Santa, Scenic Views, and Wolves, Oh My!

School is out, you've saved up some vacation time, and now it's time to take an awesome family vacation, one that your family will remember for years to come. So pack your bathing suits, cameras, and hit the road to the Whiteface region this summer. We have so many family-friendly options for fun that you might not want to go home! Here are a few of our favorites.

Santa’s Workshop

In the Whiteface region, Christmas in July isn't just an idea, it's a way of life. In Wilmington, visit the North Pole, home of Santa's Workshop, a wonderland of joy where Christmas is celebrated every day! Hop on themed rides, watch an elf personalize your very own red Santa hat, and enjoy a Nativity pageant. Best of all, you'll be able to meet and feed Santa's faithful reindeer during their summer vacation and have an extra special visit with Santa in his festive home. He loves listening to kids of all ages share their Christmas spirit.

Can't make it in the summer? Visit the North Pole at its most festive for the annual Village of Lights. On select evenings in December, enjoy Santa's Workshop decorated for the holidays, with caroling, hot cookies in the bakeshop, roasting marshmallows over an outdoor fire, and of course, a special pre-Christmas visit with Santa Claus himself.

Santa's Workshop is open seven days a week, 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., June 29 - September 2, with select open weekends and events on weekends in the fall and early winter.

High Falls Gorge

High Falls Gorge is a splendid series of four falls of the West Branch of the Ausable River, flowing between rock walls that were carved by glaciers and continue to be worn away by the awesome power of the river. Walkways, bridges, and overlooks provide a range of views of the falls from inside the gorge. Kids will especially enjoy the viewing platforms with clear bottoms, giving them a direct view of the river beneath them.

The nature trails at the gorge are moderate, with many flat areas. Several are handicap accessible, as is the picnic area. The entire facility is very family-friendly; interpretive displays in and around the gorge explain how the gorge was created, the history behind unique features, and highlight the plants and trees that grow in the gorge. You'll all learn more about geology by panning for gold and minerals and you get to keep your treasures!

High Falls Gorge is open seven days a week, 9 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., July 1 - September 1, with modified hours in the fall and winter.

Wilmington Town Beach

Add a splash of fun at the Wilmington Town Beach during your summer vacation and enjoy the calm, refreshing waters of the Ausable River. Beaches in the Adirondacks have the advantage of awesome views and in Wilmington, you'll be surrounded by beautiful trees and views of the mountains. This beach's calm waters are especially good for very small swimmers. It’s a splash-worthy spot where you can play and relax in the sunshine.

The town beach isn't all splashing, though. The beach has nature trails, an all-access fishing platform, a bog full of interesting plants, stands of fragrant wildflowers, plus a playground. During July and August, free concerts are held on Thursday evenings. Bring a picnic and make a day of it!

Adirondack Wildlife Refuge and Rehabilitation

The Adirondack Wildlife Refuge is a non-profit located amid tall pines on the East Branch of the Ausable River and is home to a wide array of animals that most humans will rarely get to see so closely. Among the animals residing in this corner of the Whiteface region are two black bears, three wolves, a bobcat, a fox, and a myriad of birds, including two ravens, a gyrfalcon, snowy owls, and bald eagles. All of the animals may be viewed at close range and there's no rush to move on.

In addition to animals, the refuge has scenic nature paths. These trails are relatively even, but those with wheelchairs may find the going a little rough. Longer hiking trails also provide the opportunity to stretch your legs and enjoy the pine forest; a map of trails is posted by Wolf Wood. Cold drinks and restrooms are available in the education center, as well as gift items, including t-shirts, postcards, and books.

The Adirondack Wildlife Refuge and Rehabilitation Center, located at 977 Springfield Road, Wilmington, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday through Monday, all year round. There is no admission fee, but donations are encouraged to help continue care for rehabbing animals.

Cobble Lookout

It's not an Adirondack vacation without a hike and Cobble just so happens to be a great one for families. At one mile round trip, this is a hike that won't take your family all day and it definitely won't tire the kids out too much. The trail itself is gradual and mostly flat, leading through fragrant forest to a truly gorgeous view of the High Peaks, including nearby Whiteface and Esther mountains, and Giant beyond. Families love this hike for it's moderateness, proximity to Wilmington and above all, the view.

Trailhead: From the four corners in Wilmington, take Route 431 for 3 miles. At the three-way intersection with the Whiteface Memorial Highway, bear right on Gillespie Drive (county Route 18A on some maps). Continue for 0.3 mile to the trailhead and parking area on the right, just past Lake Stevens.

Top off your family vacation in the Whiteface region with stops for ice cream and hot dogs, stay in a cozy cabin, or camp under the stars. The choice is yours for making your Adirondack vacation truly memorable.

Aurora Wheeler

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