By Lory Diaz
We’re in the midst of road-trip season, and if you’re looking for a new region to explore I’d like to suggest the beautiful Adirondacks in upstate New York. Torontonicity was recently invited to check the area out, including The Wild Center and Lake Placid, so I packed my gear and headed out on the adventure to visit our neighbours in the south!
I started out by flying to Montreal, and then taking an Amtrak train down to Plattsburgh, NY. Due to decreased speed zones on the train tracks, and the tumultuous weather we’ve been having, this option can lead to a lot of delays and headaches. I would highly recommend driving down, as there are so many beautiful towns to visit along the way, and it’s only a six hour drive from Toronto. If you have an extra couple of days, you can stop in Prince Edward County and check out one of our stays at a bed and breakfast in Bloomfield.
Lake House, Lake Placid
I stayed at the Lake House on Mirror Lake, Lake Placid. It’s a cozy and comfortable hotel with modern decor, and very friendly staff. Aside from the fire pit, indoor pool, and amazing beer selection at the bar, Lake House guests have access to shared amenities with their sister locations. This means you can swim in the outdoor pool right on Mirror Lake, or borrow kayaks and paddle boards to explore the tranquil waters. The lake has restrictions on motorized boats, so this is a very family friendly option.
The Wild Center, Tupper Lake
Lake Placid hosted the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, so it goes without saying that the area has amazing winter options. That same landscape is lush with greenery during the summer though and home to activity hubs like The Wild Center. If you’re on a family trip, definitely take a morning to visit the Wild Center as they have many kid-friendly activities. They recently collaborated with composer Pete M. Wyer to install a site-specific piece titled iForest. You can read about my magical walk through the exhibit here.
The Wild Center is a nature museum with educational exhibits, hiking trails, afternoon canoe trips, and an elevated platform for visitors to walk through the forest at tree-top levels called Wild Walk.
Here you can get a bird’s-eye view of the forest in the eagle’s nest, watch the clouds atop a suspended spider web, and learn about the wildlife in the region.
The Center also has an animal rehabilitation unit doing very important work with local wild life. Staff at the center are therefore very knowledgeable and offer meet and greets with some local furry or feathered friends. Staff member Shannon introduced a group of guests to the American Falcon, Kestrel.
Another option for outdoor activities is the Ausable Chasm, considered the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks. This locations offers activities are all levels: hiking, tubing, floating tours, and spectacular rafting. Make sure to bring some mosquito repellent with you as the region has experienced a lot of rain, subsequently having a more active mosquito season. The views into the chasm are well worth the trip though!
Salt of the Earth Bistro, Lake Placid
For dinner options in the area I would put Salt of the Earth Bistro at the top of my list. This quaint restaurant just opened in Spring of this year, and is already making quite a name for itself. I had the pan seared duck breast served with thai red curry, coconut, napa slaw, and peach coulis (thick sauce made from strained vegetables or fruit). The duck breast was tender and moist with lovely colouring, and paired well with the vibrant flavours. They also have delicious vegetarian options, so keep them in mind if you’re with a group or just looking for an intimidate dinner setting.
The Rice Pilaf from Salt of the Earth was also fantastic: zucchini, summer squash, spinach, leeks, dried figs, carrots, and ginger. Lovely summer salad!
Smoke Signals Restaurant, Lake Placid
If you’re looking for some traditional finger-lickin’ good barbecue check out Smoke Signals. They’re just a short walk away from Lake House hotel and serving up generous portions, and their patio has a beautiful view of Mirror Lake. Not a typical item at a BBQ joint, but try their Ahi Tuna Wonton: crispy wonton, shallots, bacon crumble, with whipped wasabi cream. The wasabi cream is amazingly light and brightens up the heavier flavours, so you may not want to share this after the first bite.
Deceivingly large portions at Smoke Signals, here is their Brisket Burnt Ends layered over mashed potatoes, with shallots and red peppers, then topped with melted provolone. Make sure to pick a lighter side, as this can be a lot of food for one person to handle!
Raquette River Brewing, Tupper Lake
Though you may be tempted by some of the desserts and drinks at the major restaurants in the area, make sure to check out these two local gems in Tupper Lake:
Raquette River Brewing is located on Balsam Street, and comes highly regarded by locals. I sampled their winter lager, double IPA, Hefeweizen, and mango wheat. The mango wheat was a nice surprise as it didn’t have an overpowering fruit note, making it a great summer beer. They’re also currently working on a barley wine, so if you’re there ask if it’s available and let me know, as it’s one of my top fall/winter drinks!
Do not be deceived by the weathered exterior of The Washboard, found at 48 Park St., Tupper Lake. This little gift shop/laundromat is also a donut shop that has been open for 30 years (though it was originally just a laundromat)! I adore businesses like this, because they tend to have a rich history and loyal supporters, and this location is no exception. Try not about frills, sprinkles, or edible glitter, just delicious fluffy classic donuts. Try their maple bacon, or cadillac donut, and try not to go back for seconds.
If you’re still undecided on a local road trip for this summer, take a look at the Lake Placid and Adirondacks region of New York. It offers activities for thrill-seekers, nature and adventure lovers, and great food and drink options too. Close to home, and the locals are just as friendly, I’m definitely keeping it on my list of places to re-visit! Enjoy!