holidays that day finally arrived – several days in fact.
On our way back from New York City, Lake Placid was added to our itinerary and I can now strongly recommend others do the same. This is a four season destination. We got a taste of the winter experience and now we are tempted to go back in the heat of the summer. I cannot say enough about the personnel at the Lake Placid Convention and Visitor’s Bureau/Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (www.lakeplacid.com), who really helped point me in the right direction.
In Lake Placid, winter brings the sparkle of snowflakes, the twinkle of lights reflecting on Mirror Lake and the soothing glow of crackling fireplaces in Lake Placid. The area boasts a world-class array of trails for skiing and riding Of course things were a bit different this year. Not much snow had fallen up until early January, when we departed. Therefore the lake was not frozen and automatic snowmaking machines had to work overtime.
For those readers already looking for good March Break options, pencil in Lake Placid. By then you should be able to slide down the toboggan chute on frozen Mirror Lake, go ice skating, take an invigorating dog sled ride, and revel in the beauty of the Adirondack wilderness by snowmobiling, cross-country skiing or ice climbing. There is also the option of exploring the endless Adirondack snowshoeing trails to see the forest from a whole new perspective.
Whether you’re an expert, or it’s your first time trying a new winter sport, Lake Placid is the perfect place to enjoy a winter getaway.
ACCOMMODATIONS: We stayed at the 92 room Northwoods Inn (www.northwoodsinn.com), situated right on Main Street, a short walk to the Olympic Arena and Oval, a public beach, numerous restaurants, a movie theatre and quaint shops of Lake Placid. The hotel offers a sidewalk café, two restaurants and “The Cabin,” a warm and cozy fireplace bar overlooking Main Street. Their rooftop bar presents a majestic view of the entire town plus the High Peaks and Whiteface Mountain. The breakfasts and gourmet burgers here have been voted “The best in Lake Placid.”
This is an all suite hotel and includes extended stay spots with kitchenettes and affordable rates. The lakeside rooms offer great views of Mirror Lake and the Adirondack mountains while others include balconies where guests can sit outside and enjoy the fresh mountain air. All of the rooms feature air conditioning, cable TV and separate sitting areas. There is complimentary onsite parking for overnight hotel guests only. Parking is limited, and in high demand periods, overflow spots are available, for a nominal fee, in the Lake Placid Municipal Parking Lot, one block from the hotel.
The Inn features the Tempur-Pedic “Weightless Sleep” mattresses, coddling you as no other mattress can. The revolutionary pressure-relieving material conforms to every point on your body, with relaxing molecular memory that gives you the best night of sleep you’ll ever have.
The Northwoods Inn is a hotel with lots of character and an interesting history. Since the 1800s, Lake Placid has been a destination to tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. By 1900 the village was recognized as a resort destination with seven major hotels and several smaller inns and cottages. A hotelier named Frank Swift had the dream to build a modern, fireproof hotel, where he could host high profile guests with all of the luxuries and comforts of a city hotel. In 1926 he achieved this goal with the construction of the Hotel Marcy. It was named for Mount Marcy, the grandest mountain in New York. In addition to the new building, the Hotel Marcy included several former summer homes to be rented as cottages and the old Northwoods Inn, which was used for housing staff, storage and kitchen facilities. In total, the hotel included 160 guest rooms, 125 bathrooms, a dining room and meeting space.
The Marcy was unlike anything else in Lake Placid and it immediately became popular with both local residents and visitors. It was a choice location for weddings, parties and community events. The hotel also attracted many tourists, including celebrities George Burns and Gracie Allen, Kate Smith, and others from that bygone era.
The Northwoods Inn was purchased by the Smith family five years ago. Gary Smith has handed the day-to-day operations to his son Garrett, who has innkeeper spends a lot of time mixing with guests and getting their feedback. He is working hard at building the property Free WiFi was recently added to all guestrooms and public areas. The renovation of guest rooms is next. For more information you can call 518-523-1818 for special packages, group rates or to make a reservation.
The hotel is well suited for guests in wheelchairs. The parking lot leads to the back entrance of the hotel, where there is a ramp bringing you to either the lobby or the elevator to your room. Door entrances are large and the suites themselves have a nice passageway when you first enter. The elevator will also take you to the street level, where both sides of the street offer some lovely shops and restaurants to explore.
MEALS: From traditional American cuisine in a family-friendly atmosphere to a delicious buffet dinner, such as we were treated to on New Year’s Eve at the Northwoods Inn, you’re sure to find something to satisfy your craving. We discovered Milano North (www.milanonorth.com). Modeled on its Albany cousin, this 110 seat, Northern Italian bistro features a dynamic open kitchen design, wood-fired oven pizzas, freshly-prepared homemade pastas and entrees using only the finest of ingredients. Located one block from the Northwoods Inn, Milano North offers a warm and contemporary Adirondack ambience. We absolutely loved our meals: a piping hot and delicious tomato soup, delicious salads and beautifully prepared entrees of grilled scallops, the best veal parmesan I can remember having (with some linguini on the side) and a grilled shrimp dish with fettuccini.
