Skip to main content

Western New York Explorer's Guide

The only comprehensive travel guide to the region

Home
About Us
Contact Us
Site Map
Member Login
About Author
Media Interviews
Testimonials
WNY Resources
WNY Attractions and More
Explore WNY blog
Upcoming events
Articles
Celebrate Black History
Naples, NY
Olean
Mayville Ice Festival
Mid winter getaways
Art and History Museums
Visit Aviation Museums
Hiking Trails
Welland Canal
Athenaeum hotel
Bemus Point
Cobblestone Trail
Niagara Pkwy part 1
Niagara Pkwy part 2
Rock Park
Clifton Springs
WNY Amish
Nature in Winter
Wine & Chocolate
Winter Wonderland
Outdoors in winter
Inside in winter
Old Fort Niagara
Power Vista
WNY Waterfalls
Corning
Dads and Cars
Artpark
Hershey
Native American
Lake Ontario Shore
Lockport Cave
Sonnenberg
Amish traditions
Day Trips Rock
Country Barn Quilt
Halloween in WNY
Fest of Lights
Chautauqua Holiday
NYC by Train
Chautauqua Wine Trail
Mayville Ice Castle
Outdoor winter fun
Chautauqua Institution
Farm Markets
Recharge at Chautauqua
Niagara Wine Trail
Local boat rides
Local beaches
Chautauqua County
Lewiston Jazz Fest
Hammondsport
Buffalo Waterfront
Pumpkin Fun
Chau Wine Trail LEL
Fall Road Trips
Off season getaways
Free attractions
Winter Fun
Spring Break
Taughannock
Winery Train
St Lawrence Seaway
Seaway Trail Journey
Welland Canal LEL
Sandusky
Cleveland
Fall Festivals
Scenic Fall Drives
Holiday Hollow
Shopping in NYC
Holiday Shopping Corning
Buffalo has Wright
Snowshoeing
Toronto
Elmira
Buffalo Religious Art
Ten must see getaways
Chautauqua and Erie
Welland Murals
The Tonawandas
Ten Hidden Places
Wing Festival
Presque Isle
Marble
Lewisburg PA
Victorian Christmas
Chocolate Trail
Fun with Grandkids
George Eastman House
National Historic Landmar
Thing for Wings
Olcott Beach
Little League Museum
Rock City
Glass Blowing
Queenston ON
Lawn Fetes
Chautauqua Co Bicentennia
Shaw Festival
Chautauqua County 2
Olcott Carousel
10 Hidden Gems
Chautauqua
Olcott Beach 2
Olcott
Roycroft
Hot Dog Spots
Westfield
Canandaigua
Enjoy Presque Isle
One Tank Trips
Belhurst Castle
Shop in Lewiston
Cuba Cheese Museum
Pumpkinville 2
Snowshoe 2
Spooky Treats
Walkable Shopping
Norman Rockwell Museum
Fatima Shrine Lights
Christmas Lights
Albright Knox
Darwin Martin
Maple Weekend
Divine Mercy Shrine
Erie Canal
Rochester
Cape Cod
Cobblestone Trail 2
8 Great Fall Road Trips
Little Known Places
Buy Local
USA Bird Supply Blog Arch
Lake Erie Living

April/May 2008

Chautauqua Institution
By Christine A. Smyczynski



The Chautauqua Institution, a charming Victorian village on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York State is the perfect place to get away from it all. It has served as a center for performing arts, education, religion and recreation for over 130 years.

 

 

Founded in 1874 by Lewis Miller and John Vincent as a learning experience for Sunday school teachers, it has hosted many notable speakers and guests over the years including Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Earhart, Duke Ellington and Robert F. Kennedy. In addition, nine U.S. Presidents, from Ulysses S. Grant to Bill Clinton, have visited.

 

Today, over 150,000 people from all over the world flock to Chautauqua during its nine week summer season. Some people come just for a day while others stay for the entire summer. Visitors have many daily options, including worship services, lecturers, chamber music, opera, theatrical performances and other entertainment.

 

Each of the nine weeks has a specific theme. The morning lecture, held each day at 10:45 in the 5,000 seat amphitheater, features a distinguished speaker focusing on the topic of the week.

 

Some of the speakers scheduled this summer include Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the National Football League (Sports in America), Norman Ornstein, Co-director of the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project (Restoring legitimacy to our election system), and author and television commentator, Roger Rosenblatt (Writing week).

