Some posts are about the majesty of the Alps, some are about the pace of a bike tour through London. This post is about taking a couple of days to chill — in the time of COVID. Here’s how to have a fabulous winter weekend in Lake Placid.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room…traveling during COVID!
As a travel blogger, I wanted to see what it was like to be on the road during this crazy time, and learn how to do so safely. Just as your local stores and restaurants have adapted by instituting safer procedures, many hotels have implemented the same measures of mask wearing, social distancing, and reduced capacity. I’m happy to report that if you do your homework, it is possible to experience a weekend away with your family, keeping the following tips in mind.
- Test before you depart and read up on hotel policies. The hotel may require certain testing or quarantining beforehand.
- Don’t expect the same luxuries and frills — it’s for everyone’s safety. There’s no housekeeping, and limited dining service (or only room service). In our hotel, every room had its own kitchenette and living area, which allowed us to have a home away from home.
- If you do dine at a restaurant, go early. There will most likely be less people. This was fairly easy to accomplish with a toddler, whose eyes open at 7am on the dot, and who prefers dining later with the 5pm crowd.
- Go with your favorite people and bring board games. Certain activities and sites were closed due to COVID, so we came prepared with our own entertainment — Rummikub and backgammon.
The COVID chillin’ started with a very long car ride that takes you through a worm hole of trees. Soon, you start to get that, “I’m not in Kansas anymore” feeling. We were only 5 hours from NYC, but it felt like we were 20 hours deep into Canada. Next stop: 1980. Lake Placid.
If this post was a January blog, it would focus on skiing.
If it was July, it would highlight the lake and swimming.
But, for me, it was a December getaway focused on a much needed change in scenery. I wanted to take it slow, and enjoy the outdoors with plenty of family time. Plus, it was pretty cute to hear my toddler attempt to conquer phonetics by renaming the town “Lake Plastic.”
Arriving in Lake Placid felt a little like going back in time. National pride is alive and well, preserved forever. The Olympic ski jumps still tower over the road entering town, Olympic themed decor proudly covers the walls in bars and restaurants, and a walk down main street is like traveling through time and landing back in the 80’s. There are Olympic themed stores still playing the famous USA vs. Russia hockey game on continuous loop. In my house, the Miracle version of this rivalry is required wintertime viewing every…single…year. Niall was content pulling up a chair to catch the “live” show, while I poked around the stores.
The key to travel during COVID is really just changing one home for another. The same safety rules apply. So let’s move on to the main event…the Whiteface Lodge!
Where to sleep in Lake Placid?
Given the season, I selected a hotel renowned for bringing the “Deck the Halls” spirit to life for our winter weekend in Lake Placid — Whiteface Lodge. As we entered the property, trees lined the driveway decorated with large white lights swirling round and round the branches, making the evergreens look like giant vanilla ice cream cones. The storybook hotel looked like a large log cabin, outfitted with winter sleds, outdoor Adirondack chairs by the fire pit, and all the necessary ingredients to throw together an impromptu s’more snack. Inside, there were plenty of secluded “curl-up-here” fireplaces, surrounded by large comfy chairs, a welcoming mini winter village, and gargantuan Christmas trees (some were 3 stories high!) decorated with ornaments, and colorful presents. What the hotel did not have were masses of people hanging in the lobby; I knew the minute I walked in that COVID protocol was being respected. It felt like we had the place all to ourselves.
In keeping with the theme of a chill weekend, the staff was beyond gracious, and relaxed when my toddler had a classic 2 year olds melt down in their spectacular restaurant. She chose that moment to develop an issue with walking on tile, wood, or carpeted floors. To her, the ground instantly became a combo snake pit / lava pit. No problem. We let her wail, they let her wail, and when the dust settled, they sent over complimentary drinks for us and a coloring book for her.
If you’re in the mood to hunker down at the lodge (we did), there is plenty on site to keep you isolated, yet entertained — grab some skates and head to the ice skating rink, check out the bowling alley, or wait for the s’mores to start cookin’ at night by the fire. We spent most of our time at the indoor / outdoor pool, where fresh snow cascaded over the rising steam. Claire had a blast swimming through the tunnel that connected the outdoor and indoor sections — or as she called them, the “warm” and “cold” pools. Tunnels are one of her new favorite things, so this was an easy toddler win for us.
To be safe, we brought our own board games from home, challenging one another to continuous games of backgammon and Rummikub back in the room. We treated these games with the same level of competition as the 1980 hockey rivalry of USA vs. Russia. When in Rome!
The suites at Whiteface Lodge have family friendly written all over them. There is plenty of space for everyone, which is code for: you won’t drive each other too crazy. We booked a 3 bedroom, 2 floor suite, which can easily fit a family of 6. Every room includes a kitchenette, separate living area, and separate bathrooms. We spent our nights curled up next to the fireplace, enjoying the down time.
Where to eat in Lake Placid?
If you can only pick one place to try for dinner, then book a table at Caffe Rustica for your winter weekend in Lake Placid. They followed strict COVID protocol, and we went early in the night to play it safe. Admittedly, I was a bit dubious of the food quality pulling into the shopping mall parking lot, but this tiny Italian restaurant can rival any NYC Italian fare. The star of the show — the sweet red chili shrimp served over linguine in a creamy tomato sauce. It was light, flavorful, and left me wanting one more bite. We also enjoyed penne alla norma and a butternut squash goat cheese pizza. The carrot cake with cream cheese frosting hit the spot — I even caught my husband (an adamant carrot cake protestor) sneaking a few extra forkfuls. Be sure to make reservations ahead of time, as capacity is limited during COVID. It’s a good choice for a date-night, but also works as a family friendly option.
What to do in Lake Placid with kids?
HIKING THROUGH HENRY’S WOODS
Lake Placid offers countless trails for all hiking abilities, but with a toddler in tow I was looking for one that was: a) manageable to do with kids and b) scenic. Pulling up to the entrance of Henry’s Woods, I knew we picked the right one. Right away, we had a view of the meandering path through tall snow covered evergreens. It felt like I was peering down Little Red Riding Hood’s path through the forest – minus the wolves.
The trail has a few offshoots if you’re looking for something a bit steeper, or a shorter option. We aimed for a quick, brisk, reinvigorating hour long hike. Tips for bringing a toddler along:
- Pack a hiking carrier. Despite how discombobulated the picture below seems, in reality, the hiking carrier is quite easy to use. Unfortunately, in that moment, Claire went stiff-leg on me. We coaxed her in by promising to find Queen Elsa and Princess Anna on the trail.
- Bring snacks. A granola bar goes a long way with a 2.5 year old.
- Make the hike into a game in case your little one becomes antsy halfway through. Claire tried knocking snow off as many tree branches that she could reach. Sadly, her gloves became collateral damage.
Heads up: some Compass Roam advice! If you have Lake Placid bookmarked as a go-to destination for enjoying outdoor winter activities, like skiing, it may be best to plan your winter weekend in Lake Placid for January/February. Our December excursion meant waking up to flurries of snowfall every morning, but not enough to hit the slopes. The weather gods may change their mind on a dime, but if your heart is set on a deep winter freeze experience, your best bet is to wait for the colder months.
What does Lake Placid offer in the winter?
- Ski Whiteface Mountain
- Ride the Cloudsplitter Gondola to enjoy wintertime views
- Go snowshoeing or cross country skiing at Mt. Van Hovenberg
- Experience a winter dog sled ride across Mirror Lake
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