The restaurant offers a nice second floor view of the charming downtown. You can also catch your favorite game at the bar in its relaxed and inviting atmosphere. Head Chef Ryan Preston oversees a very impressive menu and general manager David McKenty greets everyone with a smile and some Lake Placid trivia.
Milano North is fully handicapped accessible from the upper tier of the municipal parking lot. There are a number of handicapped parking spaces located just outside the front entrance to the restaurant and everything inside is all on one level.
WHAT TO DO: Visit Lake Placid and invent your own perfect day. Sheltered among the Adirondack Park’s six million acres, the alpine village offers endless opportunities for outdoor recreation, unique attractions, shopping, dining and a variety of fun. There are mountains to climb, rivers to fish, serene lakes to kayak and vast evergreen forests to explore. Bring your bike and cruise through the region’s dramatic landscape, from quiet country roads to scenic mountain passes. Or pack your clubs and play a round on some of the beautiful Lake Placid golf courses—the region boasts 13 including five signature championship layouts. You can also attend one of the many enriching events at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts or catch a movie at the old-fashioned theater on Main Street.
OLYMPIC PASSPORT: Lake Placid was the proud host of the 1932 and 1980 winter Olympic Games. In all of the four seasons, this celebrated history can be experienced with a full range of activities from ORDA – the Olympic Regional Development Authority (http://www.orda.org/corporate). Make sure to purchase the Olympic Sites Passport, which gives you access to every one of the Olympic venues—from Whiteface to the Olympic Sports Complex and everything in between. Sold for $29 at the ORDA Store and all of their ticket offices, the passport saves you time, money, and gets you into the venues at a good value.
ORDA was originally created by the State of New York to manage the facilities used during the 1980 Olympic Winter Games at Lake Placid. ORDA operates the Whiteface Mountain ski area located in the Town of Wilmington, just 15 minutes outside the Village of Lake Placid; the Olympic Center; the Olympic Jumping Complex and Olympic Sports Complex; and Gore Mountain ski area located in North Creek, New York — 80 miles south of Lake Placid.
Whiteface’s Adaptive Snowsports Program is for adults and children with disabilities who want to learn how to ski and snowboard. First-timers needn’t worry; lessons range from “Never-Ever” to the advanced skier/snowboarder. Lift ticket, lesson and rental adaptive equipment are included. The duration of the lesson is usually two hours, depending on the student. Payment is required at the time of reservation.
ACTIVITIES: Fun in the Adirondacks takes on a whole new meaning when shared with the family. With Lake Placid’s storybook setting, it’s no surprise that this quaint alpine village offers unrivaled thrills, unforgettable adventures and historical exploration for all who visit. From museums and theater performances to classic family amusements such as bowling and miniature golf, the Adirondacks have an array of activities and attractions for moms, dads and kids of any age.
For sports fans, be sure to check out the Olympic facilities including the Lake Placid Olympic Museum and the various sports venues such as the hockey arena, home to the 1980 “Miracle on Ice.” If you’re seeking an adrenaline rush, take a ride on the bobsled run or ski or ride down the highest vertical drop in the East at Whiteface Mountain. For some history and culture, visit the nearby Wild Center Museum or plan on catching one of the family friendly shows at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts.
SKIING: As America’s very first winter resort, Lake Placid has skiing and riding covered. Whiteface, the only ski area in the East to have hosted the Olympic Games, boasts the highest vertical drop east of the Rockies with terrain for any skill level. The mountain’s 86 trails are serviced by high speed lifts and the Cloudsplitter Gondola—and with terrain parks, slides, glades and miles of groomed runs, you’re sure to find something that suits you. Whiteface is open generally from the very end of November until the middle of April
TOBOGGAN CHUTE: The Lake Placid Toboggan Chute (www.northelba.org/html/toboggan_chute_.html), located on Parkside Drive, adjacent to the Post Office, has been in operation since the 1960’s. The North Elba Park District currently operates the slide. A 30 foot high converted ski jump trestle sends toboggans down ice covered chutes onto frozen Mirror Lake. Depending on weather conditions, toboggans can travel over 1,000 feet once they reach the frozen lake surface. To insure the safety of riders, only one sled is sent down at a time. Families have always said that their visit to the Toboggan Chute was a highlight of their winter vacation.
Since the actual outrun of the slide is the frozen lake surface, the official opening day for operation varies from year to year. They have been open as early as December 26 and one year it wasn’t until February before they were in operation. A good 10 to 12 inches of good solid ice is necessary to insure the safety of the guests.
