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Buffalo News

Janaury 4, 2009

Off season getaways
By Christine A. Smyczynski

When mid-winter doldrums set in, it’s time to plan a little getaway to relax and recharge. However, instead of going to where all the crowds are, why not head to someplace normally thought of as a summertime destination. Often you’ll be pleasantly surprised that there is still plenty to do in the off-season, especially if you enjoy museum visits, wineries, shopping and fine dining. Best of all, lodging rates are much lower than they are in season, so you can stretch your dollar a lot farther.


Mayville/Chautauqua area

Located on the western shore of Chautauqua Lake, Mayville is a typical summertime destination that offers boating, swimming and other water-related activities, along with the summer season at the nearby Chautauqua Institution. However, come winter, there is still plenty to do here.

Snowmobile enthusiasts can enjoy over 400 miles of trails in the county. However, if you a looking for something a bit tamer, wine tasting is available at the 21 wineries found along the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail. One of those wineries, Mazza Chautauqua Vineyards, is located right in Mayville. They offer a variety of wines and even distill fruit brandy in a copper pot still.

While the grounds of the Chautauqua Institution are quiet this time of year, it still is a beautiful place to take a stroll, and no gate fee is charged in the off-season. A number of the accommodations on the grounds are open year-round, as is the Chautauqua Bookstore, which carries a large selection of books and gift items.

One of the highlights of the winter is the Chautauqua Sleigh Rally, which will take place this year on Sunday January 25 on the grounds of the Chautauqua Institution. Spectators will have the opportunity to take bobsled rides though the grounds on both Saturday January 24 and Sunday January 25, courtesy of the Stateline Draft Horse Club.


There will be a pre-rally diner, open to both sleigh drivers and spectators, on Saturday January 24 at Olive’s Restaurant located in the Chautauqua Inn & Suites. (Reservations required). I recently had the opportunity to take a tour of the Chautauqua Inn & Suites, a really beautiful facility.



The inn’s 91 rooms are spacious and nicely decorated and all have a lake view. They are offering a special sleigh rally package for two for only $140, which includes a queen suite, wine and cheese, dinner voucher for the pre-rally dinner, two tickets for the bobsled ride, a continental breakfast, and a shuttle to the Chautauqua Institution for the sleigh rally.


Lodging is also available at many of the area’s many bed and breakfast inns that remain open year-round, as well as at Webb’s Lake Resort, which has 50 modern hotel rooms, some with Jacuzzi suites. Webb’s has their own restaurant, The Captain’s Table, which offers American cuisine, like prime rib, baked chicken and seafood. They also have a candy and gift shop, which features their trademark goat milk fudge. You almost wouldn’t have to leave the premises all weekend!



My friend Mary and her husband stayed at Webb’s a few years ago during the Mayville ICE Festival, which takes place every February during President’s Day Weekend. She said it was very nice and very convenient to all activities. The ICE Festival features an ice castle made from blocks of ice cut from Chautauqua Lake. Other activities include sleigh rides, snow sculptures, snowmobile rides, ice skating, and many other winter activities.



Pittsford and Fairport are two of my preferred places to visit in the Rochester area. While the area is bustling during the summer because of its location along the Erie Canal, there is still a lot to do in the dead of the winter.


My favorite thing to do in these two towns is shopping. In Pittsford, there are dozens of boutique shops in Northfield Commons and Schoen Place, located along the Erie Canal. There are also a number of upscale shops along Main Street and State Street. Over in Fairport, one of my favorite shops is the Main Street Mercantile, which has country décor, gourmet foods, books, candles and Erie Canal related merchandise. If you like gourmet cooking, check out Lombardi’s, which has gourmet imports and specialty food items, along with china and bake ware. There are also many other unique shops and restaurants along Main Street in Fairport.

One of the more interesting restaurants in the area is the Village Coal Tower in Pittsford. This family-friendly restaurant was once a coal tower built in the early 1900’s to store coal for boats on the canal.

In Fairport you’ll find the area’s only winery, Casa Larga Vineyards, a 40 acre estate winery that has won numerous awards in state, regional and international competitions. I stopped in here a few years ago and they have a very nice tasting room and gift shop. During February, they will be celebrating “Nectar of the gods,” New York’s State’s first ice wine festival. Various events will take place throughout the month.

The Canal Lamp Inn in Pittsford is a historic B& B along the Erie Canal. I toured the inn and noticed that it’s four guest rooms are decorated with antiques and feature a lot of Mary Engelbreit fabrics and designs. The inn is just steps away from shopping.

In Fairport, the Woodcliff Hotel & Spa is a resort hotel set high up on a hill. It has a full service spa, fitness center and a heated indoor pool. They offer a variety of overnight packages, including a wine enthusiast package, which includes transportation to Casa Larga for wine tasting, a bottle of wine and a dinner credit. A girlfriend’s getaway “spa-jama” party package is also offered if you want to take a get away with the girls.



This city, situated on the northern tip of Canandaigua Lake, offers much to do year-round. While summertime activities focus on the lake; during the winter months visitors can enjoy the many boutique stores and restaurants located along Main Street, one of the widest main streets in the United States.


To learn more about the area, you can stop by the Ontario County Historical Society. Along the waterfront, the 20,000 square foot New York Wine and Culinary Center also offers a pleasant wintertime diversion. Enjoy wine tasting, exhibits on New York grapes and agriculture, cooking classes and a well-stocked gift boutique. Their restaurant, Taste of New York Lounge, features seasonal menus that showcase New York State products.


There are also a number of lovely B & B inns in the Canandaigua area. I recently stayed at the 1840 Inn on the Main, a circa 1840 Victorian Inn that is within walking distance of Main Street shops. The inn is nicely decorated and innkeepers Jaynee and Guy Straw serve a great gourmet breakfast. They offer several overnight package deals, including an off-peak special and a wine tour special.


If skiing is your thing, Bristol Mountain Ski Resort is located only ten miles from downtown Canandaigua. There are also a number of wineries a short drive away in Naples, on the southern tips of Canandaigua Lake, although most are just open weekends only during the winter months. Wilhelmus Estate Winery, on the east side of the lake just south of the city, is the newest winery on the trail.



Chautauqua-Mayville Chamber of Commerce (716-753-3113; )

Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau (716-357-4569; located at the main gate of the Chautauqua Institution

Chautauqua Institution (716-357-6200;

Chautauqua Sleigh Rally (716-962-3412; )

Chautauqua Inn & Suites (716-269-7829; 215 West Lake Rd., Mayville

Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail (

Webb’s Lake Resort (716-753-2161; 115 West Lake Road, Mayville

Village of Fairport (585-223-0313;

Pittsford Chamber of Commerce (585-234-0308; )

Casa Larga Vineyards (585-223-4210; 2287 Turk Hill Rd. Fairport

Canal Lamp Inn (585-381-4351; 27 North Main Street, Pittsford.

The Lodge at Woodcliff (585-381-4000 or 800-365-3065;>\)100 Woodcliff Drive, Fairport.

Canandaigua Chamber of Commerce (585-394-4400; ) 113 South Main Street, Canandaigua

Ontario County Historical Society (585-394-4975; ) 55 North Main Street, Canandaigua

New York Wine and Culinary Center (585-394-7070; ) 800 South Main Street, Canandaigua

1840 Inn on the Main (585-394-0139; 176 North Main Street, Canandaigua.

Bristol Mountain Ski Resort (585-374-6000; 5662 NY 64, Canandaigua.

Canandaigua Wine Trail ( )