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Lake Placid Travel Guide for Fall & Winter

I'm not sure why it took us so long to explore Lake Placid, especially since it's only about two hours from our house, but we've been twice in the past 5 months because we loved it so much. The first time we went, we visited in October for a cozy fall foliage weekend, and were hit with quite a bit of snow (quickly turning our fall getaway into what felt like an Apres Ski, without the ski, getaway). And most recently, we visited in February to be in the thick of winter celebrations.

Lake Placid is a charming little town in the Adirondacks full of things to do, and also, a great place to do absolutely nothing if you prefer a bit of relaxation and pampering. And that's what we love about it so much. We don't stay right in the town, but an AirBnB on the outskirts that's hidden in the woods and perfectly cozy, which gives us the best of both worlds. But there are so many options for accommodation right in town that would allow you to walk to all the shops, restaurants and sights, including hotels, condos and upscale inns - you really have your pick when it comes to finding the right place to stay.

We've crammed a lot into our two visits to Lake Placid and I'm excited to share our top things to do while in the area.

I'd love to visit in the Summer and just experience the lakeside atmosphere, and see how it differs from the colder seasons. Having been in fall and winter, it's really tough to recommend one over the other because both were amazing. If I had to choose, I'd say the winter season, just because I mean, it's Lake Placid, home of not one, but two Olympic winter games. And the atmosphere is just alive and bustling in the winter season. On Mirror Lake, which you can see from pretty much everywhere in town while you walk around, you see kids playing ice hockey, and dog sleds taking people around. Anyone can hop onto the lake with their skates and skate around for free. In fact, you'll see a lot of people with skates slug across their shoulders, walking a round town with a box of freshly popped popcorn, or hot cocoa. Some restaurants open up their outdoor patios with heat lamps and fires going. It's just hard to not love winter while here, and might be just what you need to cure your winter blues.

That said, fall was absolutely beautiful here. The foliage is spectacular, and the weather is obviously more ideal for hiking. It was also slightly less crowded being that most people flock here in the winter for skiing.

We've done 4-day long weekends here each time, and that seems to be the perfect amount. Although, because Lake Placid is nestled amongst the mountains, you feel rejuvenated pretty quickly after getting here. As long as you balance decompressing with more on-the-go activities, it's very easy to do to recharge your batteries in just two days. If you plan to ski, you obviously may want to consider a few extra days to get enough time on the slopes.

I think one of the best things to do here is to just be in nature and clear your head. That's kind of what the mountains are for, right? So hiking is definitely a great option. Before we left on our first trip here, one of my friends suggested the hike up Mt. Jo, and I'm definitely on board with that being a great all-around suggestion. It's one of the easier peaks to climb (although, it can be tricky if it's slick, which we learned the hard way when we climbed halfway up to be met with snow). But the views you're rewarded with at the summit are incredible for not going very far. Josh and I absolutely loved this hike, and it didn't take all day, which was an added bonus.

Realizing the snow was going to make for a difficult hike considering I wasn't equipped with the proper footwear.

View from the summit of Mt. Jo.

Of course, there are countless hiking trails near the area, so grab a map and pick one that's to your liking.

Mirror Lake
Walking around Mirror Lake is also an easy little expedition. All on a flat path, you get a beautiful view of the lake from pretty much all angles, and in any season, it's a great way to decompress. Part of the path is a paved walkway that's alongside the main road, and you'll also get to see some pretty amazing mountain houses, too.

In the winter, as previously mentioned, you'll see pretty much everyone on Mirror Lake. Dog sled rides are available, it's free to skate, and there's a toboggan chute, which I'll get into in a sec.

Ice hockey on a frozen lake and snow-covered Adirondack chairs - does it get more Lake Placid-y than this?

Dog sled rides in action on Mirror Lake.

Walking around Mirror Lake, you can usually see the surrounding mountains which make for amazing views.

