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Travel | Long Weekends

Scenic Tour: Erie PA/Western NY

Erie, Pennsylvania, and New York’s Chautauqua Lake provide adventures as amazing as the scenery.

Surf & Sand

First-time visitors to Presque Isle State Park, a 3,200-acre sandy peninsula that arches out into Lake Erie from Erie, Pennsylvania, almost always have the same reaction. “They’re just amazed at how it looks like the ocean,” says Anne Desarro, the park’s environmental education specialist.

In all, there are 7 miles of beaches. Visitors can find a spot with groomed sand and lifeguards or they can explore away from the crowds. To see a bit of everything, make your first stop at the Yellow Bike Rental Co. and hit the 13.5-mile asphalt trail that loops around the park.

From Yellow Bike, the ride starts under the cover of shade before breaking out into the sunshine of Beach 11. Tucked into a natural harbor, its calm waters are great for little ones. Each of the nine beaches has its own identity, from the windsurfers at Budny Beach to the wooden boardwalk at Beach 7. 301 Peninsula Dr., Erie, Pennsylvania 16505, 814/833-7424,


Casino Thrills

This summer, you can be among the music fans gathered at the foot of the Allegheny Mountains as Ringo Starr takes the stage. Concerts under the stars (as well as indoors) are just part of the fun at Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino.

The indoor pool’s wall of windows provides mountain views, and the on-site spa offers a full slate of services. Hungry travelers can stop by the Thunder Mountain Buffet or hit the Western Door Steakhouse.

The resort’s most unique feature, however, is its gaming floor. Like just about every other U.S. casino, Seneca once had slot machines with 28-inch bases. General manager Gus Tsivikis had the machines replaced with ones that have 32-inch bases, as well as built-in footrests and larger, adjustable chairs.

“We host more than 3 million visitors each year,” he says, “and we want to make sure they’re comfortable.” 777 Seneca Allegany Blvd., Salamanca, New York 14779, 877/873-6322,


Chautauqua Fun

The Chautauqua Institution is known for attracting lifelong learners to the shores of Chautauqua Lake for its summer seminars, performances and recreational opportunities.

It would be a mistake, however, to compare a stay at Chautauqua to college finals week. With all of the revelry around the lake, it’s more like rush week.

“Everything comes alive,” says Debi Clementi, whose family owns Chautauqua Marina, which rents power, pontoon and fishing boats, as well as kayaks, canoes, water skis and tubes. “It’s a small community with big activities.”

Mayville, located on the north side of the lake, has both fine and fun dining options. The Watermark Restaurant has two outdoor seating areas right on the water, and La Fleur’s executive chef, Jonathan Haloua, was born, raised and attended culinary school in Paris.

Then there’s the town of Bemus Point, on the east side of the lake, which is home to the Bemus Bay Pops and its famous floating stage. The Chautauqua Institution, 1 Ames Ave., Chautauqua, New York 14722, 800/836-2787,


Wine Time

Lake Erie Wine Country is the largest grape-growing region east of the Rocky Mountains, stretching roughly 50 miles from Silver Creek, New York, to Harborcreek, Pennsylvania. It’s also home to two dozen wineries.

“We’ve got 30,000 acres of grapes, which is a very large number,” says Julie Ellis, executive director of the Lake Erie Wine Country nonprofit that supports the region. “We also have a rich history. We actually started in the 1800s.”

Many of the best-sellers are made from sweeter native grapes such as Niagara and Concord, but there are also plenty of award-winning wines (think Riesling and chambourcin) being produced from French-hybrid varietal and European vinifera vines.

“My father-in-law was an experimenter and also a pioneer because he planted French-hybrid grapes,” says Jennifer Johnson, who owns Johnson Estate Winery with her husband. “And he planted those in a sea of Concords.”

Today, the winery makes more than 30 wines, about half of which are from European grapes.; Johnson Estate Winery, 8419 U.S. 20, Westfield, New York 14787, 716/326-2191,


Laughs & Legends

Before she died in 1989, Lucille Ball told her daughter, “I don’t want a damn statue. I don’t believe in that stuff.” But Ball did believe deeply in the power of laughter — a mission that drives the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum in Ball’s hometown of Jamestown, New York. There, you’ll find re-created sets, including Lucy and Ricky Ricardo’s

New York City apartment and artifacts from the show. “We have a saxophone from one of the episodes with a little remnant of Lucy’s lipstick,” says Allison Rabent, curation and archives coordinator. “So that’s pretty cool.”

The funny thing is, Ball did get a statue in 2009, but it was almost immediately dubbed “ugly Lucy” and inspired a “We Love Lucy! Get Rid of this Statue” Facebook page with more than 10,000 likes. The campaign worked and a new statue, created by New York sculptor Carolyn Palmer, will be unveiled on Ball’s birthday, Aug. 6. 2 W. Third St., Jamestown, New York 14701, 716/484-0800,


Aerial Adventures

It doesn’t get much more thrilling than the mountainside aerial adventure parks at New York’s Peek’n Peak and Holiday Valley resorts.

Peek’n Peak’s course features 69 obstacles across eight separate routes. The park also includes giant dual zip lines that allow visitors to soar more than 2,000 feet.

“Our guests are always telling us how much fun the adventure course is for the entire family,” says Alison Scott, executive marketing manager for Scott Enterprises, which owns Peek’n Peak Resort.

Holiday Valley’s Sky High Adventure Park includes 13 courses set on 4 acres. There is a Climbing Forest with 10 trees outfitted with color-coded climbing holds that indicate the course’s difficulty. The Sky Flyer Mountain Coaster allows riders to spiral down through the trees on a track that follows the terrain.

While you’re at Holiday Valley, be sure to head a mile or so down the road to explore the village of Ellicottville and its many shops and restaurants.

An afternoon passes quickly at the Ellicottville Brewing Co., where a large outdoor beer garden provides the perfect setting for enjoying craft brews and good food. Peek’n Peak Resort, 1405 Olde Rd., Clymer, New York 14724, 716/355-4141,; Holiday Valley, 6557 Holiday Valley Rd., Ellicottville, New York 14731, 716/699-2345,; Ellicottville Brewing Co., 28 Monroe St., Ellicottville, New York 14731, 716/699-2537,;