As the summer heat begins to fade and the air becomes crisp, the Chautauqua-Lake Erie region in Western New York comes alive with color and fun fall activities. Witnessing the changing leaves, affectionately known as “leaf peeping,” is a time-honored fall tradition throughout the Northeast. A visit during mid-October will bring you into town during peak fall foliage season.
Explore the changing leaves along five miles of trails at the Audubon Community Nature Center. Hike among the colorful trees in an ancient forest and climb gigantic rock formations at Panama Rocks. Get a spectacular panoramic view of the fall foliage at Luensman Overview Park and Erlandson Overview Park where you can also catch a glimpse of Chautauqua Lake. Take in the great view of Lake Erie and the surrounding area atop the tower of the Dunkirk Lighthouse.
For adventure seekers, get a closer look of the vibrant fall foliage while climbing among the treetops on Peek’n Peak Resort’s Mountain Adventures. Cruise around the Chadakoin River and Chautauqua Lake aboard the Chautauqua Belle, an old riverboat-style steamship, when you take one of their fall foliage cruises. Surround yourself with fall foliage on a peaceful horseback ride by Double D.A.B. Riding Stables through miles of trails along the Lake Erie escarpment. Relax with a glass or two of local wine from Lake Erie Wine Country while admiring the fall foliage on one of the Fall Foliage Walks hosted by Johnson Estate Winery.
Another beloved fall tradition throughout the State of New York is apple and pumpkin picking. Browse Whitter Apple Farm for fresh apples perfect for pie, applesauce, and as a healthy snack. During your visit, don’t miss the chance to try their fresh pressed cider. Pumpkintown is the epitome of fall fun where you and the whole family can partake in traditional fall activities including hayrides, a pumpkin jump pad, corn pit, and apple cannons to name a few. Worked up an appetite after all that fun? Enjoy fall snacks including doughnuts, apple cider slushies, kettle corn and more. Before you head out, pick out some pumpkins grown right on the farm.
Fall and Harvest Festivals are offered throughout the Chautauqua-Lake Erie region in September and October. In the first weekend of September, attend the Findley Lake Harvest Festival where you will find crafters, live music, wine and craft beer tastings, a petting zoo, face painting, games and of course, a wide variety of delicious food. The second weekend in September, Merritt Estate Winery holds their annual Septemberfest. Enjoy wine tasting, tours of the winery, craft beer, live music, chicken BBQ and fall desserts.
The Festival of Grapes in Silver Creek during September is a unique festival held each year to celebrate the harvesting of concord grapes, which have a long history of importance to the region. Enjoy grape stomping, wine tasting, live music, food, arts and crafts as well as a parade to close out the weekend festivities.
The Busti Apple Festival occurs every year on the last Sunday of September. Tour the newly restored, operating 1839 Grist Mill and browse through 130 tents of handmade crafts. And you can’t pass up the locally grown apples, freshly made cider and other favorite fall foods. Finally, during the second and third weekend in October, Peek’n Peak Resort hosts their Fall Fest. Both weekends offer free family entertainment, craft vendors, live performances and much more. In addition, scenic chairlift rides, zip lines, miniature golf, and an aerial adventure course will be available to enjoy.
As Halloween approaches, visitors who are looking to embrace the spooky season can join one or more of the region’s paranormal events, if they dare. Tour the Dunkirk Lighthouse and Veterans Museum in the dark and try to make contact with the resident spirits during their nightly ghost hunts.
Learn the history and hauntings of some of downtown Jamestown’s oldest buildings on the Jamestown Ghost Walk tours hosted by Nightscape Studios. Ride a horse-drawn trolley through a cemetery in Fredonia and learn all about the town’s major heroes and villains on the Harvest Moon Cemetery Tour.
No matter where you are or what you do in the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Region, you’re sure to fall in love with autumn in Western New York. Check out the event calendar on the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau’s website, www.tourchautauqua.com, for a full list of upcoming events.
Fall Fun in the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Region