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The Buffalo News

February 5, 2006

Resort to a Mid-winter Getaway
By Christine A. Smyczynski

Winter has a few more weeks to go and cabin fever is setting in. Perhaps you and your significant other are longing to slip away to a resort setting, yet you really don’t want to travel too far from home.

There are a number of spots in Western New York that are normally associated with summer getaways, yet, in fact, are actually open year-round and offer a perfect winter getaway, often with reduced rates in the off-season. Why not ship the kids off to friends or family and treat yourself to a romantic winter getaway. This article will highlight three areas of western New York that are within a two hour drive of Buffalo.

Geneva, located at the northern end of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region, attracts many visitors year-round. It offers visitors elegant architecture and historic attractions, cultural events and a close proximity to nearby wineries.


Geneva was once the site of an elite Seneca village, which was burned to the ground during the Revolutionary War. When white settlement began, the area attracted wealthy families, influencing the area’s architecture.

There are two wonderful, well-known resorts in Geneva which are perfect for a romantic getaway. Geneva on the Lake (315-789-7190, 800-3-GENEVA, 1001 Lochland Rd. (NY 14), is a four-diamond Italian Renaissance Villa which offers 30 luxurious suites and studios. The inn, modeled after Villa Lancellotti in Frascati, Italy, was built as a private residence in 1914, and later served as a monastery for the Capuchin Monks. It was converted to a resort hotel in the early 1980’s and has been rated one of the most romantic inns in the United States.


They are currently offering a Romantic Getaway for Two promotion, which includes one night in a Stickley furnished suite, a bottle of New York State wine, chocolate dipped strawberries and a basket of fruit upon arrival, a gourmet dinner in their dining room and a continental breakfast in the morning. Packages start at $289/night+tax.

Just down the road, Belhurst Castle (315-781-0201, 4069 NY 14, has been voted the most romantic getaway in the Finger Lakes. This Richardson Romanesque-style stone castle, built between 1885-1889 as a private residence, features eleven guest rooms with private baths; some rooms have fireplaces. The Tower Suite, located in the castle’s turret, features a large bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub.

Two years ago, Belhurst built an attached addition, the Vinifera Inn, which features 20 suites with lake views, king-size beds, Jacuzzi tubs and gas fireplaces. Their elegant restaurant, Edgar’s, is open to the public for lunch and dinner; the more casual Stonecutters lounge features a light menu throughout the day and live musical entertainment on Saturday evenings. Belhurst also has a wine tasting room and gift shop, featuring wines from their own vineyard. Three of their wines recently won medals in the 2005 American Wine Society Wine Competition.

During the month of February guests can book a Wine and Chocolate Getaway. This package includes overnight accommodations for two, a bottle of Belhurst wine, a gift bag of chocolate treats, a $25 gift certificate for fine dining in Edgar’s, a $10 gift certificate for their wine and gift shop and a complimentary breakfast. Packages start at $170+tax.

While you could spend all your time at either one of these resorts, there are numerous attractions in Geneva that are worth checking out. You may want to head to the South Main St. Historic District and visit the Prouty-Chew Museum, which is operated by the Geneva Historical Society, (315-789-5151, 5435 Main St. This museum, housed in an 1829 Federal-style home, features exhibits on local history. There are many other interesting homes located in this district, including colorful row houses. 

The Smith Opera House (315-781-5483, 866-355-5483) 82 Seneca St., is considered a local treasure. This 1894 opera house, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been restored and hosts live performances as well as movies throughout the year. Their art gallery and gift shop, open Thurs.-Sat., features original artwork from over 70 area artists.

If you like to shop, there are numerous small stores in Downtown Geneva along Seneca and Exchange Streets. If you are looking for something more athletic to do, there are cross-country skiing trails at Seneca Lake State Park (315-789-2331) located on Routes 5 & 20, at the north end of the lake.

Nearby wineries include Amberg Wine Cellars (585-526-6742, 2200 Routes 5 & 20, Stanley, which is a small family-owned and operated winery. Billsboro Winery (315-789-9571, 4760 W. Lake Rd. (NY 14), Geneva, produces artisan vinifera table wines.

For more information on the Geneva area, contact the Geneva Chamber of Commerce (315-789-1776, 877-5-GENEVA) 35 Lakefront (Routes 5 & 20) Geneva. Open Monday-Friday, 9-5, year-round.


Penn Yan Area
The Esperanza Mansion (315-536-4400, 3456 NY 54A, Bluff Point, located on a bluff overlooking Keuka Lake near Penn Yan, is the largest home ever built in Yates County. This circa 1838 home has been renovated into luxurious accommodations, including nine spacious suites in the mansion.

