LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – Perhaps it’s the fresh-baked cookie that’s offered to guests as they check into the Mirror Lake Inn, the village’s crown jewel of lodging. Or perhaps it’s how just about every quaint store and restaurant in town has some sort of reminder that miracles can, and have, happened there.
Either way, it doesn’t take long upon arriving in Lake Placid to realize there’s something unique about the place.
Known for decades as a winter wonderland and where the U.S. Olympic hockey team stunned the unbeatable Russians in 1980 in perhaps the most-celebrated sporting event ever, Lake Placid is not just for snowy fun anymore. The vacation haven in the Adirondack Mountains is a town for all seasons now, though the sights this time of year are nothing short of Rockwellian.
“It’s the place you never really think about coming to, and then you get here and you never want to leave,” said Scott Natter, a vacationer from Philadelphia who was touring the Olympic Center – the arena where the 1980 Miracle On Ice happened – with two of his children on a recent snowy day. “For us, it’s an annual thing now. We say ‘vacation' and our kids say ‘Placid.’”
With a year-round population of about 2,500, Lake Placid has remained small but bustling. Tourism and continuing to tell the Olympic tales of 1932 and 1980 are the backbone of the little community, where cell service can still be a touch spotty and few seem to mind.
But with a mix of classic and new attractions and amenities, there’s more to the place now than ever before. Whiteface Mountain still packs in skiers and snowboarders with arguably the best terrain in the East. Thrill-seekers can get their fix for speed and danger by taking a bobsled ride at Mount Van Hoevenberg. And those just looking to unwind can enjoy a maple sugar body scrub – yes, it is what it sounds like – at Mirror Lake Inn.
Hikers looking to scale any or all of the 46 Adirondack peaks that stand 4,600 feet or higher tend to start visiting in the spring. In the summer, there’s a full-scale Ironman triathlon and a renowned horse show (which takes place in the shadow of the 1980 Olympic cauldron). Leaf-peepers pack the region in the fall, getting a look at the brilliant hues before the trees fall barren again for the inevitable winter.
Bookstores, a little theater, an arts center that lures kids from 100 miles away, fishing, golfing … some of those might not all be available 12 months a year, but they’re all there. And many of those places are connected by brick sidewalks where people can walk about unbothered and unworried, even after nightfall.
“It is beyond a year-round destination,” said Lisa Weibrecht, who owns and operates the Mirror Lake Inn with her husband, Ed. “Winter is such a small part of Lake Placid. I would say definitely summer is the most recognized season here between the lakes, the mountains, people leaving the city. This started as a summer resort and our population swells by three times during the summer. I don’t think there’s any place more beautiful to be than in Lake Placid in the summer and the fall.”
Still, its calling card might be winter, as shown by the two Olympic medals that hang behind the front desk at Mirror Lake.
Those medals were won by the Weibrechts’ son, Andrew – at the last two Olympic Winter Games.
“People always say, ‘Can you swim in the lake?’” Ed Weibrecht said. “And I tell them, here, you can drink the lake. It’s a wonderful place.”
Heading to Lake Placid
Located in northern New York, about 85 miles from Montreal, 200 miles from Boston and 290 miles from New York City.
▪ The Breakfast Club Etc., 2490 Main St., www.facebook.com/thebreakfastclubetc. Two words: bacon waffle.
▪ Smoke Signals, 2489 Main St., www.smokesignalsq.com. Stop by the bar for a Manhattan, try the Flatliner.
▪ Taste Bistro, 77 Mirror Lake Drive, www.mirrorlakeinn.com/dining/taste-bistro-bar. Mussels appetizer is entree-sized.
▪ Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, www.golden-arrow.com. In the center of town.
▪ Mirror Lake Inn, www.mirrorlakeinn.com. Continually rated one of the country’s best resorts.
▪ Art Devlin’s Olympic Motor Inn, artdevlins.com/index.html. Adjacent to the Olympic skating oval and Olympic center.
More information: www.lakeplacid.com