Got kids? Looking for a destination for a fun, adventurous, and even educational vacation? The natural spectacle of the Whiteface Region, which just happens to have some unique family-oriented activities and destinations for a fun and nature-filled family vacation. 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.
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 Christmas-themed rides such as an ornament tilt-a-whirl, personalize your very own red Santa hat in the hat shop, and touch the actual north pole (it's cold!). 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., late June through early September, 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., early July through early September, with modified hours in the fall and winter. Winter also features snowshoeing!
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 from the nearby A&W 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, two wolves, a bobcat, a fox, and a myriad of birds. All of the animals may be viewed at fairly close range and there's never a rush to move on to the next enclosure. The staff here are incredibly kind, knowledgeable, and truly love interacting with visitors of all ages. A visit here means education and fun!
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. There is no admission fee, but donations are encouraged to help continue care for rehabbing animals.
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.
Jay Covered Bridge
Once upon a time, covered bridges were found all over upstate New York and New England, most of them only one lane wide, although there are a few with two lanes and even a small pedestrian path. Bridges were covered to protect the wood structure from the elements, so that the bridge would last for many years. Today, covered bridges are increasingly rare, so we're extra lucky to have one right here in our backyard.
In Jay, the covered bridge that crosses the Ausable River is a beautiful landmark and also makes for a fun family stop is the last covered bridge in northern New York. Restored in 2007, the bridge is a pretty spot for some memorable family photos and the park around the bridge is a scenic spot perfect for exploring. You'll find plenty of spots to sit and enjoy the view of the river, picnic tables, and easily accessible spots to dip your toes in the water or dunk yourself in and swim. Swimming at the bridge is a local tradition and one visit will make for some super special family memories. Bring your water wings!
The Jay covered bridge is located on John Hill Road, about two tenths of a mile down the road from the intersection of Routes 86 and 9 in Jay.
Whiteface Veterans' Memorial Highway
Want to get exceptional, vast views of the Adirondacks from one of the highest peaks in the state? Of course you do. Want to do it without having to drag the kids up a mountain all day? You really, truly, definitely do. Thanks to the Whiteface Veterans' Memorial Highway, the whole family — including grandparents! — can feel the wind their hair while driving up this winding ribbon of road, which ascends more than 2,300 feet over five miles.
At the top, a stone castle awaits with cafe and gift shop, and a glass-enclosed elevator that will whisk you the remaining feet to the summit of the state's 5th highest peak. If elevators aren't your thing, the 0.2 mile nature trail will get you to the top, too. At the summit, the views are astonishing and the fun is immense. Clamber over rocks, soak up some sun, maybe even enjoy a picnic. This is by far one of the prettiest places in the Adirondacks and a great way to celebrate nature.
The entrance tollhouse to the highway is located at 5021 Route 86, just up the road from Santa's Workshop. The highway is open summer and fall, with admission based on car and driver and number of passengers.
Farm to fork, with fun
You're here, you've played, toured, and explored, and you need to eat, right? Don't eat just anything, though, visit a local farm. On the hillsides of the Whiteface Region, you'll find small, locally-owned and operated farms that produce exceptional meat, cheeses, milk, produce, and more. Many of these small farms have a small shop where you can purchase the freshest of the fresh for instant consumption — think: amazing cookies — or to take back to your cabin rental to cook up an Adirondack feast.
Your family will love the opportunity to meet the farmers and their adorable animals. From cows to goats, local farms are abundant with well-tended animals. Not only are they cute, but it's a great way for your kids to have fun and learn more about the world around them. Local farms frequently host pop-up suppers and special events, too!
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.