Recently we watched the documentary The Making of a Miracle on Ice about the American hockey team that faced off with Russia in the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid New York to win gold. I spent many a summer in Lake Placid during my childhood when I was a competitive figure skater and it has always had a magical place in my heart as The Olympic City.
Dave and I have gone back to Lake Placid in recent years for both summer and winter activities and I was reminded of that magic while walking through town and exploring the Olympic Sites. Located in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains of New York, Lake Placid is the perfect year-round mountain getaway – and these are the best things to do in Lake Placid to make the most of your stay.
Best Things to do in Lake Placid New York
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Lake Placid is a village in New York State located in the Adirondack Mountains. Lake Placid is located in what is called the Tri-Lake Region that includes Lake Placid two other lakes being Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake. Funny enough, the town of Lake Placid isn’t located on Lake Placid proper, its main street is actually on Mirror Lake. It is 5 hours from New York City and Boston and it is 2 1/2 hours from Montreal and five hours from Toronto, Canada.
About Lake Placid
Lake was America’s first winter vacation destination and is known for hosting two Winter Olympic Games in 1932 and 1980. Besides being known as a winter resort, there are many things to do in Lake Placid in the summer too. Let’s check out all the reasons you should add Lake Placid to your places to visit in America’s bucket list.
1. Live Out Your Olympic Glory Dreams
Lake Placid was home to not one, but two Winter Olympics, the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, and it has preserved that history with the excellent Lake Placid Olympic Museum and tours of the Olympic facilities. We love the winter Olympics and one of our favorite things to do in Lake Placid is live out our Olympic dreams by exploring the sites. There are plenty of Olympic sites to explore in Lake Placid, so let’s check them out.
2. Lake Placid Olympic Ski Jumping Complex
Until you’ve been to the top of an Olympic ski jump, you’ll never truly appreciate how terrifying it is. I cannot fathom standing on two tiny pieces of wood only to slide down a near-vertical ramp that flings me off the end into the air. The ski jumps are still used for training, but even non-jumpers can get a little taste of what it’s like to experience the need for speed at the Olympic Jumping Complex.
Try your hand at zip-lining right beside the 90-meter jump that emulates the feeling of ski jumping at speeds up to 30 miles per hour. Check out the Olympic Sky Flyer Jumper Zipline for details.
3. Olympic Skyride
If you are not quite up for the heart-racing adventure, you can still explore the Olympic Ski Jumps by taking the gondola up to the glass elevator the 120-meter high ski jumping tower where you’ll ride a glass elevator up to the viewing platform for panoramic views of the Adirondack Mountains. It is a gorgeous scene. (if you aren’t a skier or snowboarder chances are you don’t ride gondolas a lot, so this is a fun thing to do.) See the Olympic Jumping website for details.
4. Ski Whiteface Mountain
We have been snowboarding on Whiteface Mountain and let me tell you it is always a thrill to follow the footsteps of Olympians. At 1.483m (4,865ft) high, it has the greatest vertical drop east of the Rockies, this is the premier place to hit the slopes in the U.S. East Coast. Whiteface Mountain has 90 trails for all levels of skiing spanning across 22 miles of terrain.
If you are planning on hitting the slopes, you may want to stay closer to Whiteface Mountain. Check out this Apartment Stay just two minutes from the mountain. Sleeps 8 and has a 6 person hot tub!
Stay in Whiteface
Whiteface Mountain is located 30 minutes from Lake Placid. If you are planning on doing a lot of outdoor adventures here, you may want to stay closer to Whiteface Mountain for a night or two. Check out the Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort Website for Details.
Not visiting in winter? No problem. Whiteface Mountain doesn’t shut down once the snow melts. Take the Gondola up to Little Whiteface Mountain and take part in the Adventure Zone. In the summer months, it opens up offering disco golf, downhill mountain biking, and plenty of hiking. There is even a zip line here and like most ski hills around the world.
5. Take a Drive up Veterans’ Memorial Parkway
Chances are you’ll be on a road trip when visiting Lake Placid, so make sure to take a scenic drive up the Veteran’s Memorial Parkway starting in Wilmington at Adirondacks Spruce Lodge. This paved road winds its way all the way along Highway 431 up to the summit. The scenic 7.96 mi (12.81 km) long drive is a must when visiting Lake Placid. It’s a steep 8% grade which is impressive considering it was built in 1932. This isn’t a free drive through, on your way up, you’ll have to pay a toll at an alpine-style gatehouse built in 1934. But the drive is worth it will pull-offs and scenic views. Cost: $20 per vehicle plus $20 per passenger. (Kids 6 and under are free)
Once you reach the parking lot, you have a few choices of things to do like have a bite at the Castle Cafe, you can ride the elevator up 27 stories, or hike the beautiful beautiful trail to the summit. It’s just a short 15-minute hike (.2 miles) to the summit but it is worth it for the view. Plus, you get to see gorgeous views of Lake Placid.
6. Little Whiteface Mountain – Cloudsplitter Gondola
Not to be confused with Whiteface Mountain, Little Whiteface Mountain is its own attraction in the summertime. In the winter, the Cloudsplitter Gondola is the way to get up to the ski hills of Whiteface Mountain. Take the Cloudsplitter Gondola up Little Whiteface Mountain for panoramic views of its big sister, Whiteface Mountain, and the Adirondacks in the summertime and to enjoy some hiking.
