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Explore Winter Wonderland at Cattaraugus County in The Enchanted Mountains

Explore the Winter Wonderlands at Cattaraugus County in the Enchanted Mountains

Contributed by: Cattaraugus County

Western New York Winter is upon us in The Enchanted Mountains! Here in Cattaraugus County, one day we could be shoveling out two feet of snow and the next dodging raindrops! Never fret, whether you choose to explore the Winter Wonderlands of our Natural areas or prefer to celebrate the season by visiting our splendid indoor museums, galleries and theatre performances, you are sure to celebrate all of Winter, not just the holidays. Come and enjoy these fun winter activities with the whole family, you’ll be glad you did!

Snowmobile season is in full effect! [Image: enchantedmountains.com]

Trails and Lodging 

When the snow comes down all fluffy and fast, you can be sure that is the best time to ride a snowmobile. Cascade over the freshly fallen snow laying peacefully on the fields or slow down in our forested areas to look up and glance at the snow-lined trees. We have over 450 miles of trails, including those in Allegany State Park. With all those miles and trails that connect into the next County, you will need at least a couple days to pack in all the fun! We have numerous lodgings with easy trail access including cabins in Allegany State Park, Harwood Haven, Mystic Water Resort and The Woods at Bear Creek! Plus plenty of B&B’s, house rentals and more! Call 1-800-331-0543 for your Free Trail Map and brochure which lists these places and more, plus restaurants, snowmobile rentals , snowmobile service stops and gas stations along the trail!

Here is just one example of the day of fun that awaits you this winter!

Stay at The Inn at One Bank Street in Randolph, which has restaurants and gas within a half of a block from your guest room. Walk over to Vern’s Place in the morning for an affordable, delicious meal to give you the energy to be out in the cold all day. Head back to the room, gear up and take your sled over to Arrowmart to gas up before you go, again just a half block away! Now you’re ready for an adventure – but don’t forget your trail map! It is very important to respect the landowners that allow the trails to go over their property. And remember, just because you see a trail doesn’t mean it is for your use! It is your responsibility to know the trails and stick to them!

How about heading up to Little Valley, then over through the back hills of Ellicottville through the McCarty Hill Forest then over to the quaint town of Franklinville. Check out the Woods at Bear Creek for dinner and to warm up. The Woods at Bear Creek offers a view of the pristine snow over their lake that can be seen from the restaurant! Once you’re warmed up, head south through Ischua and down through Portville. If you didn’t grab a bite to eat at The Woods at Bear Creek, then give Sprague’s Maple Farms a try! Almost everything on the menu has maple syrup in it! There are gas opportunities here too at Kwik Fill and the Halfway Inn Bar & Grill. Make your back to Randolph through Allegany State Park to start scoping out a location for next year’s snowmobile vacation.

Love winter but prefer the indoors?

Why not ease into it with ice-skating at the William O Smith Rec. Center in Olean. This is the perfect compromise. You get to enjoy a great winter sport, but can step off the ice to warm up at any time. Plus, what makes a better date night than ice-skating? (Hint, hint) Afterwards, take that special someone out to a lovely dinner at any of the new restaurants in Olean. Try Woodside Tavern on the Range on River Road for a beautiful setting, or the hip new Ravyn & Robyn Lounge, featuring fine Italian Cuisine made from scratch! There’s always the tried and true favorites as well – The Beef N Barrel, Brothers Bistro, El Mariachi and Angee’s! Recount the funny happenings of ice-skating while you dine together and enjoy the slower pace of winter.

Historial Museum exhibit fat Cattaraugus County New York

Cattaraugus County Historical Museum  [Image: Cattaraugus County]

Can’t stand the thought of cold weather?

Well, we recommend you make your way into one of our outstanding museums, galleries or theatrical performances to keep you warm. We have 26 museums in the County that can be viewed in our Heritage Brochure (free if requested as well). These have a variety of interests including Town and Village histories, History of the County, Seneca Nation Culture, themes relating to African American History and the Underground Railroad and one even has a Mammoth! The Regina A Quick Center is located on the campus of St. Bonaventure University and has stunning and important works of art from their collection and others. There are also live performances here from renowned musicians thanks to the group “Friends of Good Music”.

