If waking up beside a crystal clear lake and spending your days filled with outdoor adventure sounds appealing, then Lake Placid in the Adirondacks is for you. Here are 6 summer family activities in Lake Placid that are guaranteed memory-makers.
6 summer family activities in Lake Placid:
Raft the Ausable Chasm.
Do a sunrise boat tour.
Get an Olympic Passport.
Eat your heart out.
Visit The Wild Center.
Stay in Lake Placid, but not ON Lake Placid.
There’s something special about making lakeside family memories: docks begging for cannonballs, boat rides, perfect sunsets and lazy mornings. In the Lake Placid area, there are so many things for kids and grownups alike to do in summer that there’s no way you can do it all in one long weekend. But we gave it the ole college try!
1. Raft the Ausable Chasm.
The highlight of our visit to the Lake Placid area is the Ausable Chasm, which is touted in the marketing materials as the Grand Canyon of the east. Simmer down — it’s really awesome but don’t expect something even remotely like the Grand Canyon. The bonus is that this is a rock formation that you can really sink your teeth into thanks to its series of hikes and river rafting tour.
A family of four can expect to pay about US$100 total, and this gives you access to a couple of different trails suitable for kids age 5+ plus the raft experience with a knowledgeable, experienced guide. If you want to kick it up a notch, there’s a more adventurous hiking option that includes suspension bridges. They looked like a lot of fun!
The Chasm grounds are privately owned and have been welcoming tourists since 1870. Be sure to make your way to the viewing area for Elephant Head:
And then enjoy a gentle float down the Ausable River as you hear more about the different species and sedimentary rock that help make this place so special. This is a great introduction to white water rafting for younger kids who are still too little to take on bigger rapids, and my kids said that was the best part of all.
2. Do a sunrise boat tour.
Force your kids to wake up before dawn and head to ADK Aquatics for an unforgettable experience on Lake Placid. The owner, Wes, will take you out on a private ride at 5 a.m., and tell you about the area, the history of many of the massive, multimillion dollar cottages that front onto the lake and even a few legends as you cross into loon territory as the sun rises over the Adirondack mountain range.
Not a morning-friendly family? Wes also teaches waterskiing and wakeboarding. You know, after 5 a.m.
3. Get an Olympic Passport.
For US$40 per person, the Olympic Passport is the most cost-effective way to experience Lake Placid’s Olympic sites. As the host of two winter Olympics (1932 and 1980), it’s done a fantastic job of repurposing buildings, curating memorabilia and getting tourists to new heights. Literally — the two highest peaks on Whiteface Mountain are part of the Passport experience, both by car and gondola.
Climbing the last couple of hundred feet up to the summit of Whiteface was ah-mazing. It’s a good trek and I strongly suggest very sturdy running shoes or hiking boots. We saw people trying to navigate the granite boulders in flip flops and even wedge heels. Um, no. Do not do this. There are a few stairs that have been built here and there on the 1/5-mile hike, but it’s mostly climbing on an uneven, rocky surface. Because it’s an actual mountain.
The Olympic passport also gives you access to the ski jump complex, and if you call ahead you can find out when the practise times are. We loved watching ski jumpers do aerial jumps into a pool on one side of the complex and then heading up the chairlift to the viewing deck for the MASSIVE jumps that are Olympic training runs:
You get free digital downloads and T-shirts once you complete the bobsled experience (though I confess I haven’t had time to download the pics yet but will add them here as soon as I do!).
4. Eat your heart out.
We ate so, so much in Lake Placid. It seems there isn’t a bad place to eat. But one word of warning: portions are enormous. Go hungry and be prepared for meat sweats.
Some of our faves:
For sweet treats, hit up Adirondack Chocolates for the chocolate-covered pretzels and Emma’s Lake Placid Creamery for the chocolate-and-nut-covered frozen bananas (sounds weird, I know, but OMG…so yummy!):
5. Visit The Wild Center.
Although it’s about 45 minutes away from Lake Placid, The Wild Center is a must on a nice day. There’s an indoor component, too, but the outdoor Wild Walk and iForest installation are the real stars of the show.
iForest is a first-of-its-kind artistic sound installation that was created by a British composer. It’s designed to reconnect you to nature using music that’s authentic to the land (everything the choir sings is in Mohawk):
If you feel some hunger pangs while you’re in Tupper Lake, pop into Big Tupper Brewing Co. for a snack or meal. I’m still dreaming about the warm pork rinds!
6. Stay in Lake Placid, but not ON Lake Placid.
With only one boutique-sized property accepting guests on Lake Placid proper, the price tag is out of reach for the average family. Instead, look to neighbouring Mirror Lake. It has several resorts, hotels and motels both near and on the water. There are no gas boats allowed in Mirror Lake making the water exceptionally clean, plus you might get to see the U.S. Olympic kayaking team practising!
The Hampton Inn & Suites Lake Placid is a great mid-range resort on Mirror Lake, with many rooms facing the lake — with balconies. You’ll get a decent breakfast (the make-your-own waffles are great), afternoon snacks that include burgers and hot dogs, nightly entertainment and S’Mores by the roaring campfire at 8 p.m. each day as part of your stay. From here, you can walk to the beach in less than a minute and into the Village of Lake Placid — including the Olympic Museum and skating rink — in about two to three minutes.
We had a room with a king bed and a pullout couch, which will be suitable for us for perhaps one more year; our seven and 10 year olds were starting to feel pretty cramped in a double-sized pullout. Summer rates during weekends are around US$400 a night, so it’s not budget travel but it’s good value considering the price of other hotels and resorts in the area. (Like that one on Lake Placid that’s well over a grand a night for the cheapest room.)
The bottom line: we’ll be going back to Lake Placid before the year is out. Guaranteed. Because I need to ski that mountain.
Disclosure: Some aspects of this trip were hosted by brand partners. My opinion remains my own.