7. High Falls Gorge
One of the most beautiful places to visit in Lake Placid is High Falls Gorge. Take a walk along the hiking trails, glass floor walkways, and bridges through this 22-acre nature park to see its beautiful waterfalls. There are four falls cascading down the mountain, the Main Falls, Mini Falls, Rainbow Falls, and Climax Falls that you can hike out to. It’s just a half-mile round trip walk (that is accessible) and it takes about 45 minutes to an hour. (it can be done shorter, but Dave and I love to take photos.
Downtown Lake Placid
8. Stroll the Alpine Village
Lake Placid feels like a little Swiss Village with ski chalets, shops, and picturesque scenery. Located on Mirror Lake, Lake Placid lives up to its name with its placid waters reflecting the surrounding Adirondack Mountains, trees, and swiss-style chalets. Make sure you have a drink at the Big Slide Brewery to enjoy a local brew on the terrace with views of the Olympic Ski Jump.
9. Olympic Center
The Olympic Center and Museum is one of the best things to do in Lake Placid for sports lovers. Make sure to go inside the Olympic Center witness the arenas where history was made. The rinks and museum are located right in the center of downtown Lake Placid. The museum showcases memorabilia from the past Olympics including highlights from Miracle on Ice.
10. Herb Brooks Arena
I have had the privilege of skating on all of the historic arenas at the historic Olympic Center in Lake Placid. Herb Brooks Arena is the most famous and was built for the 1980 Olympics. It’s historic because it was on this ice that The US Team took gold in the 1980 Olympics. They became known as Miracle on Ice. The arenas are currently closed for renovations, but you can still tour the museum.
11. Mirror Lake
I’ll never forget seeing Mirror Lake for the first time, its still waters reflect the surrounding scenery. This is a beautiful lake to explore by paddle boats, kayaks, or canoes or simply taking a leisurely hike around its shore. (no motorized vehicles are allowed on the water). In the winter it comes alive with skaters and you can even take dogsled rides. Plus, one of the coolest things to do in Lake Placid in winter is to slide down the Toboggan Chute that empties onto the frozen lake.
12. Adirondack Experience
Lake Placid is in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains and has capitalized on that location. ADKX is an activity center dedicated to the outdoors. With 120 acres sprawling along Blue Mountain Lake, there are plenty of things to do for outdoor lovers. Take a hike out to the Whiteface Mountain fire tower, rent a canoe to explore the shore, or go on a guided nature walk. There are artists in residence and lots of activities. This is a great weekend escape for the whole family.
13. Olympic Bobsleigh Experience
If there is one way to really feel like an olympian it is to get on the Olympic Bobsleigh track. The Lake Placid Olympic Bobsleigh experience at Mt. Van Hoevenberg lets you cruise down the Olympic track with a professional driver. The sliding center track was updated in 1999 from the original but I see that it is undergoing reconstruction again, so I would check to see if tours are open. You can visit the Website here.
14. Cliffside Coaster
If the bobsled feels like a little too much (or if it is closed), a great option is to hop on the Cliffside Coaster instead. You have control over your own speed on this slide ride down the mountain alongside the 1980 bobsled track. We’ve done a few of these slide rides and they are a blast for the whole family. Cool fact, it’s the longest mountain coaster in the United States. Check for details and availability at the Cliffside Coaster at Mt. Voevenberg.
15. Cross Country Skiing
If cross country skiing is more of your thing, make your way to the Cascade Cross Country Center. With 14 miles of groomed trails, it has something for everyone. It also offers cross country ski rentals and what’s really cool is that you can try your hand on the Olympic cross country ski trails at Mt. Van Hoevenberg. Get more details at the Cascade Ski Center.
16. John Brown Farm State Historic Site
For history buffs, a visit to the John Brown Farm State Historic Site is a must. He was a part of the underground railroad and moved to the Adirondacks to establish a community where slaves could live freely. Unfortunately, he was captured and hanged in 1859. He was buried at his home and it has now been turned into a museum that has been preserved in time displaying the personal belongings of the Brown family. See more at the New York State Park website.
17. Mount Jo
Being situated in the Adirondacks, one of the top things to do in Lake Placid is to get outdoors to enjoy its many hiking trails. Mount Jo is located just outside of Lake Placid and has some easy hikes to the 2,876-foot high summit. The trails are only 1.1 miles and 1.3 miles long but offer beautiful views of the high peaks of the Adirondacks and they overlook Heart Lake.
18. Brewster Peninsula Nature Park
One of the most popular things to do in Lake Placid is to head out to the Brewster Peninsula Trails. It’s a set of four trails that are popular for hiking and mountain biking in the summer and cross country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. It is just a lovely scenic walk around Lake Placid that can be as long or as short as you like. The ridge trail takes you up to a scenic ridge and The Boundary Trail is the longest and the Corridor Trail is a downhill walk that takes you to the Lakeshore.
Where to Stay in Lake Placid
Hampton Inn & Suites Lake Placid – We stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Lake Placid located on Mirror Lake. It is just a short walk to the main street and the Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum.
High Peaks Resort – Located on Mirror Lake and within walking distance to the main street attractions, this is an excellent mountain retreat in Lake Placid.
And now you have the information you need to take a road trip to Lake Placid, New York. Have you been to Olympic City? What are your favorite things to do in Lake Placid?
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