Family Fun Catching the Olympic Spirit in Lake Placid, New York

After watching the 2012 Summer Olympics from London, our family caught Olympic fever and decided to check out the Olympic region in our home state of New York.  During our Castles, Cowboys, and Caverns: Upstate New York “Brave” Adventure, we paid a visit to Lake Placid, NY to see just what families could do at the Olympic Venues.  Follow our journey as we climbed to the skydeck of the ski jumps, shot through the zig-zag of the bobsled run, rode a gondola to a mountain summit, and gazed serenely from a lookout over the Adirondack High Peaks.  Continue reading for more photos of our family’s Olympic day in Lake Placid, NY.

We started our Olympic day bright and early on a spectacular Adirondack morning.  Maybe a little too early for some, “I don’t want to adventure… it’s too early!” cried Maggie.  However, as Olympians get up early to train, we must get up early to adventure.  We picked up our Olympic Sites Passport at the Lake Placid Olympic Center and Museum – home of both the 1932 and 1980 Olympic Games, and location of one of the most famous moments in all of sports, the “Miracle on Ice” hockey game.  The ice rink is open year round, and skaters twirled on the ice in front of us.

photo courtesy of Whiteface/ORDA


From the Olympic Center, we headed to the Olympic Ski Jump Facilities with its majestic 90 and 120 meter towers.  A ski-lift took us up the landing hill to the base of the 120 meter tower, where we rode a “Wonka-esque” glass elevator 26 stories to the top for an incredible view of the Adirondack High Peaks.  The same view the ski jumpers have while sitting at the starting gate before hurling their bodies off into space.

It’s hard not to get caught up in the Olympic spirit touring the facilities.

Next stop was the bobsled run at the Olympic Sports Complex on Mt. Van Hoevenberg.  For an additional fee (separate from the Olympic Passport), guests can take a ride in a sled on the Lake Placid Bobsled Experience.  Evie and I took the challenge, and zipped down the actual 1980 Olympic Bobsled Track reaching speeds of 55 miles per hour – a thrilling experience for sure.

After our bobsled ride, we received a tour of the facility.  We hopped aboard a van that drove us to the starting house while a tour guide told us the rich history of the track first constructed for the 1932 Winter Olympic Games (now on the National Register of Historic Places).  Following the talk and enjoying the view from the start platform, we walked down the mile long track to the finish line.

Believe it or not, walking down the Olympic bobsled track was a highlight of the day.  It was quite an experience to actually be on the track and understand how sharp and steep the curves really are.  Maggie summed it up when she said, “this would be really slippery covered in ice!”  Indeed Maggie… indeed.

It was now early afternoon, and the family was hungry for lunch.  We headed to Whiteface Mountain, site of the cross country ski events during the 1932 Olympics and the downhill and slalom events for the 1980 Winter Games, for a bite to eat before taking the high-speed gondola ride to the top of the mountain.

The Cloudsplitter Gondola whisked us 2,500 feet up to the summit of Little Whiteface Mountain in approximately 15 minutes.  At the top, there are incredible views of Lake Placid and the surrounding mountains.  To verify its magnificence, on the day we visited, a bride, groom, and preacher followed in the gondola behind us for a wedding amongst the clouds.

Our last stop on the Lake Placid Olympic venue tour was a bit unexpected for our family.  We had not heard about this attraction before arriving in Lake Placid, but throughout the day many people suggested we drive up Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway – an 8-mile long road to the summit of the fifth highest mountain in the Adirondacks.

The toll road is only open seasonally – so be sure to check the schedule before you visit.  The highway’s entrance had one of the most picturesque toll booths our family has ever seen (not that there are many picturesque toll booths, but this was one) – a 1930’s gatehouse that looked as if it had been plucked directly from the Swiss Alps themselves.

Admission to the toll road was included with the Olympic Passport.  Without the passport, 2012 rates were $10 for car & driver, and $6 for each additional passenger.  Therefore, you might want to make sure you have a clear day before heading to the summit, otherwise your view may be obscured by clouds.

At the end of the highway, 4,600 feet in elevation, sits Whiteface Castle – a two story building constructed from the granite removed to build the road.  The castle sits just below the 4,867 foot summit of Whiteface Mountain, and you have a choice of hiking the trail or taking an elevator the rest of the way.

The Stairway Ridge Trail is a steep and challenging hike over rocks and boulders to the top, but you are rewarded with incredible views all along the way.  If you don’t feel up for the 1/5th mile hike, there is an elevator accessed by a 400 foot long tunnel bored directly into the heart of the mountain.  Even if you don’t take the elevator, you owe it to yourself to take a peek inside the 45 degree tunnel and elevator, it’s a true engineering feat.

Above, the view from the base of the Ridge Trail to the summit, and, below, looking from the summit down the Ridge Trail.

Sitting at the summit of Whiteface Mountain our family was treated to 360 degree views of the Adirondacks, Lake Placid, Vermont, and the surrounding wilderness.  It was truly stunning and sublime.

We had not planned our tour this way, but loved seeing Lake Placid and the Adirondacks in the order we did – we went from exploring man made towers, tracks, and creations to being swept up in the natural wonder of the region, sitting atop Whiteface Mountain surrounded by the majesty of the peaks around us.  It was a full and fulfilling day, and something we would heartily recommend to other families visiting the area.  Come for the Olympic fun, but stay for the natural wonder.  Our family visited the Lake Placid Olympic Region during the summer, but the venues would be just as spectacular in the fall as the mountains are painted with color.

For more photos of our family’s visit to the Lake Placid Olympic Region, click here or on any of the images in the gallery below.

Disclosure: Adventures by Daddy received four complimentary Olympic Region Passports and four Lake Placid Bobsled Experience passes to experience the family activities in the area.  However, all opinions expressed are those of the author.

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About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.