Extremely Cheap, Extremely Fun, Extremely Family Friendly!
Extremely Scared, Extremely Clumsy...
So, when I think about the Adirondacks and the word extreme in the same sentence, I admit I get extremely apprehensive. I mean, when you think of Lake Placid, you often think of extreme sports: ice-climbing, luge, biathlon, ski jumping…
Extremely Smart Decision
And, while those extreme activities are fun to watch, the idea of me handling a gun while skiing, sliding down a track at breakneck speeds, or hugging an ice wall with just ropes for support, probably isn’t good - or safe - for anyone around me. So, here's my take on extreme outdoor Adirondack activities: extremely cheap, extremely fun, extremely family friendly! Yes, it's true, we have them. A lot of them, in fact!
Let me first say, I love to go on vacation. BUT I hate the thought of spending too much money on activities while I am out and about. I mean, you always account for hotels, meals, and a few extras - but no matter how much I plan, there are always cool things I want to do that I haven’t budgeted for. Coming to the Adirondacks, you can rest assured there are plenty of fun activities to fill out your days and nights in an affordable way — and if you bring your own equipment with you, the deals just keep getting better!
Here are my top 5 FREE — or fairly close to it! — FAMILY-FUN ACTIVITIES to plan into your Lake Placid trip. In no particular order:
Blades of Glory
1. Ice Skating / Hockey… What is more iconic than skating in Lake Placid - you know, home of the "Miracle"? Even as un-athletic as I am, I highly recommend lacing up the skates and hitting the lake. Yup - the lake. Mirror Lake is great to walk around, but the kids think it’s even better to skate on! It’s free, open 24/7 — when the ice is deemed thick enough — and I don’t have to worry about falling and knocking over groups of skaters. Don’t get me wrong, I will still fall, but there’s a lot more space to spread out. Pond Hockey games pop up near the beach, where a rink is usually cleared and waiting. And, back by popular demand (and this is pretty awesome), starting last year the village maintained a 2-mile skating loop track on the lake. Doesn’t get much better than that!
- We also love to hit the Cascade Lakes on Route 73 south of Lake Placid. These beautiful lakes make for a great, smooth skating surface.
- If you have to rent your skates plan on spending $10, but otherwise easily a couple hours of free fun!
- If you want a more organized experience, check out the Olympic Oval. They have a set schedule for Public Skating (2 hour increments), and you can rent your skates right on premises.
The Hills Are Alive
2. Sledding… Hear the squeals!? Lake Placid Golf Course is awesome. The owners very generously let sledders ride away on an area of the course that is easily accessible from Route 86 — just as you enter the village coming from Wilmington. You’ll find kids of all ages flying down the hills. Bonus - Oliver is always tired when we are done at the course - he seems to forget that for every ride down, there is quite the hike back to the top! And double bonus: It’s free. Free. Free.
- Of course, for the ultimate sledding experience, check out the Toboggan Chute on Mirror Lake. There is a fee, but the experience is well-worth the price. You'll climb a huge set of steps, hop on board a 4-person sled and shoot out over the ice. Is your family competitive? If so, choose to go down side-by-side and see which team makes it the farthest - there is a certain skill to winning!
3. Cross-Country Skiing… John Brown’s Farm. I love hitting the Farm with Oliver. Park in the lot, put on your skis and go! There are trails through the woods - in varying lengths. But, even better, when the 5-year-old gets antsy from skiing, he can roll down hills and make forts in the field, while I can ski the outskirts and keep an eye on him. This family-friendly area is also extremely DOG-FRIENDLY! You’ll encounter 2- and 4-legged outdoor enthusiasts on these trails, but never have I felt crowded or hurried when skiing out here. The conditions vary - sometimes we are making first tracks, sometimes there is a well-worn tread. It’s always fun and always different. A great place to learn at your own pace.
- We also like South Meadow out on the Adirondack Loj Road and, of course, the popular Jackrabbit Trail.
- If you have to rent your skis plan on $20 or so, but otherwise easily an hour to three of free fun.
- If you are looking for groomed trails or lessons, we can help with that as well! Check out Cascade Cross Country Ski Center and you’ll be hitting the tracks within minutes of arrival. This is our favorite lazy-day ski area. Oliver loves skiing here so he can hit the lodge for hot chocolate after we’ve called it a day. There is a daily trail fee and of course, the cost of hot cocoa - but definitely affordable for a few hours of fun.
- If you are looking for a faster ski on groomed trails, why not head a bit farther out of town and visit Mt. Van Hoevenberg Cross Country Ski Center? You can read about my first Van Ho adventure by clicking here! There is a daily trail fee here - but it’s well worth it once you hit the smooth trails.
You Take The High Road
4. Winter Hiking / Snowshoeing… Sometimes you just don’t want to ski. That’s why we love to winter hike and snowshoe. There are great trails around Lake Placid that make for the perfect morning outing. One of our favorites is Henry’s Woods. We often head out here when we have a couple of hours and need to burn off Oliver’s excess of energy — I may have the most wound-up child around,seriously. The 2+ mile loop has a few nice hills, some great views, a lot of nice running space, and a "Bridge to Nowhere!" You’ll expect to find a lot of locals, and again - seeing as this is one of the most dog-friendly towns I’ve ever been to - you’ll probably pet a few furry friends along the way. Free. Free. Free.
- If you want to rent snowshoes, try one of our great sporting goods stores. They’re affordable and will be able to help you pick the right pair for your paws.
- As with the skiing, we recommend the Jackrabbit Trail. And, although we love to ski the lower loops and fields at John Brown’s Farm, the upper loop is a great snowshoe/hike.
Walk This Way
5.) Mirror Lake Walkway… The 2.7-mile walkway around Mirror Lake is one of our favorite things to do, year-round. The sidewalk is maintained and well lit and there are benches at convenient intervals around the lake. We have several favorites that we stop at every day: the "picture-spot" across the lake from town, the "snack-spot" near the Lake Placid Marina, the "secret-bench" built into the rock wall near the Mirror Lake Inn, the "walk-out" near The Cottage. We even have a "mushroom tree" that we stop to count the fungi on - it’s tradition…
The great thing about walking Mirror Lake is the accessibility. Whether you live in town or are staying in one of our many lodging options, you can be out strolling within minutes of almost anywhere. The path is flat and perfect for all ages. Oliver has progressed from being pushed in the stroller, to riding his bike while I jog to keep up with him. You’ll encounter families, couples, groups of students from our boarding school, athletes of all abilities. This makes for great people watching. And, if you time your walk right, you’ll hit town just when you are getting a little tired and need to do some window-shopping. Of course, I usually hit town right about dinner-time, and my mouth is watering by the time I get past all the tempting restaurants.
- Again, totally free - unless you decide to stop and shop.
- And eat.
- And maybe grab a beer at the Pub.
Okay, so there you have it - my top 5 favorite FREE outdoor family activities in Lake Placid. What are your favorites? Let us know - I, for one, am always looking for something fun to do with the family on an awesome winter day! Don't forget to check our full event schedule to find out what great things are happening during your visit!