Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Chautauqua County, NY

  • Published 2022/12/25

Lying along the southwest corner of the state of New York is the charming and scenic Chautauqua County.

Established in 1808, the county is named after a word in one of the only surviving Erie languages, which meant “where the fish was taken out,” alluding to the biggest lake in the area.

Historians know Chautauqua County to be a region of “firsts” because many significant historical events occurred here.

From the initiation of several world-renowned organizations to the first battles in different wars, this county has seen many unforgettable moments in the past.

Apart from having a rich history, the county is also popular for being a hub of outdoor recreation and educational trips.

In fact, since there are about six lakes and around a 50-mile shoreline of Lake Erie in the county, each town or city in the region is near open water, making it easier for tourists to have fun under the sun.

There are also numerous centers and museums you can visit to enhance your knowledge of different topics.

To discover all the must-visit places in the area, check out these 15 best things to do in Chautauqua County, New York:

Explore the Dunkirk Lighthouse

Facade of Dunkirk Lighthouse

karenfoleyphotography /

Take in the spectacular sight of the beautiful Lake Erie when you climb the historic Dunkirk Lighthouse.

Dunkirk Lighthouse is accessible through Point Drive in Dunkirk and stands right next to Lake Erie.

This structure was built in 1827 and continues to guide ships that glide through the nearby waters today!

This lighthouse stands at 61 feet and offers visitors a great view that can go as far as 27 miles.

Climb up the lighthouse and be amazed by the stunning scenery.

You can also roam around the in-house museum and see military artifacts like photographs and documents that reveal the lighthouse’s significant role in history.

Discover the Comedy Industry at the National Comedy Center

If you are a fan of comedians, hilarious television shows, and movies that make you laugh out loud, then visiting the National Comedy Center is a must.

Located along 2nd Street in Jamestown, the National Comedy Center is a museum that features more than 50 exhibits about the comedy industry.

From iconic comedians to memorable comedy shows and films, you’ll find a lot to discover at this center.

Check out behind-the-scenes moments from comedy films and shows and viral memes!

You’ll also see a timeline that depicts the history of comedy, from its humble vaudeville beginnings to its new forms in today’s digital media age.

There are also exhibits here that will make you ponder how humor influences how humans live, think, and laugh.

Have a fun yet educational experience when you visit National Comedy Center.

Take a Peaceful Stroll along Long Point State Park on Lake Chautauqua

Appreciate the welcoming warmth of the sun and the scenic view of the waters as you stroll around Long Point State Park on Lake Chautauqua.

This state park is nestled along Route 430 in Bemus Point and features a longshore along the lake that you can walk on.

The locals consider it a historic destination since it’s one of the last remnants of the moraines that were formed through a glacier that retreated.

Today, this park is used by its visitors for a wide range of recreational activities.

If you want to do something besides strolling or walking around, you can go boating, fishing, and swimming here!

There are also hiking and biking areas around where you can explore the natural surroundings of Long Point State Park on Lake Chautauqua.

Learn about the Spiritualist Movement in the Area at the Lily Dale Museum

Exterior view of  Lily Dale Museum

Plazak, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Dive into the early history of the Spiritualist Movement as you look through the artifacts on display at the Lily Dale Assembly Museum.

Based on Library Street in Lily Dale, this museum features photos and many other memorabilia that show pioneer landmarks in the area.

You’ll also find snaps and personal items of the family who established Spiritualism in the area.

There are also many other exhibits on significant moments in the history of the area, like the women’s suffrage exhibition.

Walk through this museum and see paintings, pamphlets, and magazines that detail the history of Spiritualism.

Visiting Lily Dale Assembly Museum is a must if you are interested in the movement or are a certified history buff!

Enhance Your Knowledge of the Grape-Growing Industry at the Grape Discovery Center

Whether you love wine or just want to learn about how wineries work, you’ll appreciate a visit to the Grape Discovery Center.

The county is also filled with numerous wineries, and you’ll find out why when you visit this destination.

Located in Westfield, the Grape Discovery Center offers its visitors a glimpse into the region’s grape-growing and wine-making industries.

You’ll learn how to grow grapes properly and making wines taste just right as you explore the exhibits at this center.

There is also a tasting bar here where you can sample grape juice and wine while snacking on cured meats, artisanal cheese, and other snacks!

Don’t forget to stop by their gift shop to buy caps, mugs, and other memorabilia you can take home for yourself or gift your loved ones.

Take a Spin on Vintage Rides at Midway State Park

Bumper cars at Midway State Park

Mkbingcon, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Roam around Midway State Park and check out the vintage trains, carousels, and other amazing rides!

Midway State Park is nestled along Route 430 in Bemus Point and was founded in 1898.

This park is one of the oldest amusement parks in the country that continues to operate to this day.

Helicopter ride at Midway State Park

Mkbingcon, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Explore this destination and see the old rides, like the tilt-a-whirl and the vintage carousel.

If you just want a relaxing day, you can bring a packed meal and enjoy a picnic on the lush grass around the park.

There’s also a playground within the premises where your kids can play.

Ride at Midway State Park

Mkbingcon, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Witness a Breathtaking Sunset at Luensman Overview Park

Bring your significant other and bring some romance back into your relationship by watching the sunset over the stunning scenery at Luensman Overview Park.

Located along Thayer Road, Luensman Overview Park is a beautiful destination that will let you see about 70 acres of green scenery.

Here, you’ll also get a view of scenic Lake Erie and even the Canadian shore on a clear and sunny day!

You can explore the interpretive trails and the woodlands while waiting for the sun to set.

Spot birds and other wildlife as you roam around the park.

When the day ends, prepare to get the best seats to the sunset at the overlooking area of Luensman Overview Park!

