Pumpkin pie. Crunchy leaves underfoot. Warm apple cider and cider donuts. Apple pie. Carving jack-o-lanterns. Yup, it is FALL, my friends, and it is glorious! Fall is by far my favorite season, and fall in the Adirondacks is especially awesome. Everywhere you look, steep mountains and rolling hills are aflame with colorful leaves. Pumpkins dot front porches and lawns. Rivers and lakes sparkle and reflect all the color, creating a joyous riot of beauty. Want to enjoy that amazing fall scenery in a place where you can also shop, eat apple and pumpkin everything, and capture selfies at a quaint covered bridge? Then head to picturesque Jay and Upper Jay, New York!
Linked by NY Route 9N, Jay and Upper Jay abound with fall color, epic views, history, art, and great flavor. Whether you start in Jay or Upper Jay, follow 9N for a relaxed, tasty adventure with great stops along the way. Let's roll, pumpkin!
Eat like an Adirondacker
When it's time for breakfast, I won't even try to persuade you on this one. Just trust me and head to the Adirondack Mountain Coffee Cafe in Upper Jay. The food is great and the setting is awesome! The cafe is inside what was once the entrance building of a charming, utterly sweet, totally beloved amusement park called Land of Make Believe. Here, the owners roast flavorful coffee and offer hearty, home cooked food. Order the Woodcutters 1800 Style Breakfast; it's a hearty helping (for two or three!) of two eggs, pancakes, steak, sausage, home fries, and...homemade pie! Since you'll be full, take some cider donuts with you to go!
Fun fact: The Land of Make Believe, being kid-oriented, featured buildings and entertainment sized for children. This included storybook cottages, including one that looked like a giant pumpkin!
When it comes time for dinner, after you've spent the day visiting the farm store and meeting the cows at Sugar House Creamery, wandering the meadows and listening for birds at Flowering Meadow Nursery, or visiting the covered bridge in Jay (more on that later!), you'll want something special and hearty. The Ice Jam Inn is quickly becoming a local legend, known for great flavor and a welcoming atmosphere along the Ausable River. The southern heat of the Crosby, Stills, & Nashville sandwich is a favorite of many, while a number of items on the menu feature a fall favorite: apple cider. Go for the cider-brined roast chicken; you won't regret it!
A bridge over sparkling water
Surrounded by the distinctive glow of leaves in shades of pumpkin-y orange and apple red, a neat bit of history crosses the East Branch Ausable River in Jay. I'm talking about the Jay Covered Bridge, the very last bridge of its kind in Upstate New York! Originally built in 1857 and carefully refurbished and restored over the years, the bridge is a quaint must-see for anyone visiting the area. Now closed off to all motorized vehicles, the bridge and surrounding park are a beautiful spot to take photos, enjoy the scenery, and imagine a quieter time in life.
Jay means art!
Okay, well it actually doesn't (Jay was named after a governor of New York), but once you get here, you'll realize I'm right. The Adirondacks are massively inspiring for artists in an expansive range of forms and styles and you can get an eyeful, and a carful, right here in Jay and Upper Jay.
Located on the slope looking down over the Ausable River valley, Young's Studio and Gallery is known for exceptional pottery handcrafted by owner Sue Young, as well as fine natural yarns, jewelry, and more. Sue has recently been firing up handcrafted pie dishes, and we highly recommend them, whether as a gift or for your own baking adventures! After all, fall is pie season, right?
Down the hill and around the corner, the Jay Craft Center is another can't-miss stop for art and shopping. Owner Cheri Cross and her family have been creating pottery here, as well as providing a venue for other talented local artists, for over thirty years. If you're like me, you'll have an amazing time browsing. When it comes time to check out, you'll have a hard time choosing your favorite piece to take home! Our suggestion: a robust mug, perfect for cool fall days with a warm apple cider. I think warm apple cider goes well with pumpkin pie, don't you?
Start planning your fall visit to the Adirondacks and the sweet spots of Jay and Upper Jay. Add a farm stay for some extra color and adventure, and explore the surrounding area in all its fall beauty.
In case you hadn't noticed by now (where have you been?), I think pumpkins are simply glorious. They're cute to look at, give off a cheery seasonal feel, and they taste wonderful. Nor am I alone! The American author Henry David Thoreau enjoyed growing pumpkins and wrote even more deliriously about them than I do. In his legendary book Walden, Thoreau wrote, "I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion." Admittedly, Thoreau grew very very large pumpkins, but I think we can all still appreciate his love of nature, pumpkins, and fall!
In honor of fall, and people like Thoreau, here is a wonderful recipe for pumpkin pie. You can use that lovely handmade pie dish you picked up at Young's Studio!
1 pie crust (it's okay if you buy one, we won't tell)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (or, if you prefer, cloves)
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
1/2 cup milk or cream
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line your gorgeous pie dish with the crust. Combine all of the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Pour into the lined pie dish. Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 300. Bake for an additional 45 minutes or until the filling is firm. To check the firmness, give the pie a gentle jiggle: it should only jiggle a tiny bit in the center. Enjoy on Thanksgiving, Indigenous People's Day, or any day when you feel like celebrating fall.