10 Must-see Getaways in Western New York and Southern Ontario
Sometimes you need to getaway, either as a family, couple, or even by yourself. Fortunately, we have some great getaway destinations within an hour or two from Buffalo. Here are ten must-see places to choose from when you want to get away from it all.
1. Niagara Falls-New York and Canada
I know, I know, Niagara Falls is right in our backyard. However, with 14 million people visiting the falls on an annual basis, they must be on to something, so why not pretend you’re a tourist and explore this natural wonder.
On the US side, view the falls from Niagara FallsState Park, the oldest state park in America. Next, do all the typical touristy things, such as ride the Maid of the Mist and Explore the Cave of the Winds. After dark, the falls are illuminated with colorful lights. Some of the other attractions in Niagara Falls, NY include the Aquarium of Niagara, NiagaraGorgeDiscoveryCenter and the new Snow Park Niagara, where you can enjoy snow tubing year-round, even in summer!
Cross over to the Canadian side, provided you have a passport or enhanced license. Visit some of the quirky museums on Clifton Hill, view the Falls from the SkylonTower, enjoy numerous shops and restaurants, take the Journey Behind the Falls or even visit one of the two casinos near the falls.
NiagaraCounty Tourism (USA) 1-877-325-5787, www.niagara-usa.com
Niagara Falls Tourism (Canada) 1-800-563-2557, www.niagarafallstourism.com
Located a short two hour drive down the QEW, this cosmopolitan city offers the perfect getaway because there is so much to see and do there, no matter what your interest. Sport fans might want to take in a Blue Jays baseball game or pay a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Families with young children should check out the OntarioScienceCenter, with its many hands-on exhibits, or spend a day at the massive Toronto Zoo.
Toronto’s Yonge Street, one of the longest streets in the world, offers a shoppers paradise, with all sorts of unique boutiques, as well as numerous department stores. Enjoy the nightlife? There are numerous theaters and nightclubs to keep you entertained all evening.
Craving ethnic foods? Dozens of nationalities are represented in this diverse city, including a large Chinatown. For a great view of the city, ride the elevator to the observation deck at the CN Tower. On a clear day you’ll see the mist from Niagara Falls on the horizon.
Toronto Tourism 416-203-2500, 1-800-499-2514, www.seetorontonow.com
Let’s review on last Canadian destination before heading back to the United States. Niagara-on-the-Lake, dubbed the “prettiest town in Canada,” is probably one of the best “couples” destinations in our region.
The best known attraction in town is the Shaw Festival, an internationally acclaimed theater season which features works by George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries. Another popular pastime is visiting the many wineries which are located throughout the NiagaraPeninsula. If you like to shop, OldTown Niagara-on-the-Lake has numerous boutique shops and restaurants.
There are over 300 different accommodations to choose from in town, from quaint, intimate bed & breakfast inns to five-star luxury resorts.
Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce 905-468-1950, www.niagaraonthelake.com
Back on US soil, Lewiston, located about 7 miles north of Niagara Falls, is a great place for a getaway. Lewiston’s historic Center Street is lined with many unique shops and restaurants, many located in buildings that date back almost 200 years.
The village is home to Artpark, which hosts a number of arts and cultural events during the summer months. The annual Art Fest, along Center Street in early August, features artisans from all over the country.
Want to get in touch with the spiritual side of your life? A visit to Our Lady of Fatima Shrine is in order. No matter what your faith, this 20 acre site offers peace, tranquility, and a respite from your hectic life. A prominent feature is a dome shaped basilica which depicts the Northern Hemisphere.
Families visiting Lewiston will enjoy the New York Power Authority’s Power Vista, which has lots of hands-on activities about how electricity is generated and used. Next door, the CastellaniArt Museum, located on the campus of NiagaraUniversity, has a number of permanent and changing exhibits. Best of all, both of these attractions have free admission.
North of the Falls Visitors Information 716-754-9500, www.niagarariverregion.com
About 80 miles east of Buffalo, the city of Rochester offers a multitude of cultural and recreational activities. The Strong Museum of Play in downtown Rochester is especially popular with families. This museum, one of the top children’s museums in the country, focuses on the importance of play in learning. Another family-friendly museum is the RochesterMuseum and ScienceCenter.
Photography buffs will want to check out the George Eastman House, which is home to the International Museum of Photography and Film. OntarioBeachPark, located along LakeOntario is one of the most picturesque spots in Rochester. It has one of the best natural sand beaches in the Great Lakes region. Be sure to take a ride on the park’s 1905 Dentzel menagerie carousel.
