No one cares that the water is cold. The kids splash at the lake's edge, play on the small sand beach as older, daring ones splash in the water and paddle kayaks, rowboats and paddleboats.
Lake Placid (www.lakeplacidregion.com) -- home to two Olympics -- is that iconic, old-fashioned vacation spot that works as well for 21st century families as it did a century ago for families and millionaires. With 6 million acres, Adirondack State Park is the largest state park in the United States, and larger than Yellowstone, Everglades, Glacier and Grand Canyon national parks combined. It boasts more than 3,000 lakes and 2,000 miles of hiking trails and offers kayaking, canoeing, fishing and mountain biking.
Lake Placid, a town where everyone seems to be an athlete, or at least an outdoors enthusiast, has 3,000 permanent residents, but that number swells close to 10,000 in summer. Main Street overlooks Mirror Lake and it's lined with ice cream and coffee shops, all variety of restaurants and stores selling New York State maple syrup, local chocolate, antique ski posters, local wines and cuddly stuffed moose.
"The kids love it because it's so safe we can let them go out on their own," said Louise Mceachran, here with a group of young freestyle skiers from Ontario who practice at the MacKenzie-Intervale Ski Jumping Complex. (You can test your mettle at the Olympic Sports Complex and ride a wheeled bobsled, or check out the view of the Adirondacks from the top of the 26-story Olympic ski jump. (www.whitefacelakeplacid.com).
"Whatever the season there is something for the kids to do," adds Suzanne Boger from Saratoga Springs, who comes here often -- winter and summer -- with her family. We meet them along the Peninsula Trails that run for miles. "Even when the weather is bad, there are things to do." (Bowling anyone?)
But what sets this place apart -- besides the natural beauty and Olympic history, as if that weren't enough -- is how genuinely friendly people are. It couldn't be more kid friendly, Boger said.
We learn that first-hand at the 166-room Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort (www.golden-arrow.com), which has an idyllic location on Mirror Lake (smaller than Lake Placid and ideal for young families). The Holderied family has run the Golden Arrow for more than 30 years. "We love the family-style management, and the kids loved pretending to work behind the desk," said Lisa Tinker of New Jersey.
Besides having fun, the kids might learn a thing or two about vacationing greener. The resort is the first, and so far only, one in the United State to achieve 5 Green Leaf Rating from the Audubon Society for its green initiatives.
There are small touches like the paper shopping bags in each room to encourage guests to recycle cans and bottles. There is an allergen-free floor, bamboo flooring, a blooming green roof and sand, even small-framed placards placed around the hotel pointing out the green features. Kids are invited to take a "green quiz," getting a Mr. Green coloring book, with suggestions on what they could do at home to be more earth friendly (recycling one aluminum can conserves enough energy to run a TV for three hours).
The Mirror Lake Inn touts itself as summer camp-plus, but there's also a spa, three gourmet restaurants and, they promise, serenely comfy beds.
Whiteface Lodge (www.thewhitefacelodge.com), though not on the lake, maintains a private beach a half-mile away. There's a big heated pool, fitness center and spa where even tweens can get massages or facials with mom. There's an old-fashioned two-lane bowling alley, tennis courts and a stocked pond (yes, they even supply reels and bait), an ice cream parlor and game room.
Parents will appreciate that the Whiteface Lodge also offers complimentary organized activities for children as young as 3, and this summer Whiteface has expanded its activities to outdoor programs for tweens and young teens. How about learning orienteering with the Adirondacks as your playground?
"It may be touristy," laughed Suzanne Boger. But then she gestures across the spectacular lake, with Whiteface Mountain in the distance. "There are plenty of places to get away from the crowds."