Skip to main content

Western New York Explorer's Guide

The only comprehensive travel guide to the region

About Us
Contact Us
Site Map
Member Login
About Author
Media Interviews
WNY Resources
WNY Attractions and More
Explore WNY blog
Upcoming events
Celebrate Black History
Naples, NY
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
Dads and Cars
Native American
Lake Ontario Shore
Lockport Cave
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
Buffalo Waterfront
Pumpkin Fun
Chau Wine Trail LEL
Fall Road Trips
Off season getaways
Free attractions
Winter Fun
Spring Break
Winery Train
St Lawrence Seaway
Seaway Trail Journey
Welland Canal LEL
Fall Festivals
Scenic Fall Drives
Holiday Hollow
Shopping in NYC
Holiday Shopping Corning
Buffalo has Wright
Buffalo Religious Art
Ten must see getaways
Chautauqua and Erie
Welland Murals
The Tonawandas
Ten Hidden Places
Wing Festival
Presque Isle
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
Olcott Beach 2
Hot Dog Spots
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
Cape Cod
Cobblestone Trail 2
8 Great Fall Road Trips
Little Known Places
Buy Local
Made in America Store
Great Lakes Seaway Trail
Lovely Gardens
WNY Festivals
Erie PA Waterfront
Grape Discovery Center
Salt Sanctuary
Holiday Hollow 2
Historic Hull House
Buffalo Religious Arts Ce
Mall Madness
One day holiday getaways
New York City by train
Cabin Fever
Niagara on the Lake
Elmira 150th Anniversary
Carousels of WNY
Ontario Beach Park
Lockport Locks
USA Bird Supply Blog Arch
Backroads and Byways of U

Western New York Family Magazine

November 2013




One Day Holiday Getaways


            Late November and early December, it’s the most hectic time of the year for most people, especially parents. You barely have enough time to breathe, let along think about taking the time to do something for yourself without the kids in tow. However, taking some time for yourself is exactly what you need this time of year to help you relax and recharge. There are a number of adults-only holiday events this time of year that allow you to get away for a few hours or even the whole day, that will help you slow down and unwind, as well as give you some great decorating and entertaining ideas for the upcoming holiday season.


Holiday Home Tours

            In Western New York we are very lucky to have may beautifully restored historic homes. We are equally lucky to have people living in those homes who are willing to decorate their homes for the holidays and allow the public to come in for tours, usually the first weekend of December. These home tours are a perfect afternoon getaway for busy couples, mothers and daughters (teen or older please), sisters, or friends to enjoy, sans children of course. Even though young children are not discouraged from going on most of the tours, children will typically find them boring. Also, do you really want to pay $25 for a ticket for them and have to keep saying “don’t touch” to them all afternoon?


Lewiston Tour of Homes, December 7th - 8th 10:00 am-5:00 pm each day. Historical Association of Lewiston,

469 Plain Street, Lewiston
, 716-745-9583, Tickets are $25/person and can be ordered online.

            The theme of the 9th annual Historical Association of Lewiston Tour of Homes is “Christmas Cottages in the Country.” Featured will be 5 quaint cottages decorated for the holidays, along with a larger home overlooking the Niagara Escarpment. In addition, ticket holders are invited to go to the Barton Hill Hotel for a dessert reception featuring pastries from The Village Bake Shop and Dicamillo’s Bakery, along with a signature poinsettia cocktail. My husband and I have gone on the tour a couple times and found it to be a fun way to spend the afternoon and get some holiday decorating ideas.

