Tucked into timeless landscapes — enchanted mountains, tranquil lakes, and vivacious vineyards welcome you into evergreen adventures in the Chautauqua-Allegheny region. From boundless parks and great lakes to unique cultural attractions and renowned wine trails, you can do it all without breaking the bank!
Masks are encouraged, but optional in most settings per New York State guidelines. Individual businesses or attractions may require mask wearing. Call ahead and check websites and social media to make sure attractions and amenities are open and available.
1. Have a Field Day at the Park
The region boasts some of the most scenic and vast parks in the state! Allegany State Park (pictured) is the largest in the NYS Parks system at approximately 65,000 acres, and features 5.6 miles of paved bikeways, sports fields and courts, a swimming beach, picnic areas, and playgrounds. Evergreen experiences are abundant, with trails made for horseback riding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and hiking. In the fall, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better park for leaf-peeping. And throughout the summer, children’s activities are held in the park. Park entry fee is $7.
2. Go Tubing
Get your thrills and chills with a tubing adventure at Peek’n Peak Resort. Get more time on the tube with a convenient ride up the Magic Carpet lift. With Lunar Lights Tubing the park transforms into a colorful and mesmerizing atmosphere, featuring thousands of assorted lights creating an ever-changing light show that works in coordination with an immersive sound system. Ticket prices range from $15-$30.
3. Splash Around
Chautauqua Lake has it all — swimming, boating, sailing, paddling, and fishing. At 17 miles long and 2 miles wide, the lake features a popular public beach at Long Point State Park, and several public boat launches throughout the area where anglers can reel in a variety of fish, including: walleye, muskellunge, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and panfish. Each year New York State offers six free fishing days.
Voted WNY’s “Best Beach”, Sunset Bay Beach (pictured) offers 5 acres of clean sand that is groomed daily and views of the endless Lake Erie horizon, the 11th largest lake in the world. The fun in the sun doesn’t stop there; in addition to the beach, there are bars, restaurants, a video game arcade, ice cream stand, and a clothing and beach boutique for your shopping pleasure! Admission to the beach is $5/adults and free for kids.
4. Visit the Chautauqua Institution
Visit the gorgeous grounds of the renowned Chautauqua Institution for free during the off-season. Between Black Friday and New Year’s, the vibrant venue transforms into the CHQ Winter Village. Experience horse-drawn carriage rides, breakfast with Santa, crafts, holiday music, shopping, and more. There’s never been a bigger or better time to visit, as 2024 marks the 150 anniversary season!
5. Forage at the Farmers Markets
Chautauqua County is home to over 1,500 farms that produce high quality, nutritious food for everyone to enjoy! Many towns offer weekly farmers and artisan markets where you'll find the best of what’s in season and everything else needed to create the perfect farm-to-table feast, including fresh flowers and even local pottery products. Some of the most popular markets include: Abers Acres, Dunkirk Farmers Market, and the Jamestown Public Market.
6. Tour Amish Country
Grab a map of the Amish Trail and head out for a drive in the more rural parts of Chautauqua County. New York's Amish Trail allows visitors to experience the traditional living culture of this Old Order Amish Community through its farm and handcrafted products for sale including quilts, rugs, baked goods, furniture, toys, baskets, homegrown fruits and vegetables, and more.
7. Yearn to Learn
Stimulate your brain and senses in a variety of historical sites and discovery centers across the region. The Fenton History Center (named after the 25th Governor of NYS) is an 1863 Italianate Villa mansion full of exhibits portraying the vibrant history of Jamestown and surrounding areas. (Admission is $10/adults, 17 and under are free.) At the Grape Discovery Center you can view exhibits and displays that tell the story of more than 150 years of grape-growing in the Lake Erie Concord Grape region. (Admission is free.) Gaze at the stars at the Martz-Kohl Observatory, an observational astronomy center with two large domes in addition to a roll-off-roof enclosure that houses telescopes. Public stargazing nights are offered throughout the year, in addition to lectures and tours. (Admission is free, donations are suggested.) Located in the new Onöhsagwë:de’ Cultural Center in Salamanca, the Seneca-Iroquois National Museum proudly displays Seneca-Iroquois culture. Make your way through compelling exhibits and unique collections, and learn about their evolving culture through guest speakers and special events. Admission is $11/adults, $8/students, seniors, veterans, $7/kids.
