Lake Placid knows winter. The village’s residents and visitors have been playing in the snow for over a century. The winter fun began in 1904 when the famed resort, Lake Placid Club, remained open through the winter months for the first time and guests played outside — a novel concept at the time! This is how Lake Placid became America’s first Winter Resort.
Situated between two lakes and ringed by Adirondack mountains, Lake Placid entices travelers to play outside all winter long with activities such as backcountry skiing and showshoeing, pond hockey, dog-sled rides, sledding, ice fishing and skiing.
Downtown Lake Placid is a charming collection of restaurants, shops and a 1920s-era movie theater strung along cozy Main Street. Its location on the shore of Mirror Lake allows visitors to ski, skate or take a dog-sled ride and then walk to a restaurant to warm up.
Lake Placid’s stellar reputation as a winter resort was only boosted when it hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1932 and in 1980. It remains one of the few places that continues to host Olympic winter sports such as bobsledding, speed skating and ski jumping. Check the calendar before your visit to see if you can catch one of these events in person. Or, for even more thrill, skate on the Olympic Speed Skating Oval or barrel down the Olympic Bobsled Track yourself!
What to Do
If you have a few days to explore and play in Lake Placid, it’s easiest to bucket activities by day to get the most out of your time. For a small village with a population of just 4,000, Lake Placid offers no shortage of unique winter fun.
- Olympic Sites
Established in 1982, the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) was created by the State of New York to manage the facilities used during the 1980 Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid. ORDA operates Whiteface, Gore Mountain and Belleayre Mountain ski areas; the Olympic Sports Complex, the Olympic Jumping Complex, the Olympic Speed Skating Oval, the Conference Center at Lake Placid and the Olympic Center. The Olympic Sites Passport is perfect for visitors, providing access to every one of the Olympic Sites. Highlights from the Olympic sites include the bobsled experience, public skating at the Olympic Speed Skating Oval, the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” rink and the observation deck at the Lake Placid Olympic Jumping Complex.
- Whiteface Mountain
The ski resort at Whiteface Mountain features the greatest vertical of any lift-serviced mountain in the Northeast, mile after mile of impeccably groomed cruising trails and an exception ski and snowboard school. The Snowsports School at Whiteface Mountain is a fantastic place for first-time skiers and riders. The professional instructors guide you through the experience, making sure that kids and adults are having fun while improving their skills. Bear Den Lodge caters to the beginner set, with a separate lift and slopes for visitors to build their confidence and independence on the slopes. For those that have the basics down, Whiteface’s expert terrain is legendary, providing a true big mountain experience.
- Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake is the lake that stretches along Lake Placid’s Main Street, making it easily accessible by foot. The lake typically freezes over by Christmas and wraps up all the winter fun on the lake by end of February/beginning of March. During those winter months, snow plows clear portions of the lake for hockey and skating rinks, dog sled trails, and snowshoe or walking trails along the perimeter of the lake. There’s also a toboggan chute (a sled ramp) that brings a thrill for adults and kids alike. Ice skates, hockey pucks, hockey sticks and snowshoes are available for rent at Locker Room 5.
- Main Street
Spend an afternoon browsing the quaint and locally-owned shops along Main Street. Kids will love the Adirondack Popcorn Co., which churns out funky flavors of popcorn, like dill pickle, salt and vinegar, maple bourbon bacon and more. Stop in the Saratoga Olive Oil Co. for an olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting. Get your Team USA Olympic gear, as well as all the skiing and winter apparel you might need.
Where to Eat
For such a small town, the culinary scene in Lake Placid is impressive. There’s a wide array of restaurants and cuisines, all of which cater to kids. You’ll also notice a nod to the region’s German heritage on some menus.
- Great Adirondack Brewing Company
This is a restaurant and brewery combo, so the beer menu pairs well with the American cuisine. The French onion soup is hearty and delicious, especially on a cold night, but they’re known for their beef. Be sure to save room for dessert: The in-house pastry chef keeps a rotating menu of sweet treats that are creative and unique. Beyond the fantastic food, drinks and dessert, this restaurant’s family-owned hospitality makes it shine. The owners and staff are warm and welcoming, making you feel right at home for the evening.
