Lake Placid, NY
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Lake Placid, NY

Winter or summer, it's one adventure after another in this former Olympic village.

Extreme Thrills

Is there a future Olympian or professional hockey player in your family? If so, then a trip to Lake Placid will be a dream come true. They can ski, skate, and bobsled on the same slopes, rinks, and tracks the Olympic athletes used in 1932 and 1980 (updated for the 2000 Goodwill Games). Or swoosh down snow-covered hills on toboggans, inner tubes, even horse-drawn sleighs.

The fun doesn't stop when the snow melts. In spring, summer, and fall, this Adirondack Mountain village becomes a hot spot for mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, and canoeing. A gondola ride climbing 2,500 vertical feet is also pretty cool. For wind-down, there's swimming, fishing, and boating on Lake Placid or Mirror Lake.

A Jock's Fantasy

Summit of Whiteface with Lake
Placid and High Peaks in distance
copyright Peter Finger

The big thrill at Lake Placid is living your own Olympic fantasy -- even if you lack gold-medal aspirations. "Total Winter Experience" lets the jocks in your household play Olympic sports on Olympic turf as well as tour Olympic venues. Here's what awaits:

Bobsled copyright
Mark Kurtz/ORDA

  • Zig-Zag bobsled ride
    The ride only lasts a few minutes but the rush stays with you forever. Two family members, a driver and brakeman guide the sled through harrowing turns named "Zig" and "Zag" while an announcer gives the play-by-play to cheering crowds below.
  • All-day cross-country ski pass
    Mt. Van Hoevenberg has 31 miles of groomed and forested trails. The Bobcat Trail is a particularly good trek (3/4-mile) for families. You'll get that out-in-the-wilderness feeling while still within reach of the lodge's hot chocolate and coffee.
  • In-your-face ski-jumping
    This daredevil sport is exciting no matter where you watch it -- outside at the landing area or inside on the 390-feet high Skydeck. The coolest parts? Rubbing shoulders with ski-jumpers on the chairlift, taking the glass-elevator up 26 stories and seeing the eye-popping, 360-degree view of the Adirondacks.
  • Public skating sessions
    Is there a future Olympic skater or hockey player in your house? They'll be thrilled to work out at the downtown Lake Placid Olympic Center or Olympic Speed Skating Oval, where athletes like figure skater Sonja Henie, U.S. Hockey champ Mike Eruzione, and speed skater Eric Heiden made Olympic history.

Olympic-Size Attractions

During your visit, the clan can tour Olympic facilities, and practice their figure eights at five former Winter Olympic venues. Facilities are open daily year-round. However, hours of operation vary, so check schedules upon arrival.

  • The Olympic Center
    This is home to four ice rinks, including the Lake Placid Olympic Arena where the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team upset the Russian team in the "Miracle on Ice."
  • Olympic Speed Skating Oval
    Eric Heiden won five gold medals here in 1980.
  • The MacKenzie-Intervale Ski Jumping Complex
    From a take-your-breath-away observation deck, watch hot-doggers lift off from 90- and 120-meter ski-jump towers.
  • Mt. Van Hoevenberg Olympic Sports Complex
    This is ground zero for cross-country skiing and mountain biking. It's also home to those slippery bobsled and luge/skeleton tracks you see on TV during the World Cup Finals in February and March.

A Day at Whiteface

For skiing and snowboarding, Whiteface Mountain (4,867 feet) is the place to go. You'll find 70 trails, a terrain park, and half-pipe -- not to mention the biggest vertical drop (3,350 feet) east of the Rockies.

Leave the young ones at Kids Kampus and Learning Center for lessons, and ride with your older children up Valley Triple Chairlift to "Easy Street" or "Broadway," some of the simplest runs. If you're a family of intermediates, try "Excelsior Run," a 2.5-mile trail that meanders down from the summit of Little Whiteface (3,376 feet). Part of the fun is riding up on "Cloudsplitter," the fastest gondola in North America.

Don't leave town without snow tubing (coasting on an inflated inner tube). It's a great bargain and it gives can't-sit-still-a-minute kids something to do after the sun goes down.

When Mirror Lake freezes over, there's tobogganing at Lake Placid Toboggan Chute and dogsled rides.

Extreme Training

Summer is actually the busiest time of year in Lake Placid. The Gold Medal Adventure Camp at the Winter Olympic sites draws the biggest family crowds. From June through September, this daily, five-hour camp provides expert instruction on six "extreme" sports. Depending on the day of the week, you and the kids (ages 8 and up) can learn to ride a bobsled, maneuver a luge, mountain bike, kayak, or do freestyle on a trampoline.

