Family Vacay in Lake Placid

by Stephen Johnson

Every four years, I imagine myself skiing down a hill or scoring the winning goal for Canada at the Winter Olympics. Only problem? My athletic ambition far outstrips my ability. That’s why my family decided to skip the trip to Russia last winter. * wink * Instead, we tenaciously made tracks—a few months later— for a destination that has hosted double the Winter Olympics. (We’re competitive like that.) Just a three-hour drive from Ottawa, Lake Placid is famous for having presented the Winter Olympics both in 1932 and 1980. Now that’s a medal-worthy holiday choice, no?

The first thing you notice heading into the Lake Placid region is the natural beauty of the place. It’s picturesque at any time of year. Situated in the Adirondack Mountains, the area is dotted with pristine lakes and covered with forest. We wanted to stay in a place that was close to nature and the Ampersand Bay Resort could not have been a better choice. Our cabin was located on Lower Saranac Lake near the town of the same name. From our front window, we had an amazing view of the water. David, our son, approved; he decided he wanted to live at the cabin forever. With its wood stove and antique cross-country skis on the wall, the cabin certainly had an upscale rustic charm.

Traveling can make would-be Olympians hungry, so we soon headed out to look for a restaurant.  On our way, we found a snapping turtle on the side of the road. A couple of good Samaritans had undertaken a rescue mission to prevent it from walking into traffic. Although David was keen to get a closer look, he respected the potential of this critter to bite and eventually, with the help of a snow shovel, the turtle was steered in the right direction. We had just scored our first nature adventure in the Adirondacks!  

Still hungry, we discovered the Tail O’ The Pup restaurant. Since it was a warm night, we grabbed spots outside and enjoyed Jimmy Buffett on the radio while tucking into lip-smacking barbecued fare.

The following day, we wanted to explore some of the nearby nature trails and decided to check out one called The Pines. It was a gentle family trail and ideal for us since David was five at the time.

 After meandering for an hour or so it was time for lunch. A number of locals had recommended Lakeview Deli, so we had to check it out. WIN! The owner was very friendly and the subs were excellent.

Well fed, the three of us were ready for our next adventure. I was very excited to visit the Wild Centre. Located on 31 acres of pristine wilderness, this landmark tells the story of the Adirondacks. The building itself is constructed to the highest environmental standards. David did not care about these eco-features; he just knew the place was a lot of fun. Most of the exhibits are geared to kids and encourage visitors to “please do touch.”  Some of David’s favorites were an otter aquarium tank and a hands-on demonstration about pond insects. We also enjoyed a computer program that allowed us to imitate animal noises.  A few visitors might have thought we were crazy, but David and I did a pretty mean wolf howl imitation!

After checking out all the indoor exhibits, we visited a few of the outdoor trails. The highlight was seeing a rabbit and hearing frogs.  Anyone visiting the Wild Centre will gain a new appreciation for nature and the importance of protecting it.

We ended the day with a trip to the nearby town of Tupper Lake.  We were thrilled to discover a playground that was constructed mostly out of wood and rock.  The play structures seemed to be an extension of the natural landscape.  

The following day had been a big X on my calendar. It was Father’s Day! We celebrated with a delicious breakfast and made our way to the Adirondack Carousel. This attraction features hand-carved animals found in Adirondack Park. David was enthralled by the lifelike animals. I was reminded of my childhood riding merry-go-rounds at the fair. It was really something to see.  Next, we discovered a place serving free ice cream to fathers. (Gold!) Naturally, I needed to sample a couple of scoops along with David and my wife, Sandy.  

Having eaten our quota of ice cream for the month, we decided to go for a stroll in Lake Placid.  It’s located less than 10 minutes from Saranac Lake.  Walking through town, the Olympic heritage of Lake Placid is immediately apparent.  A highlight for me was visiting the speed-skating oval where Gaetan Boucher won a silver medal. I explained to my son that speed skating competitions used to take place outdoors. David had just watched the Sochi Olympics and looked at me as if I was Dinosaur Dad.  Another treat was seeing the arena where the Americans defeated the heavily-favoured Russians in hockey. I reminded everyone I could that Canada had taken the 2014 gold medal in hockey at the Olympics.  

We planned our trip to the Lake Placid region with an eye to focussing on the Olympic attractions.  We left having a new appreciation for nature and the wonderful attractions of the Adirondacks.  

And if you’re heading in that direction for a winter holiday, you’ll be dazzled. There’s a reason Lake Placid was selected twice to welcome the world to the iconic games. It’s a cold-weather paradise that’s full of attractions kids of all ages will love, such as skiing, skating, sliding, shopping, sightseeing. There’s even a bobsled ride and dog sled rides!

For details about Lake Placid region, see  We had a great stay at the Ampersand Resort.  For details, see


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