One of the hidden gems in the Adirondacks is the hamlet of Upper Jay. Located on the east branch of the Ausable River, Upper Jay is peacefully nestled in some of the best Adirondack scenery, with the High Peaks and babbling river up close. Upper Jay is also home to some great spots for art and culture in the region. The town is an easy drive from Lake Placid, just off Route 9N west of Wilmington and north of Keene (both great Adirondack towns).
Below, I have suggested some places to check out in Upper Jay, and to prove my credentials, I consulted a local who knows: Jay (not the hamlet — coincidence, right — but my co-worker). If you love nature, and if you love art, and if you love cheese, and if you love stellar mountain views while sitting alongside a river with a cup of locally roasted coffee and a fresh baked cider donut in hand, you will love Upper Jay.
Adirondack Mountain Coffee Cafe
A great way to start the day is to grab a cup of delicious, freshly brewed coffee. Adirondack Mountain Coffee Cafe is unique because they roast their beans on site and have a full breakfast and lunch menu. They also have baked goods, including fresh cider donuts and cinnamon rolls baked on site. The cafe is cozy with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. Some favorites on the menu are blueberry pancakes and the many choices of omelettes.
This isn’t just any cafe, though. It was formerly the Land of Make Believe, a children’s theme park designed by Arto Monaco in 1954 which closed in 1979 after it was flooded by the Ausable River. After Hurricane Irene hit, the cafe owners, William and Michelle Axtell, rebuilt the space and opened the cafe for business. You can grab a spot in a comfy chair or settle in at a table for a full service meal. They also sell their coffee beans along with other treats. Below Jay, my local with insider tips, and Holden, his son, purchase a coffee and donut for the road!
The Jay Covered Bridge
As the only covered bridge in the Adirondacks, this impressive landmark, built in 1857 and restored in 2006, sits right above the Ausable River. The location provides stunning views of the High Peaks. Underneath the bridge is a little path that leads to some rocks on the river where you can sit and take in the views. In addition, you can find nearby tennis courts, picnic tables, and a covered pavilion great for a party. Rather than me wax poetic about the majestic quality of this simple bridge, here are some pictures of Jay and Holden taking in its beauty.
Sugar House Creamery
Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and rewarding places to visit in Upper Jay is Sugar House Creamery. Here you will find stunning views of the High Peaks amidst a 23-acre dairy farm with a quaint B&B and farm store stocked with sundries from regional local farms. Some of the farm fresh goodies include raw milk, meat from Mace Chasm Farm, and other dairy products like mouthwatering creamaline yogurt from North Country Creamery. On any given day — granted when the farm store is open, so check the hours — you can find Margot, Alex, Casey, Harriet, and a herd of Brown Swiss cows working their magic to make some very fine cheese and milk. Sugar House is family owned and operated. Their unique and delicious selection of cheeses range in age and boldness. You will also see their cheeses stocked at restaurants and stores throughout the region because they are a favorite. The taste and quality of these cheeses are unbeatable.
Jay Craft Center
You will definitely notice this place driving on Route 9N in Jay. This craft center is located in a stunning, historic 1900’s grange hall. It features artist studios, a store, and gallery filled with stoneware and porcelain pottery. Cheri and Lee have been showcasing their pottery in this space since 1980. Cheri also partners with Young's Studio and Gallery just down the street. The Craft Center is a true gem in Jay (the actual location is technically Jay, not Upper Jay). The gallery also features other work by local artists, including jewelry, fine art, photography, and wooden children’s toys. All the handmade artistry on display beautifully complements the grange hall, which is a unique space to experience in and of itself.
Upper Jay Art Center —The Recovery Lounge
When I moved to the Adirondacks from Brooklyn last year, the first thing a new friend said to me was to check out “the Recovery Lounge” for a performance. According to this friend, I would fall in love with this place. Immediately my city snobbery (I know, I’m sorry) took over as I assumed, “Yeah, I’m sure it’s good, but it’s no Brooklyn.” Well, it isn’t Brooklyn, and that’s great. And, it is an awesome place.
Scott and Byron Renderer have turned a family upholstery operation into a three floor performance space with an art gallery, a main stage, comfy vintage chairs (here lies the upholstery connection) to sit back in, and lots of nooks to find yourself in, located right on the Ausable River. The Recovery Lounge has hosted poetry readings, plays, live music, dance, and probably lots of stuff I am leaving out here. Last year, I saw The Space We Make perform there. Watching each act felt immersive because of the multiple locations we, the audience, traversed throughout both indoors and outdoors. The Recovery Lounge is truly remarkable and fun.
Upper Jay, like other Adirondack towns, is also home to some great opportunities for outdoor recreation. So start planning your trip today. Every Adirondack town has something special and unique to offer.
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