Olympic Sites
We also rather enjoyed visiting the Olympic Ski Jump Park in October. Getting there is a little tricky because you first have to drive to the ticket office to get your tickets, and the drive to the actual jumps. But once you get there, there's an Olympic medalist stand, which makes for a cute photo opp, and then you take an elevator up to the top observation area to see the jumps. It's really, really cool, and the views were also fantastic. It's fun to imagine what it must feel like at the top right before you zoom down the jump only to fly into the air. It's definitely worth visiting just once because it's not something you see every day.

At the top of the Olympic ski jumps.

Gold medalist for Best Husband.

The Herb Brooks Miracle on Ice arena was one place I wanted to make sure Josh got to see because he used to play ice hockey, which was a huge part of his life growing up. It's free to walk in and just see the arena, but you can also take guided tours that cost money. We wandered in for free to just take it all in. If you're an ice hockey fan, they'll likely be local tournaments going in in the fall and winter seasons.

You can also pay a fee and skate on the Olympic speed skate ring, which we decided to do this past trip. They also have skate rentals here right here, which is convenient. It was also not at all crowded, so Josh loved that he could skate without bumping into a ton of people, and go at his own pace (which is usually pretty fast since he's, you know, like amazing at it). This site is also walkable from town, making it just as easy to get to as Mirror Lake.

On a side note, one thing I found super charming and delightful was that everyone in town seemed to know how to ice skate, and almost everyone, regardless of gender, was wearing hockey skates. I felt like a moron on the ice rink because everyone pretty much could skate in circles around me, and I couldn't let go of Josh's arm. But it seemed to be a part of everyone's life. We saw so many little kids, not more than 5-years-old, with little tiny hockey skates out on Mirror Lake, and it was just so cute.

Tip: We have our own skates, but I've read online that a few places in town offer skate rentals. So, if you don't own your own pair and want to skate on Mirror Lake, do a quick Google search and you'll find places in town that you can visit before you hit the ice.

Ski or Snow Tube at Whiteface
We went skiing together for the first time, without lessons, at Whiteface. It was a lot of fun, albeit terrifying for me (but also fun, I swear). My parents enrolled me in skiing lessons when I was five years old, and I hated it and quit. And have been pretty much terrified to ever do it again. But, something inspired me to just get back out there and at least see if I'd enjoy it as an adult. If you've never skied before, follow signs for Bear Den parking when you enter the ski area. This is where the rental office is, and also, where the beginner trails are. They have a great little bunny hill to try out your ski legs, and also some really nice beginner trails right here as well. And of course, they have all kinds of crazy advanced trails, but obviously, we steered clear of those. Whiteface also has snow tubing if you want to have fun in the snow, but don't want to ski.

If you're a beginner, you'll start here at the bunny hill.
The little conveyor belt will bring you up.
I was so happy when I was able to stop coming down the bunny hill the first time.

Cloudspitter Gondola at Whiteface

If you go skiing for the day, the gondola is included with your lift ticket. But even if you don't ski, you can pay a fee to take a ride up to the top of Little Whiteface mountain, which has an observation deck with a beautiful view. We took the gondola ride up, and since it was overcast and blustery that day, my view wasn't great. But, if you find yourself in the area on a clear day during any season, it would be a fun little excursion. The gondola is just outside the main lodge, so very accessible if you don't plan to ski.

View from the Gondola ride.

Walk Around Town
Not that this has to be said, but take some time to really walk around town. The Alpine Ski atmosphere can be felt during all seasons, and it's really quite fun. It’s a pretty small and consolidated town and it can easily be done in a few hours if you rush through, but even despiser it’s size, you could certainly spend an entire day or afternoon meandering through all the ships and sites. In the fall or winter, it's especially fun to pop into the popcorn shop (pun unintended) and grab some warm, freshly popped corn to bring back to your room that night (or as a quick snack after skating on the lake all day). There's also a cute little bookstore, several adorable little shops and tons of great restaurants.