The theatre is alive and well and as you know the saying goes, “The Show Must Go On”. And that means in the winter as well. Spend a delightful evening inside dreaming of other lives lived and hearing the great stories and musicals put on by our fantastic local talent. Olean Community Theatre will be starting their 38th season in 2017 and will feature “The Big Meal” “Assassins” and “9 to 5”. The Olean Theatre Workshop has provided family theater for over 34 years and upcoming performances of The Odd Couple will debut in Feb. The Ray Evans Seneca Theatre is the host to the Cattaraugus County Living Arts Association’s performances. “Hair” will be gracing the stage here in February and is sure to be the talk of the town for the months surrounding. This one is not to be missed!

Actors play a scene from the play Arsenic and Old Lace at the Olean Community Theatre in The Enchanted Mountains

Olean Community Theatre, Arsenic and Old Lace Play  [Image: Cattaraugus County]

So whatever you’re idea of winter is, a time to enjoy crisp cool air and fluffy snow or a time to slow down, relax and find special moments indoors, then The Enchanted Mountains of Western NY are where you need to be! Visit us online at EnchantedMountains.com, call us at 1-800-331-0543 or follow us on Facebook!

Three Beautiful Lighthouses to Visit this Year

Contributed by Katie Levy of Adventure-Inspired

Though in many cases lighthouses are no longer a necessity when it comes to travel by sea, they’re still fascinating landmarks and beacons to behold. Many have important histories and meanings, while others are significant simply because they’re beautiful sights to take in. While some coastal landscapes boast a high concentration of lighthouses, to me there are three that stand out as must-visit destinations in the warmer weather to come.

Punta Gorda Lighthouse, King Range National Conservation Area, California

From the beautiful lighthouses blog; view of Punta Gorda Lighthouse

Image: Katie Levy

Nestled above a sandy beach and below rolling hills and mountains, the tiny abandoned Punta Gorda Lighthouse serves as a landmark for Lost Coast Trail backpackers. It’s also a perfect day-hiking destination for those willing to walk three miles one-way in the sand on one of California’s most remote stretches of coastal trail and also willing to pay close attention to tide tables.

Punta Gorda was once dubbed “the Alcatraz of Lighthouses” because of its inaccessibility and those sent there to operate it. Originally consisting of three two-story dwellings, a signal house, a concrete light building with a curved iron stairway, and more, the lighthouse was abandoned in 1951 in favor of an off-shore beacon. Punta Gorda has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976, and both the inaccessibility and history make it well-worth the visit.

Friends and I paid a visit to Punta Gorda on a backpacking trip along the Lost Coast Trail, and our stop there made for some incredible memories. We climbed up what’s left of the lighthouse to hold court over the harbor seals basking in the sun on the beach, listened to the waves crash below, and saw miles of trail we’d covered already, along with what was to come. It’s a pretty special place.

Visit the BLM website for more information.

Bass Harbor Head Light, Acadia National Park, Maine

From the beautiful lighthouses blog; view of Bass Harbor

Image: Katie Levy

Standing tall above Bass Harbor’s rocky coastline within Acadia National Park, the Bass Harbor Head Light has served as a beacon for travelers since the late 1800s. Today it’s on the National Register of Historic Places, but remains active and serves as a private residence for a local Coast Guard member and his family.

On a trip to Acadia last summer, I had the lighthouse at the top of my must-visit landmarks list as a result of the number of stunning photos I’d seen. Unlike the remote Punta Gorda lighthouse, Acadia’s Bass Harbor Head Light is accessible via short concrete path from a small parking lot. A short walk takes visitors from the comforts of their vehicles to within inches of Maine’s rugged coastline. Friends and I stopped there after a long day of hiking, and despite not having to work too hard to get there, the Bass Harbor Head Light was a worthwhile visit.

Visit the National Park Service website for more information, and click here and here for some of my favorite hikes in Acadia.

