Busy families looking to unwind, unplug and undo their daily demands will instantly appreciate the aptly titled Lake Placid, with calm waters showcasing a shoreline dotted with "Great Camps", built in a bygone era when wealthy families in the New York City area hauled their families up north to escape from the city heat and bask in the beautiful mountains of the Adirondacks.
The town of Lake Placid has a 50s feel to it, partly because of the protected park status, and partly because the town embraces the quirky feel of a mountain holiday, year round. It's hard to travel more than 100 feet down the main street, or anywhere in the surrounding area, without tripping over an Adirondack chair (which Ontarians call Muskoka Chairs).
Built five years ago very much in the style of the Great Camps, the luxurious Lake Placid Lodge, has become "the" place to stay, with celebrities and other New York notables on their preferred customer list. The Artisan Restaurant has also become the "unofficial country club" of the many wealthy camp/luxury homeowners in the area. An award winning chef and meticulous attention to detail (not to mention a world class mixologist at the bar) combine to make an extravagant dining experience.
There is a form of accommodation to fit every preference and budget. The town and surrounding villages offer fun B&B's full of local character, like Nan and Red LaFountaine's Paradox Lodge, which features birch bark ceilings, and uniquely local antiquities. Cozy bedrooms feature modern bathrooms and a wonderful family cottage feel. The Lodge backs up onto a bay leading into the lake, and Red's home-style breakfasts are the perfect start to a busy day getting out to the many outdoor adventures available. (Dinner is also available most nights.)
The restaurants and bars are as diverse as the lodgings, with the Brown Dog Café a popular favourite, featuring fantastic views of Mirror Lake, where diners can watch the sun go down as canoers and kayakers glide by. During the day, it's easy to grab a fresh deli sandwich at The Little Super Market and then head down to local beach on Lake Everest in Wilmington that has a fantastic playground, picnic tables, barbecue pits, and a lifeguard on duty.
A short drive away the covered bridge in Jay (rebuilt in 2007) represents the rich history of the area, and the flat rocks that the AuSable River flows over make it the perfect spot to cool off on a hot day.
But it's not all calm in this area of the Adirondacks. During the winter it is the destination of choice for adventurous skiers and snowboarders, anxious to recreate runs they watched during the 1980 Olympics on Whiteface Mountain, and in the summer the hills are taken over by warrior gangs of mountain bikers. The base area around Whiteface, also with protected status, remains untouched by the usual array of condominiums, hotels and bars and restaurants, for a true mountain experience.
The AuSable Chasm is about an hour's drive from Lake Placid, and the spectacle of the chasm is as awesome as the Adventure Trail that's been developed. Cable pulls, rappelling and swaying bridges are for the brave of heart. The Intermediate Trail offers a terrific mix of easy strolling and heart stopping rock wall scaling.
The Wild Centre is a great stop to make on the way to or from Lake Placid, situated in Lake Tupper. This 31-acre wildlife conservation area will have the kids entertained with over 900 live animals. They'll laugh at the otters, learn with the naturalists and touch the flora and fauna, as well as gaze in fascination at the high tech science sphere "Planet Adirondack."
In the heart of Lake Placid, Olympic Center is home to two arenas, both famous in their own right. The figure skating arena was the site where Sonja Henie won gold during the 1932 Olympics, and the hockey arena is home to the infamous "Miracle on Ice" match between the Americans and the USSR. A quick look at the wall plaque reveals that the 1980 Olympics were also the year speed skater Eric Heiden won 5 gold medals and Canadian Gaetan Boucher made his country proud with a silver medal.
Olympic sized fun for all who visit, Lake Placid is a perfect vacation destination. (Lake Placid is located about a five-hour drive from Toronto, 90 minutes from Montreal. Visit www.lakeplacid.com for more information.
This article was originally run in Metro News.