There is so much to do in Chautauqua County, New York this summer! The staff at the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau has assembled a list of FREE and low-cost activities to experience in the coming months. While you could easily spend more at some of the suggested attractions, everything on this list costs $15 or less per person!
If you take photos of your Chautauqua County experience, tag us on Instagram with @tourchautauqua /#tourchautauqua or post them on on Tour Chautauqua Facebook page. We may even ask share your photos with our 25k followers!
Taste Local Grape Products
A trip to the Grape Discovery Center is a must for all visitors! Admission to the Center is FREE. Browse the exhibits detailing our area’s rich history as the largest grape-growing region outside of California. Stop by the Tasting Bar to sample local wines, grape juice, grape products as well as artisanal meats and cheeses.
Learn about Chautauqua County’s Boating Heritage
Prepare to be amazed as you browse the museum’s collection of antique boats and related artifacts. Glimpse real-time restoration projects through the workshop windows or cozy up in the reading nook, it’s in the hull of a boat! Admission is $5 for non-members.
FREE Fishing Weekend
The perfect time to try fishing is June 24-25, during New York’s FREE Fishing Weekend. Participants may fish fresh or marine waters of New York State sans fishing license or recreation marine fishing registry. All freshwater and saltwater fishing regulations still apply.
Hunt for beach glass in Barcelona
The rocky beaches at Barcelona Harbor are a popular spot to gather this Lake Erie treasure. Search for a variety of colors; it’s our understanding that cobalt glass is the rarest of them all.
Dance, Eat and Drink at the Yassou Greek Festival
A Father’s Day tradition in Jamestown! Admission to the festival is only $2. Drinks and food are for sale but the entertainment is free. Be prepared to park a few blocks away from the festival and walk.
Explore an ancient forest with 60-foot-tall rocks
Panama Rocks are reputed to be one of the most extensive formations of glacier-cut, ocean-quartz conglomerate in the world! Formed more than 165 million years ago by major geologic activity and further shaped around 10,000 years ago by glaciers during the most recent Ice Age, Panama Rocks Scenic Park is truly a sight to behold! Admission is $7.50 for adults and $5 for kids under 12.
Visit Chautauqua Institution on Sunday’s, no gate pass required!
Every Sunday during Chautauqua’s nine week season, visitors can obtain a free gate pass to access the grounds from 7am-10pm. The gate pass gives you access to most events on the grounds including lectures, religious services, popular entertainment and Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra performances in the Amphitheater. The gate pass also includes access to art galleries, beaches, parks and complimentary shuttle and tram service on the grounds. Parking on Sunday’s is free from 7am-2pm only, after that, visitors are expected to purchase a parking pass.
Take a selfie with Marmaduke and his comic strip creator, Brad Anderson
Brad Anderson was born on May 14, 1924 in Jamestown, NY with a pen in his hand, or so legend goes. His hometown of Portland, NY has recently commemorated Anderson and his lovable Great Dane Marmaduke with a statue in the town center.
Watch a FREE Airshow above Lake Erie
July 1st and 2nd the Dunkirk Lakeshore Airshow returns! Watch professional pilots showoff daring tricks hundreds of feet off the ground and over beautiful Lake Erie. The show features wingwalking, aerobatics, sky divers and more! Outdoor vendor, food trucks and beverage tents will line Lake Front Blvd between Main and Serval Streets.
Go on a Full Moon Paddle
Evergreen Outfitters will host a full moon paddle each month this summer. It’s free with your own equipment, or you can rent a kayak from the shop for a reasonable fee. Upcoming dates: 7/8, 8/5 and 9/9.
Visit Liberty, a non-releasable bald eagle
Liberty lives out her days at the Audubon Community Nature Center due to a wing injury. She came to the Audubon Center in June of 2002 after spending a year in rehabilitation. While she can fly short distances inside her cage, she is unable to fly well enough to hunt. Trail access for hiking is FREE. Access to the main building and exhibits is a $6 donation.
Attend one of many 4th of July celebrations happening throughout Chautauqua County
Visit the www.tourchautauqua.com website for details. Major 4th of July celebrations happen each year in the communities of Mayville, Lakewood, Dunkirk and Midway State Park.