Admission prices allow guests to slide as much as they can during the scheduled time. Toboggans are rented and can hold two to four people. During Christmas and President’s week lines are often long and the wait can be 15 to 20 minutes between rides. Info 518-523-2591
OLYMPIC JUMPING: See firsthand the ramp that ski jumpers launch from before flying over the length of a football field. Take the chairlift alongside the jumping hills to the glass enclosed elevator to the observation deck of the 120K jump. At the top you will find a panoramic view of the Adirondack High Peaks as you stroll through the ski jumpers preparation room. Then get a bird’s eye view of what the jumpers see as they start to accelerate towards the end of the ramp. Nearby, aerialists will spring off steep kickers on the freestyle hill in a flurry of twists & turns.
Please log on to http://www.whiteface.com/activities/index.php.
You can also ride the 26-storey elevator to the top of the tower and view the world from a ski jumper’s perspective while you take in the panoramic view of the beautiful Adirondack High Peaks and other Olympic Venues.
TUBING: The newest attraction at the Olympic Jumping Complex goes downhill fast. Ride a tube down their newly constructed chute for over 700 feet of fun under the lights. With every tubing ticket purchased, funds go to support USA Ski Jumping. This is opened December 26 through March 20 (or as weather permits). The rate is $9 per hour. Log on to http://www.whiteface.com/activities/tube.php
OLYMPIC SPORTS COMPLEX: Home to the combined bobsled, luge and skeleton track – the only one east of the Rockies – as well as 50 km of groomed cross country ski trails and a biathlon shooting range, the Olympic Sports Complex is a study in extremes. If you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to be a comet, this is the place to start. Bobsled rides, with a professional driver and brakeman, begin at the half-mile point on the track (the same one used by Olympic racers) and wind through Shady, Labyrinth and The Heart–turns known by racers the world over.
You’ll feel the rumble of the sled’s blades passing over the track’s iced surface, slide through one turn, bank high on the next one and pick up speed on the straightaway. You’ll go faster than you’re allowed to drive a car through town. Then you’ll get to the bottom and want to do it again. That is the way the one daring member of our family described the experience. For your bravery, they give you a bobsled lapel pin, a four by six commemorative team photo, t-shirt, a Lake Placid Bobsled Experience sticker and membership in the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton
SKELETON: At the Olympic Sports Complex, you’ll have the chance to try the sport of Skeleton. This is your childhood sled on overdrive. Thirty miles per hour never seemed as fast as when you are lying on your stomach rocketing down an icy chute. Your experience includes: sliding from Start five, a four by six photo of you and your sled, a team t-shirt, a one year membership to the United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.
OLYMPIC CENTRE AND MUSEUM: The site of the historic 1932 and 1980 Olympic Games, including the legendary “Miracle on Ice” hockey game in 1980, the Centre houses three ice surfaces, the Convention Center at Lake Placid and the Lake Placid Olympic Museum. This unique venue is active year round. The Olympic Center hosts numerous international and national events, youth and adult hockey tournaments, and Figure Skating Championships throughout the year. Log on to http://www.whiteface.com/activities/museum.php.
ARTS: It’s no surprise that the Adirondacks have such a thriving arts community—the region’s vast forests, peaceful waterways and scenic mountains have long served as a muse for the creative. The region’s striking landscape offers an inspirational backdrop more beautiful and more vivid than one can imagine—and it changes with each new season. Today, artists and musicians of all genres are inspired by the natural setting and sheltered solitude of the mountains. Lake Placid boasts several venues for the arts and hosts a variety of performances — from classical music, to family-friendly shows, to rock concerts and community plays and musicals.
The Adirondacks are home to professional and community theaters, studios and renowned music schools. Likewise, museums and historical societies dot the region, preserving Lake Placid history and displaying artifacts of the Adirondacks’ storied past.
The Lake Placid Center for the Arts offers programs in the areas of music, theater, dance, art and film in addition to galleries, exhibitions and workshops. Similarly, the Lake Placid Institute works to enhance and celebrate cultural life throughout the Adirondacks. Working with other regional art organizations, the Institute develops and presents programs including chamber music seminars, roundtable discussions, and poetry and photo contests, among others.
SHOP: Saunter down Lake Placid’s Main Street and prepare yourself for a singular shopping experience. At first glance, it may seem like Main Street, USA– from the local bakery to the old fashioned movie theatre to the public library. But if you look closer there is a discernible cosmopolitan flair as Lake Placid’s Main Street fuses the special character of the region with the goods, sundries and cuisines of the rest of the world.As you wander in and out of this retail menagerie you may notice that many of the shops’ owners can be found behind the counters. Strike up a conversation—and be sure to take a piece of the Adirondacks and your perfect day in Lake Placid home with you. Whether you’re looking for a fun souvenir, rustic Adirondack furniture, handmade keepsakes, high-tech gear or designer clothes, shopping in Lake Placid offers the full spectrum of unique gifts, necessities and must-have mementos. There are a number of excellent outlet stores , Gap and Van Heusen to name a couple.