Located in west-central Maine’s Franklin County, the small town of Jay is nearly equidistant from Canada to the north, New Hampshire to the west, and the Atlantic seaboard to the south.
Like many towns in Maine, Jay is well known for its distinct deposits of granite, which have been much sought after for generations for their distinct texture and pattern.
Jay sits on the northwest edge of one of Maine’s largest lake areas that runs in a northeasterly direction between Lewiston and Waterville and provides a variety of recreation options.
Below are 15 of the best things to do in and around Jay, Maine.
1. Maine’s Paper and Heritage Museum
With its vast expanses of forest that are perfect for the pulp and paper industries, it’s not surprising that they’ve played significant roles in the state’s economic development.
Nearly two decades ago, a group of civic-minded citizens decided to establish a museum focused on preserving and promoting the paper industry and its impact on the area’s population.
Generally open from Memorial Day until the beginning of October, the museum is an inexpensive activity for history and heritage-minded travelers.
The museum is located on Church Street in Livermore Falls and highlights many paper towns along the Androscoggin River.
2. The Apple and Pumpkin Festival
There’s no place more beautiful in the fall than New England. With its abundant lakes, majestic mountains, and large tracts of forest it’s quite a sight to behold, especially when the leaves have begun to turn their vibrant autumn colors.
Taking place from the end of September until the beginning of October, Livermore Falls’ Apple and Pumpkin Festival is a great way to get in a last bit of outdoor activity before winter sets in.
The festival includes a variety of family-friendly activities, historical exhibits, and plenty of local vendors selling everything from pies and all-natural health and body products to Christmas and Halloween decorations and arts and crafts.
3. Grafton Notch State Park
Located in Oxford County’s Grafton Township, Grafton Notch State Park is a recreation area that’s comprised of more than 3,000 acres and is named for the narrow band or notch that runs adjacent to Old Speck and Baldpate Mountains.
The state park lies along one of the state’s most scenic roadways and includes a number of pull-off areas offering unobstructed views of the surrounding mountains, valleys, and forests.
The park features a variety of year-round activities including camping, fishing, hiking, and especially bird-watching.
It’s not uncommon to see a variety of animals along the park’s trails, so don’t forget to make sure your camera has a full charge.
4. Spruce Mountain Ski Slope
Though it’s not large compared to world-famous regional ski resorts like Stowe and Killington, Spruce Mountain Ski Slope is convenient, inexpensive, and the perfect location for an alpine getaway for families who’d rather not spend a fortune and countless hours in the car.
The mountain includes more than ten trails, most of which are equipped with snowmaking equipment.
The resort has been open for more than 50 years and is owned by the towns of Livermore and Livermore Falls. For those without much experience, it’s a great place to take a lesson or two before heading out on your own.
5. Washburn-Norlands Living History
Maine has a rich farming tradition that dates back to the area’s founding, when for most families, farming was largely a matter of life and death.
Many of those original farms are operating much as they did years ago, and the Washburn-Norlands Living History Center is the perfect place to get a unique and thorough look into the area’s farming and cultural pasts.
Much more than just another look-but-do n’t-touch museum, the living history center encourages visitors to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty, which is an especially fun experience for little ones.
It’s the oldest facility of its kind in the state and includes a variety of onsite buildings, equipment, and exhibits.
6. Maine State Museum
As one of the oldest state-run and funded museums in the country, it’s not surprising that the Maine State Museum is one of the region’s most complete repositories of historical artifacts.
The museum’s displays and interactive exhibits touch on history, culture, science, art and the natural world.
There’s a little something for everyone regardless of age. Previous visitors have particularly enjoyed the life-size reproduction watermill and the items that focus on the variety of Native American groups that called the state home before it was settled by Europeans.
Located in Augusta, the museum is open year-round.
7. Fort Western Living History Museum
Also located in Augusta, the Fort Western National Historic Landmark and Living History Museum is the country’s oldest wooden fort and was constructed in the mid-1750s.
It saw action predominately during the French and Indian war years, and includes a variety of exhibits that focus on New England history dating back nearly three centuries.
The museum generally operates from Memorial Day until the end of fall and is popular with adults and children.
Guided tours are the best way to get the most bang for your buck. The guides dress in period attire and use the vernacular of the day, making it not only educational but entertaining as well.
