Road Trip! Destination: Chautauqua County, N.Y.
By Kate Benz
Published: Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, 6:45 p.m.
Depending on your perspective, the potential of more than 200 inches of snow annually might be interpreted as a promise or a threat. For those with a glass-half-full mentality, Chautauqua County in Western New York might be the ticket to happiness this winter.
Granted, not everyone is of the belief that traipsing through a “carpet of white” is the idea of fun, but no need to despair. Apart from the likelihood of a winter wonderland, Chautauqua boasts a slew of activities that will appeal to everyone of all climactic persuasions. From the tasting rooms within the wineries of Lake Erie Wine Country, craft drafts at the Southern Tier Brewing Co., a blast from the past via the Fenton History Center in Jamestown, or sleigh rides through the grounds of the Chautauqua Institution, it's unlikely that even the biggest Scrooge would find any joy in hibernating.
Kate Benz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-380-8515.
Southern Tier Brewing Co.
Born in 2002 from a dream of reviving the practice of small-batch brewing, Southern Tier in Lakewood, N.Y., is now cranking out more than 90,000 barrels of beer annually that can be found in 30 states across the nation. Pilsners, mild ales, India pale ales and a bumper crop of seasonal beers including a 2Xmas double spiced ale are yours for the pouring — whether at home or at the Empty Pint Pub. Tours are available on Saturdays, ending with beer samples in the tasting room overlooking the new brewhouse, but don't wait until the last minute to snag a ticket: it's first-come, first-serve for the 45-minute tours, which often sell out by mid afternoon. If you find yourself left out in the cold, though, a six pack, case, 22 oz. bottle, variety pack, growler or even a keg should suffice as a noteworthy consolation prize.
Details: www.stbcbeer.com; 716-763-5479
Nationwide Insurance Currier & Ives Sleigh Rally
If the thought of sleigh bells ringing gets you giddy, the annual Nationwide Insurance Currier & Ives Sleigh Rally in Chautauqua on Jan. 19 is a must. “This is actually a very fun, relaxed kind of horse show. We're not too formal,” organizer Missy Whittington says. Open to anyone, all you need to participate is a horse, mule or donkey and a vehicle; drivers need not be a member of any particular organization. Classes for participants begin early Sunday morning and last a few hours before the games officially begin with runs through the historic grounds of the Chautauqua Institution. Spectators, on the other hand, need nothing more than an interest in channeling their inner Charles Dickens to reunite with a ghost of Christmas past. “It is just wonderful to see the horses, carriages and sleighs or sleds,” Whittington says. If you can't make it out on the 19th, no worries — rides are available to spectators on Saturdays and Sundays throughout January and February between the hours of 1 and 3 p.m.
Details: www.facebook.com/NationwideInsuranceCurrierIvesSleighRally; 716-357-6250
Fenton History Center
“Kids from 1 to 92” have until Jan. 18 to indulge their Christmas spirit during the Fenton History Center's “Signs of the Season” holiday exhibit in Jamestown, N.Y. “The exhibit is open six days a week, Monday through Saturday, and it fills the entire house from basement to tower … 29 rooms full of stuff,” director Joni Blackman says. Those looking to enrich their minds will love the history lessons intertwined throughout the exhibit. One wall is dedicated to different Santa Clauses of the world, and Kwanzaa and Hanukkah traditions are explored. But the attention-getter, Blackman says, is the upside-down Christmas tree, which fits in with the mansion's 1863 roots. “It was a big Victorian thing, especially in Britain,” she adds. Legend has it that the trend began with Queen Victoria, in an attempt to either fill the empty spaces left behind from chandeliers being cleaned, or to keep the children a safe distance from the tree. Either way, it's a conversation starter. “It's a big draw,” Blackman says.
Details: www.fentonhistorycenter.org; 716-664-6256
Peek'n Peak Resort & Spa
No matter if you're ready for the black diamond or strictly a bunny sloper, there's a trail among the 27 downhill slopes ready and waiting for you to blaze at Peek'n Peak resort in nearby Clymer, N.Y. Plus, four terrain parks cater to all skill levels and snow tubing, and cross-country skiing trails ensure an activity for everyone. On the flip side, those more apt to feel at home while getting some one-on-one attention can take advantage of the resort's Serenity Spa's pampering services, including massages, facials and body treatments.
Details: www.pknpk.com; 716-355-4141
Lake Erie Wine Country
Located on the south shore of Lake Erie alongside Pennsylvania and New York, this Wine Country boasts 50 miles and 30,000 contiguous acres of grape vineyards. Formerly known as the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail, if you're worried about finding “the one,” perhaps the promise of 24 wineries to choose from including 21 Brix Winery, Willow Creek Winery, Mazza Chautauqua Cellars or Noble Winery will help ease your mind. From its native Labruscas to French-American and European-style wines, bottles of both reds and whites are just waiting to be uncorked. Upcoming events cater to the season, including Holiday Week from Dec. 26 through Jan. 2 as well as the Wine & Chocolate Weekend on Feb. 14 to 16, which features food and wine samplings at each winery. including treats from Pulakos Chocolates.
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