If your idea of a quick getaway involves skiing, ice skating, and an Olympic bobsled run, then Lake Placid is the place for you. Located in the beautiful Adirondack Mountains in Essex County, Lake Placid was home to the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games.
I had visited before during the summer to attend the Lake Placid Horse Show, but it looked entirely different in the December cold. The drive on Route 73 heading west from Interstate 87 has stunning scenery with frozen lakes. Once you reach the main part of town, Lake Placid resembles a cozy ski resort complete with shops, eateries, and of course, Olympic history. It’s a place you can easily explore on foot, get a good meal, and find some creative souvenirs.
On my first day in Lake Placid, after the six-hour car ride, I was eager to get out and stretch my legs. Long Island had been enjoying a bit of unseasonably warm weather for December, so it was jarring to be greeted by the frigid cold upon arrival. But I packed well, and brought lots of layers. After a quick meal at a Howard Johnson’s, I suited up (and I do mean suited up!) for some outdoor ice skating on the Olympic Oval. I’ve mentioned before on the blog that prior to being an equestrian I was a figure skater and competed regularly, so I am comfortable on the ice. Since this is a speed skating oval, I felt it was only fair to try my luck on speed skates. Not having a pair of my own, I rented them from Lake Placid Skate Shop located conveniently across the street from the Oval. The co-owner, Christie, was very helpful and got me set up with a pair of speed skates in my size. A competitive figure skater herself, she manages the store and is a great resource if you are new to skating (thanks, Christie, for the tip about keeping your legs close together on the ice!). Within minutes I was on my way, laced up my skates, and tried to glide gently on the ice like the speed skaters were doing in their practice next to me. No pressure there! I was momentarily mesmerized by how effortless these speed skaters looked on the ice, and instantly reminded that these were not the figure skates to which I was accustomed. Feeling like a beginner all over again, I remained slow until I felt steady enough to gain some speed. It didn’t take long to get comfortable on speed skates, and once I was off, I spent the next hour trying to race the speed skaters (seriously!). It’s always a pleasure to get back out on the ice — and it was fun to try something new while getting a workout. As night fell, and the cold set in, it was time to trade my skates for snow boots and end my skating session. If you are considering skating in Lake Placid I highly recommend stopping at the Lake Placid Skate Shop. The owners were both wonderful and they will have you on your way in no time. Thanks again, Christie!
Naturally, after ice skating I found the nearest Starbucks and ordered a hot chocolate. It was the perfect way to warm up! The same evening Lake Placid held a fireworks show, so after skating and sipping my hot chocolate, I was off to the ski jump area to watch some fireworks. When I arrived, they were finishing up the jumping competition. It must be exhilarating to ski jump at night! The show was supposed to start at 7:30 p.m., but the fireworks didn’t begin until around 8 p.m. By then I was pretty cold, and tried to stay warm by some of the outdoor fire pits. Thankfully, the half-hour went by quickly and soon the night sky was lit with fireworks. I managed to get a few shots before it was over, and then I immediately ran to the car to warm up.
By the time I got to the hotel I was exhausted and ready for a good night’s rest. The next day was the last day in Lake Placid so I knew it would be an action packed 12 hours.
I woke up early the next morning and layered up…again! On the agenda was the bobsled run, which did not take reservations. Lake Placid was very busy this week with tourists, so I wanted to make sure there was space available. The run is located at Mt. Van Hoevenberg, the venue used for bobsled, luge, and skeleton during the 1932 and 1980 games. From the look of the parking lot, it seemed to be a popular destination that morning. Luckily I was able to get tickets for the 11 a.m. run. For some reason, the thought of careening 55 mph down an icy track was more exhilarating than frightening. I waited (somewhat impatiently) as 11 soon became 11:30 a.m. Finally my provided pager went off and an SUV arrived to take me to the top of the run. Less then 15 minutes later, I was fitted with a helmet and introduced to the bobsled team. The bobsled seats four people, which includes a driver and brakeman. I still was not nervous as I snapped a quick selfie in my helmet and one of the track in front of me. As we took off down the track the bobsled gradually picked up speed. After about ten seconds I realized this was not for the faint-of-heart. Going at 55 mph and hitting those turns is not as easy as it looks on television. I was glad the ride was less than two minutes to the finish line, because I was starting to feel like a towel in the washing machine.
