The Whiteface region is a beautiful and peaceful area in the Adirondacks, consisting of four hamlets that are not to be missed on your visit: Ausable Forks, Upper Jay, Jay, and Wilmington. These family-oriented communities are full of fun things to do. There are large attractions such as High Falls Gorge, Ausable Chasm, and Whiteface Mountain, as well as smaller — but no less enjoyable — destinations, such as nearby small farms, restaurants, and natural wonders. Whiteface Mountain stands tall in the town of Wilmington, and although you can ski, take a scenic gondola ride, or drive to the top of the mountain on Veterans Memorial Highway, there is much more to this area than the famous mountain. The Ausable River winds through the area and fly fishermen can be seen in the river in all kinds of weather. Mountain biking and road cycling are quickly growing to be some of the most popular activities in the region. There are also many trails to ride and walk, and you can enjoy a dip into the river. Here is a sampling of the places and not-to-miss attractions and businesses in the Whiteface region.
High Falls Gorge is an awe-inspiring 22-acre nature park along the river. Bridges and glass floor platforms are part of the walking trail, which makes a loop through the gorge, providing excellent views of four waterfalls. The walkways are a beautiful and simple way to explore the river, and the gentle terrain is perfect for families. Interpretive displays along the trail provide information about the creation of the gorge — more than one billion years old — and the abundant plant life clinging to the granite walls. Don't forget to browse the extensive gift shop and stop for a light snack or lunch in the River View Cafe, featuring amazing views of the gorge.
Another can't-miss attraction is the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge. Located in Wilmington, this 50-acre "Wild Kingdom" is a non-profit refuge and rehabilitation center for Adirondack wildlife. The refuge includes a 1-mile guided, interpretive trail complete with river, forest, and meadow. See rescued wildlife such as hawks, owls, foxes, wolves, a bobcat, and black bears, all while learning about the animals, their natural habitats and behaviors, and the care they receive. Because this is a working rehabilitation center that takes in hundreds of animals each year, you never know what kind of animal might be there when you stop by!
My favorite attraction is Santa's Workshop. Kids and adults love this Adirondack landmark for many reasons, not least of all the happy charm that greets you the moment you arrive. "Merry Christmas" is heard from each character, Santa's helpers, and storybook friends. There are music shows, nativity scenes, and even a talking Christmas tree! Kids of all ages will enjoy the themed rides, from the spinning ornaments to the miniature train, and the opportunity to feed and pet Santa's reindeer. Charming shops offer toys, beautiful decorations, personalized gifts, and special treats you won't find anywhere else. Be sure to check out the historic displays about this very special corner of the Adirondacks. When you arrive you are given a schedule of the day's events. You will not want to miss the shows or Santa's special appearances, so check out the times to make sure you are in the right spot at the right time, and be good. Santa shows up everywhere and he knows everything!
Ausable Forks is where the East and West Branches of the Ausable River meet. Here you can visit Asgaard Farm & Dairy, a working dairy farm formerly owned by artist, writer, and political activist Rockwell Kent. Many of Kent's paintings inspired by the farm can be seen on the property. The farm is now owned by David Brunner and Rhonda Butler, who put the farm back into production in 2003. Visit the goats (all forty-four of them) and stop by the farm store to pick up soap, cheese, and caramels. The farm even features a farm stay if you would like to experience true farm life for a day or two. The Emerson House at Asgaard Farm is a gorgeous home designed and built by Kent in the 1930s. The house is available year round for short term rentals; guests may also enjoy produce fresh from the farm during their stay.
Upper Jay is located minutes from Whiteface Mountain and is home to Sugar House Creamery. This farm is made up of 23 acres and features twelve brown Swiss cows. Live the farm life by staying staying overnight in one of two cozy guest rooms and watch the sunsets while enjoying baked goods and fine cheeses from your porch. Visit in the spring for the Green Grass Get Down and watch the cows come out to pasture for the first time of the season. If you are up early and craving an Adirondack-style breakfast, do not miss the Adirondack Mountain Coffee Cafe, located just down the road. Known as an "Adirondack gem" with "food to die for," this quaint breakfast place is a must-visit. You should prepare for a wait, but it will be well worth it.
Follow scenic Route 9 as the Ausable River flows along with you to Jay. While you are visiting Jay there are must see attractions like the Jay Covered Bridge. This bridge was constructed in 1857 and has been lovingly restored and maintained ever since. The 160-foot bridge crosses the Ausable River. Just upstream from the bridge is Jay Falls. The 20-foot falls can be viewed simply by walking across the bridge and looking through the bridge windows. This is a great photo opportunity as well, for family snapshots or that once-in-a-lifetime engagement.
Feeling a bit more adventurous? Nearby Jay Mountain is a 2.5 mile hike with wide open views. From the open summit you can see the Green Mountains in Vermont, the Ausable River Valley, and the Adirondack High Peaks. Jay Mountain is within the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area — the smallest wilderness area in the Forest Preserve. A new trail constructed by the Department of Environmental Conservation leads to the western end of the beautiful Jay Mountain ridgeline. At this point you will find an overlook area with gorgeous, 360-degree views.
The restaurants, hotels, and shops are thriving in the mountain town of Wilmington. During your stay you won't want to miss breakfast at the Country Bear. OMG! This cute little local breakfast spot is not what you would expect. The food coming out of that small kitchen is savory, fresh, and worth a drive. My kids love the pancakes and the locally famous French toast.
Santa's Workshop is a short drive up the mountain for an afternoon of fun for all ages. Santa is there ready to take photos with you, and don't forget to send an extra special postcard home from the North Pole. Watch the parade, have a snack in Old Mother Hubbard's Kitchen and sing a few carols. When you are done, head down the road toward Lake Placid to the flume to cool off. Here you can take a quick dip in the Ausable River, but be sure to stay in the gentle water below the gorge, where there is a swimming hole and good views of three distinct waterfalls upstream. Please make sure you are following the signs and using extreme caution when swimming in the flume.
Now it's time for a drink (or two) and some delicious dinner. Head to Pourman's Tap House for some great craft beer and good conversation, or have a delicious meal at The Hungry Trout, a family owned restaurant in one of the most beautiful settings in the Whiteface Region. Dine on succulent fresh fish while enjoying a view of the river for a meal you won't soon forget.
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