Planning a trip to Lake Placid, NY, and looking for cool things to do? If so then check out this expert’s guide to the most unique things to do in Lake Placid, NY.
I have lived in and around Lake Placid for many many years. And let me tell you, it ain’t no hidden gem. In fact, Lake Placid can be downright touristy, especially if you plan to visit Lake Placid in the summer.
But, I swear to you, there are cool hidden gems in Lake Placid, NY. You just have to look a little harder to find them.
And once you do, you’ll be super happy since you get away from the crowds, and the high prices, of Main Street.
This guide to unusual things to do in Lake Placid, NY is also great if you have visited before. I mean, Whiteface is rad but how many times can you go to the top?
So, stop stressing and start enjoying some of the coolest things to do in Lake Placid, NY.
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Table of Contents
Unique Things to do in Lake Placid
1. Visit John Brown’s Farm
If you’re looking for one of the non-touristy things to do in Lake Placid, then check out the John Brown Farm.
See, famed abolitionist, John Brown, settled in northern New York State after acquiring some land from Gerrit Smith in the 1840s.
His family mostly stayed here while he attended to racial violence in Kansas.
Within a decade, Brown would lead a historic raid on the arsenal in Harper’s Ferry, an act that led to his subsequent execution.
Later, his remains were returned to New York and can be seen today at this beautiful farm.
Be sure to tour the house, learn more about John Brown, and enjoy some of the best hiking trails in the Adirondacks that surround the property.
Because, in total, the farm covers 244 acres and you can enjoy a wide variety of flat hikes that are good for families and beginners.
This is also a great place to visit in Lake Placid in the winter since these hikes turn into excellent snowshoeing paths and cross-country trails.
Local Tip: The John Brown Farm does not have maps for local trails. So, be sure to print some out before you visit. The best time to visit Lake Placid to enjoy this spot is in May.
Address: 115 John Brown Rd, Lake Placid, New York, 12946
Hours: Open seasonally from May through October. Open daily Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, except on Tuesdays when they are closed. Also open on Sunday from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
Price: Just $2.00 per adult.
2. Visit the David Henderson Memorial
Love hiking and want to see one of the best hidden gems in Lake Placid, NY? If so then head to the David Henderson Memorial.
See, David Henderson was at the forefront of the Adirondack Iron and Steel Company. However, he tragically lost his life during a reconnaissance mission in 1845.
He was with his son and guide when he got shot and killed by his weapon when it accidentally discharged.
So, to honor his memory, a memorial was made with the inscription: “This monument, erected by filial affection, to the memory of our dear father, David Henderson, who accidentally lost his life on this spot 3rd September, 1845.”
To access this landmark and pay your respects, drive out to Upper Works Road and do a 3-mile hike along the Upper Works Trail to get there.
3. Check Out Local Cure Cottages
Look around Saranac Lake for five minutes and you’ll see all of these very Victorian-style cottages everywhere with HUGE AF porches and balconies.
Well, back in the day, these homes were commonly referred to as “cure cottages” since they were used between the 1800s and 1900s to help people get relief from tuberculosis.
Yeah, fresh mountain air and a change of scenery were believed to help with recovery from the disease.
Eventually, doctors like Edward Livingston Trudeau opened sanatoriums and recovery centers that consisted of small cottages with constant access to fresh air.
Now known as “cure cottages”, these small homes all had signature therapeutic porches that offered the afflicted constant access to fresh air.
However, these cottages were no longer needed in 1944 when antibiotics were used to treat the disease.
However, you can still see the cottages today, many of which are now private homes.
Currently, these 200+ buildings are still on the National Register of Historic Places, making this one of the coolest things to do in Lake Placid, NY.
Local Tip: These cottages are private homes and you should not trespass.
To learn more about medicine and science then visit the Saranac Laboratory Museum and enjoy one of the unique things to do in Saranac Lake.
4. Visit the Saranac Laboratory Museum
Located in nearby Saranac Lake, the Saranac Laboratory Museum makes for one of the weirdest things to do in Lake Placid if you’re looking for a fun day trip.
As you probably already gathered, Tuberculosis was a big deal back in the day.
It was extremely deadly and people were always looking for new ways to relieve the suffering of those afflicted with the disease.
As a result, people started heading up to Saranac Lake, and the Adirondacks, since fresh mountain air seemed to help with the illness.
One of these people was Edward Livingston Trudeau, who contracted tuberculosis at 19.
He moved from New York City to the cleaner, restorative air of the Adirondacks. Trudeau’s health improved remarkably and he quickly started a medical practice in Saranac Lake in 1876.
In 1882, Robert Koch figured out that tuberculosis was a bacterially induced ailment. Trudeau, using a rudimentary lab, studied the bacterium, aspiring to develop a cure.
