12 Top-Rated Things to Do in Lake Placid, NY
Lake Placid, a village in upstate New York, has become synonymous with winter. Maybe it's because it has hosted two Winter Olympics in its history, or maybe it's because it is surrounded by the snowy High Peaks of the Adirondack Mountains. Whatever the reason, Lake Placid truly is a winter wonderland.
That said, it is also one of the best places to visit in the United States to enjoy the outdoors year-round. Spring, summer, and fall each hold a little bit of magic and surprise, meaning there is no bad time to explore the beauty of Lake Placid, NY.
The village of Lake Placid sits right on Mirror Lake. This is where the activity happens year-round, whether it's water skiing in the summer, or ice skating over the thick ice in the winter. But Lake Placid, NY is also the gateway to hundreds of miles of hiking trails, waterfalls, ski slopes, and historic sites. The village itself is rather charming, too – home to beautiful hotels and lodges, restaurants, and cafés.
Are you ready to get to know this part of Upstate New York? Check out our list of the top things to do in Lake Placid.
1. Olympic Sites
Lake Placid is gorgeous all year-round, but it's particularly popular in the winter, and has been for more than a century. In fact, Lake Placid became the winter sports capital of America when it hosted the Winter Olympics in 1932, and then again in 1980.
Today it's possible for visitors to take a stroll (or a bobsled run) down memory lane when they visit Lake Placid. Since 1981, the destination has been working to carry on the legacy of the great winter sports capital by keeping the Olympic sites alive and open for tourism. Five attractions are available for tourists to explore, from the bobsled run – open to guests, by the way – to the skiing and snowboarding on the slopes of Whiteface Mountain. You can also test your snow legs on the cross-country skiing routes at Mt. Van Hoevenberg, or try the new high-speed gondola at the Olympic Jumping Complex.
Finally, be sure to stop by the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, just a few steps from the Herb Brooks Arena, where the iconic Miracle on Ice hockey game was played out. The museum has photographs, videos, and memorabilia that help tell the story of the two Olympic Games that were held in Lake Placid.
2. Whiteface Mountain
Overlooking Lake Placid is one of the tallest peaks in New York State, and one of its most prominent ski destinations – Whiteface Mountain. One of the main hubs of activity, no matter the season, Whiteface Mountain is where outdoor enthusiasts go when they need a challenge.
The mountain has 90 trails, with more than 22 miles of skiing and riding. The longest run is the Wilmington Trail, which is just over two miles. In the summer, the mountain becomes a hub for downhill mountain biking and hiking. If you're just in it for the views, you may want to take a cruise on the Cloudsplitter Gondola, which gives a beautiful view of the mountain's peak.
Or gas up the car and head out on the Veterans Memorial Highway. This scenic drive winds its way up the mountain giving way to some spectacular photo ops along the way - including a castle. From the castle, it's a 20-minute hike to the peak of Whiteface Mountain, and the views looking out over the lake and endless sea of Adirondack peaks is something worth treasuring.
3. High Falls Gorge
One thing you can count on in Lake Placid is that you'll never lack for outdoor things to do. High Falls Gorge is one of the most beautiful spots in all of the Adirondacks. The gorge is a 22-acre privately owned nature park with trails that bypass four waterfalls, all at the foot of Whiteface Mountain. The best thing about the park is that it is gorgeous in any season, so there really is no bad time to make a visit.
Spring and summer are probably the best times to visit, when visitors can take the half-mile walk along the gorge, which follows the AuSable River and has views of the four falls: Rainbow Falls, Climax Falls, Mini Falls, and the Main Falls. In fact, spring is the best time to see the falls because of the winter runoff.
Summer is when the park opens its glass-floor walkways, which give an even more bird's-eye view over the gorge. The truly determined can also visit in winter, though the paths will be covered in snow. Still, the hushed sounds of the forest make for a very special visit, and you may be one of the only ones on the trails.
