Lake Placid NY is a charming, picturesque and immensely popular year round resort village nestled in the heart of the stunning Adirondack Mountains. We are going to show you the 10 best things to do on your first visit to Lake Placid New York, including the top hiking trails, waterfalls and viewpoints.
When is the best time to visit Lake Placid, NY?
Every season of the year brings something unique to Lake Placid. Spring is best for waterfalls and value, summer is best for hiking and access to attractions, fall is best for gorgeous leaf peeping and winter is of course best for skiing.
We personally visited Lake Placid, NY in autumn to hike Mount Marcy and take photos of the quaint mountain village surrounded by vibrant fall foliage colors.
Here’s what we will show you:
- How to get to Lake Placid
- The 10 best things to do near Lake Placid
- Where to stay around the village
- Lake Placid map
Let’s get right into the very best free, cheap and fun things to do in Lake Placid, NY!
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Why Is Lake Placid NY Famous?
Lake Placid gained international fame as the host of the 1980 Winter Olympics.
It was right here in the tiny mountain village of Lake Placid, NY where “the miracle on ice” gave the USA ice hockey team a symbolic cold war victory over the USSR.
Team USA were huge underdogs and the victory is considered one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history. You can learn all about the legendary ice hockey game at the Lake Placid Olympic Museum.
Fast forward 19 years to a cult classic comedy-horror movie about a 30 foot long crocodile called Lake Placid. Ironically, the fictional location in the movie is actually “Black Lake” in Maine.
The answer to your next question is, no there are no giant saltwater crocodiles in Lake Placid!
What Is The Most Popular Thing To Do In Lake Placid, New York?
Most visitors to Lake Placid, NY are in town to hike or ski.
The Adirondack Mountains are a wonderful place to enjoy nature, find hidden waterfalls and engage in outdoor adventure activities.
During the warmer months, hiking is by far the most popular thing to do near Lake Placid. You can choose between several challenging hikes in and around the Adirondack High Peaks.
The Adirondack High Peaks consist of 46 mountain peaks over 4,000 ft in elevation. Complete them all and you can become a member of the Adirondack Forty-Sixers club!
During the colder winter months, Whiteface Mountain near Lake Placid becomes one of the most popular ski resorts in New York.
Lake Placid’s skiing isn’t as good as certain resorts in Vermont and New Hampshire, but the wooden buildings covered in snow of Lake Placid make for a beautiful setting.
Our Lake Placid Experience
We spent three days exploring Lake Placid at the beginning of our amazing New England fall road trip.
Our priority was hiking Mt Marcy but we truly enjoyed exploring each and every place mentioned in this guide.
The start of October is a wonderful time to visit Lake Placid for fall foliage photography. However, hotels are expensive, restaurants are busy and the weather is unpredictable.
Thick grey clouds were hanging over Lake Placid pretty much for the entirety of our 3 day stay but that didn’t put us off hiking and sightseeing. We hope you get better weather for your visit!
Note: We updated this guide in early 2023 to include the new improved Lake Placid Olympic Museum.
Where Is Lake Placid NY?
Lake Placid is located in the far northeast corner of New York State, just 40 miles from Vermont and 65 miles from the Canadian border.
The tiny village may well be a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, surrounded by spectacular Adirondack Mountain wilderness, pure glacial lakes and endless forested land, but because of its isolated location, it might be worth considering visiting Lake Placid as part of a wider USA road trip through the northeast.
Driving Times And Distances To Lake Placid NY
Let’s take a look at driving times and distances to Lake Placid, New York from nearby major cities:
- Burlington, VT – 1h 55m / 60 miles
- Montreal, QC – 2h 05m / 180 kilometers
- Portand, ME – 5h 30m / 295 miles
- Boston, MA – 4h 50m / 254 miles
- New York, NY – 4h 45m / 290 miles
- Rochester, NY – 4h 50m / 278 miles
- Buffalo, NY – 5h 50m / 345 miles
- Toronto, ON – 5h 45m / 525 kilometers
Airports Near Lake Placid NY
Now let’s take a look at the closest airports to Lake Placid, New York:
- Adirondack Regional Airport, NY (SLK) – 25m / 17 miles
- Plattsburgh, NY (PBG) – 1h 00m / 48 miles
- Burlington, VT (BTV) – 2h 00m / 63 miles
- Albany, NY (ALB) – 2h 15m / 133 miles
- Montreal, Canada (YUL) – 2h 10m / 184 kilometers
- Boston-Logan, MA (BOS) – 4h 55m / 262 miles
- Newark Liberty, NJ (EWR) – 4h 45m / 292 miles
- New York JFK, NY (JFK) – 5h 00m / 300 miles
For the ultimate convenience you can fly from Boston Logan into Adirondack Regional or you can fly from Philadelphia direct into Plattsburgh.
