Typically, a town with “lake” in its name makes a great summer-season destination. And Lake Placid is no exception. But winter—winter is when the village, home of only the most famous US sports moment of all time, really comes alive.
While the 1980 winter Olympics may have been what put Lake Placid on the map (if you don’t know what we’re talking about, Google “Miracle on Ice” immediately), the village of just over 2,000 people has taken the fame it garnered more than 40 years ago and run with it. In a typical year, visitors can get the full Olympic experience—skating on Herb Brooks Arena and the Olympic Speed Skating Oval, cross-country skiing and bobsledding at Mount Van Hoevenberg, downhill skiing at Whiteface Mountain, venturing to the top of the iconic Olympic Jumping Complex, and getting a dose of US sporting history at the Olympic Museum. At press time, some of these facilities were closed due to construction ahead of the Winter World University Games, which are coming to Lake Placid in January 2023. Visit lakeplacidlegacysites.com for more info on what’ll be open in winter 2022.
But don’t let a little construction (signs featuring a moose in a hard hat and face mask posted around town read “Pardon the dust, perfection in progress”) get in the way of your ultimate Lake Placid winter getaway. Before you drive north until they start speaking French on the radio, book your stay at one of the area’s many hotels or Airbnbs. The Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa (mirrorlakeinn.com) and Whiteface Lodge (thewhitefacelodge.com) are widely regarded as the town’s crown jewels, with the former located right on the shore of Mirror Lake and the latter on a private plot just outside of downtown. Another convenient option is the High Peaks Resort (highpeaksresort.com), whose three hotels offer luxury lodging to rival the aforementioned resorts as well as more affordable (and dog-friendly) rooms. High Peaks boasts four pools—two indoor, two outdoor—for full-year family fun; free, rentable outdoor recreation equipment (including skates, skis and sleds); the coziest lobby imaginable (fireplace, chess boards, home-baked cookies and all); an onsite spa and salon; and Dancing Bears, a rustic-chic restaurant and bar (get the fried Oreos).
While you could eat each and every meal at Dancing Bears—it’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily—you’ll probably want to expand your culinary horizons beyond the hotel. For coffee creations, eggs Benedicts and more boozy, brunchy cocktails than you’d be able to fit into a whole week of breakfasts, check out The Breakfast Club (thebcetc.com), which just so happens to be a short jaunt across Main Street from High Peaks. For beer flights and the appropriately named “Those Pretzel Bites Though,” check out the ski lodge-esque Big Slide Brewery (bigslidebrewery.com). Pro tip: make sure you check and join the “waitlist” on the Yelp app before you show up. For the best BBQ in the North Country, hit up Main Street mainstay Smoke Signals (smokesignalsq.com). And for a sports bar vibe with a side of bowling, go to The Other Side Lounge, located at the charming, and charmingly named, Bowlwinkles (bowlwinkles.net).
Speaking of family-friendly fun (the bowling, not so much the cocktails), Lake Placid has it in high supply. Just make sure you bring your mittens…and hat, and scarf, and fuzzy socks and the absolute warmest coat you can get your hands on. Trust us—any notion you may have had of looking fashionable on your vacay will fly out the door as soon as you open it. When Mirror Lake freezes, you can hop on a real dogsled pulled by a team of huskies at Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort (golden-arrow.com), or a toboggan that’ll shoot you down a chute and across the ice. About 45 minutes away, Ausable Chasm (ausablechasm.com), which has been dubbed the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks, is a wonderland in winter; and in nearby Tupper Lake, The Wild Center (wildcenter.org) offers all-day animal viewing Friday-Sunday, and the Adirondack Sky Center and Observatory (adirondackskycenter.org) provides some of the best stargazing opportunities in the East.
Adventurous vacationers can also check out (adirondackwayfinder.com) for all sorts of outdoorsy opportunities (snowshoeing, cross country skiing, ice fishing and more), and for those who fall more squarely in the “city folk” category, downtown is home to plenty of adorable shops. Be sure to check out Imagination Station (imaginationstationlp.com), Where’d You Get That Hat? (wygthat.com) and Adirondack Popcorn Co. (adirondackpopcorn.com) for hours of browsing. Oh, and while you’re on your shopping spree, you’ll just have to stop at the USA Hockey Store (facebook.com/usahstorelp), where you’ll find all manner of Miracle on Ice apparel. Because, after all, even if you’re not a hockey fan at home, in Lake Placid, everyone’s a hockey fan.