Catch a Live Performance at Fredonia Opera House

Experience an extraordinary type of entertainment as you watch an electrifying show at Fredonia Opera House.

Fredonia Opera House is based on Church Street in Fredonia and offers a wide range of spectacular live productions.

This destination provides exceptional entertainment, from Broadway productions to music concerts and feature films!

Bring your family and friends and catch an outstanding show at this opera house.

Be amazed by all the talented actors and actresses on stage as they bring some of the best classical stories to life.

Whether you love theatre or you’re just in need of some entertainment, you’ll enjoy visiting this destination!

Feast Your Eyes on the Cosmos at Martz-Kohl Observatory

See stunning celestial bodies outside the planet when you visit Martz-Kohl Observatory.

Located along Robbin Hill Road in Frewsburg, Martz-Kohl Observatory welcomes anyone interested in seeing the beautiful wonders in the sky at night.

Here, you can use state-of-the-art telescopes to get a better view of the shining stars and even the stunning nearby planets!

You’ll also learn more about astronomy from the knowledgeable and helpful staff at the center.

If you want to see a specific planet on your visit, you can ask the guides about the right timing so you can schedule your visit appropriately.

Be in awe of the cosmos when you head to Martz-Kohl Observatory!

Celebrate the Life and Works of an Iconic TV Couple at the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum

Kitchen at Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum

Dr. Blazer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Discover more about the careers, legacies, and lives of both Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz at the Lucy Desi Museum.

Nestled along 3rd Street in Jamestown, Lucy Desi Museum is dedicated to celebrating the life and works of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, who both starred in what is considered to be the best TV comedy in history.

Here, you can check out exhibits and displays that focus on different aspects of the two talented actors.

Living room at Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum

Dr. Blazer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You’ll also learn fun facts about the legendary show they starred in and even get to take photos with an accurate re-creation of the sets.

See props, costumes, and many other items that were used in the “I Love Lucy” show.

You can also check out the awards won by the show and even find out how this show has inspired many other motion pictures.

Pose with the Statues at Lucille Ball Memorial Park

Strike a pose and snap photos with the statues at Lucille Ball Memorial Park.

Nestled along Boulevard Avenue in Celoron, this memorial park is dedicated to Lucille Ball, an actress who is known to be one of the pioneers of comedy in the industry.

This park features two statues depicting the said actress, which have become popular among the locals.

The first statue poorly depicted the stunning actress, garnering it the name “Scary Lucy,” while the latest sculpture more elegantly portrays Lucille Ball, which is why it is called “Lovely Lucy.”

Even though more people loved the “Lovely Lucy” statue, the “Scary Lucy” one was not removed since it gained so much attention on social media.

Explore this memorial park and snap pictures with both of these iconic statues!

There are also picnic tables and play areas around Lucille Ball Memorial Park, making it a great destination for the whole family.

Have Fun under the Sun at Lake Erie State Park

Scenic view of Lake Erie State Park

LindsayB /

Spend quality time with your loved ones by taking a day trip to Lake Erie State Park.

Nestled along Route 5 in Brocton, Lake Erie State Park is a beautiful destination with stunning views of Lake Erie.

Apart from taking in the view, you can do so much more when you visit this park.

Shoreline of Lake Erie

Andre Carrotflower, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can hike around the breathtaking natural areas, run around with your kids in the play areas, or enjoy a meal at the picnic shelters.

Boating, kayaking, and snowmobiling are also fun activities you can do here, depending on the season.

There are also camping sites and cabins you could stay in if you want to spend the next few days at Lake Erie State Park.

Immerse Yourself in Nature at Chautauqua Gorge State Forest

Ground yourself and reconnect with nature as you explore Chautauqua Gorge State Forest.

If you’re into exploring great destinations in Mayville, add this stunning natural paradise to your list!

This breathtaking forest is accessible through Hannum Road and offers endless opportunities for outdoor recreational activities.

You can hike and even hunt as you roam around its 538 acres of space, or even ski and go snowshoeing, depending on the season.

While most people visit this destination to have some active fun, many people also explore this forest to find peace and connect with nature.

See the towering trees and gorgeous scenery this destination offers.

If you want to unwind by surrounding yourself with nature, Chautauqua Gorge State Forest is the best place to visit!

Check Out Historic Graves at Clymer Hill Cemetery

Stroll around Clymer Hill Cemetery and try to find some of the oldest graves in the area.

This cemetery is in Clymer and features the final resting places of some of the first individuals who lived there.

While walking around a cemetery may seem boring or scary, it’s an extraordinary way to learn about the region’s history.

See graves that date back to the Victorian era and early 19th century!

At Clymer Hill Cemetery, you can also check out magnificent obelisks and monuments of those laid to eternal rest in the area.

Spend an Afternoon Reading at Patterson Library

Entrance to Patterson Library

Anthony22 at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Treat your inner bookworm to a long reading session when you visit Patterson Library.

Patterson Library is located along Portage Street in Westfield and is the go-to destination for avid readers and book lovers.

When you visit this library, you’ll immediately feel that this is not some ordinary reading destination because of its grand architecture!

Its facade features detailed columns and a magnificent ceiling reminiscent of historic Athens.

Its interiors also have an Academic Revival design style that will surely inspire you to read more and widen your knowledge on different topics.

Explore this library and look through its massive range of literary works and books on display!

From fictional works to biographies of iconic individuals, you’ll find something to read at Patterson Library.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re a nature lover, outdoor enthusiast, or history buff, you’ll find something fun and memorable to do when you explore Chautauqua County.

Add these best things to do in Chautauqua County, New York, to your trip itinerary to make your visit more exciting!

What are you waiting for?

Start planning your excursion in the area today and make the most of your visit!

© All rights reserved.