Placid. It’s not just a name; it’s a feeling. Tucked into the northeast corner of New York State, Lake Placid is part of the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park, the largest state park in the contiguous U.S.—greater in size than the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite parks put together. Within its boundaries are 30,000 miles of streams, 1,000 miles of rivers, 3,000 ponds and lakes, 2,000 miles of trails, and 46 “High Peaks” rising above 4,000 feet. Half the park has been deemed by the government as public “forever wild” land, but even development of the privately owned half demonstrates a deep respect for preserving its natural beauty and integrity.
The village of Lake Placid grabbed the international spotlight when it hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 1932 and again in 1980. Lake Placid’s Olympic venues still remain active year-round as athletes from all over the world come to train. At least three World Cup championships are played there each year.
But you don’t have to be a medal-caliber athlete to experience the area’s sublime sporting facilities firsthand. At the Olympic Jumping Complex (Route 73, 518-523-2202, orda.org), you can ascend by chairlift and elevator to view the fabulous foliage from the Sky Deck at the top of the 120-meter (26 stories) ski jump tower—the tallest structure between Albany and Montréal (open through mid-October; $10/adults, $7/children and seniors).
Oct. 11 and 12, the Jumping Complex will host its annual Flaming Leaves Festival ($14/adults, $8/children and seniors), a seasonal celebration that includes ski-jumping competitions, live bands, barbecues and brews, a 60-foot inflatable obstacle course, and pony rides for the kids.
At the Olympic Sports Complex (220 Bobrun Lane, 518-523-4436, olympicsportscomplex.com), you can pilot a wheeled bobsled on the original Olympic track (open through mid-October; $55/adults, $50/teens, $45/children). Go to the Olympic Center (2634 Main St., 518-523-1655, orda.org) to see the rink where the “Miracle on Ice” occurred. In the building is also an Olympic-centric museum ($5/adults, $3/children and seniors), featuring multimedia exhibits and memorabilia from the 1932 and 1980 games. And if you’re more of an armchair athlete, don’t miss the virtual-reality simulator ($7/person) to experience the bobsled from the driver’s perspective, ice hockey from behind the goalie’s mask, alpine skiing, ski jumping from the 120-meter tower, and the luge. And there’s no more appropriate place to see the Stars on Ice show (Nov. 29, 518-523-3330; call for ticket prices).
Continuing on the Olympic trail, drive about 10 miles to the town of Wilmington, home of Whiteface Mountain (518-946-2223, whitefacelakeplacid.com), the fifth highest peak in the Adirondacks and the site of alpine events during the 1980 Olympics, 2000 Winter Goodwill Games and World Cup competitions. Grab a Cloudsplitter Gondola (open weekends through mid-October; $17/adults, $12/children and seniors; binoculars provided) for a 15-minute ride through woods, over the Ausable River and up the Adirondack High Peaks to the 3,676-foot summit of the Little Whiteface ski area.
Take your mountain bike on the Cloudsplitter (or on the shuttle bus for pedalers with intermediate skills) or rent a ride from High Peaks Cyclery (2733 Main St., Lake Placid; 518-523-3764, highpeakscyclery.com) for the ride of your life down the most vertical trail in the east (lift tickets $32/adults, $20/children; trail day passes $10; bike rentals and guided tours also available).
If Little Whiteface isn’t high enough for you, take your own car on an 8-mile climb to the very top of the mountain on Veterans Memorial Highway (518-946-2223, orda.org; open through mid-October; $9/vehicle and driver, $5/each additional passenger). Park and take the short hike or in-mountain elevator to the 4,867-foot-high peak. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Montréal.
Fall means Oktoberfest at Little Whiteface. That means authentic Bavarian music, food and brews, along with rides on the Cloudsplitter (Sept. 29 and 30; $11/adults, $6/children and seniors; $8 for gondola rides).
Save money and bypass the ticket lines for your tour of the various venues by purchasing an Olympic Passport ($29) at the Olympic Region Development Authority (ORDA) store (2426 Main St., 518-523-1420, orda.org). The passport admits you to the museum, jumping complex, sports complex, gondola ride and Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway, and offers additional discounts on bobsled rides and other activities.
Hiking is a major activity in the Adirondacks, particularly along remote trails through pine, cedar and birch forests with waterfalls and wildlife including moose, American bald eagles and whitetail deer. About 15 minutes from Lake Placid, the Keene Valley is hailed as a hiking Mecca, with 2,000 miles of trails—everything from easy walks to high peaks (including Mount Marcy, the highest mountain in New York State).
