Tucked into the peaceful winter landscapes of Western New York, Chautauqua-Allegheny pairs stunning beauty with friendly villages, ski resorts, award-winning wineries, and vast state parks. This is big ski country. Lake-effect storms drop an average of 200 inches of annual snowfall, perfect for winter sports! Plan to stay a while. Enjoy fireside dining at a posh resort, relax in a cozy inn, or rough it in a rustic cabin.
Choose from suggested sites on this scenic route that meanders west, from Swain Mountain to Great Lake Erie.
Start fresh at a mountain resort with wide-open trails for downhill skiing and boarding, plus five terrain parks. Swain Resort, about 50 miles south of Rochester, has something for every level of ability. Events include Winter Activities Weekends, all season long, and a Winter Carnival in March with a pig roast, races and a costume parade.
Gather family and friends and make tracks to Gunny's Gorge Tube Park, Swain's 750-foot-high tubing hill. Enjoy the good old-fashioned fun and exhilarating thrills of sledding without the hike back up the hill.
Head south to the Schein-Joseph International Museum of Ceramic Art on the campus of Alfred University. Over 8,000 colorful ceramic and glass treasures range from ancient pottery to contemporary sculpture, quirky teapots and cutting-edge ceramic technology.
Drive southwest to visit Sprague's Maple Farms, where down-home country meals include bountiful breakfasts and free-range turkey dinners. For a sweet ending, sample their signature maple syrup. Family-fun events include Christmas Time at Sprague's, each December. Maple in the Mountains, every weekend in March, celebrates syrup season with tours, tree tapping demonstrations, sugar-on-snow parties and wagon rides to the old-fashioned sugarhouse. Sweet!
Continue west to Seneca Allegany Casino & Hotel. Along with gaming, there's top-name entertainment, great dining and an impressive new luxury hotel. The full-service spa promises to calm your spirit and soothe your senses.
Prefer the great outdoors? Just south of Salamanca, Allegany State Park features ice-skating, ice-fishing, snowshoeing, and miles of perfectly groomed trails for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, along with more than 150 winterized cabins.
It's a quick trip north to Ellicottville, highly rated for skiing and après ski fun. International restaurants, shops and galleries mingle with clubs where you can dance the night away, yet the village retains its small-town charm.
Top-ranked Holiday Valley Resort boasts 58 slopes and trails, two hotels, indoor pools, and great amenities. Holiday specializes in fun for the whole family. Don't miss the Winter Carnival in March! For a wild experience, spiral through the woods on the new Mountain Coaster. To unwind, visit the tranquil Falling Waters Spa.
In the heart of ski country, Ellicottville Brewing Company tours let you see behind the scenes brewing operations and taste award-winning craft brews. Allow time to relax over a great meal in the restaurant.
Travel southwest to New York's Amish Trail Welcome Center, at the Trail's southern start. For a leisurely side trip, follow the Trail north to Gowanda. Shops along the way offer homemade baked goods, cheeses, hand-crafted furniture, baskets and quilts. Events include the Amish Trail's annual Old Fashioned Christmas celebration.
Continue southwest to the Fenton History Center, where exhibits highlight local history. The elegant 1863 mansion was the home of New York's 22nd Governor, Rueben Fenton. From November 29 to January 18, the annual Holiday exhibit includes a dozen decorated Christmas trees. Listen to Christmas carols, learn about Jamestown's holiday traditions, and visit the gift shop.
Travel west along Chautauqua Lake to tour the Southern Tier Brewing Company and sample seasonal brews. The Empty Pint Brewery Pub offers a selection of 14 draught beers paired with savory dishes like hickory-smoked pulled pork and hearty soups.
Continue northwest along the lake to the Chautauqua Institution, offering horse-drawn bobsled rides every weekend from the first Saturday after Christmas through February. Bundle up and enjoy the soft ringing of bells as beautiful draft horses carry you through the picturesque Victorian village. Charming accommodations are open year-round.
During the Currier & Ives Sleigh Rally in January, Victorian-style sleighs and costumed drivers parade through the historic grounds with sleighbells jingling.
Nearby, Mayville's President's Day Weekend Winter Festival, in February, features music, fireworks, a flare parade, a bonfire, and horse-drawn wagon rides. Providing the weather cooperates, you'll see a glistening castle made from blocks of ice harvested in the traditional way from Chautauqua Lake.
Head southwest to Peek'n Peak Resort & Spa, a top ski center with 27 slopes and three terrain parks. There's something to challenge everyone, from beginners to expert skiers and snowboarders-even a tubing area with "no skills required." The Inn at the Peek's restaurants, pools and spa offer a perfect finish to a day of winter sports. Bonus: Peek'n Peak borders a 400-mile groomed snowmobile trail!
Go north to Sparkling Ponds Winery. Visitors sample ice wine, sparkling wines and other favorites in the cozy tasting room beside serene Lake Erie.
The 50-mile Lake Erie Wine Country trail begins here and runs north to Silver Creek. Winter is a wonderful time to visit. More than 20 wineries host tours and seasonal events, and new vintages are released-including ice wines, a regional specialty! During the annual Wine & Chocolate Weekend, in February, each participating winery pairs a luscious chocolate creation with a fine wine.For more ideas and information, see Chautauqua-Allegheny's Regional Tourism Website.