[y] Lake Placid Visitors Guide
A name like Lake Placid can conjure up images of a sleepy town with residents lazily reclined lakeside in obligatory Adirondack chairs. While the area is synonymous with peaceful retreats, it is anything but indolent. Hosting the Winter Olympics not once but twice—in 1932 and 1980—has left it with a legacy of athleticism. The Adirondacks area’s most popular attraction, aside from its mirror-like lake, is Whiteface Mountain Resort, which has retained its Olympic facilities including bobsled and luge and a jumping complex. Amateur athletes compete annually here at the Empire State Winter Games. In the spirit of competition, Lake Placid, New York also hosts the annual Ice Dance Championships in August and one of the USA’s six official Ironman Triathlons.
Boasting superlative views and cradled by the Adirondack Mountains, Lake Placid is, by all means, a small village but its resort town status has afforded it with more amenities than one might expect. Situated 289 mi (465 km) from New York City, the area was originally settled for mining opportunities in 1840, but it wasn’t long before urbanite society discovered its restorative effects far from the madding crowd of the city. By 1923, the area already boasted 21 tennis courts and seven golf courses. Today, recreational pursuits for those wanting to explore nature include cross-country skiing, rafting, canoeing, hiking, and fishing.
Lake Placid, with its mix of retail shops and restaurants, makes up in charm and bustle what it lacks in quaintness. Daytime or evening, many people find both relaxation and exercise on the Olympic oval (where Eric Heiden won five gold medals), lulled into an easy rhythm by the sharp scrape of their skates over the quarter-mile loop. Or, visitors can take a dogsled ride across Mirror Lake or a three-mile walk around it. Another favorite is the nighttime toboggan slide down a floodlit ramp out onto the darkness of the frozen lake. A word of caution: Wear old clothes!
Lake Placid Activities
Lake Placid offers a fantastic array of winter activities. The half-mile bobsled rides at Mt Vanhoevenberg Sports Complex (six miles from the village) are $40 per person and a must for any Lake Placid visitor. Rides on the combination bobsled/luge track are by reservation only (523-4436). While there, try the Luge Rocket too.
Whiteface Mountain Resort features ungroomed vertical drops, cliffs, and other backcountry obstacles.
Tours of the MacKenzie-Intervale Ski Jumping Complex, with chairlift and elevator ride, cost $9 for adults, $5 for children and seniors. The hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Olympic Speed Skating Oval is open for public skating 7–9 p.m. daily, and 1–3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays (523-1655). The cost is $5 for adults and $3 for juniors.
Operating hours for the toboggan run on Mirror Lake is Wednesday, 7–9 p.m.; Friday, 7–10 p.m.; Saturday, noon–4 p.m. and 7–10 p.m.; and Sunday, noon–4 p.m. The charge is $3 for adults, $2 for children, and $3 for the toboggan rental.
The Kodak Winter Passport includes a day of cross-country or snowshoeing and admission to the jumping complex, museums, and public skating. The passport also qualifies you for a $10 discount on the half-mile bobsled ride and a 10-percent discount at the ORDA Store.
Get into the real spirit of things by visiting the Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum. This is a can’t miss a spot on the ground floor of the Olympic Arena with displays from the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics held at Lake Placid. It’s open daily. Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors and $2 for juniors. Call 523-1655 Ext. 226 for more information.
While in town, check out the schedule of events at the Olympic Arena. Very often there will be a hockey game or a skating exhibition there free for the watching.
Lake Placid Golf Courses
Keep your search for the perfect Lake Placid, New York golf course out of the rough! Use the list below and refer to the course descriptions, maps and reviews to ensure you get a hole in one. Each listing indicates the features of each Lake Placid golf course, from pro shops to golf cart rentals, clubhouses to driving ranges.