Of course, you can always just kick back and relax. Lake Placid is an idyllic summer get-away with easy access to swimming, boating, fishing, camping, hiking, and horseback riding. And there's nothing wrong with taking a leisurely stroll on Main Street, poking through all the shops and treating the kids to ice cream.


Best ages: 8 and up

Ideal trip length: Three to five days

Distance: Albany (138 miles), Syracuse (195 miles), Hartford (248 miles), New York City (290 miles), Boston (304 miles)

Best time to go: December to March for winter sports, Memorial Day to Columbus Day for warm-weather activities

Weather: 26/4 degrees January and February, 74/50 degrees June through August

Lodging: Ski-and-stay packages are available through Lake Placid/Essex County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-447-5224.

Squirm factor: None

If You Go...

Olympic Regional Development Authority Phone: 518-523-1655 or 800-462-6236


copyright Mark

  • The Olympic Center/Olympic Speed Skating Oval
    218 Main St., Lake Placid
    Phone: 518-523-1655
  • MacKenzie-Intervale Ski Jumping Complex
    Route 73
    Phone: 518-523-2202
  • Mount Van Hoevenberg Olympic Sports Complex
    Route 73
    Phone: 518-523-2811

  • Whiteface Mountain Ski Center
    Route 86, Wilmington
    Phone: 518-946-2223


  • 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Museum
    218 Main St., Lake Placid
    Phone: 518-523-1655
  • Cloudsplitter Gondola, Whiteface Mountain
    Route 86
    Phone: 518-946-2223

Sports programs:

Mirror Lake and Whiteface Mountain
copyright Peter Finger

Total Winter Experience Mid-December to mid-March, weather permitting Note: To ride the bobsled, children must be 48 inches tall.

Gold Medal Adventure Camp Mid-June to mid-September Note: Children must be at least 8 years old.

Olympic Sites Summer Passport Early June to early October

Other activities:

Lake Placid Toboggan Chute 301 North Main St. on Mirror Lake in downtown Lake Placid Phone: 518-523-2592

Sleigh Rides at XTC Ranch & Resort Lake Clear Phone: 518-891-5684 Expect: A 40-minute ride with stop for hot chocolate


Thunder Mountain Dog Sled Rides Mirror Lake behind the Best Western hotel Phone: 518-891-6239 Note: Sleds accommodate up to 5 people for a 10- to 15-minute ride.

Guided Snowmobile Tours:

Adirondack Adventure Tours Phone: 518-572-9833 Note: Each family member drives own snowmobile. Children must be at least 16 years old. Snow Tours Phone: 518-523-3415 Note: Tours last 2 hours


Lake Placid/Essex County Visitors Bureau Phone: 800-447-5224


Olympic Regional Development Authority Phone: 518-523-1655 or 800-462-6236


Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Phone: 800-347-1992


Adirondack Regional Tourism Council Phone: 518-846-8016


The Inside Scoop

Favorite local spot:

Tail o' the Pup Route 86 Phone: 518-891-0777 Expect: Everyone loves chowing down on barbecued ribs, chicken and corn-on-the-cob at this Lake Placid roadside institution. Open year-round.

Local foods: Hearty soups and chili

Best souvenir: Twig pencils and raccoon hats from the Adirondack Trading Company, 103 Main St., Lake Placid, 518-523-3651.

Annual events:

Unless otherwise noted, contact: The Lake Placid/Essex County Convention & Visitors Bureau Phone: 800-447-5224

  • Winter Carnival at Saranac Lake
  • World Cup Finals Luge
  • World Cup Biathlon
  • World Cup Bobsled
  • Saturday Night Ice Shows
    July and August
  • ESPN Great Outdoor Games
    Phone: 518-523-1962

  • Ironman USA Triathlon
    Phone: 518-523-2665


Traffic alert: Major routes and roadways are plowed quickly; back roads and side streets may not be. Keep shovel, sand, salt, and other emergency equipment in the trunk.

Side Trips

High Falls Gorge

It's not Niagara Falls, but High Falls Gorge is still an awesome sight. A quick 1/2 mile hike, Waterfall Walk takes you to the spot where the AuSable River spills 700 feet over ancient granite cliffs. The hike is best done in summer. In winter, the waterfalls freeze to form beautiful ice formations, but you'll need cleats or snowshoes to see them. At the end of the journey, there's a campfire, hot drinks, and marshmallows. High Falls Gorge Off Route 86, eight miles east of Lake Placid Phone: 518-946-2278

Reviewed April 2004.