By Liz Cleland
As the final signs of winter melt away, the mud starts to dry up and the flowers bloom, it’s safe to say spring has arrived in Chautauqua County. Have a sense of cabin fever? Need to get out with the family or enjoy a weekend with your friends? Escape to new surroundings or rediscover some great events and places throughout Chautauqua County that bring people back year after year.
Start the trip with a visit to Double D.A.B Stables in Ripley. Nothing says “get outside” more than a trail ride on horseback throughout the wooded countryside. Feel the stress of the work week fade away as you witness nature coming to life in the warm sunshine while relaxing atop of a gorgeous animal. This is a great adventure for the entire family, even school-aged children, that no one will soon forget. Experienced riders will guide you in and around creeks, streams and hillsides. Listen to stories about each horse, their names and different personalities.
After you have enjoyed the ride at the Double D.A.B. Stables, stop by the Grape Discovery Center for some wine and Concord grape juice sampling. Cool off in the air conditioning and explore the displays that pay homage to our region’s history as America’s Grape Country. After all, you are visiting the oldest and largest Concord grape growing region in America and the largest grape-growing region outside of California! Learn how grapes are pressed into juice and fermented into wine. Visitors may also purchase local wines and grape products to take home. In search of additional wine adventures? Reserve a seat at Johnson Estates Winery’s, Estate Wine Pairing Dinner, “Romance in France,” on Saturday, May 27, 2017. Contact 716-326-2191 for details and reservations.
Next, venture to the McClurg Museum and the Lincoln – Bedell Statue. Grace Bedell, a young girl from Westfield wrote a letter to Mr. Abraham Lincoln, Presidential Candidate, in 1860 encouraging him to “grow whiskers and her brothers would vote for him and he would look nicer.” It would appear that President Lincoln obeyed Grace Bedell’s recommendation. Locals also say there are several Pokémon® stops, which usually get the kids excited!
Before you head out of town for the day, don’t forget to stop and select a tasty treat at Portage Pie. Handmade deliciousness with just a touch of sugar in every pie! You may have seen them featured on PBS’s A Few Good Pie Places program that aired in August 2015. Owner Connie Thayer makes just about every variety you can imagine: raspberry, pecan, pumpkin, strawberry rhubarb, peanut butter cream, key lime and of course, grape, just to name a few! Trust the reviews; these are the perfect way to end any day.
A great way to begin your next outing is with fun family activities at the Audubon Community Nature Center in Jamestown. Hike the trails, explore the gardens, view the indoor exhibits and meet a bald eagle! Liberty the Eagle is a non-releasable bald eagle who lives at the Audubon due to an injured wing. View the majesty of our nation’s mascot up close, an opportunity not afforded to many.
After a morning of outdoor adventure, wander through the Lawson Boating Heritage Center in Bemus Point. The contents of this beautiful historical museum are bound to impress you, like the two antique Chris Craft boats manufactured right here in Jamestown and a seaplane hanging from the ceiling! The stunning views of Chautauqua Lake’s Bemus Bay as seen from the exhibit areas and deck can’t be beat. If the kids are in need of a little quite time, cozy up in the reading nook. No surprise, it’s in a boat! Dive into different types of water vehicles and explore how they are restored by some of the area’s top craftsmen. Listen to stories of fishing days and all the current restoration projects underway. Didn’t get enough stories? The Lawson Center’s upcoming Lecture Series takes place on Wednesday, May 31, 2017. For more details call 716-386- 3355.
In search of other hands on nature excursions? Enjoy an Alpacaville tour where you can meet, greet and watch these beautiful creatures while they roam around the farm. Every child can appreciate these good natured and slightly goofy-yet-adorable animals while learning valuable insight about how to care for them. Shop for handmade items made using their fleece, which is a soft, durable and silky natural fiber. Some compare it to sheep’s wool, but note that it is warmer and not prickly. The lack of lanolin makes alpaca fleece completely hypoallergenic!
Before kicking up your feet for the remainder of the evening, swing by Reverie Creamery in Mayville, an artisan cheese shop and small batch artisan cheesemaking company. Not only will the helpful staff aid you in selecting the perfect cheese to pair with your meal or wine, they will gladly explain how cheese is made. They make several types of goat and cow milk cheese, one of which, “Tom” a tomme style, took home Gold at the New York State Fair in the farmstead/artisan hard cheese category in 2016. Curious to learn how more of the food you enjoy is produced? Attend Fungi, Feasting and Foraging – Sunday, May 28, 2017, hosted by Green Heron Growers, call 716-753-0371 for details and reservations.
Last up are some places you may have heard of in Jamestown, Chautauqua County’s largest city, but are worth rediscovering. Let your family explore some of the great museums downtown while you snap photos! Lucile Wright Air Museum, Lucy Desi Museum and Center for Comedy and the Fenton History Center have great memorabilia to look at, touch and learn about. Record your own Vitameatavegamin commercial, sit in an old wagon and simulate flight! Jamestown is a city rich with heritage and those in charge of our cultural centers are eager to share their knowledge.
If you are looking for more outdoor time, head to the Roger Tory Peterson Institute, bird watching here is a popular pastime. Kids can spend hours walking the trails or listening to different species of birds sing. Head indoors to check out the latest exhibit, The Weiler’s Evolution: A Father and Son’s Artistic Journey, now through July 2, 2017.
Conclude your weekend with a quick visit to Ecklof Bakery and Deli. They ship their famous Pink Stripe cookies to enthusiasts around the world and we would be amiss to not recommend the baklava. Either would make a good snack for the road!
Spring is the perfect time to get outside and explore both the outdoors and local businesses. Each one invites you to experience new things to do and see with your family, while creating lasting memories to look back upon. If you do enjoy some of these adventures, share them with us by tagging photos with #tourchautauqua on social media, you might just get featured!
About the Author: Liz Cleland is a writer for the WesternNewYorker.org website, Huffington Post Contributor and Tour Chautauqua. She is accredited with a Master’s Degree in Education, and currently pursuing an Associate Degree in Psychology. She shares her exciting travels, adventurous lifestyle and family lives throughout the internet and on social media.