Lake Placid Resort Hotel & Golf Club
A 45 hole golf course. The only fully irrigate golf course in Lake Placid. Address: 1 Olympic Drive | Lake Placid, NY | 12946. Telephone: 1 518 523-2556
Craig Wood Golf Course
This municipal course offers golfers a challenge with 18 holes over 6,554 yards. Designed in 1925 by Seymour Dunn, it enjoys a scenic setting cradled by the Adirondack landscape. The season runs from May to November and proper attire is required. Pro shop, lounge, restaurant and driving range are all on-site. Public, 18 holes, Par 72. Address: Cascade Road Route 73 | Lake Placid, NY | 12946. Telephone: 1 518 523-9811
Lake Placid Dining
The newest fine-dining spot in town is The Great Room at The Whiteface Lodge ( 523-3400; $$$$) where the menu is impressive and so is the setting. Across the street, The Caffe Rustica (523-3400; $$$) has earned a loyal following in just the past few years.
In the village, TheView Restaurant at The Mirror Lake Inn (523-2544; $$$–$$$$), has fine dining in a very elegant atmosphere. For those who have heard rave reviews about the Lake Placid Lodge, you will have to wait. The main lodge, including the dining room, was destroyed by fire and is not scheduled to reopen until at least mid-2007.
Richard’s Freestyle Cuisine (523-5900; $$$) serves some excellent creative dishes. The Brown Dog (523-3036; $–$$$) is a deli by day but offers fine dining with wine by night.
The Great Adirondack Steak and Seafood Company (523-0233; $$) serves beer brewed on-premises and hearty food. The Cottage (523-2544; $$–$$$), associated with the Mirror Lake Inn, delivers good burgers and pub fare at the edge of the water. Locals all swear by the food at the Caribbean Cowboy (523-3836; $–$$).
Every Wednesday, January through March, the Alpine Cellar (532-2180; $$) restaurant has a Bratwurst Night with traditional German fare and oom-pah-pah accordion music. Wash it all down with your choice of 80 different beers.
The Charcoal Pit (523-3050; $$–$$$) has been charbroiling steaks and chops for 25 years. Veranda (523-3339; $$), next to the Crowne Plaza, has a great view to go with fine food. Milano North (523-2003) on Main Street, featuring a high-end Italian menu, opened in September.
Desperados (523-1507; $–$$) is the choice for Mexican food in town, while The Fireside Steakhouse (523-2682 $$) serves up a great filet. Mykonos’ (523-1164; $$–$$$) has good Greek fare. If you are headed for the Olympic Arena, Nicola’s On Main and the companion Grille 211 (523-4430) are located just across the street.
On the way into the village, there is a trio of good spots lined up in a row. The Downhill Grill (523-9510 $-$$), Lisa G’s (523-2093, $-$$) and The Station Street Grill (523-9963, $-$$) are all solid choices for lunch or an informal evening meal. On the other side of town, Simply Gourmet (523-3111) on Saranac Avenue offers 46 deli-style sandwich choices on-site or as take-out.
No ski town is complete without an inexpensive Italian restaurant featuring pizza—Mr. Mike’s Pizza (523-9770; $) takes care of that craving. Original soups and arguably the best burger in town can be found at Cameron’s Restaurant (no reservations; $–$$$). For sushi lovers, Aki Sushi (523-5826, $$-$$$) on lower Main Street is the choice. The Black Angus chili at Jack Frost’s (523-9200) across from the Olympic Arena gets high marks.
For breakfast (all $-$$), head to the Downtown Diner (523-3709) on lower Main Street or The Black Bear (523-9886) across from the municipal parking lot. Soulshine (523-9772) on Main Street is the place for bagels while The New Leaf (523-1847) by the Hilton Hotel is a fine choice for coffee, a muffin, and the morning paper. HoJo’s (523-2241) on Saranac Avenue offers a popular buffet, and if you are looking for a great graze on Sundays, The Hilton (523-4411) is a long-time local institution for Sunday brunch (reservations required in holiday periods). If you are heading for Intervale or Mt. VanHoevenberg, try Chair 6 (523-3630) on Route 73. Two new breakfast places in town are Cuppa Jo (523-3479) on Saranac Avenue and Blues Berry Bakery (523-4539) next to the town movie theater on Main Street. If you sleep in and get a late start, the soups and fresh bread at Saranac Sourdough (523-4897) on Saranac Avenue are worth a try.
In Wilmington, the upscale and excellent Hungry Trout (946-2217; $$) specializes in, you guessed it, fish. In the same neighborhood, is the Wilderness Inn (946-2391; $$–$$$), where steak lovers will want to try the sandwich on the bar menu.