            Also going on in Lewiston that weekend is the annual Lewiston Christmas Walk, which includes carriage rides, carolers, a parade, entertainment, and shopping in the many stores along Center Street. End you day in Lewiston by stopping by the Our Lady of Fatima Shrine for their annual Festival of Lights. All of their 75+ light displays, which are religious themed, have been designed by shrine rector, Fr. Julio Ciavaglia and manufactured by the maintenance staff of the shrine. (Our Lady of Fatima Shrine, 1023 Swann Road, Lewiston,, 5:00-9:00 pm every evening from the Saturday before Thanksgiving until January 6th)


Niagara-on-the-Lake Rotary Club Tour of Homes, December 6th - 7th 905-468-1950 or 905-351-3807,

            Six homes, beautifully decorated for the holidays in historic Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario, are featured in this annual event. This event coincides with the annual Candlelight Stroll on Friday December 6th, which features a guide candlelight tour through the historic town, along with carolers and other entertainment. Also happening the same weekend is Niagara on Fire ( , which commemorates 200 years since Niagara-on-the-Lake was burned on December 10th 1813 during the War of 1812. This event will feature a video shown in Market Square, along with a light and sound show, to bring this historic incident alive. Preview night is December 6th, the main event takes place from 6:00-10:00 pm on December 7th.


Corn Hill 28th Annual Holiday Tour of Homes, December 7th , Corn Hill Neighbors Association,

133 S. Fitzhugh Street, Rochester
, 585-262-3142, Tour times are 10:00 am, 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm, tickets are $22-$28.

            The Corn Hill District was Rochester’s first residential neighborhood and home to Rochester’s wealthiest citizens in the 19th Century. The neighborhood is located near the Genesee River where the I-490 crosses over the river. The tour will include 7 homes, strolling carolers, and light refreshments.


Near Westside Neighborhood Association 29th Annual Tour of Homes, December 8th 12:00-4:00 pm, Near Westside Neighborhood Association 353 Davis Street, Elmira, 607-733-4924, Tickets are $18/general admission, $15/seniors and members.

            This annual tour features 6 showcase homes, one “restoration in progress” home, and the historic Trinity Church, located in Elmira’s Near Westside Historic District. The entire district is actually on the National Register of Historic Places. There are many beautiful Victorian era homes of different architectural styles located here. Ticket holders will also enjoy a Victorian tea and dessert reception at Trinity Church.

            While I have not been on this particular tour, I have toured some of the homes in this district. Samuel Draper, an Elmira resident and one of the skilled craftsmen involved in the restoration of homes in this area, offers personalized guided walking tours of the district, including the interior of some homes. Draper, who dresses up in Mark Twain fashion, emphasizes the fact that author Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, spent his summers here, as his wife’s family was from here. Read more about his tour at


Christmas Gala Ball at Sonnenberg Mansion, December 15th, 4:30-9:00 pm, 151 Charlotte Street, Canandaigua. $45/members, $55 non-members. Pre-paid reservations must be made by December 1st. The event is expected to sell out.

            Last year Sonnenberg Mansion and Gardens sponsored a home tour similar to the other ones described in this article. This year they are doing something slightly different. They will be having a holiday ball at the Sonnenberg Mansion, a 40-room,1887 Queen Anne style home which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was once the summer home of Mr. & Mrs. Frederick Thompson; Mr. Thompson was director of  a 19th Century bank which later became Citibank. The mansion will be decorated for the season and there will be music for dancing, as well as heavy hors d’oeuvres, desserts, and a cash bar. Dress is black tie.


Holiday Wine Trail Events

            A fun and festival way to get into the holiday spirit is to partake in a holiday wine trail event at one of our many area wine trails. You can even pick up some wine for holiday entertaining  and to have for last minutes gifts.

Last year my husband and I participated in the holiday wine trail event along the Niagara Wine Trail. To keep it safe we paid our then 17-year-old daughter to be our designated driver. While I don’t advocate bringing small children along to wineries; it sort of defeats the purpose of a one day getaway, for an older teen that drives, it can be an eye-opening experience for them, showing them how not to behave. Unfortunately, you do have some people riding on limo buses coming to these events who think that since they are not driving they can get rip-roaring drunk. I actually saw some people drinking beer on one of these buses and then going into the winery to sample wine! Anyhow, when my daughter saw how stupid these people were acting, it drove home the point that one can embarrass themselves when they have too much to drink. I do find for the most part however, that the wineries are accommodating if you do bring kids along, offering them grape juice and crackers.  I even saw a children’s play area at one winery in the Finger Lakes region.