After the bobsled run, and regaining my land legs, I was off to the 120 meter ski jump observation tower to take in some views of Whiteface Mountain. Depending on which lot you park in, you can either take the elevator or the chairlift to the top. From there, take the glass enclosed elevator to the tower, or take another flight of stairs and find yourself amongst the ski jumpers. The views from up there were breathtaking, and I was lucky enough to be there as the final round of ski jumping was commencing. I watched as the ski jumpers climbed to the very top and sat perched awaiting their jump. It was an incredible sight — which would have been made better if my fully charged Iphone would have stopped dying from the cold!
By the time I took the chairlift back down, I was frozen and hungry. The Concierge at the hotel had mentioned a crêperie near by, and if you’ve learned anything from my posts, you know I love crêpes. I found my way to Big Mountain Deli and Crêperie on Main Street and was drawn to their sweet and savory menu. It was a small, crowded place with limited seating, but I was determined to try a Lake Placid crêpe. I ordered a Nutella and strawberry crêpe and an Avalanche, a vanilla latte that rivaled anything I’ve had at Starbucks. As I waited for my food, a table opened up, which I quickly snagged and sat at while I enjoyed my latte. Moments later, my crêpe was ready to be savored. The strawberries were warm and blended with the Nutella. It was a great late-afternoon meal.
After some sightseeing I browsed the shops in town. I thought about visiting the Oval for another speed skating session, but I was exhausted. By 4 p.m. I was back on the road heading home to Long Island. I was sad to say goodbye to Lake Placid, but eager to shed a few layers. I never thought I would look forward to 30 degree weather!
So, if you are looking for a getaway, and don’t mind the cold, here’s what to do in 36 hours in Lake Placid.
– Big Mountain Deli and Crêperie: Perfect for breakfast or lunch. Be prepared for a wait as it is a small establishment, but feels cozy and the food is good. Order one of their coffees for an extra treat.
– Delta Blue: Connected to Northwoods Inn, it’s a great pub-like place to grab a burger and shoot some pool.
– Great views of Whiteface Mountain from almost anywhere in Lake Placid.
– Saranac Lake is a short drive and hosts a lot of activities.
– If you are interested in history, stop at John Brown’s Farm and Gravesite, the final resting place of the abolitionist John Brown.
– Figure or Speed Skate on the Olympic Oval: Even if you aren’t Eric Heiden, this is a lot of fun. Make sure you check their website to find out what times they offer public and speed skating sessions. And if you need to rent skates, visit Lake Placid Skate Shop.
– Mt. Van Hoevenberg Bobsled Run: Again, this is not for the faint-of-heart, those who do not like roller coasters, or those with motion sickness. If you are an adrenaline junkie then by all means, go for it. It’s a short ride and a bit pricey, but you can brag to your friends that you went down an Olympic bobsled run. Make sure you bring sunglasses, as snow and sun will be in your eyes. If you have back and/or neck issues, I would advise avoiding this as you will endure jostling at high speeds.
If bobsled doesn’t do it for you, try luge or skeleton. Let me know how that goes, because it is something I won’t be trying!
– Ski Jump Towers: It’s worth a trip to see the sky jump ramps and take a ride to the observation tower for terrific views of Lake Placid. Plan it right, and you could watch a competition!
– Skating on Mirror Lake: This beautiful lake is perfect for skating. Just check with the locals to make sure it is completely frozen first! I took a walk on it and watched skaters enjoying the vast open ice.
– Ski/Snowboard/Hike/Cross Country Skiing: This is the perfect place to give any of these sports a try.
– Make sure you bring lots of layers! I practically lived in my hat, scarf and gloves for the whole trip.
– Buy an Olympic Sites Passport. It’s $32, but worth every penny. The passport gives you discounts on activities and allows you one-time admission to certain facilities for free!