Climb aboard for a 45-minute rail journey through the forest (btwn Lake Placid and Saranac Lake) on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad (tel. 800/819-2291; www.adirondackrr.com). Trains depart Wednesday through Sunday from the end of May to mid-October from Saranac Lake (19 Depot St.) or Lake Placid (Station St.); themed rides take place throughout the summer. Round-trip tickets are $19 adults, $18 seniors, and $11 for kids 2 to 12.
Seeing The Olympic Sights
Thirty years ago, few Americans -- save for hikers, skiers, and other outdoors-minded folks -- had even heard of Lake Placid. But all that changed with the 1980 Winter Games, when this peaceful mountain village was thrust into the international spotlight. Now you can see some of the sites where legends were made, including the "Miracle on Ice" hockey victory of the Americans over the Russians. The Olympic Regional Development Authority (tel. 518/523-1655; www.orda.org) handles it all.
Skip the Olympic Training Center (196 Old Military Rd.); there's not much open to the public. Whatever the season, make sure to take a ride on Whiteface's Cloudsplitter Gondola (tel. 518/946-2223), which offers amazing views of the High Peaks and the Ausable River. At the Verizon Sports Complex, Route 73 (tel. 518/523-2811), 20 minutes west of Lake Placid, don't miss the bobsled/luge/skeleton track, where in winter you'll watch athletes bomb down on crazy machinery. For a rare treat, strap yourself into a bobsled and race down the half-mile track with a guide and brakeman ($65 summer, $75 winter) -- you'll never watch the Olympics the same way again. The sleds are on wheels in summer, but they go much faster on the winter ice. Drive 10 minutes back toward town to the imposing ski jump towers at the MacKenzie-Intervale Ski Jumping Complex, Route 73 (tel. 518/523-2202). From December to March and May through October, watch athletes soar off these ramps. Ride the lift alongside it and take the 26-story elevator to the top of the 394-foot tower to get the skiers' terrifying perspective ($10). From May to October, you can see the freestylers jump, too -- into a 750,000-gallon pool at the adjacent Aerial Training Center. Drive back into town and spend a half-hour in the Winter Olympic Museum (tel. 518/523-1655) at the Olympic Center, 2634 Main St.; it's $5 to check out a good history of the Games in Lake Placid, with tons of memorabilia, such as Olympic torches from the 1936 games and goalie Jim Craig's hockey stick from 1980. While at the Center, go skating on the rinks where legends like Sonja Henie and Eric Heiden made history , and pay respects at the Herb Brooks Arena, site of the Miracle on Ice.
Savings Passport -- You can get a discount on most Lake Placid attractions (and other money-saving coupons) by purchasing the Olympic Sites Passport for $29. It's available from the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA; tel. 518/523-1655; www.orda.org) at any ticket sales point or at the ORDA Store on Main Street.
Especially For Kids
In winter, nothing in town is as much fun as screaming down onto the ice of Mirror Lake, gripping your toboggan for dear life. Right in Lake Placid, you'll slide down a converted ski jump (tel. 518/523-2591); get a four-person toboggan and a 40-mph rush ($5 per toboggan, $5 per adult, $3 per child). The slide is near the Olympic Center and the Best Western. You can also go mushing around the lake with Thunder Mountain Dog Sled Tours (tel. 518/891-6239), located across from the High Peaks Resort ($8-$12 per person). For a true Christmas experience (for part of the year, anyway), take the kids to Santa's Workshop, 324 Whiteface Memorial Hwy. (Rte. 431), 1 1/2 miles northwest of Route 86 in Wilmington (tel. 800/806-0215), where they can hop on rides, feed reindeer, and see Santa's house. The place is geared toward the wee ones; older kids will get bored quickly. Open daily 9:30am to 4pm from the end of June to Labor Day; weekends only (10am-3:30pm) Labor Day to Columbus Day and 5 weekends prior to Christmas (10am-3pm). Admission is $19.95 adults, $17.95 for seniors and for kids 2 to 16.
The wonderful Wild Center/Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks, 45 Museum Dr., Tupper Lake (tel. 518/359-7800; www.wildcenter.org), makes for an excellent two- to three-hour (or more) excursion. With such exhibits as a giant glacial wall, an indoor "Living River," and the "Find Out Forest," this state-of-the-art, highly interactive museum does an admirable job of explaining the constantly evolving natural characteristics of Adirondack Park. Besides that, it's great fun. There are plenty of live animals inside: turtles, a huge tank of trout, and best of all -- otters! Kids in particular (well, us "adults" too) get a kick out of watching them swim and splash around. There are also such hands-on exhibits as a smelling station, where you can learn the different aromas of an otter, a beaver, and a mink. We found ourselves strangely mesmerized by a clever keyboard of mating calls: Press one key to hear a bullfrog, another to hear a loon, or play a virtual symphony of mating season cacophony as the mosquitoes and red-eyed vireos join in. With more outdoor exhibits, a "Naturalist Cabinet" filled with butterfly, egg, and other collections, and a panoramic movie theater, trust us: You won't be bored.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.