Located just 2.5 hours from Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Rochester, and 1.5 hours from Buffalo, Chautauqua County is the perfect destination for a fall getaway. Far enough and bursting with new sights and experiences so that we feel we have traveled somewhere, but close enough that the trip doesn’t have to be a big production. Maybe you’ve been to Chautauqua countless times during the summer months but have yet to experience the autumn bounty. Keep reading for five suggested ways to spend an unforgettable fall weekend in Chautauqua County, New York.
1. Book a Wine Tour Weekend: Several accommodations ranging from quaint inns to luxury condos offer wine tour vacation packages to their guests. Plan a romantic weekend with your significant other or a girlfriend getaway exploring Lake Erie Wine Country, the largest US grape-growing region outside of California. Begin at the Grape Discovery Center where you can sample and purchase wines from several local wineries while you learn about Chautauqua County’s heritage as the nation’s oldest Concord growing region.
2. A Destination for Adventure: Push your limits on Peek’n Peak Resort’s Mountain Adventures Course. Explore treetops, zipline down mountains or tour the hills on rented mountain bikes or a guided Segway tour. Appreciate fall’s beauty on a horseback trail ride at Double D.A.B. Stables. Book a chartered fly-fishing excursion to Lake Erie’s tributaries, known around the globe as “Steelhead Alley.” Climb on and through 60-foot tall rock formations carved by glaciers during the last Ice Age at Panama Rocks Scenic Park. Do it all in Chautauqua County!
3. Taste the Harvest Bounty: With more farms than any other county in New York State, opportunities to eat and buy local are plentiful. In addition to weekly farmer markets hosted by many communities, there are several planned festivals honoring the autumn harvest: Southern Tier Brewery’s ‘Pumking’ Fest, Sept. 23 | Busti Apple Festival, Sept. 24 | Farm to Table Dinner at the Athenaeum Hotel at Chautauqua Institution, Sept. 29 | Brew Master’s Dinner at Peek’n Peak Resort with Southern Tier Brewery, Oct. 6 | NYS Fall Tasting of Local Wine, Beer & Spirits at the Grape Discovery Center, Oct. 7 | Winemaker’s Dinner at Johnson Estate Winery, Oct. 14 | Peek’n Peak Resort’s Fall Festival, Oct. 14-15 & 21-22.
4. Slow Down and Appreciate Nature: Perhaps one reason fall is so well loved is that it gives us permission to slow down after hectic summers. Fall is the perfect time to drive or cycle the bucolic countryside, hike through changing wooded forests, or even cruise or paddle one of Chautauqua County’s five amazing lakes. Johnson Estate Winery, New York State’s oldest estate winery, will be holding fall foliage vineyard walks on Sundays during October while Liberty Vineyards and Winery will be organizing horse-drawn wagon tours and wine tastings in their vineyards. Or, reserve a space aboard the Summer Wind for a three hour sightseeing cruise and brunch on Chautauqua Lake. For biking and hiking routes or directions to nature areas, visit TourChautauqua.com.
5. Learn about our Rich History: What do Abraham Lincoln and Marmaduke the Great Dane have in common? Statues dedicated to their likeness in Chautauqua County! Chautauqua County’s unique character owes much to its Victorian heritage as well as to the sons and daughters who bring international recognition to its little towns. Visit a National Historic Landmark within Chautauqua Institution or see grand historic residences at the McClurg Museum, the D.R. Barker Museum and the Fenton History Center. Learn about the fascinating and diverse work of Lucille Ball, Robert H. Jackson and Roger Tory Peterson. Climb the observation tower at the Dunkirk Lighthouse and Veteran’s Museum for a bird’s eye view of Lake Erie, all within steps of where the first shots of the War of 1812 were fired.