Looking for a wintry getaway? We spent two days in Lake Placid over Christmas this year, and had the perfect mini escape. This small mountain town is exactly the kind of picturesque little village you see in every Christmas movie, complete with dog sledding on a frozen lake, s’mores in the town square, and cozy drinks by the fireside.
Rather than driving the 4.5 hours straight from our home in New York City to Lake Placid, we stopped overnight in Saratoga Springs. We stayed at the newly reopened Brentwood Hotel, which is right across the street from the race track. You literally could not get any closer to the action.
Since we were in town on Christmas Eve there were no horses to be seen, but we still enjoyed our stay in the cozy hotel. Don’t expect a big room or fancy place. It’s more of a boutique inn converted from an old motel. But what truly made the experience were the friendly staff, especially the general manager Ed. We loved our morning coffee and conversation with him!
From Saratoga, it’s just under 2 hours to Lake Placid. You’ll know when you’re getting close – the temperature drops as the road climbs higher, and mountains rise from the streams running alongside the road.
There are several parking areas along the ride, so we pulled off a few times to stop and take in the views. Plenty of frozen lakes and streams to explore. We found a few people enjoying the sunny day on ice skates, but sadly didn’t have our own. You will definitely want to bring your skates if you own them and are visiting Lake Placid in winter!
After checking into our hotel, we headed straight to the Cottage for their apres ski happy hour.
Supposedly the Cottage has the best apres in town, but it was fairly quiet on Christmas. Better to try this restaurant on one of the many nights when they have live music. That said, we enjoyed our drinks and bread bowl full of chili while watching the sun set over the people ice skating on the lake.
Plus, the restaurant has a cute little seating area with a stove to keep warm outside. Perfect for a festive Christmas-time holiday away from home.
We headed to bed early so that we could be up for sunrise, making our way out onto the lake in the pitch black to watch the clouds turn every shade of purple and pink imaginable. Make sure you pack a warm drink, because the temperatures at that time of day can be brutal!
It was truly spectacular, but by the end we were completely frozen and headed back indoors for breakfast. We had a packed second day in Lake Placid ahead of us!
First stop was High Falls Gorge, a 15 minute drive from Lake Placid along route 86 (along the way to and just a few minutes before Whiteface Ski Resort). High Falls Gorge is a short, developed hike, with stairs and bridges and nothing very rugged. And you have to pay to access to the trail. But the icy falls were stunningly beautiful, and we enjoyed our time here. For liability purposes, the front office requires that you use their yaktrax to make sure that you don’t slip on any ice. The grippy metal cleats slip on right over your shoes or boots, and are great for easy winter hiking that doesn’t necessarily require crampons. Definitely worth the $20 investment if you’re the type of person who doesn’t let a little cold weather keep you inside.
We especially enjoyed the roasted marshmallows at the end of the hike! The staff at High Falls Gorge leave this little treat out on weekends and holidays over the winter.
We thought about heading to Whiteface next, for skiing or tubing, but instead kept driving a bit and just pulled off the side of the road at another pull off and went hiking on our own through the woods, stopping along the way at yet another frozen lake.
Before heading back to Lake Placid proper, we decided to check out the Whiteface Lodge. It’s a few minutes outside of town and definitely outside our budget. The restaurant is also expensive, but Kanu lounge serves food and drink at more reasonable prices. Think warm mountain lodge decorated with rustic wood beams, the most comfy leather couches, and two big fireplaces. And the food was absolutely delicious.
While we were there I had to sneak into the restaurant and take a photo of their massive Christmas tree. It was just too beautiful! I think that you can make a reservation for brunch at the Whiteface Lodge even if you’re not staying there, which was much more affordable than the dinner menu. Brunching at the fanciest restaurants and most luxurious hotels is always a good way to get to experience these places without shelling all that money.
The grounds look beautiful too, if this is the kind of place you’re able to afford…
After dropping off our car we were ready to get our drink on. First stop was Goose Watch winery, which was really more of a wine shop that offers tastings. Didn’t have much ambience, but the staff was knowledgeable and the wine was pretty good, especially if you like wine on the sweeter side.
From there we headed into the center of town for their holiday festival, which included dog sledding, snowball slingshot, a DJ, and free s’mores. We didn’t stay long but really enjoyed the atmosphere.
Our last stop on our Lake Placid tour was the bar/restaurant Top of the Park. Luckily I did my research ahead of time, or we would have never found this second-floor bar. Check out the outside area, where they have tables that are literally lit with a fire in the middle, and cozy blankets if you’re still cold in spite of the fire (I wasn’t, and I’m always cold). It was the perfect end to our time in Lake Placid.
Tip if you visit Lake Placid: On our last morning we found the perfect sunrise spot. Sadly it was raining so there was no real sunrise, but this spot was much better than our first sunrise on the lake. Start heading out of town on route 86, as though you’re driving toward Whiteface mountain. Park at the Alpine Motor Inn and walk just a few feet from your car for an excellent view of the sun rising directly over the Adirondack mountains.