Touring the European capitals is on most bucket lists, including mine. But I also want to go off the beaten path and drive Bavaria’s Romantic Road and bicycle through Burgundy. My ultimate adventure involves a Heidi-like “wandern” in a Tyrolean country village with a mountain lake and a herd of goats, because you’re never too old to learn to yodel.
This type of trip is neither cheap nor uncomplicated. There’s the big chunk of change for airfare and transportation to the countryside. Outside of the city, language might be a stumbling block. Going off-road for a European trek takes time, money, and lots of planning. But a faux European country adventure is as close as the Adirondack mountains, about a 5-hour drive from NYC.
Lake Placid, New York, is a sleepy little town until the snow starts to fall and the skiers arrive. Like Innsbruck, Austria, and St. Moritz, Switzerland, Lake Placid has hosted 2 Winter Olympics including the one in 1980 when the men’s U.S. hockey team posted its miracle win over the Russians.
Approaching town on Route 86, you’ll glimpse the region’s serene centerpiece, Mirror Lake (Lake Placid, the lake, is a bit north of Lake Placid, the village). Wandering around, you’ll keep sneaking peeks at the constantly changing reflections on the water’s surface.
I stayed at the charming Golden Arrow Resort and Conference Center. It’s a family owned operation, built with pride by the Holdereids. Current manager Jenn Holdereid explained that when her recently married parents came to Lake Placid on vacation back in 1963, they fell in love with the region, and chose to raise their family there, because it was so similar to their native Bavaria.
Spring for a lakeside room and you’ll enjoy a balcony with a postcard view. There are plenty of spots on the property for snuggling under a blanket and reading a book or taking a nap. In the summer, you can enjoy a European gondola ride on the lake with some wine and cheese.
I asked Jenn Holdereid about great places to wander in the woods. She finds hiking in Germany to be more civilized than hiking in the Adirondacks. “The trails are wide, there is no blow down and at the top you can get a café and a strudel.” She did recommend two experiences that echo a European “wandern”. The first is a beautiful trail system called Henry’s Woods. It’s rated as an easy loop and includes the helpful hint that “out of shape hikers” can complete the trail in 2.0 hours. Perfect, for a wanna-be yodeler.
Her second suggestion is a bit of a cheat. You can drive to the top of Whiteface Mountain and then have lunch at the Castle Café. If this is a bit too tame, Whiteface offers you the chance to indulge your inner Olympian. You can actually try bobsledding or take a biathlon lesson to gain an appreciation for that distinctly European competition that combines cross-country skiing and shooting.
Downtown shops and restaurants are an easy walk from the Golden Arrow. There are outlet stores for major retailers such as Bass, Gap, and Van Heusen. Great athletic wear with original Lake Placid graphics are on sale at Bear Essentials or you can sample artisanal skin care products, crafted with Lake Placid water, at Pure Placid. And you’ll swoon over the sweaters at Ruthie’s Run, a high-end women’s retailer, featuring brands like Norway’s Oleana.
When it’s time for some refreshment, tuck into the Brown Dog Café and Wine Bar. It’s a snug little restaurant with a wall of lakeview windows. For something more casual, try Dancing Bears. They offer a good selection of sandwiches and for dessert, try the chocolate chip cookies. They’re served warm. With milk.
The choice is yours. Keep saving and dreaming about wandering through a scenic European mountain valley…some day. Or, you can explore Lake Placid today.
IF YOU GO:
Lake Placid is an approximate 5-hour drive from New York City on the Thruway. Amtrak also offers service on its Adirondack route – dubbed “One of the Most Scenic Train Rides in America”.
Golden Arrow Resort and Conference Center offers a variety of lodging packages and is proud of its eco-friendly initiatives, including the installation and maintenance of a 3,400 square foot green roof.
Olympic sites open for touring include the Ski Jumping Complex and the famous “Miracle on Ice” arena, renamed after Coach Herb Brooks. An Olympic Sites Passport is available for $35 and includes admission to the facilities and discounts on other area attractions.