Lake Placid, NY is one of America’s most famous cities. This fame is traceable to hosting both the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games and some of the history surrounding the events that transpired during those events. Though it is not just the Olympic history that keeps Lake Placid on the forefront of many people’s minds – it is the activity-rich area that continually draws visitors from all over the world to this quite little town nestled in the Adirondack Mountains.
Lake Placid, NY can trace its founding back to the early 1800’s, when the area was settled to be a mining operation for iron ore. By the mid-1800’s, the population began to grow and also attracted two famous abolitionists: Gerrit Smith and John Brown. Smith purchased large plots of land in the area and attempted to colonize the area with free blacks. Brown was also sold a farm in the area and after his execution in Virginia in 1859, he was laid to rest at his farm in Lake Placid. During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, tourism and the concept of vacation homes were growing in popularity. The wealthy and affluent took to the Adirondacks for second homes and the associated beauty and recreational offerings in the area. This helped grow Lake Placid’s place as a vacation town in the minds of many people.
Lake Placid is one of many towns within New York State’s Adirondack Park. Adirondack Park is a 6.1 million acre state park and is the largest state-protected area in the lower 48 states. 45% of the land in the park is owned by the State of New York with the rest of the land being a mix of private property, towns, and undeveloped land. The area composing Adirondack Park has a rich history, dating back to the Native American tribes that lived in the area before European colonization of North America. The area also saw significant action during the American Revolution, including the battles of Lake George, Crown Point and Fort Ticonderoga. Today, Adirondack Park sees 7-10 million visitors annually and offers many activities for both the summer and winter seasons.
In the late 1920’s, Lake Placid’s preeminence as a vacation destination led to the awarding of the 1932 Winter Olympic Games. The town worked quickly in the subsequent years to build the required infrastructure needed to host the games. Remarkably, this was all successfully accomplished during the Great Depression. 48 years later, Lake Placid again hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 1980. The 1980 games played host to one of the greatest moments in American sports history: the US men’s hockey team’s defeat of the Soviet Union hockey team and subsequent winning of the gold medal several days later. The US team was composed of amateur college players while the Soviet team was composed of amateurs in name only – as it was well known that they were treated and trained as professional athletes. This event is known today as the “Miracle on Ice”. Lake Placid is also home to the United States Olympic Training Center, which is where many of today's American Olympic athletes live and train throughout the year. If you pay close attention in town, you may bump into one of the athletes!
Hosting the 1980 Games has engraved Lake Placid’s place on the map as a premier vacation destination. The 1980 infrastructure is still in place and in some cases has been enhanced and can be visited and used by the public. Olympic activity sites include the Ski Jump complex, Olympic Center, Luge/Bobsled track, and ski mountain (Whiteface Mountain). Winter activities in the Lake Placid area include ice skating, ice hockey, figure skating, skiing, snowboarding, hiking, snowmobiling, ice fishing, cross country skiing, and many other activities. Summer activities include hiking, cycling, paddling, fishing, boating, hunting, rock climbing, birding, and whitewater rafting. Credit: phatefullife.com
Whiteface Mountain is one of the main sources of activity for both the summer and winter seasons in the Lake Placid region. Towering above the ground at 4,650 feet at the summit, Whiteface Mountain offers excellent skiing and snowboarding. The mountain has 22 miles of ski terrain spread over 87 trails. Whiteface is still used today for state and national skiing and snowboarding competitions, including the US Alpine Championships. In the summer, Whiteface offers hiking, cycling and several other activities, including gondola rides. Additionally, hunting and fishing are permitted within the region. A variety of game and fish species are native to the area, so sportsmen will find the area very attractive.
Lake Placid and the surrounding Adirondack region have a multitude of lodging options. There are many hotels and motels located in downtown Lake Placid and on the outskirts of town. Also, there are excellent private home rentals available as well. No matter where you decide to stay, you aren’t very far from your activity of choice, as the downtown area is not very large and the surrounding area contains most of the activity options and are within a short drive.
For fans of craft beer, Lake Placid is home to the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery. In business since 1996, the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery serves up delicious food and beer everyday. They also rotate seasonal brews throughout the year. The beer has grown so popular, that certain beers are distributed throughout several northeastern states. If you do visit the pub or see their beer in your local store, be sure to try their famous “Ubu Ale”.
Lake Placid, New York has emerged as one of the preeminent vacation destinations in the Northeastern United States. It has deep roots in American sports and social history and has become a vacation destination that offers something for everyone. Regardless of season, Lake Placid has an activity for you. Aside from activities, Lake Placid and the greater Adirondack region has some of the most beautiful nature scenery anywhere in the world and will leave a memorable impression in the minds of all those that visit it.