Close your eyes for a minute and picture this. A large, calm lake surrounded by soft mountain peaks. Further off, you can see the darker shadows of larger mountains in their distant hues of blues and green. The air is warm as the sun touches your skin, but underneath lays that edge of chill that gives testament to chilly mornings and brisk nights. The breeze blows in the fragrance of pine needles, wood smoke, and that clean mountain air that has attracted visitors for decades, whether seeking cures for tuberculosis or escapes from city life.
As you sit in silent meditation, around you swirl the sounds of motor boats trolling by, the gentle slosh of a canoe or kayak paddle, the wild splashes of a rambunctious dog as it races into the water after a ball, and the joyful shrieks of children playing on the shore.
In the center of town, sitting by another lake, the cars motor past and the visitors clomp down the sidewalk, in search of food and drink. Nearby you hear music playing from a local restaurant or pub. The smells of barbecue, fried fish, and freshly-made waffle cones fill the air. Different from the peaceful lakeside meditation you found nearby, but no less welcome at the end of the day.
These are the sights, sounds and smells of Lake Placid. Lake Placid is a small alpine village in the Adirondack Mountains in Northern New York. Lake Placid is part of a tri-lake area, which also includes Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake and their surrounding communities.
Lake Placid is the most famous of the three lakes, as it was host to the Winter Olympics not once, but twice, in both 1932 and 1980. It is still popular among winter-sports enthusiasts, but it is also a lovely place to visit when it is warm, which is why we spent a summer weekend in Lake Placid. The downtown village has a quaint (although touristy), European ski town feel, with nice shops and good restaurants.
Where to Stay in Lake Placid: Lake Placid Inn Review
Adirondacks Tourism arranged for us to stay at the Lake Placid Inn. From the pictures on the website, we were imagining a quaint, quiet inn nestled next to a stream in the woods. And it is, but that stream is also next to a major road that runs into town.
The good news about this is that it is possible to walk to town if you are adventurous, or at least walk across the street to the ‘Dack Shack for something to eat. But the bad news is, you are also going to hear some traffic going by. Between the location and the motel set up with exterior entrances, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I first pulled in, yet when we stepped inside our unit, I was more than pleasantly surprised.
The Lake Placid Inn has been recently redone and I want to hire their decorator because I’m totally down with their style. Reclaimed wood plays a big role, from the accent wall in the bedroom to the hand-hewn kitchen table and benches. I had no intention on cooking during our stay, but the cute little kitchen was fully stocked with stainless steel appliances and all the accessories I’d need, in good repair and good order.
I always appreciate a suite that gives separate spaces for parents and kids. Even in our one bedroom, the foldout couch in the living space offered extra sleeping space, plus the Lake Placid Inn also offers two-bedroom units for larger families.
I also fell in love with the large bathroom with a huge glass shower, only you couldn’t spend much time in there because of a pretty persistent sewer smell. Everything looked clean and was working properly, but I did see some other reviews for the end units complaining about this also, so a location close to the street may actually be better.
You may also want to use their outdoor fire pit and barbecues. I know at least one night when we came home there was a group outside enjoying a campfire. Despite the negatives, I’d stay here again as it was so convenient to town (just a five minute drive) and the units really were so spacious, comfortable and stylish.
Where to Eat in Lake Placid, New York
If you know our family, you know that food is always important. Since we were just in town for two days, we didn’t have a lot of time to check out all the options, but we did find some real winners. For more ideas, you may also want to check out this post from Tips for Family Trips.
The ‘Dack Shack is the perfect place for a hearty mountain breakfast before heading out to the mountains to hike or ski. They have omelettes, french toast, pancakes and some very interesting Eggs Benedict selections. Hannah tried the pesto, mozzarella and charred tomato Eggs Benedict and gave it a big thumbs up!
If I lived closer, Smoke Signals is the kind of place I’d frequent all the time. Yes, the decor is modern and earthy with lots of wood and light. And yes, they have a great beer selection, including a few of their own. And yes, they have live music up front by the bar. But the food…wow the food.
