Set amidst the soaring Adirondack Mountains, the lovely resort town of Lake Placid has long been a popular place to holiday. Synonymous with snow sports, having hosted both the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, the town is a treat to visit at any time of year. The summer months offer up all kinds of excellent outdoor activities.
Scattered about town are Olympic sites and sports venues for visitors to check out with many still used by elite-level athletes to this day. Aside from skating, skiing and bobsledding, other things to do in Lake Placid also include hiking, biking and enjoying the spectacular scenery in the nearby mountains.
With interesting historic tourist attractions and museums also on offer, Lake Placid has much more going for it than just its astounding array of winter sports.
In this post, we'll cover:
12. Speed Skating Oval
Located in the center of town, you can find the magnificent Speed Skating Oval, which is where countless Winter Olympic greats have won gold medals. Part of the Lake Placid Olympic Center, it is fun to skate around with important events and competitions still regularly held here.
One of the few outdoor rinks of its kind left in the country, the James B. Sheffield Olympic Skating Rink, as it is also known, was built in 1932 for the III Olympic Winter Games. Although it hosted ice hockey matches at that games, the Oval is particularly known for the 1980 edition, which saw American speed skater Eric Heiden win five gold medals.
Aside from watching an exhilarating ice skating competition, visitors can actually take to the ice themselves and skate alongside both Olympic hopefuls and enthusiastic amateurs alike.
11. Herb Brooks Arena
Next door to the Oval is yet another historic Olympic venue for visitors to check out: the Herb Brooks Arena. It was at this hallowed rink that the US men’s ice hockey team so famously defeated the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics. This thrilling game later became known as the ‘Miracle on Ice’.
Built for the same Olympic Winter Games, the multi-purpose arena is now named after the late Herb Brooks. Brooks coached the American hockey team to an unlikely first place finish against the much favored Soviets. Besides this unforgettable event, the rink has also hosted Olympic figure skating events and even a closing ceremony during the course of its history.
On tours of the arena, guests can hear about the famous games that have played out on the ice, and see interesting exhibits and memorabilia from the Olympics.
10. The Wild Center
Offering a fascinating insight into the animals and ecosystems of the Adirondacks, The Wild Center can be found just forty minutes drive west of town. Set in a scenic spot next to Tupper Lake, it has interesting exhibits, as well as exciting animal encounters and outdoor experiences.
Since 2006, the state-of-the-art center has been a firm favorite with locals and tourists alike, due to its informative exhibits on the local environment, and its stunning scenery and views. Aside from learning about the fauna and flora of the Adirondacks, guests can get up close and personal with owls, snakes and porcupines and watch educational films in its theater.
On top of this, visitors can also explore its gorgeous campus by taking peaceful canoe trips along its winding waterways, and venture up amongst the treetops on its interconnected system of platforms and bridges, known as the Wild Walk.
9. Ausable Chasm
Another fantastic place to visit if you want to enjoy the great outdoors is the awe-inspiring Ausable Chasm, forty-five minutes drive to the northeast of Lake Placid. Besides boasting incredible scenery, the gigantic gorge also offers all kinds of fun outdoor activities.
Formed over millennia, its craggy sandstone cliffs make for a striking sight as they rise dramatically above the rushing Ausable River. Impressively, the gaping chasm is the oldest natural attraction in the States, having astounded tourists since the 1870s.
Aside from basking in its breathtaking beauty and snapping photos of the wonderful falls and rock formations, visitors can hike along its scenic banks, raft along the river or scale its steep cliffs.
8. Brewster Peninsula Nature Trails
Closer to the center of town are the picturesque Brewster Peninsula Nature Trails. Located just ten minutes drive northwest of downtown, the series of shortish trails takes you through lush forests and over gently rolling hills, with divine views over Lake Placid also on offer.
In total, there are four trails to hike, run or bike along with the longest, Boundary Trail, only reaching one mile in length. Flat and well-marked, it takes you through pretty woodland, and also connects you to the other scenic trails.
While both the Corridor and Ridge trails attract people with their diverse landscapes and nature, the Lake Shore Trail is certainly the most popular due its phenomenal vistas over the reflective waters of the lake.
7. High Falls Gorge
Yet another of the spectacular natural sights to be found in the area is High Falls Gorge, which lies a ten minute drive northeast of town. Nestled at the foot of massive Whiteface Mountain, the captivating gorge and its series of four waterfalls are a treat to explore with spellbinding scenery and views wherever you look.