However, most visitors to Lake Placid NY flying either domestically in the US or internationally will fly into one of the major transport hubs on the east coast and hire a car.
Recommended Travel Planning Resources For Lake Placid
Flights: We always use and recommend finding flight options using Skyscanner’s flight search engine. You will find more options at better prices.
Hire car: Similarly, we use and recommend finding prices for vehicles using Rental Cars search engine. In both instances, use prices you find as reference points and try to beat them.
Further reading: Read our best tips on finding cheap flights when you travel, including 15 steps you can follow to save money.
Do You Need A Car For Visiting Lake Placid?
Yes, you will definitely need your own vehicle when visiting Lake Placid in New York.
All of the top Lake Placid attractions are spread throughout the region, including hiking trailheads and waterfalls.
Once you have your car and you are in the Lake Placid area, the good news is that most things are an easy short drive away from town.
The Village Of Lake Placid, New York
With so many fun things to do around Lake Placid, it can be easy to forget about taking a step back and enjoying the Alpine village style experience.
Independent stores, restaurants, cafes, bars, outdoor gear shops, Adirondack chocolates and much more can be found just by walking along Lake Placid’s main street.
If you’re staying right in Lake Placid, you will likely gravitate towards this area for dinner each evening. But if you decide to stay outside of town, be sure to drive in and spend some time walking around Lake Placid.
Are There Any Fun Things To Do In Lake Placid At Night?
Lake Placid is certainly more of a daytime adventure resort than a lively nighttime party place. There really is not very much to do in Lake Placid once the sun goes down.
However, most visitors to Lake Placid are so busy hiking, skiing, sightseeing and tiring themselves out with fresh mountain air all day that a bed can’t come soon enough at night.
There are several restaurants and breweries you can enjoy for a few hours after dinner.
If you absolutely need to party and you visit Lake Placid for the weekend, you will find Roomer’s nightclub open until 3.00am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Best Hikes Near Lake Placid NY
Let’s take a quick look at some of the best hiking trails around Lake Placid, New York:
1. Mount Marcy – The most popular hike in Lake Placid. We hiked to Mt Marcy summit via the 15 miles roundtrip Van Hoevenberg Trail, which was long and gradual. We cover this hike in the top 10 things to do in Lake Placid below.
2. Whiteface Mountain – You can drive or hike to Whiteface Mountain summit. The trail is 11.4 miles roundtrip and best hiked in the warmer summer months.
3. Mount Jo Loop Trail – Much shorter and easier hike starting at Adirondack Loj parking lot (the same as Mt Marcy), perfect for the kids and for views over Heart Lake.
4. Algonquin or Mount Colden – More amazing trails you can hike from the same Adirondack Loj parking area. These two are long hard hikes with steep ascents requiring proper gear.
5. Mirror Lake Loop – Easy, flat, short, scenic and located right in the village of Lake Placid. The one hike every visitor should do here. Covered first in our list below.
10 Best Things To Do In Lake Placid NY
We think the cozy village of Lake Placid New York is among the best places to visit in the USA and we hope this guide helps you make the most of your vacation to the wonderful Adirondack Mountains region.
So, let’s start creating your wishlist of free, cheap and fun things to do in Lake Placid NY!
1. Walk Around Mirror Lake
What Is Mirror Lake?
Mirror Lake is the centerpiece water feature around which the village of Lake Placid is built. When the water is calm and still, you can see a near perfect reflection.
The village of Lake Placid’s shopping and dining scene is found mostly around the western shores of Mirror Lake. So as you walk through the village you will naturally gravitate to the banks of the photogenic lake.
Why Walk Around Mirror Lake In Lake Placid, NY?
