July 26, 2016
I recently posted about our vacation in the Adirondacks. We stayed in a huge house on Fern Lake with ten other people for three nights. There was very little around us besides wilderness. For the most part that was great, but there are times when you want to go to the store to pick up some milk or beer. The only place we found was a gas station, which did not have too much to offer.
After checking directions on my phone I was pleased to see that Lake Placid was only about a half hour drive away. We were thinking about stopping there on our way home, but weren’t sure we really wanted to extend the long drive any more than we had to. Seven hours or so was plenty. I hadn’t been to Lake Placid in around ten years, but I remembered thinking it was a really cool little mountain town and told Ashley I was pretty sure she would like it, too, so we made other plans to stop there. We decided we could cut our beach time in half one day and explore Lake Placid for a little while. We also weren’t sure how much time we would spend there so that was another reason to stop then instead of on the way home.
Lake Placid is best known for hosting the Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980. In 1980 the U.S. Men’s Hockey team defeated the Russians in “The Miracle on Ice” in a stunning upset. The village of Lake Placid is actually home to less than 3,000 people, but it can be a bustling tourist hub throughout the year.
I remembered the village of Lake Placid being a mountain hamlet filled with shops and restaurants amidst a beautiful setting. The details were a little hazy in my memory, though. I told Ashley that I thought it was kind of similar to the town of Banff in the Canadian Rockies. We both loved Banff. It was a great place to walk around and see explore the many shops, boutiques, restaurants, and galleries. Banff was a very nice touristy resort town. It was very expensive, but it was nice place to window shop. I figured Lake Placid wouldn’t be quite as affluent or popular, but could be just as nice.
It was a relatively short drive on some fairly hilly and curvaceous roads. The road paralleled shimmering mountain streams and snaked its way through forests in the shadows of small mountains. I enjoyed the drive, but if I weren’t the one behind the wheel I probably would’ve gotten a little carsick thanks to driving conditions. We passed Whiteface Mountain and soon arrived in Lake Placid.
At first it didn’t look like anything special. Ashley said it didn’t look like a cute mountain resort town like Banff. Then we continued onto Main Street in the heart of the village with Mirror Lake behind the shops. She quickly changed her tune. The village was full of people walking everywhere. We found a public parking lot and put some money in the meter and got out the double stroller.
We decided to start by heading toward the water. We passed restaurants, souvenir shops, bars, and more. The place was packed with tourists. It didn’t seem overwhelming, though. It wasn’t like being at a place full of camera-toting sightseers. These were active outdoors adventurers. Everyone seemed physically fit. There were plenty of people running by and others on bikes.
I guess I forgot to mention that the village is home to the Ironman Lake Placid Triathlon. The annual race includes a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run. The fastest competitors complete the event in less than ten hours; it would probably take me about ten days. The Ironman was held just two days before we were in Lake Placid. We actually had to change our driving directions to the house we stayed in to get around road closures.
It was obvious that a lot of the Ironman competitors were still in town enjoying themselves after demanding race. I saw a ton of people in Ironman shirts and a lot of signs on storefronts still promoting the event.
We walked down the street to a park at the end of the stretch of shops. There was a small sandy beach beside Mirror Lake (Lake Placid is a larger body of water that is located on the other side of the village). We all took off our shoes and sandals and casually walked through the soft sand of the beach. There were a couple of roped off areas in the water for swimming. Beyond that, there were people in kayaks, canoes, and on paddle boards. In the other direction, stretching to the far end of the lake were buoys and swim lanes that were set up for the swim course of the Ironman.
We met a nice couple on the beach. They offered to let our kids play with some sand toys they had since their kids were in the water. We talked with them for a bit. They had recently bought a house in Lake Placid after vacationing there often. The man also said that he just completed the Ironman for the first time. He finished in around fifteen hours. That sounds one long and painful day to me. He said that more than 1,500 people participated in the Ironman and thousands more come to help and cheer for the competitors. They guessed there were probably around 5,000 people partying late into the night after the Ironman ended. It was interesting to hear about that and for them to tell us a little more about the village.
We also spent some time at a playground adjacent to the beach. The kids liked that, but Noah was more interested in playing in the sand. We saw a real nice Hampton Inn right by the beach.
It looked like a giant log cabin lodge. We agreed that it could be a nice place to stay in the future since it is so close to the beach and a short walk to the shops and restaurants on Main Street.
I realized our parking meter had already expired so I hurried back to put some money in it so we could hang around for another two hours. Once I got back to Ashley and the kids we started walking down Main Street in the other direction. We stopped in a really cool bookstore and also found Noah a nice souvenir. We walked down by a small music stage beside the lake and let Noah play with his new wooden tractor while Ashley fed Charlotte. I admired the views of the distant mountains and the reflection of the clouds in the stunning lake before us. A duck came out of the water and walked right up to us.
We got pretty hungry so we found a nice gourmet sandwich shop that had 46 different types of sandwiches in honor of the 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks (42 of which are over 4,000 feet high). The place was super busy with a line out the door. Ashley and the kids waited across the street, atop a small grassy hill with picnic tables and Adirondack chairs. She met some nice people up there. One guy was a personal trainer who used to play football for the Detroit Lions and his wife was in the Ironman. It took a while, but I eventually joined my family on the hill with our lunch. The sandwiches were delicious.
By the time lunch was done the parking meter was out again so we decided we should probably head back to our friends back at Fern Lake. Once we got in the car we took a quick look at the actual Lake Placid (the water, not the village). Then we got Noah a milkshake, picked up some milk and beer, and headed back to Fern Lake.
We were in Lake Placid for less than three hours, but it was more than enough time to realize we definitely want to come back. Maybe next time we’ll see some of the Olympic sights. We’ll definitely spend some more time on that beach and I’ll be sure to visit the Lake Placid Brewery, which happens to be right across from the beach.