Tibbets Point Lighthouse, Cape Vincent, New York

From the beautiful lighthouses blog; view of Tibbetts Point

Image: Katie Levy

I was lucky enough to spend many a summer during my formative years in the Thousand Islands region of New York. The Thousand Islands—a collection of close to 2,000 islands in the St. Lawrence River straddling the border between the United States and Canada—is also home to a number of big, beautiful lighthouses. My favorite? The lighthouse at Tibbetts Point in Cape Vincent, New York.

The Tibbetts Point Lighthouse was built in 1827, and in the 1990s, the lighthouse was formally acquired by the town from the Department of the Interior. I have fond memories of visiting the visitors center as a child, which was built in 1993. Over the past nearly two decades, the Tibbetts Point Lighthouse Society funded a series of renovations both inside and outside of the lighthouse.

The Tibbetts Point Lighthouse is particularly special because it marks the point where Lake Ontario meets the St. Lawrence River, and it’s one of the best places to watch the sun set in that part of the state, in my humble opinion!

Visit the town’s website for more information.

There are so many beautiful lighthouses to visit around the country and around the world! Have you been to any of these? What others would you say are must-visit lighthouses, and why?

The Enchanted Mountains of Cattaraugus County in Western New York!

Contributed by Cattaraugus County Tourism

Spring is the best time to get out of the house, get on the road, and try something exciting! Perhaps you spent too much time indoors over the winter and need to get back in touch with nature. Well, the Enchanted Mountains of Cattaraugus County asks, “Where do you want to play today?”

Cattaraugus County photo of things to do

Warm up to Excitement

As the snow begins to melt and the creeks rise, Cattaraugus Creek becomes a whitewater rafter’s paradise. Head out for up to Level III Class Rapids in Zoar Valley with one of our great guide services. Spend the whole day there, taking in breathtaking beauty of the gorge and winding river. The abundance of well-stocked creeks throughout Cattaraugus County creates a great opportunity for the fishing enthusiasts, too, once trout season opens on April 1. Cattaraugus Creek has been named one of the northeast’s best top 10 steelhead fishing sites. 

Stretch those Legs

Hibernate over the winter? Smell the fresh air, watch the flowers start to blossom, and welcome the birds back. Get those weary muscles outside and on the move at Allegany State Park. Hike around the lake, drop a line in for fishing, or get the kayak out of the garage. Rock City Park opens in May, and you’ll see nature come back to life as you walk amongst the giant rocks. Griffis Sculpture Park also opens on the first of May, where steel sculptures welcome you and spring. To really warm up this season, climb through the trees and zip past the canopy lines at Sky High Adventure Park. Another Black Diamond Course was added this year, making a total of 13 different courses for you to try.

Plant New Plans

The backgrounds of New York’s Amish Trail become easy to travel on again in the springtime, which leaves you with a perfect driving tour to cure your cabin fever. Cruise quiet roads, view newly painted green fields and valleys, and purchase handmade products made by talented craftsmen. Cattaraugus County is home to Old Order Amish who adhere to strict guidelines and use no electricity, no running water, and dress in plain clothes of greys and blues. Adventure all around the western side of our county while making stops at different shops along the way that offer a variety of goods.

Renew and Energize

Spring is a time to feel rejuvenated. The Enchanted Mountains offers an excess of events when the cold weather starts to clear out. Thaw out with the Annual Maple Weekends on April 2–3, and watch the production of maple syrup right before you. The Olean Home and Garden Show on April 8–10 shows you all the latest trends and ideas for spring cleanup time in your home. Allegany State Park brings the fun in May with the Adventure Run on May 7, the GeoBash on May 20–22, and the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage the first weekend in June. Let your creative side blossom at Rock City Park’s Art and Craft Show during Mother’s Day Weekend, and make sure to have the motorcycle out of the garage in time for Gowanda’s Hollywood Happening the first weekend in June.

So get into the swing of spring ,and get outdoors in the Enchanted Mountains of Western NY!

One for the Ladies: Parks Named for Inspiring Women

There are more than a handful of women whose contributions toward parks did not go unnoticed, which sometimes ends with a dedication to them in the form of a state park name. It’s a pretty big honor, and it also goes to show that women have done a lot to help the outdoors industry expand as well as contribute to our beloved parks. So this Women’s History Month—and really, what should be the standard all year round—we’re tipping our hats to these awesome female-inspired parks.