Walking the 2.6 miles around Mirror Lake is one of the best free things to do in Lake Placid. It is easy and suitable for anyone, including dog walkers, runners and ice cream eaters!
You will pass by luxurious wooden houses on the lake and walk along gorgeous tree lined paths. Don’t forget to enjoy views over Mirror Lake and if you’re an early riser, you might even get to see a reflection.
Is Lake Placid different from Mirror Lake?
Yes Mirror Lake and Lake Placid are two completely separate lakes. Mirror Lake is the lake next to the village of Lake Placid, whereas the much larger Lake Placid is located a few miles north.
2. Explore The Lake Placid Olympic Museum
What Is The Olympic Museum?
The new and improved Lake Placid Olympic Museum opened its doors in December 2022 and holds the second largest collection of Winter Olympics artifacts in North America.
Lake Placid is the only place in North America to have hosted two separate Winter Olympic Games, in 1932 and 1980. So this place has a healthy heritage and authenticity when it comes to cold weather sports!
Why Visit The Lake Placid Olympic Museum?
You can see the famous ice rink from the miracle on ice, as well as the speed skating oval and the hall of fame. But we think it’s worth it just for the iconic ice rink!
If you are interested in the Olympics, winter sports or great sporting events of the 20th century, you should definitely make time to visit this museum.
Olympic Museum tickets:
- $15 (20+)
- $12 (7-19)
- Free (6 and under)
- Open daily 10.00am – 5.00pm
3. Visit The Lake Placid Olympic Ski Jumping Complex
What Is The Lake Placid Ski Jumping Complex?
Two enormous ski jumps dominate the skyline a few miles south of Lake Placid village at the Lake Placid Ski Jumping Complex.
The ski jumps measure in at 90m and 120m tall respectively and both can be accesses by gondola ride directly from the parking lot.
Why Visit The Ski Jumps?
Take a lift up to the 360 degree viewing platform atop the taller 120m high ski jump for amazing views over Lake Placid, Whiteface Mountain and the entire Adirondacks region.
You can look straight down the 120m ski jump and see it as though you were about to crouch into a run yourself. This is without a doubt one of the most unique things you can do on a visit to Lake Placid.
Would you have the minerals to take on the ski jump?!
Ski Jump tickets:
- $20 (13-64)
- $15 (7-12 / 65+)
- Free (6 and under)
- Open daily 9.00am – 4.00pm
4. Explore John Brown Farm State Historic Site
What Is The John Brown Farm?
John Brown was a famous abolitionist who fought for the liberation of slaves in the south on the eve of the American Civil War. He later gave his own life to the cause.
During a daring raid of the US arsenal at nearby Harper’s Ferry, Brown was captured in October 1859, hung and brought back to this house where he was buried.
Today, the historic site and home of John Brown is run by New York State Parks.
Why Visit John Brown Barn?
You can learn about John Brown’s role in this piece of important history, walk around attractive gardens and take home a fantastic reflection photograph of Brown’s barns and trees.
Not long after visiting the farm in Lake Placid, we saw a massive and incredibly impressive painting of John Brown inside The Met in New York City.
Top-tip: Visiting in fall will give you the most amazing colors around the small estate.
John Brown tickets:
- Open every day except Tuesday from 10.00am – 5.00pm
5. Drive Or Hike To Whiteface Mountain Summit
What Is Whiteface Mountain?
Whiteface Mountain is the fifth highest peak in New York and is one of the most popular attractions near Lake Placid thanks to its ease of access for all visitors to the area.
You can either hike or drive the Whiteface Memorial Highway to the summit of Whiteface Mountain. We recommend only hiking this trail if you have plenty of time on your Lake Placid itinerary because you also have Mount Marcy to conquer.
Why Drive Or Hike To Whiteface Mountain Summit?
Views from the top of Whiteface Mountain overlook the entire Adirondack region, Montreal, Vermont and even Hew Hampshire on a clear day. It is one of the best vistas in the US northeast.
Most will drive the highway, which gains 2,300 feet elevation in just 5 miles from the toll house. From the summit parking lot you take an elevator inside the mountain to the true summit. However, hiking Whiteface Mountain is one of the best things you can do in Lake Placid during the summer.
