By Anna Sandler
My family recently spent a few great days in Lake Placid, New York, deep in the heart of The Adirondacks. While perhaps best known as a winter destination for skiing, it was a fantastic place to visit with the kids in the summer. It would be gorgeous to go back in autumn and experience the fall color as well. Lake Placid is about a four hour drive from our area, with the majority of the trip via I-87 which is semi-scenic, and when we went, thankfully without much traffic.
My husband and I visited with our son (age 3) and our daughter (age 7), and while we would have liked to have taken advantage of the incredible hiking, we kept our visit low-key and enjoyed the town of Lake Placid and some of the most easily accessible attractions.
Lake Placid was host to the Winter Olympics twice (1932 and 1980) so there are a lot of Olympic-related attractions like the Olympic Jumping Complex, which has sweeping panoramic views. For the more adventurous there are Luge Rides available (ages 13+, 48 inches or taller, $65), as well as Bobsled Rides (ages 7+, $60-70 depending on rider’s age).
If you plan on visiting several Olympic sites and participating in multiple activities, consider purchasing the Olympic Sites Passport which grants access to all of the Olympic venues including the Olympic Museum, and also provides discounts on various Olympic activities. To learn more about all of the Olympic sites in the Lake Placid area visit Whiteface.com.
The town of Lake Placid is lovely, and there is a charming Main Street with stores, restaurants and beautiful views of Mirror Lake.
For lunch, we had truly one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten in my entire life at Big Mountain Deli (2475 Main Street), which has a choice of 46 sandwiches, each named for one of the Adirondacks 46 tallest peaks, all of which are over 4,000 feet. I had a Number 17, Saddleback, which was smoked salmon, applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato and cracked pepper mayo. All of their breads are homemade, and includes a gluten-free option, too.
For dinner we returned to Main Street and had a delicious meal at The Brown Dog Café and Wine Bar, which features an incredible menu and extensive wine list as well. My husband ordered the filet mignon, which he said was delicious and perfectly cooked. Other menu stand-outs included the pulled pork spring roll appetizer and the salmon with lump crab salsa.
The Brown Dog has gorgeous views of Mirror Lake, as do many of the places on the Main Street.
The Brown Dog Café does not have a printed children’s menu, but here’s a tip: you can ask the waiter for some kid-friendly suggestions, and he will provide plenty of options from chicken fingers to pasta.
For breakfast, I highly recommend Chair 6 (which is also open for lunch and dinner). We had a wonderful breakfast, including a smoothie made with seasonal fruit, their specialty sweet potato pancakes and Adirondack Maple Syrup.
The Lake Placid area has plenty of hikes for all levels and abilities (here’s a list of hikes that are all under 2 hours), but for amazing views with minimal effort, consider ascending nearby Whiteface Mountain, the fifth highest mountain in the Adirondacks, in your vehicle via Veteran’s Memorial Highway (fees for car and per passenger). At the top, there’s the Castle Café restaurant, and the option to walk the last few hundred feet to the summit.
When I asked a parks employee if my three-year-old could make it to the top and he replied “as long as you don’t mind carrying him,” we decided to take the elevator to the summit, which was a pretty amazing experience itself. To reach the elevator, you walk through a long tunnel into the core of the mountain, and then take the elevator ride up, which is the equivalent of 27-stories.
At the top there were still plenty of rocks for the kids to scramble over and feel like they went on a hike, and despite our cheating ways, we got a photo by the peak’s elevation sign.
You can also reach the top of Whiteface Mountain via Gondola (price varies by age $14-20; ages 6 and under are free). The temperature is significantly cooler at the top of Mt. Whiteface, so be sure to bring a sweatshirt even in summer.
Beyond the town of Lake Placid, I highly recommend a family vacation to the entire Adirondacks region of New York. There’s plenty more to see and explore, and there are miles and miles of gorgeous mountain views that are a completely different landscape to what is found here in New Jersey, with its peak elevation of 1,803 feet – which just happens to be our family’s next destination.