Women’s Rights National Historical Park and the Cayuga-Seneca Canal, New York

Suffragists at Seneca Falls.

Just some suffragists doin’ their thang. [Image: https://whitmansyawp.wordpress.com/]

This glorious national historic park represents the area where men and women first gathered to discuss the possibility of women’s rights, the location of the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls. You can watch a film talking about the amazing women who fought for women’s right to vote, then head to the museum and the Wesleyan Chapel where the convention was held. There are also tours of the homes of suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mary Ann M’Clintock, and Jane Hunt. It’s a great place to start when looking to gain more information about the importance of equal rights in America.

Jenny Wiley State Resort Park, Kentucky

Jenny Wiley State Resort Park.

Beautiful park with a rather dark history. [Image: http://eastkyecho.com/]

Originally named Dewey Lake State Park, this park was renamed in the late 1950s shortly after becoming an official Kentucky State Park for badass frontierwoman Virginia “Jenny” Sellards Wiley. Jenny was a tough woman who endured an accidental Indian attack that was meant as revenge against her neighbors; she watched her attackers kill all of her children, and was then taken hostage by them for 11 months. Although she faced horrors that many cannot even fathom, she remained resolved to escape from her captors. After almost being killed by a tribe, she eventually escaped and found her way back home. Now that’s a strong lady and an aptly named park!

Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument, California

Hearst Castle.

Now that’s a heck of a castle designed by a heck of a woman. [Image: http://www.parks.ca.gov/]

Although not necessarily named for a woman, the famous Hearst Castle was designed by an awesome female designer, Julia Morgan. In 1894, she was the first woman to graduate from the University of California’s School of Engineering. She went on to design more than 800 buildings in California, including the San Francisco Fairmont Hotel. If that isn’t impressive, we’re not sure what is.

Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park, Florida

Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park.

Certainly no one is complaining that so many fought to protect this area. [Image: http://www.flickriver.com/]

This park gets its name from environmental activist Anna Dagny Johnson, who was the leader of many groups (including the Upper Keys Citizens Association and the Izaak Walton League) that worked to stop planned developments in north Key Largo. They rallied together under Johnson’s leadership to preserve onshore communities and protect offshore coral reefs. Now that’s an admirable lady!

Even though Women’s History Month is over, you’re free to enjoy these lovely parks still—we won’t judge you for your late arrival. Make sure you have our handy dandy Pocket Ranger® mobile apps with you to make your trips more enjoyable and easy.

Start to Thaw Out in the Enchanted Mountains of Western New York with the Annual Maple Weekends

Contributed by Cattaraugus County Tourism

People in a cafeteria area at maple weekends

[Image: Cattaraugus County Tourism]

Cattaraugus County has many tree-lined hills covered with maple trees. This makes March and April some of the best times of year. Why, you ask? Maple season! Time for some sweet, syrupy goodness! With all these beautiful maple trees around, you can bet that we have some of the best tasting maple syrup around as well as maple farms that range from family size to full-on, year ’round productions.

All of New York State shares in this splendid time of year when the world around us starts to thaw out and the sap starts to flow. Therefore, we devote two maple weekends each year to our maple farms. You can tour one of the participating farms, try samples, join in on fun activities, or just purchase some of this liquid goodness. So how does warming up with a hot pile of pancakes sound to ease the cold of winter?

March is the beginning of a season of tradition where local maple farms begin to tap the trees in hopes of some sweet sap flowing down into their buckets. The time period between winter and spring is best for collection, with temperatures around 40 degrees being ideal. Nowadays, trees are tapped with cordless drills and small plastic spouts are placed to run the sap into a hanging bucket. But technology is always changing the ways people do anything, exploding into this process as well. Some maple farms have intricate webs of tubing, going straight from the tree to the tank with vacuums to draw out that delicious sap. Each farm uses the same basic idea to get the sap, but have different techniques and processing systems to bring syrup to your table.

