The Travel Industry of America (www.tia.org) recently compiled a list of personal benefits associated with travel and taking a vacation including improved health, relationships, careers and productivity. With the high cost of gasoline, and summer vacationers rethinking their travel plans, Chautauqua County in southwestern New York offers value and health conscious visitors from the Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Erie, Buffalo, Rochester and Toronto areas rewarding vacation options close to home. Here are a few mini-vacation ideas that cost less than a round-trip tank of gas without a lot of extra investment:
Hiking and Cycling
Long Point and Lake Erie State Parks provide several miles of marked hiking trails in lakeside, forested settings. In addition, the park roads are safe and convenient for family cycling outings. Both parks provide picnic and swimming facilities and plenty of parking. Admission for the day is $7 for parking.
The Erlandson Overlook Park in Frewsburg, NY and the Luensman Overlook Park in Portland, NY offer easy hiking trails, spectacular views, picnic facilities and parking. These are great spots to observe local species of birds, particularly birds of prey. Admission is free.
Rails-to-Trails offers easy to moderate difficulty hiking and off-road cycling trails spanning 30 miles between Brocton, Mayville, and Sherman.
Many of Chautauqua County's roadways are perfect for the moderately experienced cyclist, offering beautiful settings and clearly marked, paved shoulders. Suggested routes can be found in the Chautauqua County Travel Guide or through Hollyloft Ski and Bike in the Jamestown/Lakewood area.
The Fred Cusimano and Earl Cardot Overland Trails provide miles of cleared and marked trails for nature-loving enthusiasts. These moderately challenging trails have multiple access and parking points and are fulfilling for hikers, birders, and off-road cyclists. Maps are available through the Chautauqua County Department of Public Facilities and can be picked up at the Chautauqua Institution Main Gate and the Chautauqua Lake I-86 Rest Area information centers. They are also printable online at www.tourchautauqua.com.
The Jamestown Audubon Nature Center offers the "First Friday Lunch Bunch" and "Little Explorers" programs throughout the year. Schedule and cost information is available at www.jamestownaudubon.org.
Tour Amish Country
Half a tank of gas and a loop of 75 miles through Cherry Creek, Ellington, Kennedy, Randolph, Conewango Valley, Leon, and South Dayton will take you back in time. Over 100 Amish shops and farms dot the landscape and provide visitors with unique shopping options including wooden toys, hand-made furniture, quilts, leather crafts, cheeses, candies, baked goods, and home-grown fruits and vegetables.
Enjoy lunch at the Trillium Lodge in Cherry Creek or grab home-made goodies along the Amish trail.
Stop in at the Cherry Creek Depot for unique Amish and Victorian era goods.
A guided Tour and Tea in Amish Country is offered through the Foxe Farmhouse Bed & Barn, 716-962-3412.
Enjoy a western village, roping, shooting shows and cowboy theater on Prospect Street in Sinclairville at Wild Bill's Old West Show. Performances take place on Sundays 6/15, 7/13, 8/17, 9/14 from 2:30-6:00 p.m. with admission cost of $10 adult and $5 for 12 and under.
Free Sundays at Chautauqua
Chautauqua Institution is western New York's, world-renown, cultural and recreational vacation destination. In addition to Chautauqua's concerts, lectures, golf, and waterfront activities, visitors can enjoy "Free Sundays". For just a $6 parking fee, a family can enjoy the following Sunday activities at the Institution:
Victorian-era grounds, gardens, paths, and lakeside areas.
Swimming at Chautauqua's four beaches.
2:30 p.m. free concert performance.
Safe, quiet roadways for easy cycling outings.
Shopping in the Chautauqua Bookstore and around Bestor Plaza
Evening Sacred Song Service in the Amphitheater
Chautauqua County has a number of historic sites and museums that are great for family excursions:
The Dunkirk Historic Lighthouse offers guided tours for $5 per adult and $2 per child. Or, just walk around the lighthouse grounds and outdoor exhibits for $1 per person. For information call 716-366-5050 or www.dunkirklighthouse.com.
In Fredonia, the D.R. Barker Museum offers local history exhibits, dollhouse and miniature displays, and a children's museum. Admission is free and information can be obtained at 716-672-2114 or www.barkermuseum.net.