One shop we discovered this time was called Pine & Seek, which had such cute mountain and Upstate NY-themed things. It felt more like a boutique than the typical Adirondack gift shops you see, and we loved their selection.

Visit a Covered Bridge
In Jay, NY, which is about 30 minutes outside Lake Placid, you can visit the only covered bridge in the Adirondacks. We visited in the fall season on a bright, sunny day with foliage in full swing, and it was a delightful little side excursion. We happened to be in the area, but I'm not sure it would be worth-while to visit if it was the only thing you planned on doing in this part of town, but if you venture this way, I would recommend adding it to your itinerary.

Stay In
Especially if you go here for more than two nights, we both highly suggest staying in for a half day (or full day if your stay is longer. We specifically book cabins in the woods because it feel oh-so-good getting a fire going, bringing some books or movies with us from home, and just spending quality time with each other. If you're up for it, it would even be fun to cook up some comfort food (something easy, like pasta or mac and cheese) and indulge yourself that way. Honestly, my perfect day in Lake Placid is to be out in the cold during the day, and then come home late afternoon with either takeout or to cook an easy meal, get in my jammies after a hot bath, eat my popcorn from town, and snuggle up with Josh and the pups to watch movies at night. Yes, you can do that at home on any given Saturday night, but honestly, there's something more fun about it when you're in the mountains.

Waking up in the loft of our cabin made us feel like we were sleeping in the trees.

We made pancakes for breakfast on our last day during our winter trip.

I decided to eat them outside because it was such a nice, sunshiny morning, and cold air felt really good.

This past trip, we also brought a bunch of Olympic-themed movies with us (I, Tonya, Miracle, The Cutting Edge) which made it that much more fun.

Toboggan Chute
Guys, you have to do the toboggan chute if you visit in the winter, and it's open. It was such a fun and unique experience that we didn't know existed until Josh was walking around killing time while I had a massage (more on that later), and happened to mention it to me when we met up for dinner. We went back into town the next day to do it, and we just loved it. It's about $15 per adult (less for kids and students), and it includes your toboggan for your session. You can go down the chute as many times as you want during each session (their daytime sessions are about four hours long).

Okay, this isn't so bad.

I'm terrified.

Can we do it again?

So, what is the toboggan chute? It's an old ski jump that stands 30 feet high, and iced over to allow people to slide down it with their toboggan, and it spits you out onto an iced-over Mirror Lake. It picks up a decent amount of speed and you can slide on the lake pretty far. Then, you pick up your toboggan, and walk back and repeat until their session for the day is over. It was a highlight of our trip.

Tip: They're cash only, so be prepared! We had to make an emergency ATM run, and the closest one was in the ice arena in town.

Bobsled Experience
For just under $100 per person, you can ride in a bobsled with a professional. We haven't done it, mostly because it's pretty pricey for such a short ride. But, it is still something I'd like to do one day because it would be such a cool experience. Reviews online are all positive saying it’s a great once in a lifetime excursion, so I don’t think it should be immediately dismissed if you’re interested.

There are plenty of more upscale places to stay in the area, but we've never tried them. Google and TripAdvisor will be your friend here. But, one thing I can suggest is booking an appointment at the Mirror Lake Inn Spa. With any service you book, you get to take advantage of their indoor pool area (don't forget your suit!), their changing/lounge area, which is stocked with complimentary drinks and snacks, a eucalyptus steam room, and whirlpool hot tub. So, you can really make a day of it. I was lucky enough to go here for a massage (thanks, Babe!) and loved my experience. 

The Mirror Lake Inn Spa has been rated the top resort spa in the Northeast by Conde Nast, so I decided since Josh offered to get me a massage on our trip, this was probably the place to go. I never really been to an upscale spa before, where you have relaxation areas and additional amenities, but I so enjoyed the experience. They assign you a locker, robe and slippers, and you wait in the "parlour," they call it, in your robs, with a fireplace going, until your massage therapist comes to get you. Each treatment room had its own fireplace, and even though I got the cheapest massage they offered, it included additional perks such as warm towels on your neck and feet, and a cooling face mist at the end to feel rejuvenated. I felt very fancy.

