Lake Placid With Kids: Top Winter Activities
Lake Placid is one of our favorite winter wonderlands. With the Sochi Winter Games on the horizon we headed there for Christmas. As long as you bring your thermals and the weather remains cold and snowy there is a lot of unique fun packed into this tiny Adirondack town.
Here are activities we recommend.
See The Olympic Sights
Lake Placid’s tourism centers on the Olympic Games it hosted in 1932 and 1980. And let me tell you, standing at the top of the ski jump or watching a skeleton rider shoot by you like Spiderman on a sled gives you new and profound appreciation for what these athletes do.
Tiny Traveler, now 6, seemed bored when we plied her with Olympic facts and history. She did start making up her own Olympic sports and asked about watching the games this winter, so the setting made something of an impression on her, but I think kids old enough to know Shaun White and Apollo Ono will be a little more wowed by it all.
A $32 Olympic Passport gets you a ride on the Whiteface Gondola (even if you don’t ski), a skating session on the outdoor skating oval, and visits to the Olympic museum, ski jumping center and sliding sports center.
The Passport also comes with discounts on Bobsled, Skeleton and Biathlon “experiences.” I can’t imagine trying Skeleton, but the Bobsled ride is a unique, if pricey one-minute thrill (see below). It surprised me how rumbling and noisy it is.
Try A Winter Sport
There’s almost no winter activity that I like better than gliding down the long stretches on the 400-meter speed-skating oval. It’s fantastic. But it’s so big it took TT almost an hour to scoot around twice (and then she was done). At night they often build a bonfire on the green in the middle to warm skaters’ toes.
Skiing at Whiteface is a mixed bag. There are longer, more challenging runs than you often find in the Northeast and it isn’t crowded. But it’s cold and windy enough to be nicknamed Iceface.
The ski school is good but expensive. They pushed TT just enough and her skills improved in just 2 days. A long, gentle junior slope is a nice segue from the bunny hill to bigger runs. But we paid $135 for a 90-minute class (with rentals). Most other “half-day” classes we’ve found are under $100 and for 2 hours. Moreover, even on a day when it was 9º they didn’t take the warm-up break other schools do. TT was a frowning popsicle when I picked her up at lunchtime.
There’s good cross-country skiing, too, but there wasn’t enough snow on the ground for us to do it this time around.
Visit the Gorge
Since I don’t ski, after I dropped TT and her dad at the slopes one morning, I drove one mile back toward town to High Falls Gorge. For $13 bought me entry to the Gorge, micro spikes to attach to my boots (the paths were solid ice), and a warm drink. The half-hour walk across trails, steps and bridges was impressive with tumbling falls, ice formations and icicle curtains creating an exotic landscape.
After my walk I warmed up by an outdoor campfire (with marshmallows on hand for toasting). Then I headed inside for cocoa. The lounge is cozy enough that after Rich and TT finished skiing in the afternoon we stopped in again to thaw out with a local beer.
Walk Around Town
Lake Placid’s main street is good for a stroll. TT liked the store windows, decked out for the holidays with an Adirondack touch. There are the requisite fudge shops and sporting goods stores. The Golden Arrow Hotel lobby has a close-up lake view and gingerbread houses that TT went back to visit three times. The Crown Plaza, where we stayed, has a spacious lobby with a big fireplace, panoramic lake view and good bar. They’re both good places to warm up.
Hit The Lake
If you’re lucky the lake will freeze while you’re there, becoming a public backyard for cross-country skiing, skating and hockey. There is a toboggan run that shoots screaming kids onto the ice, but it didn’t open while we were there. Dogsled rides that start behind the Golden Arrow are $10 per person. They seem fun from a distance, but when I saw how hard the dogs work, it discouraged me. TT liked walking on the lake but the ice is rougher than on a zambonied rink, so skating made her nervous (I loved it).
Ski towns are expensive and menus are ubiquitously heavy with steak and pasta. But there are plenty of good finds in this small town. Kids are welcome pretty much everywhere.
• Head to Lake Placid Brew Pub’s 3rd floor and you’ll find a kids playroom. TT was nearly too old for the toys on hand but she happily wandered off to check it out while we relaxed with impressive house-made beer (try the Ubu). The pub fare is better than average, too, with touches like homemade broccoli slaw.
• Our favorite meal was at the Great Adirondack Steak & Seafood Company, which brews it’s own very respectable beer. My lobstery mac & cheese and Rich’s prime rib were the right indulgence after a day outside. Prices seem steep but dinners come with a good salad, so skip the appetizers and leave room for their ample portions.
• The Brown Dog Café manages to be haute without being stuffy. When TT started to look tuckered out during dinner the waiter told us she was welcome to fall asleep on the couch a few feet away from our table and assured us she wouldn’t be the first kid to do so.
• For a cheap, informal lunch, try the snack bar alongside the indoor skating rink in the Olympic Center. It’s typical casual food, but this view of the skating oval comes free with your meal— pretty darn good!
Where do you head for a cold weather getaway?