By Margot Russell, guest writer.
In the midst of snow-filled days, we look for those “clean well-lighted” places written about by Ernest Hemingway—a place to escape when we’ve grown weary of our own four walls. In a similar tradition, the Scandinavians have a wonderful word for cultivating coziness: they call it hygge (pronounced hue-guh.) Hygge is the act of seeking out things that are warm and well-loved—-things that bring our shivering souls back into balance, like steaming cups of hot chocolate, that old wool sweater, candlelit dinners, or wearing cashmere socks in front of a warm fire. Hygge can be created in the home, but it can also be found through experiences and travel.
There’s a winter wonderland in Chautauqua County waiting to escape to—a place to embrace the winter rather than endure it. From cozy teahouses to softly lit restaurants serving bowls of steaming soup, and warm lodges nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains, there’s something for everyone here that will add a little hygge to your life and make believers out of the most serious of winter curmudgeons.
Here is a list of our cozy, well-lit places—a list that would even impress Mr. Hemingway.
Restaurants and Local Flavor
This new bistro at Peek ‘n Peak Resort occupies newly updated space in what was once the Royal Court Dining Room. Named after the yearly number of inches it snows in the area, you’re sure to find a cozy spot here when you come in from the cold. Highlights on their new menu include steaming bowls of French onion soup or a piled-high rueben sandwich. The grand fireplace welcomes you and the new space features soft seating so you can settle right in.
Thick pieces of prime rib and a big pot of spaghetti sauce are two of the tasty items on the menu at this rustic country inn in Frewsburg. The Nic-L-Inn is open on the weekends this winter, much to the delight of their fans. Three fieldstone fireplaces and the smell of homemade bread wafting through the air will convince you this is the perfect place for a winter landing.
The Stockton Hotel
Charming and historic buildings always make for inviting winter spaces and the Stockton Hotel has both charm and history. It started out as a log tavern in 1812 before its transformation to a hotel in 1899, retaining its timeless charm throughout the years. No longer an inn, it’s now a favorite eating spot for locals featuring interesting appetizers, Friday night fish fry, and a cold weather favorite: a hot roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy.
Lana’s The Little House
It could be that the best time to pull up to Lana’s The Little House is in the midst of winter. The beautiful storybook cottage in Forestville is right out of a European fairytale, and guests say there’s nothing better than scurrying out of the cold to alight inside for a hot cup of tea and a tour of this art-filled cottage and gift shop. Owner Lana Lewis only gives out the address and details upon reservation, and hundreds of happy visitors from around the world have done just that.
Upper Crust Cafe and Bakery
With comfortable surroundings, soups made completely from scratch, and homemade baked goods, Upper Crust Bakery & Soup Co. in the Victorian village of Fredonia is a prime winter hideaway. Baker and General Manager Jim Mikula says, “The difference between us and them is the love, gotta have the love!” That ladies and gentlemen, is why the food tastes so good.
Inns and Resorts
While the Institution is often associated with the nine-week summer session, here’s a little secret: Chautauqua Institution is a quiet winter wonderland and there’s some great places and spaces to stow away for an afternoon. Smith Memorial Library has winter hours so you can cozy up in a corner seat and peruse a broad collection of books and periodicals, or get started on that novel you’ve been meaning to write. (Open weekdays 9a-7p; Sat. 9a-3p; Sun. 12p-3p; 21 Miller Avenue). The Chautauqua Bookstore is another lovely place to while away an afternoon. Located on Bestor Plaza, you’ll find plenty of books, but also a unique assortment of gifts and cards, clothing and souvenirs. (9a-5p daily). And just as wonderful is dashing through the snow on the grounds of the Institution. Horse drawn sleigh rides are offered Saturdays and Sundays through February 25th from 1p-3p. Tickets are available at the bookstore.
The Spencer Hotel & Spa
Nestled on the grounds of the timeless Chautauqua Institution, treat yourself to a winter getaway at this historic landmark that happily keeps its doors open in the winter months. Each room is filled with books that honor famous authors and there’s plenty of cozy spaces to play a board game or curl up with a good novel. Sleep in on snowy mornings before heading out for a sleigh ride around the charming grounds of the Institution, offered on weekends from December 26 to February 28. A perfect winter getaway.
