Last year, Rainer Jenss traveled around the world with his wife and two sons, and blogged about his experience here on Intelligent Travel. Now he’s writing a column that focuses on traveling with kids.
When asked for travel advice, I usually recommend people try to visit a place during its “shoulder season” to take advantage of smaller crowds, cheaper rates, and in many cases, better weather. Although it can be impractical with children of school age, Yellowstone National Park is a prime case in point, as is a place like Greece, which we traveled to in mid-May – the time before its majestic islands and famous attractions are usually overtaken by waves of summertime crowds and heat.
As the world becomes more accessible and the tourist dollar proves more important to local economies, an increasing number of destinations are trying to bring in visitors during what are typically their slower periods. Various spots throughout the Caribbean, for example, offer not only bargain prices in the summer months, but festivals featuring local culture, top-name entertainers, and special events to attract incoming vacationers. Aware of this growing trend, our family decided to spend a few days in Lake Placid, NY this summer – a destination certainly better known for its winter pursuits than anything else. Like many resort towns that have traditionally thrived only when there’s snow on the ground, the city that hosted the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games is now offering activities geared to families and outdoor enthusiasts year-round.
On the drive up the NY Thruway, I wondered how much there would be to do during our brief stay. I had already been to this historic Adirondack village a handful of times, mostly to ski Whiteface Mountain, and drink, eat, and shop along the picturesque main street that runs through town. But these weren’t viable options to do with the kids during this time of year. When we arrived, I expected to spend most of our time hiking, fishing, or kayaking. After all, this region is an outdoor adventure wonderland and the weather was predicted to be beautiful. It didn’t take long, however, to realize that there was much more to do with the kids than I had expected and it suddenly dawned on me that we might actually not have enough time to get everything in.
Jumping ahead to the upcoming holiday season and winter to come, we’re already booked to return to Lake Placid in December, when the U.S. Bobsled & Skeleton Federation World Cup comes to the Olympic Sports Complex from December 13-19. We made the decision to come back after just our first activity at Mount Van Hoevenberg, where the original Olympic bobsled & luge tracks are found. Even in the summer, you can get into a bobsled and fly down the last half-mile of the same track the gold medal winners raced on during the Olympic games. Even though there’s no ice on the track in August, the bobsleds are equipped with special wheels that still allow you to simulate what it feels like to make your way through the twists and turns of the track at speeds of up to 60 mph! The rest of the family only agreed to do this after they were assured that a professional brakeman and driver would be riding with us. When all the hype and screaming were said and done, this was one heck of a unique experience (think of a cross between skateboarding and a rollercoaster, if that’s even possible), and even though you pay handsomely for the privileged 50-second adrenalin rush, it was well worth the price of admission.
This Lake Placid Bobsled Experience is one of several options offered in the Olympic Sites Passport Package that you can buy if you’re inclined to do three or more of the activities included on the list – and you want to save money. Admission to the Olympic Museum, the Ski Jumping Complex, where you can take a chairlift to the top of the ramp ski jumpers launch themselves from, the Whiteface Gondola that takes you to the top of the mountain, and the speed skating oval are also included in the deal. We managed to take in the museum and ride up the gondola for a spectacular view of some of the 46 peaks you can hike up in the surrounding Adirondack Mountains. Fortunately, the Passport is valid during both the winter and summer, giving us yet another reason to come back and visit again, no matter what the season.
Photos courtesy of ORDA