Lake Placid is the place that always excites me. I am the type of person who loves to explore new destinations rather than go back to the same site twice. However, we cannot stay away from visiting Lake Placid when we have an opportunity.
In this post, you can learn everything you need to know about Lake Placid. Whether traveling with kids or up for a romantic getaway, you can have an unforgettable time here!
Where is Lake Placid?
Lake Placid is a small village in New York State’s Adirondack Mountains, sharing the lake’s name in the same area. It is about a 5-hour drive from NYC and Boston and 2 hours from Vermont and Montreal to give an idea. If you are not interested in driving, you can take the train by Amtrak from NYC, Albany, or Montreal. Bus service is available by Adirondack Trailways from NYC. There is also a small airport in Lake Placid, but you will need a private airplane for that. For directions and COVID-related travel updates, you can click here.
Where to Stay While Visiting Lake Placid
While you can have a great time on the actual Lake Placid, the most fun happens on Mirror Lake. That is where you should stay. It may sound a bit confusing, but the downtown area of Lake Placid village is located around another, smaller lake called Mirror Lake.
In terms of accommodations, you will find that most of the options are around Mirror Lake. There are a few lakeside hotels with beach access. There are more just around the lake, but without beach access. While beachfront hotels have the added benefit of beautiful lakeside views and access to (crystal clear) water activities, the other hotels are located just around the lake on the main street. Because the downtown area is small (and super cozy), all of these hotels are within walking distance from the shops and restaurants. A few rental options are available if you cannot get a beachfront hotel but want to do water activities. Here is just one option that is located right off the main street.
Top Things to do While Visiting Lake Placid
Beach and Water Activities
Depending on the level of your interest in water activities, there are two ways to approach this. If you are interested in motorboat activities, you can visit Lake Placid (the lake in the village). Motorboat activities are not allowed on Mirror Lake. However, if you are more interested in non-motorboat activities (boards/peddle boats/kayaks), Mirror Lake is where you can satisfy all of your needs. For us, Mirror Lake has always been the go-to place. It is peaceful, scenic, and spotless.
Explore the Main Street
Whether you are visiting Lake Placid for a weekend or longer, exploring the downtown/main street area is necessary. This charming little village offers many local shops and restaurants in pedestrian-friendly streets.
Shopping here is a great way to support small businesses during these challenging times. You can find everything from handmade gifts and crafts to art and apparel. Our daily activity was to stroll up and down the street to explore nearly every shop and restaurant and take in lake views. My top recommended bookstore and snacking stops on Main street are bookmarked for you below.
- The Bookstore Plus – a beautiful small bookstore has a great selection of books for both kids and adults.
- Emma’s Lake Placid Creamery – lines of people waiting to get a scoop tells you everything you need to know about this place. There is nearly always a waiting line to get in and that is because their milkshakes and ice creams are incredibly delicious.
- Adirondack Popcorn Co – it is almost impossible to miss this place due to the smell of fresh popcorn and kettle corn that is constantly being cooked.
- Adirondack Chocolates – if you are in the mood for tasty handmade chocolates, this is definitely the place for you. They also work as a wonderful gift option to stack on!
Visit Lake Placid Olympics Center
In addition to charming streets, water activities, and natural adventures, Lake Placid holds an important place in US Olympics history. It was the center of the US Winter Olympics twice in 1932 and 1980. Therefore, visiting the Olympics Center is a must-do activity when staying in Lake Placid. The Olympics Center is located within walking distance from the Main street attractions. Reservations are highly recommended, especially if you consider visiting during the COVID regulations.
We did not make reservations due to our toddler’s sleep schedule and ended up waiting in line for around 30 minutes. However, the line went fast for us, running after Matthew. I had the pleasure of getting up on the winner podium for the first time! The experience inside was very satisfying and exciting.
Besides the museum, you can also visit other Olympic sites. You can take a gondola up to the base of the ski jumping towers or visit the Olympic Sports Complex. For booking and more information about the activities, you can click here.
Drive Up to the Whiteface Mountain
Whiteface Mountain is the highest peak of the Adirondacks and the fifth-highest mountain in the USA. It is a popular destination for Skiing and hiking. The view from the summit is incredible. Whiteface Mountain is elevated at the 4,865′ high. It is high enough to see the Green Mountains of Vermont, the White Mountains on New Hampshire, and the skyscrapers of Montreal on a clear day. Is not it amazing how much one can see from one spot?! I am wow-ing every time we reach on top of this mountain. If you are visiting Lake Placid, you should find time to make this stop.
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There are two ways to get on top of the White Mountain Summit.
- Drive. Driving up the summit area is very easy and accessible because the roads are in good shape. You can drive all the way up to just below the summit and use a manmade passageway to go up to the top of the summit, which is only a very short hike away.
