Lake Placid is an adorable town in upstate New York. It’s most famous for hosting the 1980 Winter Olympic Games, including the men’s hockey “Miracle On Ice.”
There are many winter activities to participate in — from bobsledding to snowshoeing to skiing to ice skating, there is sure to be something for everyone. And if you need a break from all the snowy fun, Lake Placid has a cute downtown area to browse.
Out of all East Coast ski destinations I’ve visited, I found Lake Placid to be the most vibrant and active. Plus, decorations during the holiday season make the place look magical!
Things To do:
There are a lot of activities in Lake Placid during the winter. My family went on many snowy adventures and very much enjoyed these experiences.
The Olympic Sites Passport is a convenient thing to purchase if you’re visiting Lake Placid. Tons of activities and one-time entries are included with this passport. You can take a gondola ride, explore the Olympic museum, and/or skate at both the indoor and outdoor ice skating rinks, including a speed skating oval. The passport also offers admission to the ski jumping events, to the ski jump lift, and more. Other discounts include the bobsledding experience as well as the skeleton experience.
My kids were most excited about trying bobsledding, led by our professional driver and brakeman on the half-mile point on the Olympic bobsledding track. Thank god they just made the minimum height requirement of 48”! It is an expensive activity, but worth the money. Since we had purchased the Passport, we were entitled to a 20% discount on the cost. As we were unsure about the weather, we did not make a reservation and instead showed up the day of.
We arrived at 9:30 AM. People with prior reservations get first preference before the walk-ins. We were given a buzzer. We waited for a turn till 10:45 AM. As soon as the buzzer rang, we went to the designated area where we were told to go to the Escalade car waiting outside. The car took us to the top of the track, where we put on our helmets and got ready for a run. I decide to go with my daughter first, and my husband and son joined us later. It was indeed a fast ride! It was so fast I could see my helmet banging on the side. I could see how someone can get hurt. It took about 50 seconds to reach the end of the track. The speed was 50 miles an hour, or at least that’s what the sign said when we reached the end. Honestly, I think it was a fun ride. Since it didn’t go up and down a lot, like a roller coaster, I didn’t get nauseous. My son and my husband also made the same time: what a fun, exciting and unique experience.
Additionally, you (or your kids) can get their pictures taken with historical bobsleds from various Olympic years and teams, like Canada and Germany.
For the most daring of travelers, there is also the Skeleton Experience. Going at 30 miles per hour while lying on your stomach didn’t spark our interest, but it’s definitely an experience worth noting.
Dog Sledding on the frozen mirror lake
We stayed overlooking Mirror Lake, which looks gorgeous all frozen over. Right outside our hotel, my kids had tons of fun skating around the lake. We just had to try dog sledding during the visit!
My kids adored the dog sledding experience. This is a winter activity in Lake Placid you cannot miss! At just $10 per person, it is an inexpensive experience. The line can get long, so be sure to dress warmly.
Dogs zoom across the beautiful snow-covered Mirror Lake during the ride. The ride is short at just three minutes, but at least we all can stay that we have tried dog sledding!
Stars on Ice
During our visit, we attended the show Stars on Ice at Lake Placid’s Olympic Center. Many famous Olympians performed in the show, including Ice Dancing Gold Medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White. My daughter enjoyed this event tremendously. She was singing along the music and enjoying the beautiful lights and the spectacular moves. I took pictures, but they do not do justice to these graceful performances!
We also got the opportunity to see the ski jumping event at the ski jumping complex. The tickets were free with the Passport. It was cold night, with the temperature of 10°F. We drove to the parking lot and then waited for the shuttle to take us to the complex. It took at least 25 minutes. Did I tell you how cold it was? Luckily we were dressed in warm clothes from head to toe. Plus, the complex had fire pits and its lodge served much-needed hot chocolate, as well as other treats.
We managed to get a front row seat to see the young athletes compete. It was so much fun watching the young competitors nailing 60-to-90 foot jumps. Being at this event made us realize how fun it would be to see the Winter Olympics in person. The event was followed by fireworks — an exciting and unique experience.
