“So that’s what they mean by fall color!” our companion said, gesturing to a runner on Route 86 in northern New York who wore nothing but a raspberry-hued thong with his sneakers as part of an overnight running relay race that takes place between Saratoga Springs and Lake Placid. Autumn’s palette is always stunning in the Adirondacks, but what’s really striking about the small town of Lake Placid is its sporty vibe. At the moment, the trails of the High Peaks (the forty-six 4,000-plus-footers of the Adirondack Mountains) are dotted with hikers and peak-baggers; come winter, snowshoe enthusiasts and ice climbers take over. Area lakes become skating rinks and golf courses morph into cross-country ski centers. Then again, what else would you expect from a town that has hosted two winter Olympic Games (1932 and 1980), where an Olympic ski jump tower is a major local landmark? In this hale-and-hearty burg, the dress code is fleece-and-jeans, whether you’re hitting the shops in town or sitting down for an Ubu Ale at the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery.
Reminiscent of an Adirondack great camp, the beautiful Whiteface Lodge
(7 Whiteface Inn Lane, 888-582-0500; www.thewhitefacelodge.com; suites from $275) was named one of the world’s best places to stay by Condé Nast Traveler. The 94 guest suites have handcrafted Adirondack furnishings, private balconies, and — in many cases — cast-iron fireplaces. The resort’s amenities include a spa, indoor-outdoor pool, hot tub, an ice rink, a fine-dining restaurant and lounge, and nightly s’mores around a campfire. The Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort (2559 Main St., 800-582-5540; www.golden-
arrow.com; from $119) on Mirror Lake has been commended for its sustainability. The 166 guest rooms include family suites (kids love the indoor heated pool) and pet-friendly lodgings. Village shops are right outside the door. If you like the intimacy of a bed-and-breakfast, you’ll be delighted with the Stagecoach Inn
(3 Stagecoach Way, 518-523-9698; www
.lakeplacidstagecoachinn.com; rooms from $169). Guests at this restored 1820s property enjoy a nightly happy hour, a full Irish breakfast each morning, and the local scoop from in-the-know hosts. The four guest rooms are decorated with antique Adirondack-style furnishings.
Lisa G’s (6125 Sentinel Road., 518-523-2093; www.lisags.com; entrees from $12.95) is a down-home local favorite. Everyone from motorcycle clubs to families with babies loves this place. Try the pulled-pork sandwich topped with coleslaw ($9.95) or the BBQ chicken salad (grilled peaches and jalapeno-corn vinaigrette add a unique edge to this entree-sized plate of greens). Eat outdoors overlooking the river when the weather is fine. The award-winning craft brews draw crowds to the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery (814 Mirror Lake Drive, 518-523-3813; www.ubuale.com; from $10), and the pub fare is better than you’d expect, especially the house ale-and-onion soup ($7) and spicy black bean burger ($10.) The farm-to-table cuisine at Liquids & Solids at the Handlebar (6115 Sentinel Road, 518-837-5012, www.
liquidsandsolids.com; from $13) is winning rave reviews; creative (small-ish) plates feature solids like rabbit crepinette with lentils ($15) and beef heart ragout with gnocchi ($13). Among the liquids, the sinus-clearing “maple & spice” bourbon cocktail gets its kick from cayenne pepper. Hit the hiking trail (or the road toward home) with a sandwich from the Adirondack Corner Store (188 Newman Road, 518-523-1689; www.adkcorner
store.com; from $6), Lake Placid’s best deli.
During the Day
If you’re a hiker, you’ll feel like a kid in a candy store. Lake Placid is a gateway to six-million-acre Adirondack Park, a federally protected forest reserve, and nearly all of the famed 46 high peaks are reachable via local trailheads. The folks at the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) are experts; the year-round Adirondack Loj (100 Adirondack Loj Road, 518-523-3441; www.adk.org) offers a staffed visitors center with current trail information. There’s also parking for several trailheads, including high peaks and not-so-high summits. A good choice for a day hike is Mount Jo, a 2.3-mile round trip to the summit (2,876 feet), with killer views of the high peaks and Heart Lake. If you’re just looking for a pretty walk, take the easy-going 2.7-mile stroll around Mirror Lake. Ski season starts right after Thanksgiving at Whiteface Mountain Lake Placid (2634 Main St., www.white
face.com), which claims the greatest vertical drop east of the Rockies. You can also experience its lofty grandeur without putting on a pair of skis by riding to the summit of Little Whiteface — and down again — in the eight-person Cloudsplitter Gondola ($20 per person.) The ride is free if you spring for an Olympic Passport ($32; www.whiteface.com), which also gets you into sites like the Olympic Museum and the (very cool) Olympic Ski Jump Complex, where you can watch freestyle skiers train — by jumping into a swimming pool! Alas, paddling season is winding down, but if you’re planning a spring visit and want to experience the beauty of the ’Dacks from the water, contact Jason at Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters (541 Lake Flower Ave., Saranac Lake; 518-891-7450, www.adirondack
outfitters.com; kayak rentals $35.) On a rainy day, the shops along Lake Placid’s Main Street offer some fun browsing for rustic furniture, accessories, and outdoorsy duds. A fun shopping example: Adirondack Trading Co. (2512 Main St., 518-523-4545; www.adktrade.com), featuring two floors of woodsy, camp-style furnishings (including those famous twig chairs) to outfit your home in rustic, ’Dacks style.
After a day spent hiking or skiing, you might not feel too lively. Perhaps a cozy table and live music at the rustic-chic KANU lounge at Whiteface Lodge is just the ticket (see Stay, above.) Meanwhile, at the Northwoods Inn (2520 Main St., 518-523-1818; www.northwoodsinn.com), the Delta Blue bar hosts lives blues acts on weekends, like Dave Keys Blues Band, a New York favorite. Smoke Signals (2489 Main St., 518-523-2271; www.smokesignalsq.com) is a new spot for live music on weekends. And for retro family fun, there’s a bowling alley called Bowlwinkles (2750 Main St., 518-523-7868; www.bowlwinkles.net.) Of course, if you’ve played hard, in the spirit of the ’hood, there’s nothing like a soak in a hot tub!Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at email@example.com.