an outdoor lovers paradise.
When I arrived at Moynihan Train Hall on a recent morning, coffee in hand, I was ready for yet another Amtrak adventure as Miss New York! I’d long been told about the many charms of the Adirondacks. I’d seen photos highlighting the beauty of Lake Placid. But I knew I had to experience this must-see New York State destination myself.
I hopped on an Albany-bound Amtrak train. My friend Jane picked me up and drove me the two and a half hours to Lake Placid. All along the way Jane and I chatted about our destination. I learned that Lake Placid was the home of both the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. It is also only one of two official winter Olympics training facilities in the United States (the other one is in Utah). Lake Placid’s identity is heavily connected to outdoor sports. With a population of roughly 2,500— a number I’m told swells in the summer months—the village hosts year-round sporting events. In the winter, there are World Cup events and other national competitions, covering a wide range of sports, including skiing, bobsled, luge, figure skating, and ski jumping.
Driving through the snow-covered Adirondack Mountains, I felt the altitude change and the air chill; frozen lakes and snow-covered fields whizzed by. As we entered Lake Placid, we slowly rolled down Main street: it looked like a Norman Rockwell postcard with darling local business fronts. a ski gear boutique, a movie theater, and chocolate shop nestled under holiday-movie-set sized icicles. It was hard to believe that somewhere this remote was only a few hours from New York City.
I arrived at the Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa, an expansive four-star property owned by the family of former U.S. winter Olympian Andrew Weibrecht. His bonze and silver medals are proudly hung in the gorgeous, wood paneled foyer. Glossy wood floors and a roaring hearth instantly made the Mirror Lake Inn feel like a hidden refuge from the rest of the world.
The bathroom in my cabin-like suite boasted a massive freestanding bathtub, which I promptly filled (of course) and relaxed in before dinner. In the evening, snow fell gently outside as we enjoyed our meal downstairs at The View. Jane noted that this is just part of everyday life here! Waking up to six fresh inches of snow at The Inn was business as usual; apparently, many locals even have snow mobiles parked in their backyards.
Waking up in a king -sized, plush white bed, with snow the very same color piled up at your window is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. After all, I’ve mainly lived in large cities. The silence of Lake Placid saturated the clean, morning air. I scarcely dared to move under my sheets not wanting to disturb the perfect stillness that seemed like it could only exist here. Luckily, the smell of fresh coffee wafting upstairs broke the spell, and I was one of the first guests in line for the breakfast buffet!
Snow is omnipresent in Lake Placid in the winter months. Snowplows are constantly at work, and remarkably the roads were never impassable. Over fresh coffee and toast, Jane described that many folks here are avid skiers and snowboarders. Whiteface mountain—one of the Adirondack’s high peaks— was a short drive away. I’ve never partaken in either sport in my life, still I was excited to take a gondola up to the top of the mountain to see what was in store for the many ski enthusiasts the famous trails attracted each year.
At over six million acres, the Adirondack Park is bigger than these five national parks combined: Grand Canyon, Great Smoky, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Glacier. The Adirondacks contain more than 1,500-miles of designated hiking trails, from the challenging High Peaks to serene strolls through the woods. Welcoming more than seven million visitors each year (more than the Grand Canyon), it’s no surprise the community is built around outdoor activity-driven tourism.
I didn’t visit the impressive Lake Placid Olympic Ski Jumping Complex. Built for the 1980 Olympic Games, and modernized and lengthened in 2021, they are the only jumps in North America to be used for both winter and summer jumping competitions. I will definitely hit this one-of-a-kind attraction on my next visit.
I’m told that summers in Lake Placid are also just as gorgeous, with fishing on the lake, hiking, mountain biking and kayaking every day. The locals generously share the space with visitors from around the world seeking access to the raw beauty of these famous national parks.
For dinner, we sat down in the charming dining room at The Stagecoach Inn. I had the pleasure of meeting their chef, William Darrah, as well as being served by their immensely kind staff. Formerly a 19th century post office, this perfectly preserved inn boasts two beautiful hearths, a cozy dining room and full bar with signature cocktails. There is even a controlled bonfire in the back surrounded by chairs. I highly suggest you snag a fleece blanket, free of charge, from the front desk! I was even regaled with a ghost story by my server. The Stagecoach Inn could also be a fantastic choice for your stay in Lake Placid, especially if you were looking for easy hiking access from your suite. In my opinion, it might also be the perfect upstate wedding venue You can rent the entire inn for your special celebration.
This community has kept the spirit of the 1980’s Olympics, the scene of the famous ‘miracle on ice’—when the United States beat the former Soviet Union in ice hockey – alive and well. I explored the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, home to numerous artifacts, (including a silver medal famously left behind by a Russian player, rumored to have been angry over this historic loss against a rag-tag team of young Americans) and featuring interactive exhibits, innovative displays, and North America’s second largest Winter Olympic artifact collection. Kids of all ages browsed and played alongside me, decked out in tiny snowsuits and fuzzy little hats – bobbing and weaving throughout the exhibits.
Perhaps my favorite part of the trip was visiting the home of abolitionist John Brown. Not far from town is the gravesite and farm of a key figure in American history. The perfectly preserved cabin of Brown is located beside his widely visited gravesite. Our tour guide, Brendan, was incredibly kind to show us around though our request came in last minute! He took us through the life, tragic death, and incredible impact on the pre-civil war revolutionary. The floor boards were original to the home, and I couldn’t help but to stoop over and touch them – to think Frederick Douglas famously visited and dined in this home and walked these very same floors astounded me.
Lake Placid’s commitment to history, and community experiences for those visiting is both extensive and inspiring.
Throughout my visit I met and spoke with folks from all walks of life. From lifelong skiers who settled down here to be close to the mountains; to local business owners who greet every tourist with an easy-smile. More than anything, I seemed to meet newlyweds! Honeymooners and young couples sharing quiet words in front of fireplaces and laughing together as they piled into Subarus and CRV’s headed up the mountain. Amid a rapidly changing world Lake Placid and its surrounding communities have managed to retain an insulated idyllic lifestyle. The strong sense of community was ever-present during my visit. Jane, a local herself, could name the owner of every restaurant and inn.
Lake Placid, nestled in the beautiful Adirondack Park, has managed to maintain a respect for the simple things that make life good: nature, community, adventure and innkeeping. Combine this with the ever-present spirit of the Olympic games and you have a special town worth visiting all year round.
For more information about visiting The Adirondacks, go to The Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism/Lake Placid CVB website or call 518 523 2445.
Since Amtrak’s Adirondack service is currently not running north of Albany, take Amtrak to Albany-Rensselaer Station (ALB). You might be eligible for discounts through the See New York and Save 15% discount or New York Winter BOGO for Midweek Travel through February 28, 2023.
Enterprise provides car rentals right at the Albany-Rensselaer Station and it takes approximately 2.5 hours to drive to Lake Placid. Click here to reserve your car. Enter “Albany-Rensselaer Train Station” for the Pick-up and Return Location and enter “NYTRAIN” under Corporate Account Number for a special New York By Rail discount. You can also call Enterprise’s Albany office at 518-427-3893 to make your reservation.
Amtrak has taken several initiatives to ensure the safety of its passengers. They have committed to adding social distance signage and much more.