People in a cafeteria at maple weekends

[Image: Cattaraugus County Tourism]

During the maple weekends of March 19–20 and April 2–3 from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. each day, some of our maple farms open their sugarhouses, set out the samples, and invite all to share in their love of one of the sweetest products Mother Nature produces. This activity is great for families and is kid-friendly. So lose those winter blues by heading outdoors, learning about your surroundings, and thawing out with Maple Weekends!

Sprague’s Maple Farm in Portville

Offers wagon rides to their authentic old-fashioned Sugar Shack where they have delicious samples waiting for you to try! Have you ever tasted maple wine? Learn a little about the various grades of syrup, sample the different ranges, eat a maple donut, or just stand next to evaporator and take in the smell of boiling sap. You will be sniffing your coat the rest of the week! Starting out as a hobby over 30 years ago, this huge farm now boasts a restaurant serving all your maple favorites as well as free-range turkey dinners. Maple is used in almost every dish that is served, making anything you order sweet and savory.

Wright Farms in Farmersville

It’s worth a visit to see how they are able to manage 8,000 taps. Five generations of Wright’s have worked to maintain the tradition of producing maple syrup and maple products on the farm since 1840. In fact, one of those generations was inducted into the American Maple Museum’s Hall of Fame in 1978 for his contributions to the maple industry. Besides syrup, they make maple cream, which can be used as a topping for pancakes, waffles, french toast, hot cereal, fresh fruit, ice cream, and more!

Boberg’s Maple in Delevan

Known for their Maple Cream, visit Boberg’s for a tasty treat! Their process is more traditional, with older equipment adding to the charm of the Farm. Warm up to this family owned and operated business. Samples are available.

The Pancake House at Moore’s in Freedom

They’re still serving up “all you can eat” pancakes from January to mid-April! Their unique restaurant is also filled with a selection of antiques, including a washing machine, sleds, tools, chinaware, knickknacks, and other memorabilia. This year, they are offering wagon rides to the Sugar Shack, samples, and more fun! Discover why you will be travelling back to this Pancake House over and over again throughout the season.

Maple Glen Sugar House in Gowanda

About 40 miles south of Buffalo, they recently remodeled their sugarhouse. You can come in during Maple Weekends and see the evaporator at work, sample some goodies, and learn about their farm that started out 20 years ago and now takes care of over 4,000 taps! In the past, they had horse-drawn wagon rides, tours, and demonstrations as well as other food you can buy. See what surprises they have for you this year.

Bottles and decor at Cattaraugus County Maple Weekend

[Image: Cattaraugus County Tourism]

Whatever farm you decide to go to, admission is FREE and all are more than happy to welcome you to their sugarhouse with a sweet, warm aroma of heated maple syrup. Each farm takes pride in their product and are happy to be doing what they are. Come to Cattaraugus County and embrace our agricultural side—your stomach will thank you!

Are two weekends not enough? Then keep a heads up for the Franklinville’s WNY Maple Festival April 24–25—two days of pancake eating, craft items, a parade, and live demonstrations. Read more about these events and places on our website, or get more information by calling 1-800-331-0543 or emailing info@enchantedmountains.com.

Looking to State Parks during Black History Month

State parks are steeped in history, and as such, there are many that come to mind as important during Black History Month. While utilizing parks for the plethora of activities and outdoor fun available are great ways to get involved, it’s also important to recognize the work that went into their foundation and the history behind the grounds that you’re traversing over. Here are just a few that are worth a visit during this iconic month.

T.O. Fuller State Park, Tennessee

T.O. Fuller State Park.

[Image: http://tnstateparks.com/]

Known as a park full of great birding and hiking opportunities, T.O. Fuller State Park is certainly a site to behold. What makes it especially notable, however, is its ties to black history. It was the first state park open to African Americans east of the Mississippi River and was originally known as Shelby County Negro State Park in the 1930s. The name was later changed to honor Dr. Thomas O. Fuller who empowered and educated African Americans during his lifetime.

Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, California

Lt. Colonel Allen Allensworth.

