Chautauqua County is the ultimate destination: there are wineries, distilleries, breweries, and restaurants, of course. Add in art galleries and various types of museums, outdoor activities, historic grounds, a spa, and a farm estate bed and breakfast, and, well, there’s something for everyone. And did we mention it’s only about two-and-a-half hours from Pittsburgh? The only question now is – who’s driving?
You can find out more about Chatauqua and these businesses here.
21 Brix Winery
What better way to start your visit to Chautauqua County than by heading to 21 Brix Winery, where you’ll be greeted by Ella the Elephant: bright pink and fully masked, of course. Sip on your wine by the glass, flight, bottle, or even as a slushy on their wraparound porch, expansive lawn, or inside the spacious tasting room. They also serve local craft beers and hard cider. Their small plates are the perfect pairing – they have everything from Bavarian pretzels to spinach and artichoke dip or ice cream sandwiches. And, naturally they have charcuterie options because hello, wine and cheese! Beginning next month, 21 Brix will be offering tours of the vineyard and production area (make an appointment first!). Or you can always plan your visit for the last Saturday of the month to enjoy their music series, Beats at the Brix, from 7-9pm.
Johnson Estate Winery
Johnson Estate Winery is the oldest estate winery in New York state. It’s now owned by the third generation of Johnsons, who are working to maintain the high standards of those before them and heritage of the winery. There are 13 varieties of grapes grown in the 110 acres of vineyards on the estate. Johnson Estate is a fully integrated winery – their guiding principle is to produce quality wines from “bud to bottle”. Their portfolio includes 41 red, white, and rose wines, which have won numerous awards. Typically they host vineyard walks and winemakers dinners, but those have been cancelled this year. Instead, this fall you can participate in a Sunday morning “Grape Walk”: a self-guided walk in the vineyard with your small family group (to allow for social distancing) where you can sample and fill your basket with your favorite grapes. Get more info on the Great Grape Walk here!
Liberty Vineyards Winery
Great vines make great wines, so Liberty Vineyards pays careful attention to each step of the wine-making process, from the vine to the bottle. You can taste that attention – their wines have won over 500 awards and medals, including 2016 Winery of the Year Award from the New York Wine & Grape Foundation. In 2007, the owners built upon their family’s 150-year-old vineyard (they’re the 6th generation!) and began making their own wines. Liberty Vineyards is open daily, from 10am-6pm Monday through Saturday and 11am-5pm on Sundays, so you can always stop by for a wine tasting flight on their gorgeous grounds. There are a couple small tables indoors, but the best seats in the house are under their pavilion – so you can take in the views while you sip on your new favorite wines.
Mazza Chautauqua Cellars and Five & 20 Spirits and Brewing
Mazza Chautauqua Cellars / Five & 20 Spirits and Brewing is the sister facility to Mazza Vineyards in North East, Pennsylvania, which has almost 50 years of wine-making experience. They’re also New York’s first combination winery, distillery, and brewery. The entire operation is built on a grain-to-glass model – meaning the agricultural products they use to craft your favorite beverages don’t travel very far to end up in your glass. Their location is also home to Timberfish Technologies, which is a commercial demonstration project that uses the byproducts from making their adult beverages to sustainably grow fish and seafood! Stop by daily to sample any of their wines, beers, or spirits, or sip on a glass of whatever your favorite drink is indoors or on their expansive outdoor patio. Don’t forget to check out their evening beer and cocktail specials!
Big Inlet Brewing Company
After all that wine, head to Big Inlet Brewing Company for a beer or cider. Which, by the way, is a working farm/hoop barn turned craft brewery. Big Inlet is committed to using New York State grown and locally grown ingredients – to the tune of 98% of their ingredients in their 17 beers and 1 cider! And, guys, these beers are truly handcrafted in small batches to allow for the high quality of their all-natural ingredients to speak for themselves. Big Inlet’s whole philosophy is that craft beer is about a good time…and you definitely have a good time when you visit them. They’ve crafted an experience for their guests, from the barn to the bier garden, although certain amenities aren’t currently available to help promote social distancing (like lawn games and board games). Make sure you check the schedule, because Big Inlet hosts local and regional food trucks…or you can bring your own food if there’s no food truck listed. You know you can feel safe visiting them in these strange times because they just won a commendation from the Chautauqua County legislators for their exemplary leadership in response to COVID-19, particularly for their creativity in adapting to the times and their ability to deliver a safe experience for guests!
We don’t know about you, but all of that wine and beer makes us hungry…so our next stop is Reverie Creamery. They’re a small-scale cheesemaking company, cheese store, and basically the cheese destination in Chautauqua County! They produce their own seasonal cheeses, in addition to carrying a variety of cheeses and other goodies from around the world. They focus on American, artisanal companies to build the perfect cheese or charcuterie board…and we’re totally into that! Reverie is committed to using local ingredients and collaborating with local artisans and small businesses. All of their house-made cheeses feature local organic grass-fed cow’s milk. In fact, their Tom and Wanderer cheeses were selected as winners (out of over 1,700 cheeses from across the US and Canada!) in the American Made, International Style category at the American Cheese Society Judging and Competition. Reverie creates custom cheese boards, gift boxes, and they even have a small banquet room you can rent.