 

In addition to intellectual and artistic pursuits, visitors to Chautauqua can enjoy a number of recreational activities. The Chautauqua Golf Course, originally designed in 1913, has 36 holes and offers a rolling, wooded terrain. Nearing completion is a 25 acre golf practice and training facility that will include a 350-yard driving range, putting green and chipping green.

 

There are also a dozen tennis courts on the grounds; lessons are available. Visitors can also partake in shuffleboard and lawn bowling or even rent a boat. If you have children in tow, there is a day camp where they can enjoy a number of activities including art, music, swimming, sports, sailing and more.

 

Probably one of the more popular leisure activities at Chautauqua is bicycling, whether for pleasure or transportation. Since motor vehicle traffic is severely limited on the grounds during the summer months, bicycling is the way to get from place to place, as well as the best way to appreciate the well-maintained Victorian homes and beautiful gardens. For those who prefer more literary pursuits, there is a library and well-stocked book store.


Not merely a vacation
“Chautauqua is an experience and a way of life, not a vacation,” said Joan Harf of Erie, Pennsylvania, who has been spending the summer at Chautauqua with husband, Walt, for nearly 40 years. “We discovered it when our children were in their teens and now they come back with their children.” Walt added, “It’s a social experience. We share a lot of things with folks all day, including lectures, plays and opera, which we can discuss with them.”

 

Milt and Carol Peters of Findley, Ohio have been visiting Chautauqua since 1977. “I had heard about Chautauqua on a radio show and thought it was of interest,” said Milt. “We were planning a road trip to New Jersey and we were looking for a place to visit along the way,” said Carol. “I had learned about Chautauqua in my eighth grade history class and thought it would be interesting to stop there. We were so taken with the speakers that we decided to go back again.”

 

Both couples stated that there are an overwhelming number of choices of things to do. “There are so many good things to do,” exclaimed Joan. Carol added, “First time visitors can get exhausted and stressed out because there is so much to do.” She noted that some people come to relax and do very little, while other people take pleasure in racing from one activity to another. “You can be occupied from 7am to 11pm.”


Many lodging options
There are hundreds of small cottages, apartments, hotels and bed & breakfast inns available on or near the institutions grounds. However, the most well-known accommodation is the Athenaeum Hotel, a “Grand Dame” hotel. Built in 1881 by 90 men in 90 days, it is one of the few Victorian-era wooden hotels still in existence. It was the first hotel in the United States to have electric lights, courtesy of Thomas Edison, son-in-law of Chautauqua founder Lewis Miller.

 

The Peters, who generally visit for three weeks each summer, have stayed in a variety of accommodations; however, their choice for the past seven years has been the Athenaeum. “The Athenaeum is in the center of things,” said Milt. He added that it has easy access to the grounds and that it is on the institutions bus route, a plus for people who have trouble walking.

 

“The hotel is very quaint and we like to interact with the other guests,” said Carol. “In our early years we made friends with people who we still see to this day. In the dining room you have the opportunity to get acquainted with other guests from various backgrounds and hear their views on life.”

 

The 160 room hotel, which has been recently renovated, operates on the American Plan, which includes breakfast, lunch and a five course dinner. Room rates range from $199 (single) to $ 519 (double).


Not just for the summer
While the Chautauqua Institution is best known for its summer season, the grounds are open year-round. Many of the accommodations operate seasonally, although some are open year-round.

 

During February, the Stateline Horse Club will offer sleigh rides around the Chautauqua Institution grounds from 1-3pm each Saturday and Sunday, weather permitting. Tickets, which are sold at the Chautauqua bookstore, are $3 adults and $2 for children. For information call 716-357-2151.

 

In nearby Mayville, the annual Mayville ICE Festival takes place on President’s Day Weekend, February 15-17. If weather permits, volunteers will cut blocks of ice from Chautauqua Lake and construct an ice castle; the southernmost ice castle in the United States.


Info to Go
Chautauqua Institution
NY 394
PO Box 28
Chautauqua, NY 14722
716-357-6200, 800-836-ARTS
www.ciweb.org
The Institution’s nine week summer season runs from late June to late August. A gate fee is charged to enter the village during the summer season, except for Sunday, when admission is free. Fees range from $8 for an afternoon to $325 for the entire week. Lodging reservations should be made several months in advance. Athenaeum Hotel 716-357-4444, 800-821-1881, www.athenaeum-hotel.com  Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau at the main gate of the Chautauqua Institution 716-357-4569 www.tourchautauqua.com  Open daily 9-5, year-round.