Maple Springs Lake Side Inn
A classic turn-of-the-century Dutch Colonial on the outside with colonial and Victorian decor inside, the elegant Maple Springs Lake Side Inn is a wonderful place to take a winter walk and then have a nap inside. The inn boasts lake views from all of their rooms—and the country breakfast is the perfect way to start a cold day: fresh baked goods, fresh cut fruit, hot entrees like omelets and French toast and lots of good coffee.
The Brick House
This is a lovely place to embrace a winter weekend with its warm fireplace and infrared saunas. There’s just something about a fine brick house on a snowy street that conjures up good winter memories. The owners boast their inn has a “home style” feel without a lot of pretense. Located in Westfield—-a beautiful town any time of year.
Peek ‘N Peak Resort
While skiing is one way to embrace the winter months, there’s more to this resort than downhill pursuits. There’s a grand Tudor-style inn to relax in, a lovely spa for pampering, and an indoor pool that will shake off your winter blues. The inn’s grand fireplace will be the centerpiece of a lovely snow-filled weekend.
The Oaks Bed and Breakfast
It must be the charming details and old-world flare that is so pleasing to its winter guests. The Oaks is the sort of place you want to curl up with a hot toddy and watch it snow from the window. Century-old oaks surround this grand mansion, and the interior boasts original details like exposed ceiling beams and pictorial ceramic tile. Each of its ten guest rooms is unique, but you’ll love the well-appointed public spaces too, like the entertainment room with a wet bar and pool table.
Wine, Spirits & Coffee
Johnson Estate Winery
The tasting room is housed in what was once a historic cold apple storage building. Since 2011, the facility has been updated in a way that pays homage to the 100 year-old space, but allows visitors a glimpse of the wine making process. Tours of Johnson Estate Winery can be arranged by appointment and weather permitting, cross country ski tours of the vineyards will be scheduled.
Ellicottville Brewing Company West
Go for the brick and beam kind of charm when you’re looking for an intimate spot to gather with friends. Along with its inviting atmosphere, you’ll find an eclectic mix of students, residents, and adoring fans all clamoring for a pint of this brewery’s creative, hand-crafted beer.
This great little spot at 28 Chautauqua Avenue in Lakewood may tempt you to take off your hat and mittens and stay awhile. It just smells like comfort right when you open the door. With its large selection of warm coffee drinks and lounge seating, you may just linger over your newspaper for a while longer. (Mon.-Sat. 7:00a-5:30p. Sun. 9a-2p.) Housed in the same building as the coffee shop is Off The Beaten Path Bookstore with both new and used books and an assortment of creative toys for tots. With a good cup of coffee and a good book to be found under one roof, you can see the dilemma in getting on with your day. (Mon-Sat 10:00a-5:30p)
The Empty Bottle Tasting Room at Southern Tier Distilling Co.
Specializing in Farm to Glass spirits, the newly opened Southern Tier Distilling Company is a must visit for cocktail aficionados. The cozy industrial tasting room, dubbed The Empty Bottle, sample flights and fresh crafted cocktails create the perfect atmosphere for great conversation. Stop in on Saturday’s just before 3pm for a tour.
Brazil Craft Beer and Wine Lounge
A creative craft beer menu and a good wine list will give you something to toast and may inspire you to make this lounge your top winter hideaway. Brazil Craft Beer and Wine Lounge serves vegetarian eats from the Labyrinth Press Company, located at street level. Weekly events and Tuesday board game nights make this a popular destination.
This is the place where everyone knows your name, which makes it a great place for lunch and a beer on a blustery day. The Pub is a throwback to a different era, where you can cuddle in a booth or chat with locals at the bar.
Mirage Salon And Spa
If there ever was a time for sprucing up, the dead of winter might just be it. This full service salon promises to chase your blahs away with two different spa packages that include things like a hot stone massage, facials, manis and pedis, haircuts or a makeup session.
The Studio at Panterra
The Studio at Panterra is a naturally peaceful yoga and movement facility. Surrounded by the serene waterfalls and park-like environment of the Bell Creek Gorge, the studio is the perfect place to study and practice year round. Classes are open to all ages and levels of experience. The studio runs on an 8 week session schedule, but single class drop-in rates and private instruction are available.
Author Margot Russell is a journalist and freelance writer whose column “Lakewood Lens” appears in the Jamestown Post-Journal on Saturday. She is a script writer for the History Channel and an International Tour Director. She recently moved back to the area and loves the idyllic snowscapes and the timeless, old fashioned charm of Chautauqua in winter. She lives in Lakewood.