Not all of the awesome attractions in the Adirondacks are located at elevated altitudes. Carved out by nature nearly 500 million years ago, Ausable Chasm (Route 9, 518-834-7454, ausablechasm.com) is only a 36-mile drive from Lake Placid. Take the Rim Walk, with its 3 miles of trails through forest, along cliffs, past Elephant Head and Rainbow Falls, and descending 150 feet down ($16/adults, $9/children; add $9 for a raft or tube trip down the river or upgrade to an all-day water fun pass for another $5). The west bank of the Ausable River is one of the country’s finest spots for trout fly-fishing. Six-and-a-half miles are dedicated to catch and release (518-946-2255, ausableflyfishing.com).
You can’t help but be mesmerized by the reflection of the fall foliage on the Adirondack lakes. Take an hour-long narrated tour in an enclosed turn-of-the-century craft from Lake Placid Marina (518-523-9704; open through mid-October; $10/adults, $9/seniors, $8/children) to get the full effect of the seasonal scenery. Or rent a canoe, rowboat or hydro bike from Mirror Lake Boat Rental (1 Main St., 518-524-7890, mlboatrental.com; $24/hour).
Golfers will find 13 courses in the area, five of which are of championship caliber. In the village, the close-to-a-century-old Lake Placid Resort Golf Club (Morningside Drive, 800-874-1980, lakeplacidcp.com) offers 45 holes on its Scottish-style Links course and its Mountain course (greens fees $75 for Links, $35 for Mountain through November).
Take to the sky with Adirondack Flying Service (518-523-2473, flyanywhere.com) to get an unparalleled view over the area’s High Peaks ($35/person). Or make tracks to the Adirondack Scenic Railroad (800-819-2291, adirondackrr.com) through mid-October for a round trip—45 minutes each way, not including layover—between the villages of Lake Placid and Saranac Lake ($18/adults, $17/seniors, $10/children).
About 30 minutes southwest of Lake Placid, get a close-up view of the local flora and fauna at the Wild Center (45 Museum Drive, Tupper Lake; 518-359-7800, wildcenter.org; $15/adults, $9/children). You’ll see live exhibits of local otters, birds, fish and amphibians, along with a giant glacial wall and indoor forest and river.
After a day of outdoor play, head for Mirror Lake Inn and Resort (77 Mirror Lake Drive, Lake Placid, 518-523-2544, mirrorlakeinn.com) for his-and-hers spa treatments followed by a candlelight dinner at The View, the property’s upscale restaurant overlooking the water. Recent offerings on the seasonal menu have included osso bucco Milanese and escolar (white tuna) paired with shrimp, sweet corn pudding and pasilla pepper beurre blanc (entrées $22.50-$42). Or try the five-course tasting menu ($75 with three wines, $110 with five). The View is also the perfect place to start the day with breakfast specialties like raspberry macadamia nut flapjacks with white chocolate sauce and toasted coconut, or frittata with oven-dried tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, prosciutto and balsamic glaze ($5.75-$12.95).
A less formal favorite of the Lake Placid locals is the cozy Caffe Rustica (211 Saranac Ave., 518-523-7511), which features wood-fired pizzas ($11-$12) and entrées such as roasted pork loin bracciole stuffed with arugula and Gorgonzola, and pan-seared salmon with orange, saffron and basil sauce ($15-$31). The Brown Dog Café and Wine Bar (3 Main St., 518-523-3036) is a New York-style deli specializing in “designer” sandwiches ($6.50-$9.95) and a great selection of wines by the glass. The Lake Placid Brewery (813 Mirror Lake Drive, 518-523-3813) offers a cozy setting, an Irish pub menu and signature beers like Ubu English Ale (named for a beloved chocolate lab) and 46’er Pale Ale (in honor of hikers who scale the area’s peaks).
At bedtime, return to Mirror Lake Inn for a comfy night in one of its water-view rooms or suites ($305-$1,200). All accommodations have an elegant Old World ambiance, and some have fireplaces and Jacuzzis big enough to share. The 60-foot indoor lap pool has its own waterfall and windows that give you a panoramic perspective of the lake and mountains.
The Interlaken Inn (39 Interlaken Ave., Lake Placid; 800-428-4369, theinterlakeninn.com) is another romantic hideaway in a historic Victorian home built in 1912. The Cottage House features antique pine furnishings, a living room with fireplace, a dinette, and a second floor with rattan king bed and private deck ($320). The Equestrian Suite has a double Jacuzzi (suites $225-$250).
Ausable Chasm has its own on-site campground (866-834-9990). Accommodations range from basic tent sites with no hookups ($18/night) to pull-through RV sites ($27-$32), camping cabins and basic motel rooms ($45 for either). Two-night Weekend Explorer packages include a stay at the campground or in the motel, chasm admission, and a raft or tubing adventure.
The Point lives up to its sticker shock.