Rochester Convention and Visitor’s Bureau 585-546-3070, www.visitrochester.com
6. Finger Lakes Region
New York’s State’s Finger Lakes Region is a very popular getaway destination, which features over 100 wineries, along with several lakes for recreational water activities.
One popular Finger Lakes city is Canandaigua. Numerous boutiques and restaurants can be found along Canandaigua’s Main Street, one of the widest Main streets in the nation.
SonnenbergGardens and MansionStateHistoricPark, a popular summertime destination, has 50 acres of manicured gardens. Of course, Canandaigua Lake itself is an attraction, offering scenic vistas as well as recreational water activities, including boating and fishing.
About 10 miles east of Canandaigua, the city of Geneva offers more beautiful lake views. Two luxury getaway resorts, Geneva on the Lake and BelhurstCastle overlook Seneca Lake. There are also many wineries in the region and downtown Geneva has one of the best preserved historic districts in the Finger Lakes Region.
Finger LakesVisitors Connection 1-877-386-4669, www.tourismny.com
7. Chautauqua Lake Region
The Chautauqua Lake region, about 90 minutes south of Buffalo, is the consummate getaway destination. Whether you enjoy art and culture, golf, recreational water activities, or just sipping wine, you’ll find it all here.
The 856 acre Chautauqua Institution has been a center of performing arts, culture, education, religion, and recreation since its founding in 1874. One can come for a day, week, or even the entire nine week summer season.
Accommodations include many inns and cottages right on the Institutions grounds, including the circa 1881 Athenaeum Hotel, a Victorian era “Grand Dame” full service hotel.
If you like hitting the links, the area is a golfer’s paradise. Golf Digest Magazine has named the area one of the “Best Little Golf Towns in America.” Recreational boaters and fishermen enjoy Chautauqua Lake, as do sightseers who can take a boat excursion on the Chautauqua Belle or The Summer Wind.
Wine aficionados will enjoy sampling wines at 21 wineries long the 40 mile long Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail. Thirteen of these wineries are in ChautauquaCounty and an additional 8 are across the border in Pennsylvania.
ChautauquaCounty Visitor’s Bureau 716-357-4569 www.tourchautauqua.com
Ellicottville, known as the “Aspen of the East,” is probably best known as a winter hot spot because of the great skiing. However, Ellicottville, which is about an hour south of Buffalo, makes a great getaway destination any time of year.
HolidayValley, a ski resort in winter, doubles as a golf resort in the warmer months. In addition, the village has many beautifully restored 19th Century buildings which house a variety of shops and restaurants.
Ellicottville’s annual fall festival, which takes place Columbus Day weekend, is legendary, as is nearby Pumpkinville, which features pumpkins by the thousands every September and October.
Ellicottville Chamber of Commerce 1-800-349-9099, www.ellicottvilleny.com
9. Corning/Elmira area
Corning is one of my family’s favorite getaway destinations. The Corning Museum of Glass, one of the state’s most popular tourist destinations, has the most extensive collection of glass objects in the world. One of the museum’s highlights is the Hot Glass Show, which demonstrates how glass blowing is done.
If shopping is your thing, Corning’s historic Market Street, a four-block area of restored 19th Century buildings has over 100 stores, galleries, and restaurants.
About 20 miles east of Corning, the city of Elmira offers a number of interesting attractions, including the NationalSoaringMuseum and the Wings of Eagles Discovery Center, which focus on aviation history.
This year, Elmira is commemorating 100 years since the demise of the writer Mark Twain, who spent his summers in Elmira. Walking tours of Mark Twain’s Elmira will be offered throughout the summer. Twain and his family are buried in Elmira’s WoodlawnCemetery.
(Corning) SteubenCounty Convention and Visitors Bureau 607-936-6544 www.corningfingerlakes.com
(Elmira) ChemungCounty Chamber of Commerce 607-734-5137 www.chemungchamber.org
Okay, this tiny Allegany town is not as well known as the other destination mentioned in this article. However, its small town charm and friendly people make it a perfect laid-back getaway destination.
Many of the 19th Century buildings in Angelica, which was named after AngelicaChurch, mother of town founder Philip Church, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
This quaint little town has a number of antique and gift shops, several restaurants and two romantic bed & breakfast inns. Park Circle, a small village park which has a gazebo and a small playground, is the site of many town events, including Heritage Days in August.
Town of Angelica 585-466-3280, www.angelica-ny.com
So there you have it, ten must-see getaways in our region that are guaranteed to keep you and your family happy when you need a little R & R.
Christine A. Smyczynski is a Buffalo area freelance writer who writes about WNY travel for local, regional, and national publications. She is author of Western New York Explorers Guide From Niagara Falls and Southern Ontario to the Western Edge of the Finger Lakes (The Countryman Press 2005, 2008).