Address: 4761 NY-86, Wilmington, New York
4. Mirror Lake
The village of Lake Placid sits on Mirror Lake, so in many ways this is the focal point of the entire community. It will be obvious at first sight. The 124-acre lake is the anchor of the entire community. Stroll through the village and watch the light bounce off the waters as paddlers gently glide across its surface. Standing on the edge of the lake, you'll be able to see the panoramic views of the Adirondack High Peaks. No matter the time of year, Mirror Lake is always humming with activity.
In the warmer months you'll see joggers making their way around the 2.7-mile route. It's a great path for walking and biking, as well. On the water, guests and locals will be canoeing, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, and, of course, swimming.
But the activity doesn't stop when the lake freezes over. With ice that's consistently a foot thick, Mirror Lake becomes a prime winter sports destination. From the two-mile long ice track to pond hockey, and a toboggan chute, Mirror Lake becomes one of the busiest spots in Lake Placid during the winter months.
5. Brewster Peninsula Nature Trail
Visitors to Lake Placid will not lack for outdoor adventure. Being outdoors is one of the top things to do in Lake Placid, NY. In fact, lining the banks of the lake, the Brewster Peninsula Trails are a collection of access roads and newly packed trails that are available year-round, whether you're interested in running, hiking, fishing, snowshoeing, or skiing.
The most popular trails include the Corridor Trail, the Lake Shore Trail, the Boundary Trail, and the Ridge Trail. These are relatively easy trails that are less than a mile in length each, but each one has its own unique marks. The Corridor Trail, for example, has access to the other three trails, while the Lake Shore Trail runs along the shore of Lake Placid. The Boundary Trail is the longest of the four, while the Ridge Trail climbs up to a - you guessed it - ridge.
In the winter, all trails are open to snowshoeing and skiing, making this network one of the most popular places to play year-round.
Address: Peninsula Trails, Lake Placid, New York
6. Mount Jo
Of the many peaks in the Adirondacks, Mount Jo is one that's great for families and beginner hikers. But just because the trails swing more moderate doesn't mean you're missing out on epic views. Mount Jo's summit ledges have some of the best views of the High Peaks in the Adirondacks.
Mount Jo has two trails: the Short Trail and the Long Trail. The Short Trail is 1.1 miles and the Long Trail is 1.3 miles. The summit of the mountain is 2,876 feet. From the summit, you'll have spectacular views over the High Peaks, as well as Heart Lake. We recommend making the trek any time of year, but the fall is particularly impressive, when the entire valley explodes in crimson colors.
In winter, Mount Jo becomes a great spot for snowshoeing. You'll easily be able to summit the mountain on snowshoes on the Long Trail, but the Short Trail may require snow spikes, as it gets steeper in some sections.
If you're up for the challenge, Mt. Jo is part of the Lake Placid 9'er hiking challenge. The challenge includes nine of the region's smaller peaks, giving a challenge to hikers who aren't as die-hard as those who look to scale the 46 High Peaks, which max out above 4,000 feet.
7. ADK Aquatics
Getting out on the water is one of the top things to do in Lake Placid, NY, and ADK Aquatics helps you do it in extreme fashion. For more than a decade, ADK Aquatics has been a local outfitter for wakeboarding, waterskiing, tubing, and all kinds of water sports lessons. Available for both adults and kids, ADK Aquatics have instructors that will teach everyone in the family.
If you're interested in one-on-one wakeboarding lessons, the staff is on hand to help. They have experience teaching everything from the basics to helping experienced riders level up. Of course, if you'd rather do none of the work, you can always kick back in an inner tube for a relaxing pull around the lake.
If you prefer something a little more tranquil, ADK Aquatics also has private boat tours, whether you want a sunset sail or a sightseeing tour of the fall foliage. The multicolored mountains look particularly beautiful from the water.
Address: 35 Victor Herbert Road, Lake Placid, New York
8. Cascade Cross Country Center
To come to Lake Placid in the winter and not ski is to miss so much about what makes this place so special. If two Winter Olympics weren't enough to convince you that this is the winter capital of America, perhaps some time on the slopes will. For this, be sure to visit the Cascade Cross Country Center, a full-service Nordic shop in Lake Placid. It operates as a ski outfitter, restaurant, shop, and bunkhouse.