By Melissa N. Marshall
Tucked mysteriously on the edge of Lake Saranac, The Point is something of a legend among travel writers. Everything from the hefty price tag (the never-discounted rooms start at $1,350 per night) and its beautiful, isolated location, to its ridiculously blue-blooded history has sustained its reputation as the pinnacle of high living.
Not being a Rockefeller or a Winthrop, I was unaware that certain über-rich folks preferred the lush wilderness of the Adirondacks over bourgeois destinations like the Hamptons. They built spectacular “camps” nestled in the forests and lakes of upstate New York and hoped no one would notice. Once owned by the Rockefellers, the greatest of those is now The Point.
So just what makes a hotel room worth $1,350 a night? Do they carry you to the restroom? Lucky for me, I was able to spend a night at The Point to find out. Here are the highlights:
• Staff members greet you with champagne, and your car and luggage are whisked away to your room as you tour the relatively small but meticulously kept grounds.
• Once inside, everything is included, and tipping is forbidden. There are three fully stocked bars open 24 hours. (If an attendant isn’t available to fix you a drink, you’re free to make your own.)
• The kitchen is also open 24 hours. Although there is a dinner menu, you can order whatever you want. If they don’t have it, they’ll get it the next day.
• Several boats are available free to guests—canoes, kayaks, three small, gorgeous wooden motorboats, a cruiser perfect for summertime cocktails, and a speedboat for waterskiing. There’s even a replica of the Rockefellers’ 33-foot mahogany Hacker Craft.
• The cozy pub has a pool table, darts, cards and a fully stocked bar. There’s also a croquet field, along with badminton equipment.
• No phones in the rooms, but there are wooden phone cubicles where long distance is unlimited and free.
• All the rooms have working fireplaces, and fires are ready-made for guests. The sumptuous beds offer fluffy mattresses, down featherbeds and plenty of space. Rooms are stocked with complimentary bottled water and snacks, including fresh fruit. The bathrooms are loaded with Kiehl’s products.
• The hotel holds a cocktail hour in the early evening—the perfect time to meet other guests.
• Dinner is served at 8 p.m., either in your room or in the community dining room, where big round tables, a fireplace and mounted animal heads lend a rustic vibe. Appropriate wines are served with each course.
• After dinner, guests are invited to a bonfire on The Point itself, which overlooks the lake, where you can enjoy drinks and s’mores.
• In the morning, choose breakfast in bed or on the deck overlooking the lake. Just order what you like, and they’ll make it.
• If you need to take your lunch on the road, hotel staff will pack you one. My car was returned to me filled with gas, my luggage, chilled bottled water and a boxed lunch inside.
So, was it worth it? Heck, yes. After all, it’s only money.
(800) 255-3530, thepointresort.com.
The wild beauty of Adirondack Park has attracted numerous artists, who display (and sell) their work at the Adirondack Artists’ Guild (52 Main St., Lake Saranac; 518-891-2615, adirondackartistsguild.com). If you’re in the area Sept. 27-29, pick up a free brochure for the Artist at Work Studio Tour, featuring at least 30 painters, photographers, weavers and other talented locals. More than 300 local, regional and national artisans are represented at the Adirondack Craft Center (2114 Saranac Lake Ave., Lake Placid; 518-523-2062, adirondackcraftcenter.com). Here you’ll find handmade jewelry, baskets, quilts and furniture, including those authentic Adirondack chairs you see everywhere in the area. Watch glassblowers at work and get a taste of the local offerings from Goose Watch Winery at the Alpine Mall on Lake Placid’s Main Street. And check out the hefty discounts on Van Heusen, Bass, Izod, Geoffrey Beene and other designer clothing along the Main Street strip.
Roughing It in Style
The 1880s to around 1930 was known as the Gilded Age of the Adirondacks. During this time, a number of America’s wealthiest and most powerful families, including the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers, built private, rustic-on-the-outside, posh-on-the-inside lakefront compounds called “Great Camps.” Take the scenic 74-mile drive from Lake Placid to Raquette Lake and tour Sagamore National Historic Adirondack Great Camp, the most carefully preserved of these regal retreats. Guided tours available through Oct. 12; $12/adults, $6/children; (315) 354-5311, sagamore.org.
Although the holidays are still some time away, the kids will definitely get a kick out of watching old Saint Nick prepare for his big night at his home and workshop. At the North Pole—believed to be America’s first theme park, opened in 1949—Santa’s helpers make toys and candy and blow glass in their shops. Santa and his reindeer are always ready for visitors, as are the storybook characters who perform musical shows. Holiday-inspired rides like the Christmas Carousel and Santa’s Sleigh Coaster provide even more thrills for the younger set. $18.98/adults, $16.95/children until late November; $7.95 until Dec. 23; 324 Whiteface Memorial Hwy., Wilmington, (518) 946-2211.