Watch a professional golf event, The LECOM Health Challenge – a Web.com PGA TOUR tournament
General admission tickets are only $10! Known as “The Path to the PGA TOUR,” players will compete for 50 PGA TOUR Cards and a cash prize. Last year’s tournament produced PGA golfer, Rick Lamb, and was voted 2016’s “Rookie of the Year” by the Web.com Tour. The 2017 installment is sure to pack as much excitement. The event takes place July 3-9 at Peek’n Peak Resorts infamous Upper Course.
View the heavens up close
The Martz Observatory in Frewsburg, NY holds a donation-based Public Open House every Wednesday evening from 7:30pm-9:30pm.
Go Antiquing at the Westfield Antique Show
For a $5 admission, brows over 23 different dealers from all over Western New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio at the 79th Annual Westfield Antique Show. The show takes place at Eason Hall July 15-16.
Watch Dozens of Sailboats Race on Chautauqua Lake
Chautauqua Lake will serve as the battleground for one of the most vibrant and competitive sailing classes, the 2017 Thistle National Championship. Sailing begins about mid-morning July 22-28. The sailboats will launch at Mayville Lakeside Park and compete in the northern basin of Chautauqua Lake.
Get a free Worship Pass at Chautauqua Institution to attend a service
Called a “Purpose Passes,” this special type of admission is valid from 8:30am to 11am and grant visitors access to the morning interfaith services held on the Chautauqua Institution grounds. This pass does not include parking or access to any other activities on the grounds.
Go to the movies for $7 or less
Jamestown’s Reg Lenna Theater and the 1891 Fredonia Opera House screen recent box office favorites for $7 and less. The snacks are also very reasonably priced; we all know that’s the most expensive part of a trip to the movies, especially when the whole family is in attendance. Visit each of their sites for information.
Dance to live music every third Thursday at Jamestown’s Winter Garden Plaza
Music begins at 7pm at Winter Garden Plaza, located on North Main Street between 3rd and 4th. There is also a rotating public art installment in the plaza featuring works by local JHS students. This free community event is rain or shine. Winter Garden Plaza is named after the former Winter Garden Theater, which once called the lot home.
Go to the county seat for free music every Thursday at Mayville Lakeside Park
Mayville is the capitol of Chautauqua County. Before heading to Mayville Lakeside Park, take a moment to appreciate the Victorian architecture along Erie Street. The Entertainment in the Park Summer Concert Series will take place every Thursday evening during July and August. All performances are in the gazebo from 6:30-8:30pm.
Reserve a morning for browsing Farmers Markets
Chautauqua County is home to over 1,500 farms that produce high quality, safe and nutritious food for us all to enjoy! Many towns offer weekly farmers markets to connect these growers with the general public. For more information, visit the Cornell Cooperative Extensions’ Chautauqua Grown website.
Spend the day at the beach
For $3 admission per person, spend the day at Sunset Bay USA, voted WNY’s “Best Beach.” 5 acres of clean sand that is groomed daily and views of the endless Lake Erie horizon, the 11th largest lake in the world, will trick your mind into thinking you’re at the ocean. Restaurants, a patio bar, a nightclub and arcade will keep you entertained from 10am to sundown.
Experience all things Lucille Ball in her hometown, Jamestown, New York!
Admission to the Lucy-Desi Museum and Center for Comedy is only $15. Explore the Lucy and Ricky’s living room, kitchen, her wardrobe, family memorabilia, awards and more. Guests can even record their own Vitameatavegamin commercial! Use the Chautauqua County Visitor Bureau’s Lucille Ball digital map to find murals and statues around Jamestown devoted to the famous comedian, as well as her childhood home and final resting place.
Spend an afternoon browsing at Cross Roads
Save Saturdays for Cross Roads! This farm and craft markets is open every Saturday, May 20 through December 3 and select holidays. Browse dozens of individual vendors known for their crafts, artwork, woodwork, specialty supplies, foodstuffs and more.
Watch the sunset over Bemus Bay in a coveted Hotel Lenhart rocking chair. Drink optional.
The rainbow colored rocking chairs on the Hotel Lenhart’s porch are prime real estate. Grab a seat and maybe a drink from The Lamplighter Room, the hotel’s lounge. Their signature cocktail is appropriately named The Rocker. Its exact contents are a mystery but most will agree it is delicious and unique. If the rockers fill up, there are additional Adirondack chairs scattered on the front lawn offering equally impressive views of the setting sun over Bemus Bay.