The ski center features 14 miles of groomed trails. The lodge features a ski shop and rental facilities. The ski center also connects to the Olympic trails at Mt. Van Hoevenberg. The bunkhouse offers trailside lodging for 30 people in five bunk rooms that sleep from two to eight. A common area has a TV, Wi-Fi, microwave, and toaster, among other basic amenities.
Address: 4833 Cascade Road, Lake Placid, New York
9. John Brown Farm State Historic Site
For those who don't recognize the name John Brown, allow us to give a brief history lesson. John Brown was a famous abolitionist who helped lead an assault on the U.S. Arsenal at Harper's Ferry in 1859. The purpose for the assault was to use the captured weapons to help liberate the slaves in the south. Brown was imprisoned after the assault in Charlestown, Virginia, and hanged. His body was returned to North Elba, near Lake Placid, and buried at his home.
Today his home serves as a museum and memorial to the man who sacrificed his own life to help save others and right tremendous injustices. In addition to the museum, the historic site features hiking, a picnic area, trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, and period reenactments to help set the scene and tell the history of the time.
Address: 115 John Brown Road, Lake Placid, New York
10. Sleigh Rides
If you're coming to the winter capital of America in winter, you may as well make the absolute most of it and hop in a horse-drawn sleigh. Sleigh rides are all the rage in Lake Placid come winter time, and make a perfect day trip for both couples and families.
Country Dreams Farm is one of the outfitters in Lake Placid that runs sleigh rides for guests in the winter. Snuggle under one of the warm blankets as you tuck into the spacious sleighs. Listen to the sounds of bells as the sleighs careen through the snow-covered pine trees. The sleigh rides with Country Dreams Farm also visit the historic John Brown Farm, and provide passengers with piping hot mugs of hot chocolate. What could be more winter wonderland than that?
Address: 260 Pellerin Road, Plattsburgh, New York
11. Algonquin Peak
The area surrounding Lake Placid is home to seriously impressive peaks. Algonquin Peak is one of the top reasons hikers like to come to this part of New York: it's the second highest peak in the state. Located in the MacIntyre Range in the town of North Elba, Algonquin Peak also happens to be one of the 46 High Peaks in the Adirondack Park.
The mountain has many trails that carve their way to the top, but the shortest route is a 4.3-mile hike that leads to the former site of Marcy Dam. Don't be swindled by the short distance in hike – there is a lot of elevation gained to get to the 5,114-foot summit. Note that about 2.6 miles in, you will find a beautiful waterfall.
The trail is quite the challenge, so newbies may want to sit this one out. If you are planning to hike in winter, then snowshoes and spikes are the most useful tools to have in your tool belt. Oh, and plan on much colder temperatures as you inch your way to the top.
12. Adirondack Scenic Railroad
If you want to steep yourself in the natural beauty of Adirondack Park, you may want to consider a trip with the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. The train runs routes on 80 miles of restored track between Utica and Old Forge on roughly a two-hour journey. Scenic rides include one-way trips from Thendara to Utica, a round trip to Otter Lake, and Thendara to Big Moose.
The scenic journeys are wonderful for people who want to soak up the beauty from the comfort of a cushy seat. The vintage train coaches feel like a ride back in time through the history of New York State. Settle into your seat and watch the cities transform to leafy landscapes, peppered with towering peaks. You can even opt for breakfast or lunch on the train in its dedicated Cafe Car.
The company offers special themed rides, from fall-foliage-dedicated trips to those centered around magic. You may even find a route that reenacts old-time train robberies. Spring means it's time to ride along with the Easter Bunny. And during Christmastime, you won't want to miss the trip to the North Pole on the dedicated Polar Express train. Adirondack Railroad is always dreaming up new themed itineraries, so be sure to check their calendar of events to see the latest happenings.