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Best Things to Do in Chautauqua County in the Summer

A summer session at the Chautauqua Institution can keep you busy, but don’t forget that there are many adventures to be had outside of the gates. Here’s the NYSOM Guide to exploring beyond Chautauqua’s campus.

Panama Rocks in Panama| From the Chautauqua Institution: 20-minute drive south

Roughly one million years ago, the ice age began and frozen glaciers spread across the area, ripping through extant rock formations. In this process, the glaciers molded the 300 million-year-old quartz sedimentary rock into a new natural landmark. The ridge extends about half a mile and reaches upward of 60 feet tall — one of the largest of its kind in the world. Panama Rocks is a nature park that has been in operation since 1885. A one-mile long hiking trail cuts through the series of beautiful crevices and towering rock, but visitors can also go off the trail to explore. The park is open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. (no one is admitted after 4 p.m.). Adult admission is $7.50 and cash-only. Take a virtual visit to Panama Rocks with this video: Videographer: David Niebala. Source: YouTube.

Lily Dale Spiritualist Assembly in Lily Dale | From the Chautauqua Institution: 30-minute drive northeast

Lily Dale is a world-famous hamlet known as the center of the 134-year-old Spiritualist movement. The Lily Dale Spiritualist Assembly holds year-round meetings and seminars on topics such as mediumship, the paranormal and other Spiritualist studies. But more than that, it is a wonderful place to roam about. We recommend taking a walk on the Fairy Trail where visitors can look for fairy houses, gnome homes and small villages for the little creatures. A $12 per person daily pass admits adults into Lily Dale for 24 hours. (Read about our in-depth visit HERE.)

Hiking Trails, starting in Mayville | From the Chautauqua Institution: Ranges from a 10 to 30-minute drive north

If you’re looking for a good hike, there are tons of paths to visit in Chautauqua County. The route on Chautauqua Rails to Trails, a program that has converted old, unused railroad tracks into hiking paths, goes from Sherman to Brocton (roughly 27 miles) with Chautauqua Lake in the middle; the trail picks up in Mayville, a 10-minute drive from the Chautauqua Institution. For more information about the trail, visit the Rails to Trails or check out the trail map.

Osprey Charters in Westfield | From the Chautauqua Institution: 20-minute drive northwest

Feeling a little more daring and adventurous? If you have scuba diving experience (recreational or technical), you can explore Lake Erie’s shipwrecks. In the late 1800s, Lake Erie was a main transportation route, and without modern-day weather forecasting and navigational equipment, many ships were lost, due largely to the shallowness of the lake. The owner of Osprey Charters is Captain Michael Cochrane, who was born and raised in Westfield. For the details of arranging a dive, visit Osprey Charter’s website.

Grape Discovery Center in Westfield | From the Chautauqua Institution: 20-minute drive northwest

In May 2013 the Grape Discovery Center opened to showcase the importance of the grape in Chautauqua County’s history. The Center is located in Westfield, once the site of Welch’s grape juice, jelly and jam company, which transferred from New Jersey to New York in order to be closer to its grape supply. Tourists are taught about the history of the Concord grape and the more than 150 years of grape-growing in the region, as well as a tasting bar where a weekly selection of grape juice and wine (from the wineries in the area) can be sampled. The Center has free admission and is open Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 12 p.m.-5 p.m.; it is closed Monday and Tuesday.

The Cross Roads Market in Westfield | From the Chautauqua Institution: 25-minute drive northwest

Locavores and craft shoppers are sure to love the Cross Roads Market, an oasis atop a steep escarpment, that is brimming with goodies. These include: crafts, artworks, woodwork, specialty supplies, home décor and foodstuffs. Open every Saturday, 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. from the first weekend in May through December, the market fills three different steel barns and spills outside; the roughly 2,000 daily visitors are often treated to live music. It’s a perfect way to spend a Saturday and take in the spectacular views of Chautauqua County.

The Italian Fisherman in Bemus Point | From the Chautauqua Institution: 15-minute drive southwest

The Italian Fisherman serves gourmet (you guessed it) Italian food in Bemus Point. One of the best perks of the restaurant is the view: it’s right on Chautauqua Lake and has a wonderful waterside ambiance. On Friday and Saturday nights, there’s live music on the back deck. No matter what mood you’re trying to set, you can experience it here! There are two different areas and two different menus — one that’s more formal and one that’s more casual.

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