Attend the Chautauqua County Fair
The Chautauqua County Fair is July 24-30th this year. Tickets give you access to midway rides, family theater shows and grandstand events excluding Demolition Derby Reserved Seating. Tickets at the gate are $12/each but you can buy them online in advance for only $6! All visitors are subject to pay the $5 parking fee per vehicle.
Bring the family to Findley Lake for Kids Day
Our Own Candle Company in Findley Lake is hosting a fun, FREE day for kids on July 22nd! There will be bounce houses, a slip’n slide, activities and crafts! Kid favorite foods like hot dogs, sno cones and cotton candy and beverages are available. Plus, special visitors from the Erie Zoo and Erie Children’s museum! Did we mention everything is FREE?
Go off road during the Thursday Night Mountain Bike Social Ride
Meet at Loud Performance Products in Bemus Point every Thursday evening at 6pm through September 28th for a social mountain bike ride through Long Point State Park on Chautauqua. Because you’ll be biking into the park via the trails, there is no access fee. Bikes and gear are available to rent from Loud Performance for a reasonable fee or bring your own at no cost.
Tour the Dunkirk Lighthouse overlooking Lake Erie
Tours of the Dunkirk Lighthouse and the Veterans Park Museum include a climb to the top of the spiral stairs to the upper observation level, a walk through the restored 1800 lighthouse keepers home, the museum which features many nautical and US Veteran displays, and a tour of the grounds! General tickets for adults are $10 and $3 for children under 10. Family rates including tours for two adults and up to three children are only $25.
Visit a Lake Erie Wine Country Winery
There are 23 wineries along Lake Erie Wine Country’s trail. Open year round, many offer special events and entertainment like tours, free music Sunday’s, etc. Samples of wine at most wineries begin at just a couple dollars. As long as you have a designated driver, a scenic tour of our wine country with a few “sip stops” along the way is a wonderful way to spend the day.
Celebrate the comedic arts in the streets of Jamestown during the Lucy Comedy Fest Block Parties
Every August the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival draws big name comedians to perform in Jamestown, NY, Lucy’s hometown. Even if you don’t have tickets to see this year’s headliners including Kevin James and Jim Gaffigan, you can still get in on the excitement during the free block parties! A section of the street is shut down to motor vehicles and taken over by pedestrians dancing to live music and partaking in revelry.
Go to a Jamestown Jammers baseball game, Chautauqua County’s minor league team
Experience the family fun atmosphere with the Jamestown Jammers! General admission tickets are only $5.
Ride the Stow Ferry
Traversing Chautauqua Lake for more than 200 years, the Bemus Point-Stow Ferry is a slow, scenic way to cross the lake by car, motorcycle, bicycle or foot. The cost to ride is an at will donation.
Visit the Sugar Shack to sample locally made fruit syrups on ice cream
These delicious syrups are made from fruit grown and harvested on the Vinewood Acres Sugar Shack property. The fruit is all picked by hand before being transformed into delicious syrups like Elderberry, Concord Grape, Wild Mint with Pear, Strawberry Rhubarb and Currant Raspberry. In all, the Sugar Shack produces 21 flavors!
Tour Amish Country
Pick up a map and head out for a drive in the more rural parts of Chautauqua County. There is a detailed map of Chautauqua County in the Visitors Guide, which can be found at most area establishments and attractions. You can also visit the tourchautauqua.com website for a digital version of the map and other Amish Country maps. You’ll notice that many members of the Amish community will have goods for sale. Look for the signs and bring cash if you plan to shop.
Anchor the boat or kayak next to the Floating Stage to watch the Bemus Bay Pops Summer Concert Series
Bemus Bay Pops is celebrating their 20th Anniversary this year! Every Saturday and Sunday from June 24-Labor Day, enjoy live music on the Floating Stage. If you wish to watch from land, tickets for a variety of seating options and prices may be purchased, or you can cruise up to the stage in your boat or kayak to enjoy the entertainment for free.
Laugh with the family at special FREE kid-friendly productions during Lucy Comedy Fest
There are two FREE family-friendly shows taking place on Saturday, August 5th during the 2017 Lucy Comedy Fest. Story Pirates take the stage at the Reg Lenna Theater at 11:30am, followed by the Nels Ross Kids Comedy Show at 1:30pm.
