By Simone Sellstrom
A weekend with your girlfriends is good for the soul. Late night heart-to-hearts, inside jokes, and impromptu moments of belly-laughter…there’s just something about a girls weekend that brings it all back into focus. But planning a girls weekend can be hard. Everyone has different interests and tastes – so where do you start? Let our 72 hour guide help you plan the perfect trip in Chautauqua County. Maybe you’ve never been to Chautauqua County, or maybe you live here year-round. Regardless, what is most surprising about spending time in the Chautuauqua – Lake Erie region is that there truly is something for everyone.
Morning: Begin your day with 10 miles of shopping fun alongside Chautauqua Lake starting at Portage Hill Art Gallery in Mayville and ending at Reverie Creamery just south of Chautauqua Institution. This shopping trail will make you feel like you’ve come across a secret gem and half the fun is mining for treasures along the way.
Stop at The Sweet Spot in Mayville and have a delicious homemade carrot cake muffin, something the locals come for every day. Savor the brightly colored shop, spend some time chatting with the owner to learn about the history of the building, and take a piece of their famous cheesecake or a Scandinavian Almond Bar to go. You’ll feel like you’ve been coming here for years.
A stop inside Our Little Shop and The Barn is a must if you’re antique hunting, into DIY, or looking for shabby chic décor. You can find all kinds of fun things here from old doors, shutters, and paintable wood furniture to snow shoes, vintage signs, and farmhouse décor that is actually from a farmhouse.
Webb’s Cottage Collection & Café carries several gifts native to the area like soap, candles, jams, and more made by Chautauqua artisans. This would be a great time to pick up matching mementos from the trip, maybe a Christmas ornament, a shirt, or tea towels.
Don’t leave Webb’s without also visiting the adjacent Webb’s Candy Factory. The chocolatier makes a variety of chocolates daily and there’s something special about customizing your own box of chocolates to take home (pecan frogs, sea salt caramels, and key lime crèmes are just a few of the delicious choices!). If you’ve never tried the Western New York staple, sponge candy, this is the time to do it!
Be sure to stop inside Timeless Treasures Gift Shop. This boutique offers a wide range of items from wine accessories to jewelry to funky and eclectic wooden pieces that you can only find on this kind of a journey.
End your shopping trip at Reverie Creamery Cheese Shop and reward yourself with delicious local and imported cheeses. Reverie also has a great selection of local Chautauqua products and artisanal toppings that make the amazing cheese even tastier, just beware, you’ll want to take the whole shop home with you.
Afternoon: Change up the pace and head for Jamestown. If you’ve never been to Jamestown before, you’ll find it a charming small city with lots of attention to local flare. Jamestown offers several great attractions for an afternoon activity, but we only had time for three: The Lucy Desi Museum, The Roger Tory Peterson Institute, and Escape Rooms Jamestown. The Lucy Desi Museum and Center for Comedy is dedicated to Lucille Ball and I Love Lucy. It honors her legacy with costume displays, recreated sets, and the story of her life and impact on the television industry. If you choose to go to the museum, cap off your afternoon by finding all of the Lucy murals on buildings around downtown Jamestown and try to capture your best “groupie” with your girls and Lucy all in one pic. It’s more challenging than you think!
If local museums don’t appeal to your group, check out Escape Rooms Jamestown. Spend an hour trying to beat the clock and escape one of the rooms before time runs out. If you’re an especially competitive group, try to set the record for the best time! What better way to reminisce about your girls’ weekend than with bragging rights? No photos and no phones permitted, which is part of the fun – you’ll be surprised to find out which of your friends have secret skills (hello, math majors!) that suddenly come in handy when faced with a problem-solving activity. Don’t overthink it, sometimes the easiest way to escape is the most obvious way. Finish with a photo and lots of laughs; after all, this trip is about the memories and reconnecting with your girls.
Evening: Make a reservation at Forte, preferably by the window if you can, and ask the bartender to shake up something special. Then, sit back, and enjoy your night on the town with the girls. Forte features a seasonal menu that makes the most of Chautauqua County local farms – you’ll find a playful menu with unique combinations that dazzle your taste buds. Always ask about the special and do save room for dessert, it’s worth it. Be sure to notice the art on the walls, the artists are local and the works are typically for sale.
Wrap up your evening by walking one block up to Brazil Craft Beer & Wine Lounge. Get a flight, try something out of the ordinary (there is a lot to choose from), and reminisce over those early days of friendship. Finish the day with an Uber back to your accommodation.
Morning: A girl’s weekend wouldn’t be complete without some spa time. Plan ahead and make a reservation with Peek’n Peak Resort’s Serenity Spa. From the moment you walk through the door, you will feel welcomed and at ease in the serene environment. You can choose from a variety of services; book a mani/pedi, facial, massage, or any other combination of your favorite spa treatments. Slip on the comfy robe and sandals and take time to relax and recharge, basically, treat yo self! Savor the memories and take a photo together with your robes (cucumbers a plus!).
