We drive along Highway 219 South in
New York State. We own the highway. It's an early weekday morning and for kilometres both ways, there is not a car to be seen. Above us are gorgeous blue skies and around us a variety of oak, maple and cherry trees awash with flaming pumpkin orange, candy-apple red, and other shades of russet crimson and amber leaves. We enter a lovely valley in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains, arriving at one of our favorite destinations, the tiny village of Ellicottville.
Brian McFadden, amiable Executive Director of the Ellicottville Chamber of Commerce, says, "We're an outdoor community with plenty of festivals and other things to do year-round."
My wife Ellen and I make our way to Sky High Adventure Park at Holiday Valley Resort to experience two new attractions. The Aerial Adventure Park is a playground amidst trees. Fitted with a harness, we head for a series of platforms nestled in a forest. We climb 14 metres, like climbing a wall, but the "wall" is composed of trees.
The new fall Chairlift rides on Spruce Lake atop the mountain afford a spectacular valley view. Another attraction, the Mountain Coaster, a roller coaster, is built on the edge of a mountain.
Ski Season at Holiday Valley Resort, rated the 5th best resort in Eastern North America by Ski Magazine, starts the beginning of December.
We take the 10- minute drive outside the village to Great Valley to visit "Pumpkinville." Diane and Dan Pawloski purchased a mediocre pumpkin farm in 1996 and turned it into one of the area's most popular places during October. Leave room for their freshly-baked pumpkin donuts!
Other activities to consider: Stroll downtown Ellicottville and visit the unique shops. Most close at 5 pm. Pick up a "Historic Village Walking Guide" and stroll the side streets to soak up the history of the village. We stock up on cheese at the newly opened, EVL Cheese Company. Owner Sarah Bradley proudly shows us over 225 types of cheese. The shop is open daily 10 am until 6pm.
Nearby is the Winery of Ellicottville. Wine Maker Sam Sheehy says he has 20 different types of wines, many of them award winners, and he has the trophies to prove it. You can sample six wines for $3.00.
If you prefer barley instead of grapes, walk a block to the Ellicottville Brewing Company on Monroe Street to sample craft beer. When we arrive, Brewer Dan Minner is helping to install large new stainless steel fermenters. Minner says, "It's safe to say the brewery has on tap 14 different styles of craft brews at any given time and throughout the year, 30 different types."
For a quick coffee and pastry, Coffee Culture is a winner. We sit outside near the gas fireplace. Bring a book to read. The Barn Restaurant is a local favourite. Arrive on a Friday and order their $10 fish and fries. I bet you can't eat it all. The inside court patio of the Ellicottville Brewing Company has a nice menu. We enjoyed the spicy African peanut soup and shared a pastrami Rueben sandwich.
The village has a number of lovely B&B's but we stay at the smart-looking, comfortable Wingate by Wyndham in the heart of town. General Manager, Michael Sherburne, and his staff are sticklers for detail. Included in the price of the room is a hot and cold morning buffet.
Sarah and Shannon hamming it up for the camera
George Bailey contributes to Sun Media's 43 paid-circulation newspapers across Canada as well as numerous magazines. George has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, Canada AM, the Discovery Channel, and Live with Regis and Cathy Lee. He has published five books on Niagara Falls.
A well-known winter destination, Ellicottville boasts the most popular ski resort in New York State, Holiday Valley Resort and North America's largest private ski area, HoliMont Ski Resort. But visitors are discovering that Ellicottville has a lot of appeal in the green season too. -