Eventually, a fire destroyed his lab in 1893, but Trudeau rebounded by building the Saranac Laboratory the next year,
It was the country’s first facility devoted to tuberculosis research. Over time, the lab’s research extended to other respiratory and infectious diseases.
Research activities were eventually relocated to the newly established and the facility was ultimately closed, being restored and reopened in 2009 as the Saranac Laboratory Museum.
It is a great place to learn about the lab’s past, tuberculosis research, treatments, and the community of Saranac Lake.
Address: 89 Church Street, Suite 2, Saranac Lake, New York 12983
Hours: Open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Price: Starts at $7.00 for adults.
5. Enjoy Lunch in a Ski Gondola
Sure, you can eat at any one of the many delicious restaurants in Lake Placid. But, most of them don’t allow you to dine inside a former ski gondola.
Well, that’s not the case at Cottage Cafe, which allows visitors to relax, enjoy a Lake Placid brew, and take in sweeping views of Mirror Lake.
The best part? These cozy little gondolas are heated to 72°F and can be used by parties of up to 8 all year round.
Sadly, they don’t accept reservations. So, I would visit right when they open to secure your spot. I would also order the chicken pot pie since it is next-level delicious.
Address: 77 Mirror Lake Dr, Lake Placid, NY 12946
Hours: Open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm.
Price: Entrees are between $17.00 and $19.00 each.
6. Visit Santa’s Workshop
Talk about a throwback! I used to visit when I was little and my brother even broke my “magic” wand.
Anyway, Santa’s Workshop is located in the town of North Pole (cute right?). However, it is basically right in Wilmington, which is a town just outside of Lake Placid.
Therefore, this is one of the most unique things to do in Lake Placid if you have kids.
See, the holiday spirit thrives year-round since Santa’s Workshop is a holiday-themed amusement park. It has been around since 1949 and operates annually from June through December.
Highlights include rides, elves, reindeer, meeting Santa, and mailing Santa a letter from the NORTH POLE at their on-site post office.
So, hop aboard the Candy Cane Express train, take a ride on the peppermint swing, and chat with Tannenbaum, the talking tree.
Local Tip: This amusement park is meant for younger children. So, I wouldn’t bring any older kids here since they won’t be all that impressed by the rides.
They also host fun special events like Breakfast with Santa, Dinner with Santa, and the Village of Lights.
Address: 324 Whiteface Memorial Hwy, Wilmington, NY 12997
Hours: Varies by season. Check their website for more info.
Price: $39.95 per person.
7. Summit the Tallest Mountain in New York…Mount Marcy
Want to climb to the top of the tallest mountain in New York state? If so then do the hike to the top of Mt. Marcy.
See, this amazing peak stands tall at 5,343 feet and features a trail where hikers can climb through untouched woodland and over epic alpine tundra as they head to the top.
No less than Teddy Roosevelt himself did this climb right before he would become president.
Yes, the hike is a bit tough with some rock scrambles. But, it’s well worth it since the view from the top allows you to see 43 of the 46 High Peaks on a clear day.
To tackle this incredible hike in upstate New York, hop on Route 73 and take that to Adirondack Loj Road. Park at the Loj. It will be $5 for members and $10 for non-members.
From here, hike along the Van Hoevenberg Trail and follow the blue discs for 7.4 miles to the summit.
Distance: 16.2 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 3,585 feet
8. Visit the Highest Lake in New York
There are a lot of lakes in New York. But none sit at an elevation of 4,000 feet like Lake Tear of the Clouds.
This serene body of water was also where then-Vice President Theodore Roosevelt found himself on September 12, 1901.
He was dining with his family near the summit of Mount Marcy when he received news that President William McKinley was gravely ill.
Roosevelt quickly embarked on a rugged journey back to civilization to assume presidential responsibilities.
This historic journey is commemorated by Route 28N, known as the Roosevelt-Marcy Trail.
Located near the town of Keene, Mount Marcy and Lake Tear of the Clouds stand as reminders of Roosevelt’s dramatic ascent to the presidency.
9. Go for a Ride on a Bobsled
As a kid, and an adult really, I always found riding in a bobsled one of the coolest things to do in Lake Placid, NY.
I did it when I was a senior in high school and loved cruising down the track at 40+ mph. Sure, the ride was a bit bumpy and I kind of wish they had taught us how to lean into the turns.
But, it was a ton of fun and I felt like I was part of the movie Cool Runnings.
To enjoy one of the most unique things to do in Lake Placid, you’ll need to head to Mt. Van Hoevenberg.
Contrary to what you might think, this is one of the best things to do in Lake Placid in the summer since the bobsled run is not open in the winter.
In fact, it opens for the season on May 17th and bobsleds hold around three people.
You’ll also need to show up around 15 minutes before the designated time on your ticket if you want to enjoy this Lake Placid bucket list activity.
Address: 31 Van Hoevenberg Way, Lake Placid, NY 12946
Hours: Varies. See their website for more details.
Price: $125.00 per person.