The adjacent Inn at Esperanza has 22 deluxe guest rooms. The Inn is currently operating on its winter schedule: Thursday, Friday and Saturday for overnight accommodations; it will be open seven days a week after April 1. They have a special winter package; stay one night at regular price (rates start at $99 for inn rooms and $150 for mansion rooms) and stay a second night for $50.

Start your day out with a continental breakfast in their dining room, complimentary to all guests. The dining room, which is open to the public Thursday-Sunday (winter hours), also serves salads and light entrees for lunch, and menu selections like broiled lobster tail, prime rib and rack of lamb for dinner.

There are numerous wineries located a short drive from the mansion, along the Keuka Lake Wine Trail (800-440-4898, The wine trail is hosting a special February event, “Be Mine with Wine” featuring a taste of some of the best romantic foods in the Keuka Lake area, paired with tastings of locally produced wines. The event takes place February 11-12, 18-19; tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. Call the Keuka Wine Trail for details. The Esperanza Mansion is offering a special package in conjunction with the wine trail event; one night’s accommodation, dinner and breakfast for two, starting a $150.

Some of the wineries on the trail include Hunt Country Vineyards (315-595-2812, 4021 Italy Hill Rd., Branchport, considered one of the loveliest wineries in the region. Fox Run Vineyards (315-536-4616, 670 NY 14, Penn Yan, was featured in articles in the New York Times and Wine Enthusiast. Torrey Ridge Winery (315-536-1210, 2700 NY 14, Penn Yan is one of the most modern wineries in the Finger Lakes Region.

You may also want to explore the village of Penn Yan; incorporated in 1833, it got its unique name as a result of a compromise between early Pennsylvania and Yankee settlers. To learn more about area history, visit the Oliver House Museum (315-536-7318, 200 Main St., Penn Yan. There are also many unique shops and restaurants located in the downtown historic district. A walking tour brochure is available from the Yates County Chamber of Commerce.

For more information on Penn Yan, contact the Yates County Chamber of Commerce (315-536-3111, 800-868-9283, 2375 Route 14A, just south of Penn Yan.


The Hillside Inn, (585-495-6800, 800-544-2249, 890 Bethany Rd., Wyoming is a charming place to stay and it’s only about a 45 minute drive from Buffalo in rural Wyoming County. It was originally built as a health spa in 1851 and later converted into a private residence. Today, the inn, set on 30 acres, features 10 luxurious guest rooms, some with fireplaces and whirlpool tubs. The mineral spring which was discovered in 1851, still supplies water to the inn. The inn is open daily, year-round, with breakfast served to guests of the inn.

The inn’s dining room, which is open to the public Thursday-Monday, serves lunch 11-2 and dinner 5-9. Even if you don’t have the time to stay overnight, you can still take a ride out to the inn and enjoy their restaurant; the menu features light innovative American cuisine.

While the inn is located in a rather rural setting, there still are plenty of things to do in the winter months. You can take a walk along the hiking trails on the grounds, as well as snowshoe or toboggan. (Bring your own.) The Village of Wyoming, with it’s charming shops, is just a mile or two up the road. (Note: some may be closed during the winter season)

Outdoor enthusiasts will find recreational activities nearby. The Carlton Hill Multiple Use Area, a 700-acre tract of land run by the state, is a popular spot to cross-country ski. It is located about 3 miles north of Warsaw off Dale Rd., (For more information call the NYS DEC 716-372-8678). Another place to cross-country ski, which is not too far from the Hillside Inn, is Byrncliff Resort (585-535-7300, Route 20A, Varysburg. They have 20 km of well-marked, groomed trails, with rentals available, as well as snowshoe trails. In addition, they have a restaurant as well as overnight accommodations available.

You can also enjoy cross-country skiing in Genesee County Park and Forest (585-344-1122, 11095 Bethany Center Rd., East Bethany. Free tubing is offered at nearby Letchworth State Park, and they even provide the tubes. Call the park, 585-493-3600, for details.

If you’re looking for something less strenuous and more romantic, Wolcott Farms (585-786-3504, offers horse-drawn sleigh rides for two through Letchworth State Park, from December through March, by reservation only. The rides, which last about 40 minutes, cost $100/couple. If there is no snow, they use carriages instead of sleighs. If you want high adventure, Wolcott Farms also offers guided snowmobile tours near Letchworth.

For more information on Wyoming County attractions contact the Wyoming County Tourist Promotion Agency (585-493-3190, 800-839-3919, 30 North Main St., Castile. Open Mon,-Fri. 9-5.