One of the most beautiful places in all the Adirondacks, the deep, dramatic-looking gorge cuts its way sharply through the surrounding rocks and forests. Standing out delightfully against its dark and craggy crevice are the white rushing waters of the Ausable River that tumble their way majestically down the mountainside.
Taking you alongside both the river and ravine is a terrific trail to hike along that offers fabulous views and photos of the falls.
6. John Brown Farm State Historic Site
The well-preserved John Brown Farm is five minutes drive south of the center. Now a State Historic Site, it protects the former home and final resting place of the famous abolitionist.
In 1849, John Brown moved to the picturesque spot amidst the Adirondacks to assist freed slaves in establishing a self-sufficient farming community. Tragically, he was imprisoned and hanged ten years later after leading an assault on the US Arsenal at Harpers Ferry in a failed attempt to incite a slave rebellion.
Besides seeing period pieces and personal belongings of the Brown family, visitors can explore the surrounding area’s idyllic trails and pay their respects at a moving memorial to the brave man.
5. Whiteface Mountain
Rising dramatically in the distance, Whiteface Mountain is one of the highest peaks in both the Adirondacks and state of New York. Set just half an hour’s drive northeast of town, it has a splendid ski resort to check out with countless outdoor activities that can be enjoyed during the summer months.
In winter, both locals and tourists alike flock to the massive mountain which towers to 4,865 feet in height and has over ninety trails for visitors to ski. Aside from enjoying its soft powdery snow, six terrain parks and incredible Olympic sites, guests can also take an unforgettable ride up to its summit on the Cloudsplitter Gondola.
The rest of the year you can hike or bike about the mountainside, enjoy a fun game of disc golf or drive to its lofty peak along the epic Whiteface Veterans’ Memorial Highway.
4. Lake Placid Olympic Museum
As the history and identity of the town is so entwined with both winter sports and the Olympics, no visit is complete without stopping by the Lake Placid Olympic Museum. Packed with interesting artifacts, exhibits and memorabilia, it is well worth visiting alongside the city’s other Olympic sites.
Located in the Olympic Center, the museum offers a fascinating look at the 1932 and 1980 Winter Games and their lasting legacy and impact on Lake Placid – one of the few places in the world to have hosted two Olympics. On top of educational exhibits and video highlights from the games, you can also see old Olympic torches, uniforms and equipment, among many other amazing artifacts.
Highlights include a ‘Fram III’ bobsled from the 1930s and photos and displays that document the heroic 1980 US men’s ice hockey team’s ‘Miracle on Ice’.
3. Canoe or Kayak on Mirror Lake
Aside from its superb skiing, snowboarding and skating, Lake Placid also has canoeing and kayaking to enjoy out on Mirror Lake. Its calm waters act as a focal point for the community which is strung out along its scenic shores.
Aptly named, Mirror Lake’s shimmering waters beautifully reflect the soaring Adirondack High Peaks and verdant forests that lie around it. While out on the serene surface of the lake, visitors can enjoy phenomenal views of the little lakeside town and its picture-perfect surroundings.
As no motor boats are allowed on the lake, it is always very calm and quiet to paddle about. Canoes, kayaks and paddleboards are available for rent from various points along its shores.
2. Bobsled and Luge Complex
Just ten minutes drive south of the center you can find yet another of the town’s awesome Olympic sites: the Bobsled and Luge Complex. Coursing its way down the side of Mount Van Hoevenberg, the steep, twisting track is fun to shoot down with Olympic athletes also sometimes to be spied training at the site.
Now a National Historic Site, the bobsled track was first built back in 1930 and has since been used for both the 1932 and 1980 Olympic Winter Games. Considered to be one of the most challenging tracks out there, it has twenty tricky curves for athletes to navigate with bobsled, luge and skeleton competitions taking place along the track.
If you’re after an unforgettable and exhilarating experience, you can book a bobsled ride. Shoot down the thrilling track, safely ensconced between a professional driver and brakeman.
1. Olympic Jumping Complex
The enormous Olympic Jumping Complex boasts the best views in the area. A couple of minutes drive southeast of downtown, it has an amazing sky deck that is reachable in just a few minutes on its high-speed gondola.
Towering to 300 and 400 feet in height, its two towers are perched atop a high hill with steep jumps and landing spaces dropping away below. Remarkably, the site has hosted a ski jump since 1920 with ski jumping competitions taking place here during the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics.
Aside from watching ski jumpers in action or zooming along a zipline, guests can also enjoy a scenic gondola ride to the top of the 400 foot-high tower. From its sky deck you can enjoy unparalleled views over Lake Placid and the Adirondack High Peaks off in the distance.