Whiteface Mountain Highway tickets:
- $20 (Vehicle + driver)
- $20 (+ 1 passenger)
- $10 (+ 3-8 passengers)
- Free (6 and under)
- Open June through October 8.45am – 5.30pm
6. Take Cloud-Splitter Cable Car To Little Whiteface
What Is Cloud Splitter?
Cloud Splitter is a gondola ride from the base of Whiteface Mountain to Little Whiteface summit. The gondola is a popular alternative to hiking or driving Whiteface Mountain.
Little Whiteface is a lower peak between the village of Lake Placid and Whiteface Mountain. It is primarily used in winter during the ski season when Cloud Splitter becomes the main ski lift. However, the gondola also has a “summer” season which we used during our visit in October.
Why Take The Gondola To Little Whiteface?
For very little effort you are rewarded with beautiful views over Lake Placid and rolling hills filled with emerald green trees. If you time it right in fall, those greens will be enhanced with reds, oranges and yellows.
Another reason is because the Adirondacks region is often covered in thick grey clouds. Those dense rain clouds tend to hold firmly around the taller mountains but Little Whiteface is low enough to avoid being engulfed, which means you can soak up stunning views without risk of being caught in the clouds.
Cloud Splitter tickets:
- $25 (13-64)
- $20 (7-12 / 65+)
- Free (6 and under)
- Open daily 8.00am – 4.30pm outside of ski season
7. Walk Through High Falls Gorge
What Is High Falls Gorge?
High Falls Gorge is the most picturesque waterfall hike near Lake Placid, NY. The half mile wooden boardwalk trail is suitable for the whole family and it is incredibly photogenic so don’t forget your camera.
Visitors will pass by 4 small but attractive waterfalls called main falls, mini falls, rainbow falls and climax falls cascading through the very narrow gorge.
Why Visit High Falls Gorge?
High Falls Gorge is by far the easiest hiking trail with such stunning waterfalls near Lake Placid. The walk is easy, quick, loaded with instagram photo spots and definitely the most romantic thing to do in Lake Placid.
Don’t expect the sheer beauty of Rainbow Falls in Watkins Glen NY but High Falls Gorge in Lake Placid is still definitely one of the best waterfalls to visit in New York. We recommend arriving early to avoid any crowds.
High Falls Gorge tickets:
- $17.50 (13+)
- $13.50 (4-12)
- Free (3 and under)
Note: Prices listed above are winter rates. Summer rates are slightly cheaper.
- Various opening hours and seasonal closures (see times here)
8. Hike To Mount Marcy Summit
What Is Mount Marcy?
Mount Marcy is the highest point in the state of New York. We think hiking Mount Marcy is the best free thing to do in Lake Placid and highly recommend you leave one full day to summit this famous peak.
The most popular route up Mt Marcy is via Van Hoevenberg Trail from the Adirondack Loj parking lot. Rated as strenuous, the 15 miles roundtrip hike to Mt Marcy summit is long but non-technical.
Why Hike To Mount Marcy Summit?
Can you really visit Lake Placid and not hike to the tallest point in New York?! We had rubbish weather for our hike to Mount Marcy but the summit views were still awesome and we still included the trail in our popular list of the 50 best USA hikes.
Our top tip is to arrive at Adirondack Loj parking lot no later than 6.00am or you won’t get parked. Take loads of food and water because this is a long slog, you will be exhausted by the end! Here the hike to New York’s highest point in photos.
9. Enjoy Stunning Fall Foliage In Lake Placid
Do The Leaves Turn In Lake Placid NY?
Lake Placid surprised us with extensive and vibrant fall foliage colors during our visit. We knew Vermont and New Hampshire would be stunning but New York’s Adirondacks were also extremely radiant.
If you are heading up to New England for the leaf peeping season, we strongly recommend you consider including Lake Placid into your road trip itinerary.
Where Are The Best Places Around Lake Placid For Leaf Peeping?
The trees lining Mirror Lake all turn an array of autumnal colors so you don’t actually have to leave the village of Lake Placid to enjoy fall colors.
John Brown’s Farm, the view over Lake Placid from Little Whiteface and the view over endless rolling hills from Mt Marcy summit are also excellent places for leaf peeping around the Adirondacks.
