This Charming New York Town Hidden in the Adirondacks Is a Dream Winter Vacation Destination
Tucked away in a corner of the Adirondacks lies a charming New York town that shines. A two-time Olympic destination, Lake Placid is the place where 19th-century tycoons chose to vacation. And yet, it prefers a hushed kind of reputation.
"Lake Placid is an idyllic winter sports town, in much the same tradition as St. Moritz, Chamonix, and other iconic alpine resorts," says two-time Olympic champion and Lake Placid native Andrew Weibrecht. "As someone who grew up here and then competed all around the world, there are few places that can match the enthusiasm Lake Placid has for winter sports."
But Lake Placid's history is indeed even more profound, having reeled in the attention of some of the wealthiest 19th-century families. The Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, and Carnegies all built their summer homes on the many lakes in the Adirondacks. It was around then that a few original clubs, including the Northwoods Club, Ausable Club, Adirondack League Club, and Lake Placid Club, took off and the Great Camps were built. Today, several camps remain open, some quite secretive and others that still accept only cash and checks.
Lake Placid continues to radiate with the energy, reinforced by Olympic fervor, the magic of the cold mountains, and local spirit. And thus, it can easily compete, as Weibrecht says, with any winter village across the world. Here's how to plan the perfect winter vacation in Lake Placid.
Chalet-style Lodgings With History
The Point, a Relais & Châteaux property and an original Great Camp, is an excellent hotel in the area, located just 15 minutes outside of town. Here, you can indulge in après-style vacationing, settling in an Adirondack chair just in front of the nearby Saranac Lake. Guests are also invited to join a game of geocaching, a high-tech scavenger hunt across the topography of the area that leads to Camp David, a campground surrounded by woods and complete with a cabin that features warm cocktails, hot cocoa, and any other drink request. Plus, there's no TV screen en suite and virtually no Wi-Fi on the property to help you truly unplug.
Another historic crown jewel in Lake Placid is Mirror Lake Inn, dating back to 1924. During the 1932 Olympics, it was fully rented out by the Norwegian team, and in between, it attracted some of the most elite clientele in the state, thanks to the estate's beauty and organic fare at what was known to be the best restaurant in town. But after the Olympics, the property couldn't get enough. It became the first to own a snowmaking machine to ensure proper ski conditions, as well as the first to set up a rope tow (mini ski lift) behind the hotel. The owner's father even built the first bobsled run in town. Today, the AAA Four Diamond resort is owned by Ed Weibrecht, father of Olympian Andrew Weibrecht.
Meanwhile, the Whiteface Lodge, hidden away in the woodlands just past town, offers a rustic getaway with fireplaces, spa services (including a heated outdoor pool), a 56-seat movie theater, two-lane bowling alley, nightly campfire, an ice skating rink, and access to additional snow activities.
For those wanting a country feel, the picturesque Stagecoach Inn is a solid choice. And that's to say anything of the quaint Airbnb properties in the area, like this minimalist lodge or this charming cabin with Mirror Lake access.
Hearty Mountain Dining
Whether you're in the mood for popcorn or a fine-dining venue, there's no end to cozy eating in the Adirondacks. Kanu at Whiteface Lodge is one of the region's premier dining destinations.
At Mirror Lake Inn, The View is a legendary fine-dining establishment that uses organic ingredients and offers a spectacular Mirror Lake views, while The Cottage, located directly on the shore of the lake, is a fantastic, homey spot for soups, sandwiches, and other delicious dishes.
Looking for coffee with a view of the lake? The location at The Coffee Bar is hard to beat. For breakfast fare, the aptly named Breakfast Club, Etc. serves up tasty options, and Simply Gourmet is a great grab-and-go bakery. Finally, don't forget to stop by The Adirondack Popcorn Co. for a snack and the Great Adirondack Brewing Company for some brews. Either way, whether a waffle on the mountain or pizza in town, everything tastes better with mountain air.
"I've traveled to ski towns across North America, Europe, Asia, South America, and New Zealand, and there's no place I've ever been that offers the variety of opportunities for fun, relaxation, and rejuvenation as Lake Placid and the Adirondacks," says Weibrecht. And with Adirondack Park being the largest state park in the continental United States, and Whiteface Mountain offering the greatest vertical drop on the East Coast, plenty of exciting winter experiences can be had.
Whiteface Mountain is, of course, a major attraction for skiers and snowboarders. Other popular cold-weather activities include snowshoeing and cross-country skiing at Mt. Van Hoevenberg, as well as forest bathing and simply soaking in the wonderland down Olympic trails. The Lake Placid Bobsled Experience, for example, is an activity you can only do here. And ice skating, available at the Olympic Center rink as well as for free on Mirror Lake, is another great opportunity to inhale some fresh mountain air.
For even more options, a horseback ride through the countryside is a real treat at the Emerald Springs Ranch, and husky-drawn sleigh rides can be enjoyed directly on Mirror Lake. (Lake activities depend on the state of the ice.) Waterfalls, hiking trails, and more active pursuits can be found in this little village, too. The village is even gearing up for the 2023 World University Games.
An outdoor adventurer's paradise, the destination has some more relaxed things to do, too, including movies at the Palace Theater, spa sessions, and making s'mores. For those looking for something entirely different, The Wild Center at Tupper Lake and its art installation of strung bridges, nests, and more will surely entertain.
Ultimately, Weibrecht is right: "Where else can you wake up in five-star accommodations, walk out your door to skate a lap around the lake, ski on an Olympic-caliber mountain, careen down an ice track in a bobsled at 70 mph, ride in a dog sled, and still make it back to your hotel for a world-class dinner, followed by drinks around a roaring fire?" Only here, in Lake Placid.