Those who follow the Winter Olympic games know that Lake Placid in upstate New York was the host city for the 1932 and 1980 editions – plus the site of the legendary Miracle on Ice hockey match between the USA and now defunct Soviet Union. As the world focuses on 2016 summer host city Rio de Janeiro and soon to come 2018 winter host Pyeongchang, South Korea, learn more about Lake Placid’s connections to Olympic history that still thrive.
Did you know that since the first Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France in 1928, there has always been a qualifying Olympian from Lake Placid? Plus you can thank Lake Placid resident Melvill Dewey (who invented the Dewey Decimal System) for his role in the development of this sports powerhouse. He founded a winter resort in Lake Placid in the early 1900s and continuously promoted the village as a winter sports destination so much that he’s credited in getting the 1932 Olympic Committee bid. At this museum, see who over the years has come from this village in New York’s Adirondack region. For example, Lake Placid athlete Charles Jewtraw won the first gold medal for speed skating. There are many other noteworthy Winter Olympian names featured through photographs or related memorabilia such as Sonja Henie, figure skater turned Hollywood starlet. A number of products featuring Henie, who earned her second gold medal in the 1932 games, are shown here, such as dolls modeled after her. Other displays feature Olympic torches, Team USA opening ceremony uniforms, and memorabilia such as posters, mascot figures, and, of course, medals. Sports equipment is on view too. For example, it’s interesting to see the design progression of the bobsled helmet from a basic but somewhat grotesque looking rubbery head covering to a sleek yet safety-minded modern piece of head gear.
The Lake Placid Olympic Museum is located inside the Olympic Center, found on Main Street. Built for the 1932 games, this center still sees much sports activity with competitions held here as well as concerts. It houses three different ice rinks, particularly the famous one where the U.S. men’s hockey team played its historic game against the Soviets (it was a medal qualifying game; not the final one that earned Team USA its gold medal, as some might think). The rink has been named after Herb Brooks, the late coach of U.S. men’s team. Another noted rink is called the Jack Shea Arena, which was constructed for the 1932 games and was given its title in honor of the Olympic speed skater and Lake Placid native whose son and grandson would carry on in the family tradition of athleticism.
Known by locals as the Olympic Oval, but technically named James Sheffield Speedskating Oval, this skating site is right across the way from the Olympic Center and saw a lot of speed skating action at the 1932 and 1980 games. It’s where 1980 Olympian Eric Heiden (unfortunately not from Lake Placid, but nonetheless still quite a name) completed and won five gold medals at a single game. Today, this oval rink is open for public skating during the winter months. While on Main Street, take a walk around the area and find places for dining, shopping, and lodging plus sporting opportunities for both warm and cold weather opportunities like ice skate and bike rentals. A little FYI for you too: a lake surrounds this section of Lake Placid, but it’s not called Lake Placid; it’s actually known as Mirror Lake.
Another remnant of Lake Placid’s Olympic history is the Olympic Flame Cauldron that still stands on the grounds where the 1980 opening ceremonies occurred. It’s just over a five-minute drive from Main Street to Cascade Road, off of NY-73. Today, this location is called North Elba Showgrounds and is where horse show competitions take place.
While potential Olympic athletes still come to Lake Placid for training, there are activities non-sports visitors can enjoy. At the seasonally opened Olympic Jumping Complex, see the ramp that ski jumpers launch from or go down a recently added tubing chute. Guests can take an elevator ride to the top of the K-120 observation deck and take in surrounding views of the Adirondacks. All year round, this region has many ops for taking in the scenic beauty. High Falls Gorge, in neighboring Wilmington, is a set of three trails at various levels and paths lead you around this property. The location also has a welcome center/restaurant to rest your feet and partake in a good meal.
No matter what you decide to do, Lake Placid is a fun getaway for the whole family.
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As a kid flipping through the pages of National Geographic magazines, Michele Herrmann became hooked on learning about new places and cultures. As an adult, she's turned her love for writing and passion for travel into a career that's been full of adventure and surprises. Her work has appeared on Yahoo Travel, The Lost Girls, The Points Guy, ShermansTravel, Epicure & Culture, and Budget Travel. She also posts about travel from her own perspective on her blog, She Is Going Places. Follow Michele on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
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