10. Enjoy The Lake Placid Snow In Winter
What Are The Best Things To Do In Winter In Lake Placid?
Skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, snowshoeing, sleigh rides, snow tubing and ice skating come to the fore during the winter season in Lake Placid and the Adirondack Mountains.
Winter is an extremely popular time to visit Lake Placid and it is on our radar for the near future. The village of Lake Placid is a wonderful festive base, filled with excellent places to eat and apres-ski.
Where Are The Best Ski Slopes Near Lake Placid?
Whiteface Mountain is New York’s premier downhill ski resort and the best place to hit the ski slopes near Lake Placid with 90 trails covering 25 miles.
One of the highlights of skiing on Whiteface is later in the season when black diamond run ‘The Slides‘ opens up. Experienced skiers can ski down 1,000m+ in a single run, a run that is known for having the greatest vertical drop east of the Rockies.
Where To Stay In Lake Placid NY
Lake Placid is a fantastic year round resort village in a stunning location, but hotels in Lake Placid are almost as expensive as hotels in New York City.
If you visit Lake Placid in peak times like summer, fall foliage season and winter, expect to pay over the odds for your hotel.
As a general rule to follow, the closer you stay to Mirror Lake, the more expensive your hotel will be. However, there are cheaper hotels in the region if you can live with not being right on the lake.
We paid more per night in a low budget hotel in Lake Placid than we did in all other mid range budget hotels for the rest of our New England road trip.
Read our guide on how to book cheap hotels for ways you can save on your Lake Placid hotel.
Best Hotels In Lake Placid, NY
You can read our complete guide to the best hotels in Lake Placid NY on our sister site or take a look at any of the top rated options below.
Click on any of the Lake Placid lodging options to see availability and prices for your dates of travel (Booking.com and Google guest ratings included):
1. Town House Lodge – Best for those visiting Lake Placid on a budget.
- Booking: 9.2 / 10
- Google: 4.7 / 5
2. Golden Arrow Resort – Best luxury hotel on Mirror Lake.
- Booking: 8.9 / 10
- Google: 4.6 / 5
3. The Haus – Best luxury apartment on Mirror Lake.
- Booking: 8.2 / 10
- Google: 4.6 / 5
4. Cobble Mountain Lodge – Best for larger groups.
- Booking: 9.0 / 10
- Google: 4.6 / 5
Lake Placid Map
Here is our interactive Google Map showing the locations of each top thing to do in around the region, as well as each hotel mentioned above.
- Red – Things to do near Lake Placid
- Blue – Top Lake Placid hotel recommendations
Click or touch to activate the map.
Zoom in and out, scroll around and get to know the Lake Placid area before your visit to Upstate New York.
Is Lake Placid Worth Visiting?
Yes, Lake Placid is definitely worth visiting! You can hike, chase waterfalls, ski, eat at classy lakeside restaurants, visit museums and learn about Olympic history on your visit to Lake Placid NY.
We won’t lie, Lake Placid is an expensive place to visit and you will need a healthy travel budget. But there are so many fun adventure activities for the whole family to enjoy.
Things To Do In Lake Placid FAQ’s
Let’s finish with the most asked questions about what to do in Lake Placid, New York.
There are so many fun things to do for the whole family around Lake Placid in New York. Families can take the kids for a walk around High Falls Gorge and Mirror Lake, ride the gondola to Little Whiteface and drive the toll road to Whiteface Mountain summit.
If you stay in a hotel on the banks of Mirror Lake, you can easily walk to the restaurants, shops and bars in the village of Lake Placid. However, most attractions are spread across the region so you will need a car to visit the Lake Placid area.
More New York State Guides
- Eternal Flame Falls – How to visit Eternal Flame Falls in upstate NY
- High Falls Gorge – The Complete Guide to High Falls Gorge near Lake Placid
- Mount Marcy – Hiking Walk through to the Hight Point in New York
- Waterfalls – Where to find the best New York State waterfalls
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Want more New York content? Head over to our New York Travel Guides to explore the Finger Lakes, Adirondacks and the best of NYC.
We hope this guide to the best things to do in Lake Placid NY helps with planning your vacation to Upstate New York!
Please let us know if you have any questions or need any help planning your visit.
Mark and Kristen
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