Everything is made in house from the smoked brisket to the homemade barbecue sauces. I tried the Adirondack BBQ Tacos and because I couldn’t pick just one meat, I got a sample of each of the pulled chicken, sliced brisket and burnt ends. All were good but that sliced brisket was out of the park.
After a long drive up, Hannah was hungry and opted for the humongous Flatliner Burger, which is piled high with pulled pork, mac n cheese, bacon, fried onions, pepper jack cheese and BBQ sauce. When the waiter asked her how old she was, I thought he was going to recommend she try something else. But instead, he told us a story about how an eight year-old once finished this burger, to the astonishment of the men who had order the same at the neighboring table.
Our service was excellent and the view from the back porch overlooking the lake was the icing on our cake, since we didn’t actually have any room for cake, as you might imagine.
Lake Placid Pub
Since we had the unfortunate coincidence of being in town on the same weekend that Lake Placid was hosting a major rugby tournament, it wasn’t easy to get a dinner reservation in town. (Tip: check the event calendar before you go!) Luckily, the wait at the Lake Placid Pub wasn’t too long, possibly because it is just on the outskirts of the downtown area.
At the Lake Placid Pub, you aren’t going to find the style or the service that you find at Smoke Signals, but it is decent pub food grub with some unique twists. First off, if you like craft beer, you’ll enjoy making your way through their selection of house-brewed beers. Next, if you like things spicy, try Joe’s Fire Fish. It is your traditional fish and chips, but the fish is tossed in buffalo sauce for a nice kick.
What to do in Lake Placid
Update: we returned to Lake Placid in the summer of 2020 and have some more suggestions on things to do in Lake Placid in the summer, along with more advice on where to stay and eat.
If you are going to Lake Placid in the summer, your main activities are going to be hiking and boating. I’d definitely recommend picking up a good guide book for family-friendly hikes, like the Best Easy Day Hikes Adirondacks, because it isn’t easy to figure out where to go.
As we were driving around, we would see a ton of cars by a trail head and wonder, what’s up there? How steep is it? How long will it take? If we had more time there, I would have done some better planning in advance. But if you are looking for places to go near Lake Placid, here are my top picks.
The Wild Center
The Wild Center in Tupper Lake is a must-do for families visiting the Adirondacks. Inside, you will find a well-done natural history museum with live animals and plenty of hands-on exhibits. Outside, there are walking trails and a fun area to build your own fort, but the real draw is the new(ish) Wild Walk.
It is a wooden boardwalk across the treetops with beautiful views of the Adirondack Mountains. This isn’t a treetop adventure course, but more of a naturalist walk with plenty of educational opportunities and hands on activities.
You can climb across the spider’s web, visit the eagle’s nest, climb into a hollow tree, and see how the birds, animals and insects of the forest live.
Lake Placid Olympic Sites
Even in the summer, you can appreciate the winter Olympic Sites. At the Olympic Center you can see where the “Miracle on Ice” took place; visitors can try bobsledding, horseback riding or mountain biking at the Olympic Sports Complex; or go tubing at the Olympic Jumping Complex.
We stopped at the Olympic Jumping Complex but only the steeper tubing runs were open when we arrived, and you needed to be 13 to ride (bummer 😉 ). We had fun watching a few people whiz by as we took the chairlift up to the top. From there, you can take an elevator to the top of the old Olympic ski jump tower.
The views from the top are spectacular and just looking at that ramp down gives me a whole new perspective of this sport.
A weekend in Lake Placid is really only long enough to scratch the surface. I’m already looking into renting a lake house next year and staying for a week. When I do, we’ll come armed with our hiking guide and boat rental and enjoy all the natural beauty that surrounds this charming town.
Note: Our stay was hosted by New York Tourism and the Adirondacks Convention and Visitor’s Bureau for purposes of this review. All opinions are my own.