I also took advantage of the eucalyptus steam room, and when I was done for the day, I used their individual showers to wash off all the sweat and massage oils, blowdried my hair with the hair dryers available at each sink area, and was on my way to meet Josh for dinner. It was a wonderful experience, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat, even though it's a little pricier than the average massage.

Big Slide Brewery
This one is a little outside the walking zone of town, but totally worth the drive to get to it. They have a decent-sized parking lot, and a really cool vibe inside. Not only that, though, their food is so good, and also caters to vegetarians and meat eaters alike (so, yay!). We're big fans of their pretzel bites, which are made by Cake Placid, and their goat cheese fritters. And their beers are awesome (much, much better brews than Lake Placid Brewery).

Smoke Signals
This restaurant is in town, and also conveniently right across from one of the public parking lots if you have trouble finding street parking. Most of the menu is all about BBQ, but the reason we went was for their fried pickles, homemade veggie burger and nachos topped with smoked tofu, and it was all amazing. The back area of the restaurant also has a great view of Mirror Lake, which is an added bonus.

Cake Placid
Not really a restaurant, but they have some pretty great baked goods, which is necessary on vacation. We've sampled their cupcakes and cookies, and I have to recommend that you do the same. Everything we've had here has been awesome. Not walkable from town, but in a cute little plaza with plenty of parking. Try their s’mores cupcake, which will be perfect during whichever season you visit.

Cupcakes from Cake Placid during our October trip. I loved this little ghost.

Open year-round, and definitely also not a restaurant, but go here for some hot chocolate, chocolate covered cheesecake on a stick or some ice cream (yes, even in the winter because people were doin' it!). It's a funky little place that serves some great desserts, and obviously, we love the name.

Taste Bistro Inside Mirror Lake Inn
After my super relaxing spa experience, I walked upstairs to the main area of the inn and met Josh for dinner at their bistro. The bistro has a great bar with a few different seating areas you're welcome to take your drink to (in case the bar gets crowded). They also have a quaint and cozy dining room serving some great comfort food options. We got fried brussel sprouts to share, and Josh got mac and cheese, which was so tasty. I got a homemade veggie burger that was equally as delicious. We really enjoyed the more quiet and cozy atmosphere here.

The entrance to the Mirror Lake Inn.

Cheers! At Taste Bistro.

I don't think I had enough fries.

And that's it, folks. That's everything we have to share about how to have a great getaway to this lovely little town. Have you been to Lake Placid? What's your favorite thing to do while there?

We used AirBnB for our cozy cabin getaway, and couldn't have been happier with our choice. Are you considering booking your first AirBnB stay or experience? If you'd like, you can use my referral link here to save $55 when you book your first stay. Both Josh and I have been using AirBnB for a few years now to have a more authentic experience when we travel, and we really encourage everyone to check it out when it makes sense for your next adventure. It's usually much more cost effective than hotel stays!


  1. Enjoyed reading this post! We went for the first time for my boyfriends birthday and it was Memorial Day weekend and it was crazy packed. We were not expecting it to be that busy. We wanted to go to Smoke Signals but they are most places had like an hour wait. It was bizarre how busy it was. We had a nice time but we will never go on Memorial Day or any holiday weekend like that again haha.

    1. Oh wow, that's so crazy! It's probably us New Englanders flocking to the closest lake because we haven't seen the sun in months and we're way too excited for our long weekend :) Good tip, though! Avoid Summer holidays!

  2. I have never heard much about Lake Placid apart from the Olympics. Looks like a good place to spend a weekend.

    1. Yes, definitely! Unless you ski and want a week-long stay for that reason, it's a great and easy weekend trip.