- Hike. If you are up for more adventure and are not traveling with a baby, (like us) you can choose one of the trails to hike up the top of the mountain. We have never done this hike but have heard that it is somewhat challenging due to elevation increase but the views at the end make it all worth it!
If you are going during the winter and like Skiing, it is one of the top skiing destinations in the Northeast.
The Wild Center
If you are looking to spend time in nature but are not up for a challenging hike, visiting the Wild Center may be for you. Besides the “wild walk,” a fun walk that takes visitors up a trail of bridges to the treetops of the Adirondack forest, the Wild Center is home to otters, porcupines, owls, snakes, and fresh-water fish that you can see through their exhibit halls. You can also go inside a bald eagle nest, which is pretty incredible. For more information, follow the link here.
A short hike at High Falls Gorge
Like the Wild Center, and to a lesser degree, the High Falls Gorge offers an opportunity to go for an easy and short hike in nature (and see some waterfalls). This place has one advantage because it is very close to the mirror lake (about a 10-15m drive). However, while many websites will recommend a visit here, in our experience, it has not been anything overly exciting. If you are still interested, more information is here.
Places to Eat When Visiting Lake Placid
Lake Placid may be a small village, but there are many options to choose from when it comes to food. Before I get into specifics, I want to mention that most places do not take reservations, so sometimes, there is a waiting line. This was especially true during our visit during COVID times. However, lines are manageable, and restaurants are close to each other, so you can check out availability and move on without losing much time.
- Generations Tap & Grill. It is owned by the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort. The menu, like the building design, is influenced by German culture. We found this place to be the most accommodating during busy times.
- The breakfast club. Mornings start early in Lake Placid and hungry tourists quickly gather around this place to get the most important meal of the day. I really recommend this place. They have a great breakfast menu choice and everything is very delicious! honestly. If you get there early enough to beat the lines, you may even be lucky to get the window seat overlooking the lake. Besides breakfast, they also offer lunch. If you want to start your day just right, they serve bloody mary and mimosa too. I personally opted with a cappuccino along with my food and it was beyond delicious!
- Luna Restaurant. Another restaurant located on the main street that offers lunch and dinner options. Whether you are craving French, American, or Italian, you can find your dish here. We enjoyed our time here even though there were long wait lines for dinner. The restaurant has a super cute entrance to pose for some pictures, is very cozy, and has friendly staff.
- Soulshine Bagels. New York City might have the best bagels in the World but this small place in Lake Placid offers some top quality bagels to its customers too. If you are up for a quick grab & go breakfast (or lunch), this place is for you. Their bagels are soo good my mouth is watering while typing this. (For the records I had egg and cheese on a whole wheat bagel).
- Ere’s Pizza. There are a few options for Pizza on Mirror Lake, but this place offers the best views along with really good pizza. It has outdoor seating that overlooks Mirror Lake and a small park where we spent the late evenings. It really is a great place to it and the atmosphere is just right for lakeside dining.
- The Cottage. This small waterfront spot is one the restaurants of the Mirror Lake Inn open to the public. The Cottage is located a tiny bit off from the main street and is open for guests between lunch and dinner hours. The views from the restaurant are incredible and the atmosphere is very relaxed. We enjoyed our dinner here a lot.
- Dancing Bear Restaurant. If you are looking for a casual time at a bar or want to watch a game and enjoy your beer, this is the place for you. They have good menu options and great drinks you can pick from.
- Steak. If you are up for some steak you can visit either Upstairs Grill Steak & Seafood or Black Bear Restaurant. They are both pretty casual and, but Black Bear offers a more adult-friendly ambiance. Both restaurants also offer more than just steak. Feel free to check out their menus online.
If you do not like the above-listed options, there are more options. All you need to do is take a stroll down the main street (or google!). Main Street truly offers surprisingly many opportunities for such a small village.
When to visit Lake Placid? What to Pack?
Lake Placid is a destination for all seasons. You can enjoy beautiful foliage in autumn, experience one of the best skiing destinations in the Northeast during winter, hike your boots off in Spring (or at any other time), or keep yourself busy with lake activities in summer.
However, the ideal time to visit this village is between July and August when the weather is warm enough to enjoy outdoor and lakeside activities. The town truly comes to life during the summer months. It is lively with tourists escaping to get some fresh (and cooler) mountain air.
When packing for a trip to Lake Placid, make sure you bring your camera and extra layers! It can get chilly even during the summer months. It gets colder in the colder months, where the temperature can quickly drop below 0. During our visit in August, the temperature even dropped in the low 60s, and we ended up buying a few hoodies (not that I am complaining, they were cozy).
If you are looking for a similar guided trip to the mountains, check How to Plan a Family Getaway in Stowe, Vermont Guide.