Looking for a casual place to kick back and relax this summer? Look no further than Bemus Point, located on the shores of Chautauqua Lake, about a ninety minute drive from the Buffalo area.
The first settler to the area was William Bemus, who, in 1805, paid $1.50 for several hundred acres of land on both sides of Chautauqua Lake. He built a large log home near where the boat launch parking lot is now located. In 1811, Thomas Bemus built a raft and poled it across the lake. A ferry has been operating across the lake from Bemus Point to Stow ever since.
During the late 1800’s, people from all over the Chautauqua Lake area came to Bemus Point for entertainment. Steamboats, from both Jamestown and Mayville, plied the lake. During WWI, Big Bands played at the Bemus Point Casino and by the 1920’s a village park was developed with facilities for swimming, as well as tennis and shuffleboard courts.
There are no major attractions in Bemus Point, but that, in essence, is the point, because it is really a place to relax and get away from everyday life. What more do you need on a hot summer day than a beautiful waterfront, a place to stay and numerous stores and restaurants to choose from?
Probably one of the best known dining establishments in Bemus Point is the Italian Fisherman, not merely a restaurant, but a lakeside entertainment experience. Patrons can arrive by car or boat and partake in a menu that includes fresh seafood, steaks and pasta. Enjoy dining in the indoor dining room or more casual dining on the back deck, with live music featured on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. A side patio off the dining room is also available for dining. The restaurant has two bars; an upper bar featuring top shelf drinks and fine wines, and a more casual lower bar, with martinis and live entertainment.
You can also enjoy appetizers and drinks in the “fish tank,” a covered floating dock in the bay, which is a popular place to watch the sunset over Bemus Bay. Dining is also available on the adjacent “dockwalk” on the lawn next to the restaurant. Entertainment takes place on the restaurant’s unique floating stage, a 60’ x60’ dock-like structure with a canopy that acts as a band shell. The stage is right outside the restaurant, in a portion of Chautauqua Lake referred to as Bemus Bay. You can watch entertainment from your blanket on shore or from aboard your boat anchored in the bay.
The Bemus Bay Pops first performed on Labor Day 1998 on the roof of the Italian Fisherman, with about 4,000 people in attendance. By 2002, over 10,000 people attended the annual Labor Day concert. In 2003, the floating stage was built and the season was expanded to include a performance by the Bemus Bay Pops every Sunday during the summer season. Free movies are shown on the floating stage on Tuesdays, along with live entertainment on Friday and Saturday evenings. Refer to the Bemus Bay Pops website for a listing of events.
The Chautauqua Lake Idol contest between local singers, takes place each Monday during July and August, with a big finale show scheduled for August 21. The floating stage’s season closes on Sunday September 3rd, with a final concert by the Bemus Bay Pops, followed by fireworks.
Another village landmark is the Village Casino, which first opened its doors in 1930. The second floor was used for Big Band concerts, with headliners like Tommy Doresy, Glenn Miller, Cab Calloway and Al Jolson appearing on the Casino’s stage. Today, the second floor is a banquet facility that can accommodate up to 500 guests.
Since the 1980’s, the Casino has been a casual lakeside restaurants noted for its wings, crab cakes, sandwiches and burgers. In 1985, the Casino broke the Guiness Book of World Records for the most chicken wings served in a 24 hour period. Monday nights at the Casino is wing night, with 2 for 1 wings and $1 drafts, along with live entertainment. Live performances and other events take place almost every night throughout the summer season. Patrons can arrive at the Casino by car, foot or boat, as there is a docking facility right outside. There are also several other restaurants located along and near Main St., including the Surf Club, Ye Hare N Hounds Inn and Bemus Bay Coffee.
The Victorian-era Hotel Lenhart has a large veranda and lawn facing Chautauqua Lake. The hotel has been operated by four generations the same family since it opened in 1881. It has 53 guest rooms, some with private baths and many with shared baths. A full breakfast and dinner are included with accommodations. The dining room is also open to the public.
Hotel events include a Victorian Tea in the dining room on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2:30pm late June- August. A variety of teas, along with scones, pastries, tea sandwiches and sweets are served ($20/person, reservations required). A behind the scenes historical tour of the hotel takes place on Saturday afternoons at 2:30pm. The tour is conducted by the hotel’s current owners, John Lenhart Johnston and Barbara (Bebe) Johnston, who are the great grandchildren of John Lenhart, the hotel’s original owner. Wine tastings, featuring wines from Johnson Estates Winery, take place from 4-6pm on Thursdays in July and August.
Other diversions in Bemus Point include several gift and specialty stores located along Main Street and Alburtus Avenue, where one can browse for clothing, home décor, children’s items and gifts. Just west of the village, Longpoint State Park has nature trails, a playground, picnic facilities and a marina and boat launch. In nearby Maple Springs you’ll find Midway Park, the 15th oldest continually operating amusement park in the United States. When the park opened in 1898, people arrived by steamboat, train and trolley; today they arrive by car or speedboat. The park has several old-time favorite rides to choose from, including a restored Alan Herschell carousel, as well as picnic facilities, a roller rink and miniature golf. The park, which is closed Monday and Tuesday, except for holidays, opens at 11 am, rides open at 1pm.
If you go
www.bemuspoint.com The official website of Bemus Point, has a lot of local information.
Italian Fisherman (716-386-7000) 61 Lakeside Drive, Bemus Point.
Bemus Bay Pops (716-386-7000) performances on the floating stage next to Italian Fisherman.
Village Casino (716-386-2333) 1 Lakeside Drive, Bemus Point
Hotel Lenhart (716-386-2715) 20 Lakeshore Drive, Bemus Point.
Longpoint State Park (716-386-2722) 4459 NY 430, Bemus Point.
Midway Park (716-386-3165) NY 430, Maple Springs.
Take the New York State Thruway to the Westfield exit. Take NY 394 to Mayville. In Mayville, turn left on NY 430 and follow that route along the lake until you see the signs pointing to Bemus Point, about 10 miles)