Lt. Colonel Allen Allensworth. [Image: https://en.wikipedia.org/]

Colonel Allensworth SHP preserves the town of Allensworth, which is the only California town to be founded, financed, and governed by African Americans. It was a farming community founded with the intention of improving the economic and social status of African Americans in the early 1900s. One of the founders, Lt. Colonel Allen Allensworth, created the town with the hopes of it becoming known as the “Tuskegee of the West,” modeled after Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute. It was a place for blacks to live and start a life outside of the confines of segregated society.

Fort Mose Historic State Park, Florida

Fort Mose.

Tour the salt marshes at Fort Mose while learning about its rich history. [Image: http://audubonoffloridanews.org/]

Found in St. Augustine, Florida, Fort Mose is possibly one of the most important pieces of black history in America. It was founded in 1738 and was the first legally sanctioned free community comprised of ex-slaves. The park includes an interactive museum that helps visitors dive into the history of this site, complete with staff reenacting history while dressed in traditional garb.

Underground Railroad Heritage Trail, New York

Underground Railroad map.

Map of various Underground Railroad routes. [Image: http://newyorkhistoryblog.org/]

New York was a haven for many slaves seeking freedom, and it was accessed best through the Underground Railroad. With the help of abolitionists, the Underground Railroad was a series of safe houses and secret routes that slaves would use to escape to free states or Canada. New York was often sought out due to its proximity to water and Canada. It was also home to many free slaves who fought for equality since New York’s manumission of slaves in 1827. There are many sites across the state that delve further into this part of New York’s history.

Make sure you use our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to help aid you in your adventuring this month. Our handy park history section can help inform you on the early days of your favorite sites.

Take the Polar Bear Plunge

You may have seen people recently congregating on the beach around the holidays, clad in bathing suits and trying to stifle their shivers. Excitement and nervousness floods the air, then suddenly, people make a mad dash for the water. “They’ve lost their minds!” you may have thought. Actually, they were probably just taking part in the local Polar Bear Plunge where participants hop into the freezing waters to see how long they can last. Some brave souls swim around for a bit (usually until they’re limbs are numb, which surprisingly doesn’t take too long), but often people just go in quick enough to immerse themselves once and then head straight for a warm towel.

People dressed as polar bears for the Polar Bear Plunge.

Polar Bear…Plunge. Get it? [Image: http://theweek.com/]

So where exactly did this quirky tradition originate from? It actually dates back to over 100 years ago in Scandinavian bathhouses where overheated sauna-goers would plunge into icy waters to get immediate relief (this can still be seen if you visit a banya or other type of bathhouse today). Now, however, it has transformed into a way to ring in the New Year, a way to challenge yourself, and a platform for raising money for various charities.

Cold man in Polar Bear Plunge.

Probably an appropriate reaction. [Image: http://www.seattle.gov/]

In the United States, the tradition dates back to the early 1900s. Boston is the oldest, starting in 1904, with Milwaukee’s Bradford Beach not far behind, beginning in 1916. They’re in plenty of other places, as well—especially around the New Year. Since 1993, Seattle has held an annual plunge; both Lake George and Coney Island in New York have plunges; there’s a plunge in Evergreen, Colorado; the plunge in Minnesota raises money for the Special Olympics; and there are also plunges in New Hampshire and New Jersey! Maryland’s plunge, called Plungapalooza and located in Sandy Point State Park, is the largest in the country. It has raised over $2 million for the Special Olympics and seen more than 7,400 participants in the past.

Even if you miss ringing in the new year with an icy swim, there are a few plunges that take place after the holidays. Long Beach, New York hosts one of the largest plunges on Super Bowl Sunday and donates all its proceeds to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. You can also head to Great Slave Lake in the Arctic Circle in March for “Freezin’ for a Reason.”

 Pat Hallor lays in the frigid ice filled water during his dip. The annual Polar Bear Plunge in Milwaukee was held at Bradford Beach on Wednesday, January 1, 2014. Photo by Mike De Sisti / MDESISTI@JOURNALSENTINEL.COM

This picture gives us chills—literally. [Image: http://www.jsonline.com/]

If you’re looking for goals to add to your bucket list or are keen on swimming in chilly temperatures, then you should probably check out the Polar Bear Plunge. Download our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to see what parks host them near you, too!