Summer fun is closer than you think when you take a Western NY road trip to the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Region. With five amazing lakes, numerous waterways and trails as well as one-of-a-kind cultural attractions, Chautauqua County is a prime summer vacation destination whether you spend a day, a long weekend or more. 

Chautauqua Institution

Image via: Chautauqua Institution

The Chautauqua Institution is a not-for-profit, 750-acre educational center on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York State. Originally the Chautauqua Lake Sunday School Assembly, it was founded in 1874 as an educational experiment in out-of-school vacation learning. An almost immediate success, it broadened beyond courses for Sunday school teachers to include academics, music, art, and physical education. Over 8,000 students enroll annually in the Chautauqua Summer Schools in subjects like art, music, dance, theater, writing skills, and a variety of special interests. The Chautauqua Institution boasts highly rated golf, tennis, and sailing facilities. It’s a picturesque lakeside National Historic District campus with manicured gardens and green spaces. And it has expressions of every era of American architecture dating to the late 1800s. It was founded on the belief that everyone “has a right to be all that he can be – to know all that he can know.” Many guests who return year after year consider it an experience rather than a vacation, a place for renewal. Sounds like a great way to spend some of your summer, don’t you think?

Peek’n Peak

Image via: Peek’n Peak

Peek’n Peak is full of outdoor fun. Be brave on their Aerial Adventure Ropes Course – with over 60 obstacles – or soar through the trees on their ziplines. Play a round of golf on their 72-par course, which offers professional playing conditions, bentgrass greens and fairways, rolling hills, and stunning views. Relax at the spa with a massage, body treatment, hand and foot ritual, and more. Or just hang out by the pool for a while and with poolside drinks and snacks. And, when you book a package, you’ll stay longer and save more! Choose from the charm and amenities of The Inn at The Peak, or opt for one of their 85 spacious condos throughout the resort…many of which boast fireplaces, gourmet kitchens, desks, game rooms, and jetted tubs. We can already feel ourselves relaxing and enjoying!

Panama Rocks

Image via: Panama Rocks

You can’t go to Chautauqua County without visiting Panama Rocks – it’s the number one rated trail in New York on Inspirock, and the number one attraction in Chautauqua County on Trip Advisor! The trail there surrounds a half-mile long ridge of rock with countless caves, crevices, and passageways hidden in an ancient forest. It’s an adventure you can’t go on just anywhere! Reservations are recommended. Guests are welcome to hike and explore the rock formations, and they find most people stay around one-and-a-half to two hours. And, we’re so excited for Axcellent Adventures Axe Throwing at Panama Rocks to open Memorial Day weekend!

Robert H. Jackson Center

Image via: Robert H. Jackson Center

Take a break from your outdoor adventures with some history at the Robert H. Jackson Center. It’s located in Jackson’s hometown of Jamestown, New York in the historic Alonzo Kent Mansion and former Masonic lodge, where Jackson attended Masonic meetings. If you need a refresher, Robert H. Jackson is the only person in U.S. history to serve as Solicitor General, Attorney General, and Supreme Court Justice. In fact, this year is the 80th anniversary of his appointment to the Supreme Court as an Associate Justice! Jackson took a 15-month leave of absence from the Supreme Court to serve as the United States’ Chief of Counsel, the chief prosecutor from the U.S., at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. The Robert H. Jackson Center envisions a global society where the universal principles of equality, fairness, and justice prevail. They aim to advance public awareness and appreciation of the principles of justice and the rule of law as embodied in the achievements and legacy of Robert H. Jackson, U.S. Supreme Court Justice and Chief U.S. Prosecutor at Nuremberg. Guided tours are offered Monday through Friday from 10am-2pm and Saturdays by appointment. They also offer educational programming for all ages – view their extensive catalog of recorded programming here. Visits and tours are free, but donations are gladly accepted.

National Comedy Center

The National Comedy Center is the United States’ official cultural institution and museum dedicated to comedy. USA Today named it “Best Museum” in the country and TIME magazine said it’s one of the “World’s Greatest Places”, so you basically have to visit! You’ll find fun and laughter for the whole family with over 50 immersive comedy experiences. The National Comedy Center is in Lucille Ball’s hometown of Jamestown, New York, and is based on her vision for it to become a destination for comedy. Their award-winning LaughSafe health and safety program keeps you laughing safely, worry-free and touch-free throughout your experience. It’s legit one of the most technologically advanced museums in the country…the content in the interactive exhibits is personalized to the type of comedy you love! Start planning your visit now on their website or by calling 716-484-2222.

Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum

Speaking of Lucille Ball, you can explore the lives, careers, and legacy of the “First Couple of Comedy” at the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum. This year is the 70th anniversary of “I Love Lucy”, and the museum hosts original wardrobe, five of Lucille’s Emmy Awards, recreated sets, and rare artifacts from the show. Exhibits showcase rare costumes, gowns, photographs, letters, scripts, and more. Everything is on display thanks to the generosity of Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr. in – you guessed it – Lucille Ball’s hometown of Jamestown, New York. It’s only three blocks from the National Comedy Center. You can even get discounted admission to both museums! Start planning your visit online or by calling 716-484-0800.

Chautauqua Harbor Hotel

Image via: David Taylor

If you’re not sure where to stay during your Chautauqua County trip, let us recommend Harbor Hotel. It opened in September 2018 as the newest member of the Harbor Hotel Collection. This 135-room, nine-acre luxury property is on the shores of Chautauqua Lake, a two-hour drive (max!) away from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Buffalo and close to basically everything else we’ve mentioned already. You’ll find spacious guest rooms and suites, many with balconies and lake views. Wood floors, luxurious bedding, and green amenities are also a plus! We know you’ll enjoy the indoor pool and hot tub, outdoor pool, state-of-the-art fitness center, complimentary morning coffee and tea, nightly turndown service, bellman and concierge service, and business center. Dine al fresco on the waterfront at Lake House Tap and Grille, or hang out on the expansive patio with firepits, a putting green, and the lively outdoor Carousel Bar. The only question is…how many nights are you staying?

Holiday Harbor

Image via: Holiday Harbor

Holiday Harbor is your full service marina on Chautauqua Lake and Lake Erie! If you’re looking to buy your own boat, they offer new and used sales. Just looking for a little fling? How about daily and weekly pontoon rentals! They have a fully stocked ship store, non-ethanol fuel, and ice. Enjoy waterfront dining at Holiday Harbor, too. With authorized and certified mechanics on duty seven days a week, summer slips, and inside winter storage…what more could you ask for in a marina??

This content was provided by a local, independent contributor to Made in PGH, a lifestyle blog.
Lauren Roberts

Lauren loves all things Pittsburgh and all things food! When she's not checking out a new restaurant, you can find her in the kitchen trying a new recipe, working on her photography, or out on a bike ride exploring the city.

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