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When you think of your dream vacation, what do you want?
You might want a week’s worth of rest, relaxation, and sleeping past your alarm. Or maybe you want to embark on adventures and dare to try new activities. Or perhaps you’d simply like to stuff your belly full of mouth-watering treats until you’re in a lethargic, but satisfying, food-induced coma.
What if you could have all of these things without jetting off to Florida, Mexico, or Italy? In fact, you don’t even have to leave the county. Because the reality is that the greater Jamestown area is actually a massive summer tourist destination, drawing in people not only from around the nation, but around the globe. And while local residents may not always realize it, the same attractions that are available to summer tourists are also beckoning to them.
So instead of blowing the big bucks on a getaway vacation this summer, consider staying home and enjoying the abundant opportunities in your own backyard. Read on for ideas and inspiration to plan your own 2017 summer “Staycation.”
If your idea of the perfect holiday is playing in the great outdoors, then go no further. Chautauqua County has an abundant natural landscape for locals looking to forgo everyday routines and escape into nature for a little peace, quiet, and physical activity. With hundreds of miles of maintained trails and dozens of parks and playgrounds scattered across the county, there is no shortage of places to explore.
Try camping at a state forest, park, or one of the local campgrounds around the lake. Nothing screams “summer” quite like pitching a tent, braving the mosquitos, and roasting marshmallows around a crackling campfire. Or get lost down one of Chautauqua’s winding trailways – try the Fred J. Cusimano Westside Overland Trail in Panama, which spans four towns and six state forests. Hikers along this 24.5 mile trek – and many other local trails – will stumble across glittering ponds, lanky trees that stretch for the sun, and if they’re lucky, maybe even a local critter or two.
“One of the great things about Jamestown is that it doesn’t matter how old you are or your athletic ability: there is something for everyone,” said Julia Ciesla-Hanley, Recreation Director for the Jamestown Park, Recreation and Conservation Department. “In Jamestown we have free Fitness in the Parks classes, sponsored by Independent Health; we have our Bandshell Concert Series in Allen Park, and we have our Riverwalk, where people can fish, walk, or even canoe in the river.”
For those who aren’t thrilled with the idea of slathering on the bug repellant or breaking a sweat, there are plenty of outdoor activities that don’t take place in parks, forests or fields. Instead, make use of the area’s crown jewel: Chautauqua Lake. Every year, the lake draws in hordes of tourists for boating, swimming, kayaking, and perhaps most popularly, fishing.
“We sell a lot of non-resident fishing licenses,” said the sportsman advisor and all-around fishing guru at Hogan’s Hut, who is known simply as Skip. “People come from everywhere: Canada, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania… The season this year has started out good. Weedline fishing’s good right now, bass is fair, musky’s good, perch is wonderful. The [season] outlook is good as long as the lake doesn’t get too warm.”
Luckily for locals, they don’t have to travel long hours and miles to enjoy the lakeside. Its shores are just a hop, skip and a jump away for most Chautauqua County residents. And with fishing and boating season in full swing, locals should never take for granted the beauty of Chautauqua Lake and the copious amount of summertime activities it provides.
Hiking and kayaking aren’t the only ways to get moving this summer. Bicycling is another popular area sport, advocated by many different cycling shops, clubs, and organized races. Take a drive down any county road and you’re bound to pass a few cyclers: maybe you’ll see the group from Hollyloft, clad in their matching, brightly-colored uniforms, or maybe you’ll pass the ladies from Women on Wheels, a group sponsored by the Jamestown Cycle Shop that empowers women to ride. With all the different cycling options in Chautauqua, there is a group for every age and fitness level. And of course, being a part of a group isn’t necessary – there are plenty of solo bikers who traverse the county at their own pace, on their own time.
“We have an aging population and we all want to keep moving,” said Len Johnson, owner of Hollyloft Ski, Bike and Snowboard Shop, in reference to why biking is so popular in Chautauqua County. “Biking is probably one of the least invasive [sports] on the body… A lot of it is social, too. I think that’s what people are looking for: something a little different, a way to get a little exercise, have a good time, and get those old bones moving.”
Besides cycling, another favorite way to blend fun and fitness is to visit one of the area’s many golf courses. Whether you want to try your hand at mini golf or take a stroll across the rolling fairways of an 18-hole course, there are golf courses designed for every price range and skill level.
If all you really want from a vacation is a belly full of good food and drink at the end of the day, take a tour de cuisine around the greater Jamestown area. Skip around Lakewood to sample some of its newer restaurants, hop over to Bemus to sip a drink lakeside, or drive out to Westfield for an afternoon of wine tasting. No matter where you go in the county, good food and good times are not far off.
If an evening of fine dining just isn’t in the budget, there are other ways to satisfy your taste buds. Drop by your local ice cream shack to get a scoop of their wackiest flavor or make a pit stop at the county fair to score some sugar-crusted fried dough. Or even simpler: visit a nearby farmers market and buy some local fruits, veggies, and baked goods. Take them home, throw them on the grill, and enjoy a fresh summer barbecue.
If all else fails, there is sure-fire way to inject a little excitement into your Staycation: try something new. Chautauqua County is home to many lively and entertaining fairs, festivals and carnivals, which are always sure to bring a little adventure. Branch out and experience a new culture at a folk festival, meet some prize-winning animals at the county fair, share some laughs at the Lucy Comedy Fest, or peruse for unique artisan goods at a craft show.
If you’re looking for more of an adrenaline rush, pay a visit to Midway State Park and spend the day riding the carousel, winning arcade games, and sunbathing down by the beach. Or consider buying tickets to the Gerry Rodeo in August to cheer on the cowboys and cowgirls as they barrel race, wrestle steers, and ride wild bulls.
If a more educational experience is what you’re after, stop by the Chautauqua Institution to receive a little religious, cultural, and arts-related enlightenment. Although not everyone may be fortunate enough to have a gate pass, every Sunday the Institution opens its gates to welcome non-pass holders for a “free day.” Attend a play at the theatre, listen to a lecture or a sermon, enjoy some choir music or ballet, or simply stroll the grounds to appreciate the natural beauty and architecture. No matter what you do, you’re sure to feel like you’re on vacation, if only for the day.
So this summer, forget the hassle of packing luggage, buying plane tickets, and booking hotel rooms. The truth is, you already have everything you need to have an idyllic vacation right here: in your county, in your neighborhood, in your home. So embrace the Staycation! The only thing you’ll need to pack is the right perspective.