- Enuf Chocolates
Rene Elkaslasy, the pastry chef at the Great Adirondack Brewing Company has her own shop with sweets, chocolates, occasion cakes and wedding cakes. For the sweet tooths in your crew, be sure to make a stop at Enuf Chocolates.
The restaurant at Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort maintains a goal of showcasing the many farms and products that are grown, raised and cultivated in New York’s Adirondack region. It serves up a hearty breakfast, lunch and dinner, though the Hasslehoff breakfast dish is not to be missed: A Bavarian pretzel with scrambled eggs, seasoned potato bites, and bacon or maple sausage links will fuel you up for a day on the slopes.
- Salt of the Earth Bistro
Salt of the Earth is a quaint, affordable, bistro in a historic house serving unique foods from traditional roots. Menus change with the seasons, often utilizing game meats and seasonal vegetables.
- The Cottage
The Cottage Restaurant and Cafe is situated directly on Mirror Lake’s waters edge and offers spectacular views of the the Great Range of the Adirondack High Peaks. The whole family will enjoy this local hot-spot, offering specialty comfort foods, soup and sandwiches. A kids’ menu is available for little ones.
- Smoke Signals
A favorite of many locals, Smoke Signals dishes up barbecue favorites served in a brick-lined space with a lakefront patio, beers on tap and live music.
- Big Slide Brewery
Since 2016, Big Slide Brewery has been brewing craft beer and serving unique menu items. This is not your typical pub grub, but it is approachable and delicious. Try the poutine to start, followed by the wood-fired mega-roni pizza: red sauce base, shredded mozzarella, double pepperoni, pickled cherry peppers, complete with a honey drizzle.
Where to Stay
Lodging on Main Street in downtown Lake Placid is ideal for access to the cluster of shops and restaurants and Mirror Lake. Whiteface Mountain and the Olympic Sites are a short drive away.
- Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort
Golden Arrow is a family-owned resort that feels like home the moment you step inside. From the lobby’s roaring fire place, to the chess table and reading nooks in the loft, there’s no shortage of places to cozy up on a cold day. Its prime location on Main Street gives your family walking access to the village’s shops and restaurants. Guests also have views of Mirror Lake and direct access to the lake out the back door of Golden Arrow.
Know Before You Go
- Rent a vehicle that can handle snowy roads
Lake Placid gets several feet of snow all winter long, which can make it challenging to navigate the windy, hilly roads around the Village of Lake Placid. Although the town keeps the main roads plowed, it’s important to have a car that’s tough enough to handle wintry roads. If you’re renting a vehicle to get to Lake Placid, be sure to select a car with four-wheel drive. We drove the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado with four-wheel drive, anti-lock braking system and an activated OnStar button, which kept us safe on the roads — and the heated steering wheel didn’t hurt either!
- Pack the right gear
Not only does the region get enormous amounts of snow each year, the temperature and wind-chill can stay consistently under zero degrees for days at a time. The appropriate gear is crucial to fully enjoy your time. Be sure to pack several base layers, wool socks, wind and water resistant pants and coats and more gloves, scarves and hats than you think you’ll need. Don’t forget tall, lined snow boots! BearPaw’s Isabella boots have a waterproof quilted leather upper and a sheepskin footbed — ideal for the frigid, snowy conditions.
- Book in advance
Some activities in Lake Placid require advance booking, while others are more flexible. Book a ski lift ticket, bob-sled ride and Olympic Village passport ticket ahead of time. Dog-sledding, ice skating and tobogganing on the lake do not require advance reservations or tickets. To dog-sled, enter the lake through Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort and follow the signs (cash only).
- Have an inclement weather back-up plan
The bobsled experience is subject to weather conditions, so if it’s not operating, check out the Motion Theater Sports Simulator at the Olympic Center. The $7 price tag is well worth the six-minute activity. Though quick, it’s a fun introduction to the Winter Olympics and suitable for a wide age range: toddlers to grandparents.
By Bridgette Langdon