Holiday Happening-Niagara Wine Trail, December 6th - 8th and 13th - Tickets are $40/person or $70/couple. Advance online purchase recommended, as it does sell out. Tickets are good for all six days of the event, so you can spread it out over two weekends if you wish.

            Last year each winery offered a different train car ornament, we actually managed to visit all 16 wineries in one day, quite a feat and hence the designated driver! This year each winery will offer a different “Nutcracker Ballet” themed ornament. The price of a ticket includes a commemorative wine glass from the starting winery, three samples of wine at each winery, and a different ornament at each winery. (Couples tickets include one ornament per couple.). Seventeen wineries and one cidery, located in Niagara and Orleans Counties, will be participating.


Harvest Wine Weekends-Lake Erie Wine Country, November 1st - 3rd and 8th - Tickets are $39, which are good for all three days of the weekend you choose.

            Lake Erie Wine Country (formerly called the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail) features 23 wineries in both Chautauqua County New York and just across the state line in Pennsylvania. Included with the ticket is a food and wine pairing at each winery, a commemorative wine glass, a booklet with all the recipes for the foods you will be tasting, a $5 voucher to use at any winery, and for the first 750 ticket purchasers, a special gift. My husband and I participated in this event a number of years ago, when there were only half as many wineries on the trail.


Taste of the Season-Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Weekends in November (Friday, Saturday and Sunday through November 24th) Tickets are $44 + tax  and can be used on multiple days.

            Twenty-seven wineries in the Niagara-on-the-Lake area are participating in this event, which includes a locally inspired food and wine pairing at each winery. While I have not yet done this event, I have been to many of the wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake and each is unique in their approach to winemaking.


Deck the Halls Weekend- Seneca Lake Wine Trail, November 22nd - 24th (The November dates actually sold out before the end of September) or December 6th -8th  Tickets are $53/single, $75/couple; designated driver tickets are $43/single, $65/couple.

            This annual event includes food and wine tastings at 33 wineries along the trail, a recipe booklet, a grapevine wreath, and a unique ornament at each winery, which you can display on the grapevine wreath. All the wineries will be decorated for the holiday season. Some of the recipes you’ll be able to sample include Blue Crab Bisque, Pumpkin Soup, Holiday Fudge, Liquid Wisdom Wine Cake, and Turkey and Sweet Potato Meatballs, just to name a few.


Keuka Holiday-Keuka Wine Trail, November 9th - 10th and 16th - 17th Tickets are $37/single, $57/couple, designated driver #32/single, $52/couple.

            Each of the seven wineries along the Keuka Wine Trail, which will be decorated for the holidays, will be offering a taste of wine paired with hearty winter foods. Ticket holders will also receive a grapevine wreath and be able to collect an ornament for the wreath at each winery.


Cayuga Holiday-Cayuga Wine Trail. November 22nd - 24th and December 6th - 8th Advance sale tickets $40/single, $60/couple, at door price $45/single, $65/couple, designated driver $35/single, $55/couple

            Visit all 16 wineries along the trail and collect a cookie cutter ornament from each winery, as well as a grapevine wreath to display them on. You will also get holiday recipes and get a sample of food and wine at each winery.




An Actual Getaway

            Perhaps you have the time and money to take a real getaway or mini-vacation before the holidays. Here are some suggestions of several elegant places, which are actually near some of the wine trails, that you may want to check out.

            There are two wonderful, well-known resorts in Geneva, NY, about  a 2 hour drive from Buffalo which are perfect for a romantic getaway. Geneva on the Lake (315-789-7190, 800-3-GENEVA, ) 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.

            Just down the road, BelhurstCastle (315-781-0201, ) 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. About ten 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.

            The EsperanzaMansion (315-536-4400, ) located on a bluff overlooking Keuka Lake near Penn Yan, is the largest home ever built in YatesCounty. This circa 1838 home has been renovated into luxurious accommodations, including nine spacious suites in the mansion and 22 guest rooms in the adjacent Inn at Esperanza.

            There are also a number of nice places to stay in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Some places I stayed in recently include the CharlesInn ( , the Moffat Inn ( , and the White Oaks Resort (