Lake Placid, Adirondacks, NY

Last weekend, Andrew and I celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary with a trip to Lake Placid in the Adirondacks, New York. We decided on Lake Placid because though we’ve both lived in New York City for the past 10 years, we’ve yet to make it up to the Adirondacks. We’ve visited both the Catskills and the Poconos, but hadn’t gotten this gorgeous mountain region in yet. Lake Placid is about a 5 to 6 hour drive from New York City, though we had a bit of a slowdown on our drive up on Thursday. As we were headed north on I-87, a huge plume of smoke went up ahead of us as a truck broke an axle and collapsed on the highway. We were stopped for about 45 minutes as emergency personnel came to help. I was driving at the time and even had to reverse the car on the highway at the direction of a police officer to put more room between the smoking truck and the waiting cars. We were very lucky to be far enough away from the accident that our only inconvenience was waiting. Right after the road was cleared, we were able to pull off in Saugerties, NY, for a much-needed driving break and lunch at one of our favorite spots in Catskills, the Dutch Ale House (we’ve visited many times before during our camping trips in the Catskills).

Because of the accident on the highway and our lunch stop, we didn’t end up reaching Lake Placid until around 7 o’clock, right after sunset. We checked into our hotel, the Lake House at Lake Placid, and then went out for drinks and dinner. The Lake House is part of the High Peaks Resort and gives you access to the amenities at two other properties in town. Our hotel included an indoor pool and jacuzzi, a private patio off our room, and a lobby decorated in rustic Adirondack gear with a pool table and foosball. Though there is a bar in the lobby, it wasn’t open at all while we were there. Our second night though a group of empty nesters took over the bar area on a reunion of sorts and shared their food and drinks with everyone hanging out in the lobby. We definitely found the vibe to be friendly, open and welcoming and enjoyed playing pool with some of the other guests.

I compiled a list of our favorite restaurants and bars from the weekend:

Smoke Signals: This BBQ joint is clearly the most popular restaurant in town, but with good reason. From the service to the drinks to the food, we really enjoyed our evening at Smoke Signals. We shared the BBQ sampler for two, which included amazingly moist pulled pork, tender brisket, smoky ribs, cornbread and a creamy bacon mac and cheese on the side. Yum! This restaurant always has a wait, so put in your name early and grab a drink at the bar or down the street while you wait (they’ll call you when your table is ready).

Top of the Park: A great spot for drinks and dessert. The bartenders are very knowledgeable and make delicious craft cocktails with local spirits and house-made syrups. I was also addicted to the flourless chocolate cake. Try to snag one of their fire pit tables on the patio—very romantic!

Base Camp Cafe: Our favorite breakfast spot. The coffee is great, the servers are friendly and the decor is rustic meets modern (Andrew found the stuffed raccoons over the mantle to be questionable, but I like them!). We loved the corned beef hash and hearty breakfast omelets.

The Cottage: Like the name says, this cottage is set right on the water and is a nice spot for lunch. Their menu is a bit basic—they really only serve sandwiches, salads and flatbreads—but they do everything with very fresh ingredients in a laid-back, comfortable setting.

On a Boat

Our first day, we decided to rent a boat to explore the lake itself. Andrew’s dream retirement scenario involves us, on a lake somewhere (probably Maine), taking our boat out to fish, swim and just generally relax on the water. So of course we had to test out his vision for our future.

We rented from Captain Marney’s and had a great experience. It’s definitely a low-key family business. Since it was a little late in the season (the last weekend in September), no one was at the dock when we arrived, but a sign directed us to call the owner who lives a few minutes away. Even though he was in the middle of heating up a pizza for lunch, he jumped in his truck and came down to the dock right away, along with his three adorable dogs. He rented us a great motor boat for 4 hours (we paid for 3 and the 4th hour was free). He walked us through all the controls for the boat, gave us a map, and recommended a good spot for swimming. One important thing to note: It’s cash only! There is a Community Bank a few blocks away that you can swing by to get cash though.

Hiking Ampersand Mountain

On our second full day, we hiked Mt. Ampersand, a 5.4-mile out-and-back hike that took us about 4 hours. Before the trip, I had picked out a few hikes that met our general requirements for hiking: 2-4 hours to the top of a mountain with great views. I showed Andrew the ones I had picked out, and, of course, he picked the longest and hardest one I had selected. I mean, granted, the name of the mountain is obviously perfect for two English majors. It starts off on a level meandering path through a thick forest and across a few brooks. It gets rocky as the elevation starts to rise, and the rocks increase in frequency until you’re basically climbing a rough stone stairway. That part was pretty brutal physically—I was definitely having flashbacks to hiking Machu Picchu and mentally cursing Andrew for picking the hardest hike. Once we got through the stone stairs, there’s a bit of scrambling up boulders and then you’re at the peak. The view was spectacular and totally worth it! I forgave Andrew, we took some pictures, ate a meat stick and headed back down.