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The Adirondacks: Lake Placid, New York

Watch athletes as they soar through the air at the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex.
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Watch athletes as they soar through the air at the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex.

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.  ~Albert Camus

Brilliant foliage of crimson and gold, roadside stands with plump pumpkins, shiny apples, and sweet cider–It’s time for an autumn getaway. Two of New York’s finest natural showcases for seasonal splendor are Lake Placid and Saratoga Springs.

Lake Placid: Great Camps and Gold Medals

New York’s Adirondack is the largest park in the continental United States– larger than the entire state of Massachusetts or Yellowstone, Everglades, Glacier, and Grand Canyon National Parks combined. Its six million acres are constitutionally protected as “forever wild”. In fall, the mountains stand like canvasses awaiting new color each day.

Adirondacks fisherman, New York
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The hundreds of lakes, streams, and ponds of the Adirondacks lure fishermen to the area.

Some residents of Lake Placid began offering lodging to sportsmen in the 1850s. By the turn of century, it was a popular summer resort.

Lake Placid is the site of the “great camps”—rustic playgrounds for Gilded Age industrialists like Vanderbilt or Rockefeller who sought to get back to nature. Compounds were constructed of indigenous wood, stone, and bark for family and servants, creating lavish versions of the “simple life”.

Summer residents have included Kate Smith, who sent radio broadcasts from here, and Johnny Weissmuller, who swam to Buck Island every morning. Lake Placid continues to be a place to relax and get away from it all without being noticed.

In 1895, Dr. Melvil Dewey, originator of the Dewey Decimal System, founded the Lake Placid Club. Recognition for the organized winter sports and competitive events brought the Olympics Winter Games to Lake Placid in 1932 and again in 1980.

This year-round resort and recreation center is about a 5 hour drive from Boston. There’s trout and bass fishing and wooden Chris-Craft boats—but no jet skiing on this lake named Placid. Annual festivals and events include the Fourth of July Ski Jump, Oktoberfest, and the Flaming Leaves Festival. Simply relax. Adirondack chairs are, after all, designed for sitting back and enjoying the view of the great outdoors.

Activities and Attractions

Wooden Chris-Craft boats are in keeping with the natural beauty of Lake Placid.
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Wooden Chris-Craft boats are in keeping with the natural beauty of Lake Placid.

Lake Placid Boat Cruise, a one-hour narrated tour, travels 16 miles on the pristine water of this otherwise very private lake. The Lady of the Lake was named for Mabel Smith Douglass, founder of Douglass College for Women, whose well-preserved body was found thirty years after her mysterious disappearance.

John Brown Farm is the restored farmhouse and grave of the abolitionist hanged for leading the 1859 raid on Harper’s Ferry.
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John Brown Farm is the restored farmhouse and grave of the abolitionist hanged for leading the 1859 raid on Harper’s Ferry.

John Brown Farm is the restored farmhouse and grave of the abolitionist hanged for leading the 1859 raid on Harper’s Ferry. Two of his sons died in the struggle and are also buried here.

Olympic Venues

Virtual thrill seekers may want to try the headset that simulates jumps from the towers and a helicopter ride. Visitors can skate on the rink where the US Hockey Team defeated the Soviets and won the gold medal.

The Olympic Sites Passport includes admission to the Olympic venues:

Winter Olympic Museum, Olympic Center, 218 Main Street. View memorabilia from 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics

Olympic Ski Jumping Complex, on SR 73 is used year-round for training and in winter for competitions, off-season jumpers land on plastic matting that simulates snow. Take the elevator to the sky deck atop the 120 meter jump tower for a bird’s eye view of the action and the peaks. Or stand in the judges’ tower and watch athletes as they soar through the air.
Verizon Olympic Sports Complex is seven miles south of Lake Placid. Try the world-class combined bobsled/luge/skeleton tracks.

The Cloudsplitter enclosed gondola ride sweeps passengers over the ski slopes to panoramic views atop Little Whiteface Mountain.

Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway is a scenic drive leading to a castle with an elevator to the summit, revealing the vastness of the Adirondacks. Then-Governor Franklin Roosevelt authorized the $1,250,000 cost during the Great Depression and dedicated it while President.

Downtown, Goose Watch Winery has Finger Lakes wine tastings that include a souvenir glass. Bring the glass to award-winning Swedish Hill Winery, a mile away, on Highway 73, and try their Chardonnays, Cabernet Franc and Meritage,  Rieslings and Sparkling Wines, or  popular Svenska and Doobie wines.

The scenic brick walk around Mirror Lake has with markers for the Adirondack High Peaks. Feeling more energetic? Hike one of the area’s nature trails or mountains.

Take in an exhibit or show at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. Green Market Wednesdays are held 9-1. This Farmer’s Market offers foods, crafts, and entertainment.

Accommodations and Dining

Accommodations range from the most basic to exclusive resorts of the rich and famous. Our hotels were located on quaint Main Street, in the heart of the village of Lake Placid, amidst a variety of restaurants and shops.

The Best Western Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort is a well-appointed smoke-free resort with many amenities and package plans. It is the only hotel located directly on Mirror Lake. Watch the sun rise over the mountain, work out in the exercise room, or relax on their private sand beach and reflect on the magnificent Adirondack panorama. There is complimentary boating and a variety of accommodations, some extended stay suites with kitchenettes. The romantic fireplaced rooms are ideal for crisp autumn nights. Book an hour-long private gondola ride or a dog sled in winter.

The Northwoods Inn on Main Street is a rustic all suite hotel with kitchenettes and Tempur-Pedic mattresses. Lakeside rooms overlook Mirror Lake and the Adirondack mountains. Originally the Hotel Marcy, the grandest hotel in Lake Placid, guests included George Burns and Gracie Allen. It is being restored by four hoteliers from Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration. Delta Blue offers cuisine of the Mississippi Delta. Northern Exposure Restaurant features  a classic Adirondack setting with casual American cuisine like wild boar, woodland strudel, and rainbow trout.

Caffé Rustica is well worth the short drive from the center of town. This local favorite is known for innovative rustic Italian & Mediterranean cuisine. My “Misticanza del Campo” salad was laden with pistachios, and the oven fired fish and grilled meats were delicately prepared. Different desserts are featured nightly. The warm, intimate ambience encourages animated conversations, evoking images of the Mediterranean.

Whether your idea of a great vacation is hiking a soaring mountain or enjoying a lakeside view from a classic chair named for the region, you’ll find it all in the Adirondacks.

 

 

 

 

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