I was a volunteer at the Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games in 2002, and have enjoyed visiting the Olympic venues in my own back yard. When we visited Lake Placid, New York, I was excited to see how Lake Placid's venues would compare. We visited on a weekday early in the summer season, so not everything was in full swing. We missed out on some things, but we had the venues to ourselves and enjoyed opportunities that we wouldn't get another time.
We found that Lake Placid is a time capsule of Olympic history, nestled inside the beautiful green Adirondack Park and chock full of charm. It has half the population of Park City, and is hours away from the nearest big city. In 1980, there were only 38 events in 10 sports, compared with 98 events in 15 sports in 2014.
Here are the Olympic venues you can visit in Lake Placid.
This is where the Miracle on Ice hockey game happened in 1980. This was a game between a powerful team from the U.S.S.R. and the underdog U.S. team, played at the height of the Cold War. The United States won the game and went on to win the gold medal. The arena was not in use during our visit, so we explored it at leisure. At other times, you can watch a game or skate on the ice yourself.
The Lake Placid Olympic Museum is also housed in the Olympic Center arena. It is small – just one room – but it is packed with Olympic history. One corner is dedicated to the 1980 U.S. hockey team. The 1932 and 1980 games are museum's showcase, but we also found displays featuring medals, torches, posters and mascots of all the Olympic Winter Games, including Salt Lake City!
Ask for the Olympic Alphabet Search when you go. It's a scavenger hunt that helps families get the most from the museum. When kids complete the booklet, they receive a medal. It's a great Olympic sites souvenir.
Olympic Jumping Complex
I decided that ski jumpers must be a little insane after staring down the jump at Lake Placid. An elevator ride to the top is included in the Olympic Sites Passport. From the top of the ski jump you can also enjoy gorgeous panoramic views of Lake Placid and the Adirondack mountains.
The Lake Placid Freestyle Hill is also located here. You may get the opportunity to watch athletes twist, turn and flip on skis into the pool all summer long. An experience I'd like to try another time is Extreme Tubing, where visitors can tube down the ski jump landing hills at speeds up to 50 mph!
Related: Lake Placid Dining Guide
Olympic Sports Complex
The bobsled, luge, cross country and biathlon events were held at the Olympic Sports Complex. The Olympic Sites Passport includes a short bus tour of the bobsled/luge/skeleton track. The track is used by Olympians for training and still hosts international competitions. It was not in use that day and I was surprised and delighted when our bus driver offered us the option of walking on the track all the way down at the end of the tour.
You can ride a wheeled bobsled or try the biathlon course at this venue for an additional fee. The Olympic Sports Complex is a good place to find hiking, mountain biking and cross country ski trails, as well as Olympic history, souvenirs and lots of photo ops.
Related: Tips for Visiting the Wild Center
Video courtesy of ORDA/Whiteface Lake Placid
Whiteface is the resort where the downhill skiing events were held. During the winter, you can ski the same slopes as the Olympians. There are a lot of fun things to do during the summer as well. Hiking, mountain biking, scenic rides and more await the adventurous.
The Olympic Sites Passport includes a scenic ride to the top of Little Whiteface on the Cloudsplitter Gondola where you'll be treated to more fantastic views of the Adirondack Mountains. It also includes a round of disc golf. You can drive the Whiteface Veteran's Memorial Highway to the summit of Whiteface and enjoy views from the castle. It would make a great picnic destination.
Related: Tips for Visiting Fort Ticonderoga
Lake Placid and Whiteface host event and festivals year-round. Watch for Oktoberfest and the Flaming Leaves Festival this fall. Both are family-friendly events with good food, music and activities amid the fall colors of the Adirondacks. Admission to both events is included in the Olympic Sites Passport. Learn more about these and future events at www.whiteface.com/events.
Good to Know
Where: In and around Lake Placid, New York. All venues are located in, or a short drive from Lake Placid.
When: Year-round, though hours may be limited and not all venues may be open every day during the spring and fall. The Veterans Memorial Highway will be open weekends only through October 5, 2014 due to construction.
How much: $35 for an Olympic Sites Passport, which allows one-time access to each of the Olympic venues, plus a 20% discount on many of the activities, such as bobsled rides and Extreme Tubing. Admission to single venues can also be purchased. Updated July 2015.
How long: At least an hour at each venue, plus travel time. You may spend up to a full day exploring Whiteface.
Disclosure: My family received complimentary Olympic Sites Passports so that we could experience Lake Placid's Olympic sites and review them for other families. I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own.