My grandmother loved life and loved to travel, whether it was for a day or a week. She was game to go just about anywhere and try anything. She wanted to ride in a helicopter, wander beaches, visit museums, and so much more. As she aged, she, like many people, found getting around more and more difficult. A cane gave way to a wheelchair, but it didn't change her desire to have fun. So off we all went, with the wheelchair in the trunk or backseat, even on an airplane. From Maine to Florida, that cute, plaid junior-size (she was a tiny woman with a big personality) wheelchair went everywhere. I have photos — and amazing memories! — of my grandmother in her wheelchair on the beach, at Sea World, at outdoor museums, even at L.L. Bean, grinning next to the giant Bean boot. It wasn't always easy, but we did it!
For anyone who wants to travel but needs to find accessible spaces and inclusive vacation opportunities, planning a trip can be a challenge, maybe even a daunting one. It shouldn't be. In the spirit of the openness of the Adirondack Park, where nature is protected for everyone to enjoy, we want to help make accessible trip planning easier, more enjoyable, and help everyone create a fun adventure. So if you're looking for accessible fun in the Whiteface Region, read on to check out a few great accessible spots!
High Falls Gorge
One of the things people love best about the Whiteface Region is the many opportunities to get close to nature. Really, really close. High Falls Gorge is a great example. Located close to Whiteface Mountain, this gorgeous gorge was created millions of years ago through glaciation and the sheer power of the Ausable River, which still flows through and over the rocky gorge. Here, you can cross the rushing waters of the river via a pedestrian bridge and explore the first half of the stunning waterfall path. This path offers viewing of the main falls and allows you to see both up and down the gorge. Inside the gift shop and ticket building, an accessible bathroom is available. High Falls Gorge is planning to make even more of the site accessible in the future, too!
I'm about to tell you a secret. It's very, very special. Santa Claus, that fellow with the snowy beard and charming twinkle in his eye, the guy who gets to work thanks to reindeer, lives in the Adirondacks. Even better: you can visit him! During the summer, when we're all trying to be good, Santa, his reindeer, and elvish helpers live and work at Santa's Workshop in North Pole, NY (that's near Wilmington). At Santa's Workshop, visitors can meet Santa, take in a nativity pageant, visit the candy shop, pet reindeer, and much more. The wide, gentle, paved paths are great for wheelchairs and most of the buildings and shops are accessible. Where necessary, a portable ramp is available, and accessible restrooms are located near the main entrance. Santa's Workshop is a fun, retro experience for good kids of all ages!
Adirondack Wildlife Refuge
Of all the experiences in the Whiteface Region, my personal favorite and perhaps the most awe-inspiring, is visiting the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge and Rehabilitation in Wilmington. The refuge takes in and does rehab on injured animals and educates the public about the extraordinary animals found right here in the Adirondacks. Some animals are able to be released back in to the wild, while others with injuries making survival in nature impossible stay and live a well-cared-for life. The trails here are relatively flat, somewhat uneven, and not paved. But many a wheelchairs have made the way along these trails with relative ease. View coyotes, foxes, a porcupine, and gorgeous wolves in the upper section. To reach the bottom half of the refuge, a private driveway is available to get you down there to view gorgeous birds. Listen for the howls of the wolves, a sound both astonishing and inspiring. The education center (with excellent viewing of the wolf enclosure), shop, and restrooms are fully accessible.
Ready to explore the state's fifth-highest mountain? There are a couple of ways you can do that, and they're both accessible! At the ski center on Route 86, glide up Little Whiteface via the Cloudsplitter Gondola, which opens for the 2021 season on July 2. The ride is smooth, fun, and offers exceptional views. At the top, enjoy the sunshine on the deck and more incredible views of the surrounding peaks, valleys, and towns. For a different adventure, drive the Veterans' Memorial Highway off Route 431. Opening on May 21 for the summer season, this toll road winds its way up the mountain, gaining 2300' feet in elevation over five miles, stopping just short of the summit. The views are incredible and you can take your time enjoying the sunshine. A new elevator inside the mountain offers access to the summit for 360-degree views of the Adirondacks.
Also on the toll road side of the mountain is Lake Stevens, a small lake located next to the toll house. This lovely lake is stocked with fish and is intended for fishing by children and accessible users only. Bring your rod and reel and enjoy! Even if you don't fish, it's a sweet spot to stop and enjoy the fresh air.
Jay Entertainment & Music Society
Looking for a bit of relaxation and great entertainment? The popular Jay Entertainment & Music Society offers a range of entertainment. Concerts on the green are summertime favorites. Concert-goers may park on three sides of the centrally located green. If you want to avoid roughing the lawn to enjoy a show, the gazebo, where most concerts take place, is located close to sidewalks for your viewing and listening pleasure. Previous concerts have ranged from folk to classics of the '60s and '70s to jazz. Shows also take place in the adjacent Ward Theatre. While you're in Jay, be sure to visit the Jay Covered Bridge! It's a great scenic spot and the only covered bridge in the Adirondacks!
Wilmington Town Beach
Warm summer days often mean one very special thing: a beach day! The Wilmington Town Beach at Lake Everest is a family-friendly, inclusive destination for a day of fun in the sun or a simple family picnic. Part of the legendary Ausable River, Lake Everest is a beautiful spot with amazing Adirondack mountain views. The restrooms are fully accessible, there are wheelchair-friendly picnic tables, and perhaps most fun of all, a fishing deck designed to be accessible for everyone. Stop by The Little Supermarket for sandwiches (they're huge and delicious) and enjoy your beach day!
The Whiteface Region is full of natural wonder, fun attractions, and truly tasty restaurants. Plan your trip today by exploring overnight options, special events, and so much more. We hope to welcome you to the region soon!