Lake Placid is large enough to generate its own heat as a nightlife center, drawing not only out-of-town vacationers but also locals. Because Whiteface is separated from the town, however, most of the apres-ski action is in the base lodge. Steinhoff’s and R.F. McDougall’s, at the Hungry Trout, just down the road from Whiteface are also good for an apres-ski drink.
Wise Guys, on the side street next to the speed skating oval, is a sports bar upstairs, a dance club downstairs, and serves pub grub into the wee hours. Most of the other nightlife action centers around the main hotels. Roomers, next to the Best Western, the Dancing Bears Lounge at the Hilton and Zig Zag’s are popular spots along Main Street. The Lake Placid Pub and Brewery, with its downstairs companion P.J. O’Neils, is on Mirror Lake Drive, up from the speed-skating oval, and offers outstanding pub fare to go with its award-winning Ubu Ale.
Those looking for a quieter, more mature nightspot should stop by The Cottage, across the street from the Mirror Lake Inn. The fire is always on, and the sunset view of the lake and mountains is postcard perfect. It also serves good burgers.
Some of the larger hotels centered around the town of Lake Placid tend to be of the modern franchise variety. An important exception is the Mirror Lake Inn (523-2544; $$–$$$$; right), a traditional lodge right on the lakeshore, and probably the finest overnight in the area. The New England-style exterior continues inside with antiques, chandeliers and mahogany walls. The inn also offers such modern amenities as an indoor pool, whirlpool, sauna, health spa, and game room. The two restaurants include one of the best in town, with candlelight dining overlooking the lake.
The new guy in town is The Whiteface Lodge (800-523-3387; 523-3400), an elegant inn on Saranac Avenue built to replicate the classic Adirondack style. It features rooms and suites, an indoor/outdoor pool, spa, movie theater, ice skating rink, and fine dining in the vaulted ceiling, beam-buttressed Great Room. It also features its own shuttle service to downtown and to Whiteface.
If snowshoeing or cross-country is your main interest or if you just want to experience the traditional Adirondack Lodge atmosphere, try the Lake Placid Lodge (523-2700; $$$$). However, the main building, including the highly regarded dining room, was destroyed by fire in December 2005 and the resort is expected to remain only partially open until restoration is completed in mid-2007.
A little more affordable are the Mt. Van Hoevenberg B&B and Cabins (523-9572; $$), with an outdoor sauna and a game room, and Trail’s End Inn (576-9860; $$ ), in Keene Valley, which has a hot tub.
The Lake Placid Crowne Plaza (800-874-1980; 523-2556; $–$$) in the town center is Lake Placid’s largest hotel (209 rooms). All rooms have refrigerators and microwaves, and some have a Jacuzzi tub and fireplace. It has a large indoor pool, whirlpool, sauna, complete health club, 20 km. of cross-country trails and two restaurants, including The Veranda, one of the area’s finest.
The Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort (800-582-5540; 523-3353; $–$$$; above left) is on the lake with spectacular views and has an indoor pool, hot tub, sauna, weight room, and racquetball courts.
With similar amenities, the Lake Placid Hilton Resort (800-755-5598; 523-4411; $$–$$$), has two indoor pools and private balconies for each room with a view of the lake. The hotel’s bed-and-breakfast package is quite popular.
There is also an excellent Howard Johnson Resort Inn (800-858-4656; 523-9555; $$–$$$) in town.
Skiers on a budget should try The Alpine Cellar (523-2180 $$), Art Devlin’s Motor Inn (523-3700), Town House Motor Inn (523-2532), Alpine Air Motel (523-9261; $–$$$), Placid Bay Inn (523-2001; $$) Econo Lodge (523-2817; $–$$), and Wildwood on the Lake (523-2624; $).
Those who want to stay right by Whiteface should try the Ledgerock (800-336-4754; 946-2379; $-$$), a family-owned and operated 19-unit motel, right opposite the entrance to the mountain in Wilmington. The view from the spacious rooms looks just like the trail map. The Hungry Trout (946-2217; $$-$$$) and Huntington’s (946-2332; $-$$), opposite the entrance to the mountain are good as well.
Accommodations Legend: (double room) $$$$–$200+; $$$–$141–$200; $$–$81–$140; $–$80 and less.