Life is getting back to normal, but no big ships yet. Only boats. Over the weekend of June 12th and 13th we drove the 325 miles from New Hope, PA to Lake Placid, NY. If we can’t fly overseas and our cruising options are limited, we all need to do something to scratch the travel itch. Here’s our story.
Lake Placid, NY is a small town (population 2,346) located in the Adirondacks about 50+ miles below the Canadian border. It was the site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games. It’s the home of the US Winter Olympics training center. The town is within the Adirondack State Park, the largest state park in the US. You might say: “What about Yellowstone?” That’s a national park.
It’s a straight shot up the New York State Thruway, then about 30 miles on a two lane road, one in each direction. You are on the NYS Thruway about 210 miles. Curiously, it’s two lanes in each direction the majority of the journey.
What To Do
- The town: The town of Lake Placid is on Mirror Lake, adjacent to Lake Placid itself. The town consists of one main street lined with shops. If you’ve been to Caribbean ports, you know the layout. June seems to be low season, because the main street is torn up for repaving and buildings are getting facelifts. Traffic is one way, one lane through town. You are routed on a residential side street for the return leg. Lake Placid wouldn’t be mistaken for Aspen or Vail with perfect architecture and designer stores. Most buildings are wood frame. Many you see show the weathering signs indicative of hard winters.
- The Olympics. There’s a museum. You can visit the various facilities used for different events. There are plenty of venues.
- You are in a state park. This is obvious because the street signs are brown with yellow lettering. It’s a good place for outdoor activities. There are plenty of stores selling outdoor gear.
- Winter sports. Clearly a draw, but not in June.
Our Boat Trip
Friends suggested a one hour boat tour. This was Friday’s activity. It costs $20.00. You go out on a pontoon boat with railings, canvas sides and weatherproof covering, if needed. It holds about 20 people. There were about ten the day we went out.
The boat cruises slowly around the fringe of the lake. The major attraction is the splendid mansions built in the Adirondack style with ornate boathouses on the lake. There’s no new land available for development on the shoreline. If you want a house on the water, you buy an existing house and either fix it up or build a new house on the site of the old one. We were told the average price is $2-3 million, but the grander ones might be $12+ million.
The boathouses are grand. Apparently, the Lake (or maybe the area) has the largest concentration of wooden power boats in the country. If you picture a boat like the one Gibbs was building in his basement in the season finale of NCIS that aired recently, you know the type of mahogany vessel.
FYI: The mansions are called “camps,” similar tom the way Newport, RI mansions were called “cottages.” Most are owned by captains of industry and wealthy families. Few if any are owned by celebrities.
The boat stopped by a wooded inlet. He yelled and his voice bounced back with an echo.
The boat tour was very relaxing and informative.
We ate out as lot. The town has plenty of restaurants in small structures with limited parking nearby. That’s standard for a tourist town.
Dining should fit into two categories: Enjoyable casual and expense account dining. We stuck to the first. Here are two examples:
- Lisa G’s: This was dinner on Thursday night. They take reservations. We sat in the bar area. They have good salads and pizzas. More substantial dishes too. Wine appears to be standardized at $33 a bottle. One of the great features is a note on the bottom of the menu: There is a $2.00 surcharge if you are crabby! We wondered if it’s $2.00 per diner at the table? $2.00 per crabby outburst?
- Big Slide Brewpub. It was near our hotel. They don’t take reservations, but you can get on the waiting list and view the waitlist online. Pretty cool! They had good burgers and sandwiches. They brew about ten beers. We had lunch there twice. The great features included people bringing their dogs to their tables on the patio and a honking parade of cars celebrating the 2021 graduating class at the local high school. Patrons left their tables, lined the roadway, cheered and waved flags, then returned to their tables.
The Best Experience
After 15 months of lockdown and pandemic restrictions, this felt like life before the pandemic. Few if any people wore masks. I think seating was back to 100% capacity.
Things to Know
Here are a few considerations that don’t immediately come to mind:
- Cell service. Because you are in a huge state park, our T-Mobile wireless service was non- existent, except in larger towns. Verizon service might be better. I think the head of Verizon has a home on the lake.
- Gas stations. Because you are in a state park, they are few and far between. You’ve been warned.
- Speed trap. Generally speaking, the posted speed limit on the NYS thruway is 65 mph. There’s an exception. Around Albany, there’s a stretch clearly posted at 55 mph.
Cruising is “getting there.” Hopefully, we will all be sailing again soon. Foreign air travel is still a distant hope. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to find vacation destinations close to home and enjoy the summer weather.
Cover photo: Lake Placid Lodge, a Relais Chateaux hotel, courtesy Bryce Sanders