Attend a Nature Festival that doubles as a juried art show and local food cook-off
The Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History (RTPI) and Panama Rocks Scenic Park will co-host the first annual Wild America Nature Festival at Panama Rocks on July 29th & 30th. The festival will feature nationally-renowned speakers; a juried fine nature art and craft show and competition; a local food cook-off competition and farmer’s market; live music; live animals, and classes, workshops, and fun activities for all ages!
Watch a FREE Water Ski Show
Featuring the award-winning Chippewa Lake Water Ski Show Team and starring US World Fly Board Champion, Mike Pierce! Enjoy this free show from the Lawson Center decks or the Bemus Bay POPS general seating area. July 23rd and August 27th at 2:30pm.
Dance to live tunes at one of the many festivals and shows taking place at the Dunkirk Pier
From June through Labor Day there are multiple events and entertainment happening at the Dunkirk Pier. Their award winning Music on the Pier Concert Series returns with live music and vendors.
Have ice cream for dinner
There are so many delicious ice cream shops to choose from! Some have soft serve, some hard. Some make their own homemade varieties, others serve brand favorites. Ask around for the best place to get ice cream and you’ll get 20 different answers! Either way, ice cream for dinner one night this summer won’t hurt you.
Embark on a historic walking tour of Jamestown, Chautauqua County’s largest city
The Fenton History Center offers multiple guided walking tours through Jamestown’s various neighborhoods, churches and cemeteries. The cost is just $10.
Paddle the Chadakoin River, Chautauqua Lake’s outlet
Evergreen Outfitters hosts a popular outlet paddle each Wednesday starting June 7th through August 30th. Meet at McCrea Point Park Boat Landing in Jamestown at 6:30pm for a cruise down the historic Chadakoin River. As you go, imagine the paddleboats that carried Victorian-era passengers. Now much less traveled, you’ll see an abundance of wildlife that calls the outlet home. If you’re lucky you might even see blue heron. FREE with your own gear or rent a vessel for $25.
Visit the statue dedicated to a Westfield, NY girl who inspired President Lincoln to grow a beard
The Lincoln-Bedell Statue showcases unique, bronze statues of Abraham Lincoln and Grace Bedell, Westfield resident. In 1860 when Bedell was a young girl, she wrote to Mr. Abraham Lincoln, Presidential Candidate, encouraging him to “grow whiskers and her brothers would vote for him and he would look nicer.”
Appreciate the talents of local artisans
Tour a number of galleries with collections featuring local, regional and nationally recognized artists!
Watch a movie at the beach!
Each Monday evening beginning July 10th through August 14th, Sunset Bay Beach Club will be screening FREE, family-friendly movies on the patio. Bring your own lawn chair. Snacks and beverages are available for purchase.
Spend a Thursday evening stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) in Sunset Bay on Lake Erie
Paddle along the beautiful sea cliffs of Lake Erie and watch the breathtaking sunset from the water! FREE with your own paddleboard (SUP) or kayak. Rentals are available for a reasonable free.
Bring the family to the longest running rodeo in the east, the Gerry Rodeo!
August 2-5 will mark the 73rd year of the Gerry Rodeo, the longest running rodeo east of the Mississippi! 200 cowboys and cowgirls will make their way to the hamlet of Gerry, NY to compete in this professionally sanctioned rodeo. Tickets for adults are $12 and children under 12 are $6.50. Proceeds benefit the Gerry Volunteer Fire Department.
Attend the annual Antique Farm Association’s equipment show
August 19-21, enjoy antique farm equipment demonstrations, tractor pulls (1960s machines and older), gas engines, log hewing and so much more! Parking is FREE. Tickets for adults are $5. Children under 14 are FREE.
Experience Celtic heritage
The 12th Annual Jamestown Regional Celtic Festival and “Gathering of the Clans” will take place August 25th and 26th at Mayville Lakeside Park. The festival is an opportunity for bands, both pipe and Celtic, from two countries and three states to perform, exchange music and ideas, and educate the public on Scottish and Irish culture!
For more information about events and attractions in Chautauqua County, call 1-866-908-4569 to request a free travel packet or visit www.tourchautauqua.com.