8. Viles Arboretum
Comprised of more than 200 acres of trees, shrubs, plants, and flowers, the Viles Arboretum has hundreds of species on display in a number of professionally cultivated gardens.
The arboretum is open every day from sunup to sundown and includes a variety of well-marked trails leading to different gardens.
It’s also home to the most extensive collection of outdoor statues in the state, which makes for a beautiful melding of the natural and manmade worlds.
It’s possible to explore the arboretum completely in an hour, but for those looking to slow the pace, you could easily spend more than a few hours.
9. Mount Blue State Park
Located near the town of Weld in Franklin County, Mount Blue State Park is another of Maine’s natural wonders that’s got a little something for everyone.
Featuring plenty of campsites, a boat launch, and an idyllic lakeside location, Mount Blue attracts visitors year-round, but most come during the relatively warm spring and summer months.
Fishing, boating, swimming, and hiking are popular warm-weather activities, and with nearly 8,000 acres of land to explore, finding ways to fill your day won’t be an issue.
Most of the park’s campsites are in wooded areas near the lake, and they fill up fast during peak season.
10. Children’s Discovery Museum
Augusta’s Children’s Discovery Museum isn’t the largest museum in the world, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for with its kid-centered activities that keep little ones engaged and entertained for hours.
The museum’s exhibits encourage kids to get active, so in addition to having a blast and learning a thing or two, they’ll also burn off that excess energy for which kids are known.
Unlike some of Maine’s attractions, the museum doesn’t close for the winter; it’s the perfect place to spend a few morning or afternoon hours any time of year, but especially when the weather isn’t particularly inviting.
11. The Lewiston-Auburn Liberty Festival
The Fourth of July is an important national celebration, but it’s particularly pertinent in New England since that’s where it all started.
The Lewiston-Auburn Liberty Festival takes place on the scenic shores of the Androscoggin River. In addition to celebrating the nation’s founding, it features a variety of arts and crafts, guest speakers, and plenty of great food and activities.
It’s an all-day event that includes a flag retiring ceremony, live cannon firings, and the always popular fireworks show.
Don’t forget to bring your camera, a box of sparklers, and folding chairs or a blanket to sit on while watching the fireworks.
12. Great Falls Balloon Festival
The Great Falls Balloon Festival is another event of the twin cities of Lewiston-Auburn that draws visitors from far and wide.
The festival is held in August when the Maine weather is perfect; due to its quaint setting and fantastic scenery, it welcomes tens of thousands of visitors per year.
The festival began in the early ’90s and includes activities held at multiple locations.
In addition to the balloon launch, there are a variety of vendors selling food, clothes, arts, and crafts, many of which are made by local craftsmen and entrepreneurs.
Keep an eye on the local weather, as it can affect the balloon launches.
13. Midcoast Symphony Orchestra
With roots dating back nearly 30 years, the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra began small but has added more musicians over the years and is now a complete symphony orchestra.
The orchestra performs a variety of classic and contemporary pieces during their four scheduled concerts during the season.
Many music lovers who’ve attended performances have stated that their experience far outweighed their expectations, making it a great value when compared with more expensive symphony orchestra performances in larger urban areas.
The orchestra is comprised of 80 volunteer musicians and solo artists who perform at a few local venues throughout the year.
14. Colby College Museum of Art
Located in Waterville, the Colby College Museum of Art is a rare gem for those who don’t mind straying from the beaten path.
The museum is free to visit and features an extensive collection of art housed in five distinct galleries.
Pieces from many famous New England artists are included, and there’s a nice onsite café that’s the perfect place to relax with a cup of coffee after a day on your feet.
The museum is larger and more extensive than most similar college art museums; serious art lovers should plan on spending an hour or two to take it all in.
15. Play some Disc Golf
Disc golf has become a popular pastime in recent years, and Maine has a variety of courses. Located in Augusta, Quarry Run Disc Golf features 18 scenic holes; it’s possible to play one round or buy an all-day pass.
Unlike traditional golf, disc golf doesn’t require a substantial investment in clubs, balls or plaid pants and can be played year-round.
Porcupine Ridge Disc Golf is another 18-hole course not far away; both courses can be played in the same day if you’re looking for a little variety. Both courses feature open and wooded areas that make them scenic and challenging.