Lake George, New York is the perfect choice if you're looking for a winter excursion filled with fun indoor and outdoor activities. You're welcomed to the area by picture perfect natural vistas of the mountains, dense forests, and of course Lake George. The history of the area alone warrants a visit, with historical sites like Fort Ticonderoga and Fort William Henry leaving a lasting imprint during the revolutionary years. America, in its early history, was partially formed here with major battles during the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. Currently, the area is a hub of activity and is loaded with fun things to do for visitors like you. Outdoor enthusiasts will relish the opportunities to downhill ski, snowshoe, hike, take stunning photographs, and enjoying almost any winter activity (weather permitting). Indoors, you’ll encounter water parks, outlet malls, wineries, markets, art centers and museums. In addition to all the fun things to do, there is a flourishing culinary tradition in the area and the local dining establishments have something for every taste. The best way to experience Lake George during the winter is to partake in the Lake George Winter Carnival.
This event has been celebrating winter for the past 55 years, certainly a remarkable accomplishment of longevity. The carnival is a large event, attracting tens of thousands into this picturesque city for an abundance of fun activities and events. The local residents are friendly and encourage people to visit and stay. At the carnival you’ll have the opportunity to experience parades, cooking competitions, ATV races, car races, ice diving demonstrations, motorcycle races, giant kite flying, and so much more. The event poses a great opportunity to explore downtown Lake George and all the great shops, restaurants, and attractions. This event is perfect for all ages and backgrounds, so grab your friends and family and turn your next Lake George getaway into a great one! ResortsandLodges.com got the chance to interview Tanya Brand, the Group Tour Promoter for the Lake George Area.
RAL: Tell me a little bit about the event.
TB: The Lake George Winter Carnival is an annual event taking place every weekend in February in the Village of Lake George. The event has been running for 55 years. Attendance varies from year to year depending on the weather and if the lake freezes, but we average between 20,000 and 50,000 people throughout the month of February. The demographic makeup is very diverse because of the wide array of activities offered. This event is very family-friendly, but is also enjoyable for couples, teenagers, the 21+ crowd, and older visitors that are nostalgic about the carnival and the Lake George region in general.
RAL: What makes the event unique?
TB: Where else are you going to see an outhouse race or people dipping themselves into a lake in the middle of February? The Polar Plunge at The Winter Carnival has evolved over the years. The Coney Island Polar Bears started this tradition in 1903. Al Mittola, President of the Coney Island Polar Bears, started the tradition at the carnival in 1973, taking the first plunge into the icy waters of Lake George. Spectators and participants were entertained for years by the group and many visitors join in the fun of swimming in the ice cold water to this day.
Charlie “Papa Bear” Albert, another notable Polar Plunge name, went on to become the founder of the Lake George Polar Bear Club and the 1st Day Polar Swim, which draws 1,000+ people every year. The Polar swim takes place Saturdays and Sundays at The Carnival and anyone is invited to participate… if you dare!
RAL: Take me through a typical day at the event.
TB: Unique winter activities occur throughout the day directly on and off the ice. On-ice activities include ATV and car races, dog-sledding, wagon rides, 4X4 truck drags, outhouses races, ice diving demonstrations, giant kite flying, and hockey games.
The Outhouse Races are just that: races amongst teams pushing cleverly designed outhouses! Local teams work diligently to build their most creative, hilarious, and aerodynamic outhouse. Teams compete against each other in a fun race. Visitors cheer them on in this goofy but traditional Winter Carnival event!
The activities that are not held on the ice take place in Shepard Park (a popular lakeside park and beach directly in the center of Lake George Village). Activities include an alpaca and mini-donkey petting zoo, chowder and chicken wing cook-off, ice sculptures, a bonfire and marshmallow roasting, helicopter rides, fireworks over the lake (Saturday only), face painting, “Dogs Got Talent” talent show for the pets and the popular Polar Plunge.
If the weather is unseasonably warm, the lake sometimes does not freeze adequately. In this case all the activities must be held off the ice, usually on Beach Road, adjacent to the lake or at The Charles R. Wood Festival space, located within walking distance from the Lake. Some activities such as ice races and 4X4 pulls are postponed or cancelled if the lake does not freeze.
RAL: What can attendees expect to find for local lodging?
TB: “Mom and Pop” accommodations are in abundance in the Village of Lake George. These type of unique accommodations contribute to the nostalgia of Lake George as a destination. Many people began coming to Lake George as a child with their extended family and even returned for a honeymoon to relive those wonderful childhood memories. These visitors fondly recall staying in our lakeside motels, resorts or “cottages”, complete with a bright NEON signs out front designating its vacancy or no vacancy. Although the area has evolved with newer chain motels, much of Lake George Village remains the same with these nostalgic lakeside lodging options. Primarily, these accommodations are seasonal, but many remain open during the winter season for the Carnival and for winter activities such as skiing, snowmobiling, etc. A few local lodging options to consider include Georgian Lakeside Resort, Boulders Resort and Surfside on the Lake.
RAL: What does the carnival mean to the community?
TB: This event is near and dear to the heart of The Lake George Community. When Upstate New York winters inevitably get long and dreary, this event draws locals and visitors together to celebrate the natural beauty of the Lake and its surrounding mountains in a pristine outdoor setting. It is a project that brings the Lake George Community together as well. The organization’s members consist of the business community, students, teachers, retirees and families who volunteer their time from Sept. to June to organize and plan activities for a successful event every year. Whether the lake freezes or not, the Carnival always goes on!
RAL: Why should people come?
TB: When February “cabin fever” has set in, The Lake George Winter Carnival provides a unique experience that tends to become a tradition to its attendees. With its wide array of activities for children, families, couples and seniors, the carnival chases away the winter blues with fresh winter air, fun and food! Coupled with the area’s additional outdoor activities, fine-dining and diverse lodging, the carnival promises a memorable experience for all! We want you to make it your next winter tradition!
For more information about the Lake George Winter Carnival, please stop by visitlakegeorge.com.