The Fenton History Center & Museum in Jamestown offers exhibits on life in the Civil War period, local history and development of the area, the Underground Railroad, Lucille Ball, Chautauqua Lake, and much more. Admission is $5 adults, $4 children and information is available at 716-664-6256 or www.fentonhistorycenter.org.
The Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown provides a fascinating look at the life, accomplishments, impacts, and historic contexts of U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Attorney General, and World War II war crimes prosecutor Robert Jackson. Admission is $4.00 and information is available at 716-483-6646 or www.roberthjackson.org.
In the Village of Findley Lake, the Waterwheel Overlook and information center provides interpretive panels on the history of the village and a deck overlooking the historic waterwheel.
Also in Findley Lake, near the entrance/exit to I-86, the new Findley Lake Nature and Wildlife Education Center showcases a collection of 300 different species of large wild animal mounts. Hands-on displays emphasize ecology and environmental responsibilities. Open for groups and by appointment by calling 716-769-7610.
Several other museums, requiring little or no admission fee are found in the Chautauqua County Travel Guide. The guide may be viewed online at www.tourchautauqua.com or requested from the Visitors Bureau at 866-909-4569.
Lake Erie shoreline
A ninety mile loop on Routes 5 and 20 along the Lake Erie Shoreline can provide one to two days of entertainment with views and access to Lake Erie, quaint Victorian-era villages and local wineries.
Ripley is home to the famous Ripley Hawk Watch where thousands of visitors annually view hawks and other birds of prey soaring on Lake Erie's thermal air currents. A favorite nearby meal or "pie" spot is Meeder's Restaurant on Rt. 20.
Westfield has an interesting statue of Abraham Lincoln and Grace Bedell, a young girl who convinced him to grow his trademark beard. The McClurg Museum provides year-round exhibits on Chautauqua County's history and early pioneers. Information is available at www.mcclurgmuseum.org or 716-326-2977. Visitors will also enjoy the Westfield Farmer's Market every Saturday in Moore Park.
For dining in the Westfield area, visitors will enjoy the authentic Westfield Diner or Zebro's on the waterfront at Barcelona Harbor.
Other Route 5 "must see" points in the Westfield area are the Barcelona Lighthouse, Barcelona Harbor and the replica Sea Lion sailing vessel. Visitors of all ages will enjoy Vinewood Acres Sugar Shack's locally grown and produced fruit products and Budda's Whitetail Ostrich Farm.
Families can enjoy camping at Lake Erie State Park, named as one of the top 100 campgrounds in the nation, which includes a public swimming area, trails, recreation area, and memorable "Lake Erie sunsets". For camping reservations, www.nysparks.com/accomm or 716-792-9214.
The Village of Fredonia offers families and visitors boutique shopping, dining, coffee shops, and an architectural walking tour. For walking tour information, stop in at the Village Hall and Opera House for a brochure. Fredonia also offers a Farmer's Market every Saturday in the Barker Commons village square.
Dunkirk's Chadwick Bay and City Pier area are hotspots for pier fishing, lakefront cycling, and enjoying the lake view. The new Boardwalk Market and nearby restaurants offer ice cream, wine, burgers, bicycle rentals, coffee, tie-dyed T's, and gift shops.
The Village of Silver Creek and nearby Sunset Bay are favorite Lake Erie beach and dining spots, perfect for spending a day at the lake.
Concerts, Festivals and Events
There are events, festivals, or concerts every weekend in Chautauqua County. Many are offered free or with minimal charges.
Bemus Bay Pops Concert Series runs from June 29 to August 30 with free outdoor Sunday afternoon concerts performed from a giant floating stage. For a schedule of concerts and events visit www.bemusbaypops.com.
The City of Dunkirk offers weekend festivals and free entertainment at the City Pier all summer long. Information is available at www.cityofdunkirk.com.
From July 3 to August 28, enjoy Concerts in the Park on Thursday evenings at the Village Square in Silver Creek.
The Village of Mayville offers a Thursday evening entertainment series as well with concerts in the Village Green or Lakeside Parks.
Located in the southwest corner of New York State, Chautauqua County plays host to the renowned Chautauqua Institution, the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center, the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail in America's Grape Country, quaint Victorian villages, and a host of fairs, festivals, camping, outdoor and lakeside activities. For travel planning and information and a comprehensive list of events, call 866-908-ILNY (4569) or visit www.tourchautauqua.com.