For upcoming events, check here.
The Olympic Museum
America’s Olympic hometown, Lake Placid, hosted two Olympic Games and is the birthplace of North America’s first Winter Olympics. So it is definitely worth checking out the Olympic Museum, located in the same building the famous Miracle On Ice hockey game took place.
The Olympic Museum is small, but you could easily spend 45 minutes enjoying the exhibits, reading the stories, seeing the history, and experiencing the excitement of the Games! There is an excellent collection of artifacts from various Olympic Games like ice skating costumes, team uniforms, mascots, various bobsleds, medals, torches, and more. Photos and memories of various Olympics games can make you nostalgic!
I enjoyed looking at Olympic torches and medals from different Olympic games. My kids enjoyed trying on helmets designed for activities like Luge, Skeleton, and Bobsledding and getting their pictures taken.
One-time entry is included with the Olympic Sites Passport.
The Olympic Museum often changes their temporary exhibits. Check their website for what’s current.
There is no shortage of ice skating in Lake Placid. Some popular ice skating destinations include the frozen Lake Placid, the Olympic Center’s indoor rink, and the outdoor speed skating oval.
Speed Skating Oval: One-time entry is included with the Olympic Sites Passport. You can combine the Olympic Museum visit with a visit to the Speed Skating Oval, as they near each other. This location is the unique rink where USA Men’s Speed Skater Eric Heiden set an Olympic record 50 years ago.
Indoor Public Skating: This indoor rink is located inside the Olympic Center, right near the Olympic Museum. My kids enjoyed skating at this rink for hours.
Whiteface Mountain is one of the tallest mountains in New York State and has the highest vertical drop East of the Rockies. It’s no wonder the Winter Olympics were held here in both 1932 and 1980!
We enrolled the kids at the kid’s program during our visit. My daughter got sick on the first day of our trip, but the Whiteface staff were very accommodating in changing our dates.
We dropped the kids off at the program the next morning. It was a little complicated to find the location to fill out the waiver. Unfortunately, I was not very impressed with the facilities. The mountain is huge, and my kids enjoyed skiing there.
You can take the gondola ride to the top of the Whiteface Mountain. It is a 15 minutes ride which will take you to a spectacular view of Lake Placid. You can ski down from the top. My kids found the ride bumpy. It was a windy day, but they still skied down to the bottom. If you are not planning to ski, you can simply enjoy the view.
If you buy the Olympic Sites Passport, then a one-time entry to the gondola is free.
While the kids were at the Whiteface Mountain skiing program, my husband and I tried out snowshoeing. The shoes were free to borrow from the hotel. We enjoyed exploring the beautiful hiking trail. Snowshoeing is surprisingly a good workout! It was the first time we tried snowshoeing and it won’t be the last.
There’s a lot to do just on the main street — exploring great restaurants, art galleries, cafés, cute boutique stores, gift and souvenirs shops, and more. It’s like an Après Ski scene.
There are many cultural activities offered on the Main Street, including free concerts, firepits with s’mores making, and free hot chocolate.
WHERE TO STAY
The Whiteface Lodge
Whiteface Mountain has its own lodge. In fact, it is Lake Placid’s only all-suite resort. While Whiteface Lodge is fifteen minutes from the ski resort, it offers a free shuttle service to and from town as well as the ski resort. This gorgeous property is super kid-friendly, featuring a kids’ club for ages 3-10. Plus, there is an evening children’s program called the Sunset Club, from 6-9 PM. It’s the perfect opportunity to keep your kids occupied should you want some adult time.
There is also an indoor swimming pool, a family game room, and an ice cream parlor on-premise. Out of all the resorts in Lake Placid, this is by far the most kid-friendly.
Mirror Lake Inn
We stayed at a beautiful property situated in front of Mirror Lake called the Mirror Lake Inn. The room we stayed in featured charming decor, with a magnificent lakefront view and a covered balcony with a sitting area.