8. Check out Lighthouses
With its 27-mile range, Dunkirk Historical Lighthouse and Veterans Park Museum is one of the most prominent beacons on Lake Erie. The lighthouse still uses the original third-order Fresnel lens installed in 1857. At the museum, visitors can explore the historic lighthouse, admire the magnificent view of Lake Erie from the observation deck and stroll through the park grounds. On April 8, 2024 the lighthouse will be directly in the path of totality for a rare viewing of the Solar Eclipse. Admission to walk the grounds is free. Tours are $10/adults, $8/students, veterans, and seniors, $3 children.
Finished in 1829, the 40-foot tall Barcelona Lighthouse State Park was the very first natural gas lighthouse in the country. It was in Federal Lighthouse Service until 1859. Though it no longer has the original lens, nor is it used for navigational purposes, it is still lit and visible today and is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historical Places. Admission is free.
9. Sip Back and Relax in Lake Erie Wine Country
Credit: @newyorkwines on Instagram
Experience Lake Erie Wine Country located on the south shore of beautiful Lake Erie. Drive through 40 scenic miles of vineyards and quaint Victorian towns. Along the way, make pit stops at any of the 20+ wineries to sip, swirl and savor the true taste of the region. Make sure to visit 21 Brix Winery, where 17 varieties of grapes are grown on the farm and the winery has earned 400 medals, including over 50 Double Gold/Best of Class distinctions.
10. Have a Laugh
If you and your crew love Lucy, don’t miss out on the Lucy-Desi Museum. Recreate your own Vitameatavegamin commercial, watch unaired scenes, and view props and sets from the classic television show I Love Lucy, starring Jamestown native Lucille Ball. And right down the street is the National Comedy Center, where more than 50 interactive exhibits and immersive experiences await you. Admission to Lucy-Desi Museum is $21/adults, $16/kids. Dual-admission to both venues is $40.50/adults, $27.50/kids.
11. Browse for Brews
Credit: David Fryling
Find hoppiness at Southern Tier Brewing Co., one of the largest craft brewing companies in the United States. Sip on seasonal specialties like frosted sugar cookie or french toast imperial ale, or a year-round classic like a hazy juicy double IPA. Tour the facility and check out not just one, but both of their taprooms! Ellicottville Brewing Company is known for their incredible IPAs and fun, flavorful seasonal beers, all of which have won them multiple International World Beer Championship awards. At Big Inlet Brewing the good beer is flowing and so is the busy calendar of live music and special events. Taste your way through small batch brews that are big on flavor, from a fruity peach cream ale to a robust coffee-based stout.
12. Free Summer Shows
Every Thursday evening in the summer you can enjoy free musical performances in the gazebo in Mayville Lakeside Park as well as at Dunkirk Pier. Before heading to Mayville Lakeside Park, take a moment to appreciate the Victorian architecture along Erie Street. And nearby Dunkirk Pier is the Dunkirk Boardwalk, offering casual dining options and unique shops that will please the whole family.
13. Amuse Yourself at Midway State Park
Since opening in 1898, Midway State Park has been entertaining kids and the young at heart as a historic amusement park nestled on the shores of Chautauqua Lake. Fulfill your need for speed on the go-karts, take a swing at mini golf, hop on traditional rides like bumper cars, Tilt-A-Whirl, and the vintage merry-go-round and train. Ticket prices vary by attraction, but all are under $15 total.
14. Explore Griffis Sculpture Park
Credit: @kevin_lesika on Instagram
One of America’s oldest and largest sculpture parks, Griffis Sculpture Park features 250 enormous structures of steel and other materials made by local, national, and international artists that decorate the woods, fields, and ponds of this sprawling 450-acre art wonderland. Admission is $5/adult, $3/children and seniors.
15. Get Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place
The origins of Panama Rocks Scenic Park date back to 1885! Experience 15 acres of the Paleozoic ocean floor in a magical natural landscape of winding corridors between 60-foot-high rocks. Hike the trails around the rocks and navigate through the nooks, crevices, and caves. Panama Rocks also offers an ax-throwing range for guests ages 11+. Admission $10/adult, $7/children, under 5/free. You can also rock on at Rock City Park, a geological spectacle of enormous rock formations, and the largest outcropping of quartz conglomerate in the world. Enjoy a family-friendly hike and see epic formations from above as you walk through the crevices. Admission $8/adult, $5/children.