Upstate New York's Adirondacks equal the Whites of New Hampshire for size and forbidding beauty, but are more fortuitous in their location: far enough away to discourage the masses, but still within easy reach. Backpackers and kayakers use Lake Placid as a gateway to the 6 million-acre Adirondacks State Park, where lakes, streams and campsites dot huge tracts of unspoiled forest. Pitch a tent, soak your tired feet in cold river rapids, and cast a fly on the evening hatch.
But those who prefer to take their scenery from the back deck of a restaurant are in luck, too. Downtown Lake Placid thrives in summer, its busy Main Street lined with shops, galleries and restaurants, many backed by the shores of Mirror Lake, with views across the water to Whiteface Mountain. The community was once the summer campus of New York and Boston society, but now has a distinctly more democratic appeal. Families and couples set up camp in airy cabins lining mysteriously deep Lake Placid, then decide what to do: Swimming? Golf? Hiking? Shopping? A car or gondola ride up Whiteface? An elevator ride to the top of the ski jump? A thrill ride on the bobsled track? Or maybe just a nap in the hammock, followed by a night on the town. After all, you're on vacation.
•DON'T MISS On a hot day, chill out in the shady depths of one of the region's natural wonders, Ausable Chasm: touristy but cool.
•BEST DEAL Midweek at The Golden Arrow Hotel on Mirror Lake, $129 per person (double occupancy) includes two nights' lodging, wine tasting, a guideboat tour and scenic flight. 800-582-5540; golden-arrow.com