Webb’s Captain’s Table Restaurant
As much as we want to only eat cheese, we realize we need a little more to fuel a weekend trip. Enter: Webb’s Captain’s Table Restaurant. They’re family owned and operated since 1942, and the spot to visit for upscale dining. Their portions are large, the menu is extensive, and they feature locally sourced ingredients as much as possible. Many of the herbs they use are actually grown in their own gardens! Their indoor and outdoor seating boasts a gorgeous view of Chautauqua Lake, and the indoor dining room has a cozy fireplace for the fall and winter months. You can also order your food online for carry out or boatside delivery (how fun does that sound??). Webb’s also serves an established collection of upscale wine and spirits, including hand-selected small batch bourbon and single malt Scotch. You can also find notable local brands, regional wineries and distilleries, and their favorite drinks from around the world. Don’t forget to consider them for your private banquet needs, too. And, if all of that wasn’t enough, they serve gourmet coffee and specialty drinks from their cafe. Make sure you stop by their Cottage Collection – an upscale boutique featuring Chautauqua Lake apparel, souvenirs, home decor, locally crafted goods, and, of course, Webb’s Candies hand dipped chocolates and famous goat’s milk fudge!
Portage Hill Art Gallery
In between all of that eating and drinking, let’s add a little culture to the trip! Portage Hill Art Gallery has been representing the work of regional artists year-round for the past 38 years. It’s the home studio of Audrey Kay Dowling, a national award winning ceramicist and printmaker artist. They specialize in framed original works, although they also have some unframed giclee reproductions available. They have three rooms filled with jewelry, blown glass, regional photographs, sculptures, pottery, block prints, mixed media, handmade books, and paintings that are curated by Audrey Kay Dowling. If you’re an art collector, DIY decorator looking for that one-of-a-kind piece, or even if you’re looking for a unique gift, you definitely want to visit Portage Hill Art Gallery! They have pieces in a range of prices, so we know you’ll find something special to take home.
Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum
LUCYYYYYYYY! Re-live your favorite “I Love Lucy” episodes when you visit the Lucille Ball & Desi Arnas Museum. It explores the lives, careers, and legacy of the “first couple of comedy” and the incredible impact they had on the world. You can see rare artifacts and recreated sets from the show, plus there are exhibits featuring rare costumes, gowns, photographs, letters, scripts, and five of Lucille Ball’s Emmy Awards. All of this is possible thanks to the generosity of Lucie Arnas and Desi Arnaz, Jr. Fun fact: the museum is in Jamestown, NY – in Chautauqua County – because it’s Lucille Ball’s hometown! Another fun fact: the museum is only three blocks from the National Comedy Center, and you can get discounted admission when you buy tickets for both. Which leads us to…
National Comedy Center
The National Comedy Center, rated 5 out of 5 of TripAdvisor, is the United States’ official cultural institution and museum for comedy, as designated by the United States Congress. It was recently named the “Best New Museum” in the country by USA Today and one of the “World’s Greatest Places” by TIME magazine. So what is the National Comedy Center? It’s a state-of-the-art museum – perfect for the entire family – with cutting-edge technology to provide an immersive, personalized, and laugh-filled journey through the world of comedy. They’re featuring a LaughSafe health and safety program to keep visitors laughing safely, worry-free and touch-free – so plan your visit ASAP!
Open early May to late October Panama Rocks…. sounds especially beautiful during the fall when the leaves change! It’s a one-mile trail that loops around an outcrop of 60 foot high rock forming caves, crevices, and passageways in an ancient forest – which you’re welcome to hike and explore. Panama Rocks is perfect for the entire family, and we can’t wait to visit to reconnect with nature. Don’t forget to make your reservation because there are a limited number of walk-up spots available to prevent over-crowding. You can also make an axe throwing reservation if you’re visiting during the weekend. Still unsure if you want to add Panama Rocks to your itinerary? It’s been TripAdvisor’s top-rated attraction in Chautauqua County from 2011-2020 and Inspirock’s #1-rated trail in New York State in 2019!
St. Elmo Spa
We don’t know about you, but some pampering and relaxation sounds like everything we need during a vacation! Which is why you’ll definitely find us at St. Elmo Spa (just steps away from Chautauqua Lake, hello!) for at least one or two treatments…or, you know, maybe an entire afternoon. The Spa is open year-round and offers a variety of services like massages, manicures and pedicures, microblading/permanent lip pigmentation, even medical grade HydraFacials and more. Check their website for their full menu, and keep an eye on their social media for special promotions and deals!
Want to golf at one of two four-star-rated 18-hole public courses that have challenged golfers for over 100 years? Visit Chautauqua Institution. Or maybe you want to enjoy a quiet night at a historic lakeside hotel? Visit the Athenaeum Hotel at Chautauqua Institution. While you’re at the Athenaeum, you can dine at Heirloom Restaurant and enjoy picturesque views of Chautauqua Lake, or attend a special dining event for exquisite, locally sourced cuisine. A charming community of meticulously maintained gardens, greenspaces, homes and performance venues, Chautauqua Institution is the perfect place to vacation if you want to appreciate nature’s beauty and amazing architectural details.
Gold Brook Farm Bed and Breakfast
We also recommend staying at the Gold Brook Farm Bed and Breakfast when you visit Chautauqua County! It’s a farm-to-table themed bed and breakfast in the heart of the Lake Erie Wine Trail. Their restored farm estate home is on the National Register of Historic Places, and it’s been fully restored to preserve its architectural uniqueness. When you stay here, you have full access to the extensive guest areas. And you can explore the working farm and environs! The B&B is close to local restaurants, shopping, and public attractions like the farmers market. There’s plenty of parking for recreational vehicles and trailers, and they can loan you bikes, kayaks, fishing gear, tennis rackets, and more. And don’t get us started on the breakfasts – fresh fruit, dairy products, baked goods and meats from the farm and carefully selected local producers. Despite the large size of the estate, they’re only allowing a maximum of eight visitors in four guest rooms to preserve the atmosphere of causal intimacy and promote the new norms of social distancing.This content was provided by a local, independent contributor to Made in PGH, a lifestyle blog.