Afternoon: Grab your girls and head for the wineries! Chautauqua County is home to Lake Erie Wine Country, which has over 30,000 vineyard acres and 23 local wineries. If you’re only here for the wine, Chautauqua County offers several quaint B&B’s and luxury condos that offer stay and play wine packages – a great alternative if your girls group is looking for a quick and fun 24 hour getaway. However long you plan to stay, several bus, limo, and charter transportation services in the county will pick you up and take you along the wine trail, ensuring that your trip is safe and fun for everyone.
Start your trip at the Grape Discovery Center in Westfield and learn about 150 years of grape growing in the region. Then, get out and taste the delicious wine unique to this part of the country. 23 wineries is a lot to choose from so take some time before your trip and map out the wineries you’re most interested in visiting.
Wander over to Five & 20 Brewery & Spirits/Mazza Chautauqua Cellars. Five & 20 offers craft-distilled spirits and is committed to local agriculture and sustainability as part of their brewing philosophy. Spend some time with the bartenders and learn about the full process.
Stop at Johnson Estate Winery, the oldest estate winery in New York, and take your picture in front of their famous old door. It’s hard not to love the cute red building and cozy tasting room. Try the ice wine and sample a variety of their wines made from European and American grapes. Make your way to 21 Brix Winery and say hello to Ella (she’s big and pink, you’ll know her when you see her) then sample some of her favorites: Ella’s Red, Ellatawba, and Thirsty Elephant. If they have a Blaufrankisch on site, grab a tasting of that too as it’s a rare grape for this area. Don’t leave without taking a selfie with Ella and add this to your fun photo sites of the trip.
End your wine tour at Liberty Vineyards & Winery in Sheridan. The tasting room is quaint and the Rosé is gold-medal quality (no really, their Rosé of Marquette won the gold medal at the New York State Wine & Food Classic!). Purple Haze is a local favorite and don’t leave without sampling the Chocolette, a wine that is delicious served over vanilla ice cream. A short visit to the discovery center and a full day of wine tasting – you’ll be a grape expert in no time.
Evening: Last night was dinner on the town, tonight is dinner with friends. End your day at EBC West, a gastro-pub, in the heart of downtown Fredonia. You’ll immediately be swooned by the brick walls, industrial style lighting, and warm atmosphere. Grab a locally-brewed beer, they are famous for the Blueberry Wheat, and prepare to indulge in a fancy burger.
You could switch up this itinerary and start your wine tour in Fredonia with a lunch stop to Upper Crust, the ultimate soup, sandwich, and bread shop in the area. Don’t leave Upper Crust without getting a cookie, they truly are the upper crust. Then end your day Findley Lake with dinner at Pine Junction Tavern, famous for their Black Angus burgers and homemade desserts. They will tell you that half the fun is finding them and now that you’ve been in Chautauqua County for 24 hours, you’ll see that it really is all about the journey.
Morning: Wake up those senses and stretch your muscles with a morning yoga session at Peek’n Peak, which can be pre-arranged with the resort. Spend time meditating on the healthiness of female friendships during salutations, or work hard to stifle the giggles if you haven’t done yoga before and are asking your body to bend in ways it hasn’t moved since high school. Both scenarios are good for your soul. Finish the session with a group photo, now that you’ve got your blood and oxygen flowing, you’ll look awake and vibrant!
Afternoon: It’s time to take on adventure. You may experience beautiful snow falls, picturesque fall, or bright green summers depending on the time of year you visit Chautauqua County. Whatever the weather, there is outdoor adventure to be had. If you’re visiting earlier in the fall and there isn’t snow, get your girls and head out to Peek’n Peak’s Mountain Adventure course, which offers ziplines and aerial obstacle courses. You can explore the course at your own pace and difficulty level. Challenge your fear of heights or practice stability (yoga warmed you up for this!) as you move along the treetops. Encourage one another as you tackle the course; psychology studies show that adrenaline-inducing activities bond participants.
If there is snow then definitely take advantage of the Peak’s 27 slopes, terrain parks and tubing hill. Sign up for a ski lesson if you’re new to mountain sports. When you feel comfortable, hit the slopes and enjoy the serenity of skiing or snowboarding in beautiful western New York. Or you can always stick to the 7-lane snow tubing hill which has a “Magic Carpet” lift to spare you from trekking up the hill with tube in tow. Obligatory photo op: snow bunny besties. Dress warm and wear a helmet, the more often you challenge yourself to learn new things, the better you get at it.
Evening: Unwind with dinner at Bistro 210. The Bistro gets its name from the average annual snowfall of Chautauqua County and if you’ve spent some time with the snow here, you’ll understand why we’re proud of this number. Check out the bar, it’s worth seeing for the geode top and staying for the delicious craft brews available on tap. On the weekends you’ll find live entertainment to sing along to and celebrate the end of a great girls’ trip.
Chautauqua County has a lot to offer in 72 hours – learn something new, savor the tastes of Chautauqua, and take time to relax and reconnect with friends. You’ll come for the fun and activities, but you’ll linger along the way because you’ll remember why you needed a girls’ weekend in the first place.