Updated – Chautauqua County in western New York has been a summer vacation destination for well over a hundred years. Take a look at some affordable summer activities the whole family can enjoy.
Visit the Dunkirk Lighthouse, climb the spiral stairs to the upper observation deck, and take in the view of Lake Erie. Walk through the restored 1800 lighthouse keeper’s home and learn about nautical and military history. The lighthouse is open from 10 am to 4 pm in July and August, and until 2 pm starting in September. Prices start at $3 for children 4 to 10 years old. For another view of Lake Erie, plan a family picnic at Luensman Overview Park, a 70-acre overlook on the Chautauqua Ridge with a panoramic view. On a clear day you can see the Buffalo skyline and the Canadian shore. There is a pavilion and picnic tables as well as an interpretive trail that runs approximately one mile through the forest. Located on Thayer Road in the Town of Portland, the park is open mid-May through November 1st from 8:30 am to dusk.
Watch the sun set over Lake Erie while sitting on the beach at Barcelona in the Town of Westfield. A rocking chair on the porch of the Hotel Lenhart provides the perfect vantage point for sunsets over Chautauqua Lake.
Explore the renowned Chautauqua Institution celebrating its 141st program season in 2015. Over nine weeks each summer, Chautauqua offers lectures, concerts, classes, camps, golf, tennis, and a lakeside community built to engage the mind, body and spirit. Visit on a Sunday when gate tickets are free; afternoon parking is $8.50. Stop in the Chautauqua Bookstore on Bestor Plaza and pick up a “Walking Tour Guidebook of the Chautauqua Institution” for a self-guided exploration of the grounds. At 2:30 pm, head to the Amphitheater for the afternoon concert. A weekly Sacred Song Service starts at 8 pm.
Attend the Bemus Bay Pops Concert Series on Sunday afternoons from June 27 to September 5, 2015. Concerts feature world-class musicians from the Chautauqua region as well as national acts, and all performances take place on a giant floating stage in Bemus Bay. Performances can be heard from a spot on the shoreline or from boats on the water. Tickets are available for a reserved section immediately in front of the stage. Salute the end of summer with special performances throughout Labor Day Weekend.
Take a ride across the 968 foot narrows of Chautauqua Lake aboard the 203-year-old Bemus-Stow Ferry. The ferry runs on weekends and is funded by donations.
Cool off in the shadows of gigantic ancient rocks at Panama Rocks. Rock formations are an outcrop of 300 million years old quartz conglomerate sedimentary rock that reach upwards of 60 feet and are covered with snacking tree roots, delicate ferns, mosses, and lichens. A one mile self-guided, moderate grade hiking trail surrounds the rocks and lends access for exploring small caves, crevices, and cavernous dens. Rates range from $5 for children (6-12) to $7.50 for adults. Ages 5 and under are free.
Tour an 1858 mansion in Jamestown and learn about the life of Robert H. Jackson. From country lawyer to Supreme Court Justice and Chief U.S. Prosecutor for the Nuremberg Trails after WWII, Jackson’s legacy as a champion for human rights is preserved for future generations through programs and exhibits. Guided tours at the Robert H. Jackson Center are available Monday through Saturday and cost $5 per person. Children under 18 are free.
Take a walk on over five miles of paved trails on a 600-acre wetland preserve at the Audubon Center and Sanctuary south of Jamestown. Explore a native tree arboretum, educational gardens and a nature center, and be sure to visit Liberty, a non-releasable bald eagle who provides many teaching and learning opportunities. Liberty’s area and the trails are open from dawn until dusk daily at no charge. Admission to the nature center is free for children. Non-member adults pay $6. Donations are gladly accepted.
Head to the Russell E. Diethrick, Jr. Park in Jamestown for an evening of Prospect League Baseball with the Jamestown Jammers. Tickets range from $8 for general admission to $12 for reserved seating behind home plate.
Take the family and spend the day on a Lake Erie beach. The five acre beach at Sunset Bay in Irving is clean and sandy with lifeguards, volleyball courts, waterfront restaurant, beach bar, arcade, ice cream shop and deli. Sunset Bay Beach is open daily 10 am – 6 pm, weather permitting. Admission is $3 per person plus $5 per car for parking at the Beach Club (one admission free with parking).
Discover Chautauqua County’s history at the McClurg Museum in Westfield. Learn about the Lincoln Legacy and how a little girl named Grace encouraged the presidential candidate to grow his iconic whiskers. Tour the 1818 Federal-style mansion on the National Register of Historic Places and see period displays and exhibits on three floors. Children especially enjoy the Victorian nursery and doll collection. The museum is open from 10 am to 4 pm, Tuesday through Saturday throughout the year. Tours cost $5 for adults; children are free.
For more information on things to do in Chautauqua County this summer, visit the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau or call 1-866-908-4569.