Mirror Lake Inn is family-owned since the 1930s. In fact, the family of Olympian Andrew Weibrecht has been the hotel’s caretaker since 1976. Guests can take pictures with the both of Weibrecht’s Olympic Medals at the front desk. Andrew himself is often spotted at the Inn and will happily sign autographs. Plus, there is a (pricy) option to personally ski with him.
Mirror Lake Inn has various gorgeous rustic rooms and common areas one can sit and relax in, with stunning fireplaces and Adirondack-style furniture, including a library. Guests can borrow games from the front desk to play around the resort.
Plus, the Inn maintains a private ice rink right on Mirror Lake. Guests can skate or play ice hockey here for free. They also have an indoor pool and a huge hot tub that my kids enjoyed playing in with their friends.
Throughout the day, guests have access to tea, coffee, and hot chocolate as well as chocolate chip cookies — which my kids happily took advantage of! They also host a very elegant tea time at 4 PM each day.
The hotel features three waterfront/
Where To Eat
The most casual of all the hotel’s eateries is The Cottage Restaurant. The Cottage is right on the waterfront, in our case, the frozen lakefront. This restaurant looks beautiful and lively during the holiday season. The Cottage serves both breakfast and lunch during the day. The menu of the restaurant is casual and delicious, serving pub-style favorites with a twist. The chili, nachos, pulled pork, and bean burger were my favorites. It also has a wide range of warm cocktails, perfect for a cold winter night.
We really enjoyed dining at this restaurant, sitting near the wood-burning fireplace while watching kids play ice hockey outside on the frozen Mirror Lake. For less cold days, there is also an outdoor seating area with fireplaces. I highly recommend visiting this restaurant for the views as well as the food. The Cottage Restaurant is rated one of the top Après Ski spots in North America by the readers of Ski Magazine. I am sure it is spectacular in summer too!
The Taste Bistro & Bar
The Taste Bistro & Bar is another restaurant in the main building, featuring live music on Friday and Saturday nights. The bar is usually bustling and a great place to try
The View Restaurant
The most formal of all the hotel’s restaurants is The View. We made a reservation before we even arrived at the hotel, since it is consistently rated the #1 place to eat in Lake Placid on TripAdvisor. According to the hotel’s website, The View is Lake Placid’s only AAA Four-Diamond “Exceptional” restaurant and has received the Wine Spectator’s Dining Guide Award for Excellence for more than a decade, with an impressive wine list. Its dishes are made with local ingredients sourced from Lake Placid farmers as well as the hotel’s own vegetable and herb garden.
Was it worth the hype? The food was good, but a bit overpriced. The service was impeccable and the presentation was fantastic, but we preferred the food at The Taste Bistro better than the food at The View.
Smoke Signals is a popular barbecue restaurant in Lake Placid, noted for their smoked meats and homemade dishes. They do not take reservations, so there was a long wait during the busy holiday season. We went there for lunch one day. The food is delicious, but the portions are enormous — so order carefully!
Smoke Signals also has live music on certain days. The atmosphere is relaxed, and it also has a lakefront patio that might be great during summer.
Big Mountain Deli and Creperie
This casual, cash-only spot is a great place to grab a sandwich or try a savory or sweet crepe from their extensive menu. This place can get busy during breakfast and lunch, so be prepared for a wait.
Black Bear Restaurant
Though listed online as an American restaurant, Black Bear features a lot of Italian cuisines including meats, seafood, and pasta. The waitstaff was also Italian! The food was great, and it’s a lovely restaurant to try out with your kids.
Emma’s Lake Placid Creamery
If you are an ice cream fanatic and don’t mind eating it in the cold, you should definitely check out Emma’s Lake Placid Creamery for ice cream and milkshakes.
With dog sleds passing families on ice skates, kids toasting s’mores on a bonfire, and tons of snowy fun, Lake Placid is the perfect winter town. Visiting during the holiday season just made it even more spectacular.
See Also: Family Weekend at The Sagamore Resort