Summer Escape to: Lake Placid and Beyond
By the Editors of Farewell Travels
Photo ©Nancie Battaglia
Lake Placid means different things for different people. For some, it's all about skiing. For others, it's Summer with a capital "S." And for many, it's where not one, but two Winter Olympics took place. Indeed, this town and surrounding area in the northern Adirondacks is an active outdoor paradise year round.
Here's what you need to know.
Bagging peaks. Be sure to pack hiking boots when heading this way in the summer. You are in the heart of the Adirondack High Peaks wilderness here. There are 46 summits above 4,000 feet to set your sights on (as well as many under 4,000 feet). You can take your pick--from a simple family day hike up Mount Jo (elevation 2,876 feet) to New York’s highest peak, Mount Marcy (5,344 feet), which is 15 miles round trip. Hikers who summit all 46 are called 46ers. Trail maps and information available at Adirondack Mountain Club center just outside of town.
Views, views, views. Take mountains, add some lakes and you’re going to have some great views. But where do you find the best ones? If you’re not out hiking, take the easy way up. The 8-person Cloudsplitter Gondola takes you to the top of Little Whiteface where you’ll have far-reaching views of Lake Champlain and New York’s tallest peaks all around. Or follow Veterans Memorial Highway to the summit of Whiteface Mountain (4,867 feet). At the top, you’ll find a castle built from native stone.
And for a different view all together, at the Olympic Jumping Complex, ride the chairlift to the ski jump's base, hop in the glassed-in elevator and glide up to the top of the 120-meter jump. Standing in the footprints where ski jumpers start their descent, you’ll see just how steep these jumps are.
Through the woods on wheels. One way to explore the miles and miles of shady Adirondack trails is by mountain biking, which is hugely popular in these parts. Stop by High Peaks Cyclery where you can rent mountain bikes for $25 a half day/$35 full day as well as find information on routes.
On the water. Whether zipping around Lake Placid on water skis or paddling kayaks on Mirror Lake, getting out on the water is what summer in the Adirondacks is all about. Want to be as close as possible to it? Stay on Mirror Lake at High Peaks Resort or Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa (the photo on the left is the latter's dock on Mirror Lake) or (if traveling without kids), choose the Lake Placid Lodge on the banks of Lake Placid.
A thrill and a half. Scary? Yes. Exhilarating? Yes. Do it once, do it again? YES! You can feel what many call the “champagne of thrills” by shooting down a half a mile of track in a bobsled (in summer, on wheels instead of blades) along with a professional driver and brakeman. Want to get an idea of what it’s like? Take a look at the video on this page.
Lunch for the trail. One of the best things about hiking is having a great sandwich to look forward to. You’ll find it at Simply Gourmet among a choice of 46 sandwiches (named after the 46 high peaks of the region). Most popular one is # 1 – the Marcy – roast turkey, cranberry horseradish sauce, cheddar, apple and cracked pepper. The favorite of the Canadian Bobsled team? #27. The Big Slide, which is made with ham, salami, bologna, provolone, banana peppers, roasted garlic, mayo or oil and vinegar. Peruse the menu in advance online which is considerably easier than trying to read the chalkboard list.
Reservations a must: Designed with Great Camp-era furnishings, Kanu at the Whiteface Lodge is the setting for sophisticated, hand-crafted meals—lots of local fish, lean game dishes and salads in summer—prepared in an exhibition kitchen. Each menu item has a wine pairing suggested by sommelier Scott Waller, who is always on hand to assist guests if they’re interested in other possibilities.
Drink this. Don’t leave town before trying the Ubu Ale at the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery. The flagship beer was catapulted into microbrewery fame in 2000 when White House interns accompanying Hillary Clinton (they came here while she was considering her run for the Senate) discovered it. Upon hearing the story of Ubu’s namesake (a patron’s friendly chocolate lab) they decided to bring some back for President Clinton as a gift. After he tried it, the President had three cases shipped to D.C. for a party.
Celebs in your midst. Keep your eyes peeled at all times. That guy roller-skiing along? Might just be Tim Burke or Lowell Bailey, both Olympic Biathletes, both from the area. Lake Placid is a magnet for Olympic athletes who come to train in the world-class facilities year round. Others to be on the lookout for: bronze medalist Andrew Weibrecht (whose family owns local Mirror Lake Inn) and luger Chris Mazdzer (from neighboring Saranac Lake) plus freestyle skier Hannah Kearney, bobsledder Steve Holcomb and Nordic combined skier Bill Demong.
Hotel kids love. There must have been a kid on the committee at the Whiteface Lodge when they planned what features to have. An old-fashioned ice cream parlor, a private movie theater (with free popcorn nightly) and a game room complete with a two-lane bowling alley are among the offerings here. On top of that…s’mores around the bonfire every night! This and a packed-week of off-the-charts fun activities at the lodge’s Kamp Kanu for ages 3-6, 7-10 and 11-14 – day and night.
Ultimate romance: Where does a travel editor choose to go on her honeymoon? The South of France? The Greek Islands? Try New York State. A short distance away from Lake Placid, you’ll find The Point, on Upper Saranac Lake, which is where Susan Farewell, editor of FarewellTravels, went on her honeymoon.
Built in 1933 as a country getaway for William Avery Rockefeller, it is constructed of massive logs and stone. There are just 11 guest rooms, each with a fireplace and museum-quality Adirondack furniture. Pictured here is the Boathouse “room,” which encompasses the entire top floor of The Boathouse and is 1200 square feet. Days at The Point are spent leisurely paddling about in canoes or soaring around the lake in a classic mahogany Hackercraft, hiking, mountain biking, fishing or heading off the grounds to go horseback riding, play golf and explore the Adirondacks. Meals are always special affairs, served family style in the Great Hall or in the privacy of your room. As you go through your day, deliberating over whether to settle into a rocker or do a bit of hiking, you can’t help but feel spoiled, having the staff see to it that all the details are taken care of.
Photo Credits: Top two photos by ©Nancie Battaglia, who can be reached via e-mail; dock shot courtesy of Mirror Lake Inn; bobsled shot courtesy of ORDA; Ubu ale by Lake Placid by Lake Placid Pub & Brewery; and photo directly above, The Point.