When you mention
Ellicottville, people in Western New York and Southern Ontario often think about skiing. Yes, this quaint village, located only 120 kilometres (90 miles) from the Niagara border is one of the major
ski destinations in the east, but it's also a place where
non-skiers spend leisurely days away from
the slopes any time of the year. About 25 per cent of the homes in this village of 500, set in a valley near the foothills of the
Allegheny Mountains, are owned by Canadians, and most are from the Niagara area. Why are so many Canadians living and playing here? Dave Stuart of St. Catharines who has owned a place in Ellicottville for the past 25 years says that's easy to answer, "It's not far away and easy to get too. It's also a unique melting pot of various cultures. This is a real working town filled with lots of fascinating people who practice old-fashioned courtesy. It doesn't hurt that the Canadian dollar is also so strong now."
Some of the appeal is Ellicottville's compact, pretty-as-a-postcard downtown. It's a walker's delight. You will find the area void of big-box retailing. There are plenty of historic brick and wooden buildings that have been re-born as unique, quirky, crayon-coloured stores and restaurants. Keep your eyes open for
Earth Arts which features local and regional arts and crafts. My grandchildren like it when I visit Kazoo 11; they have a full floor of timeless toys.
Watson's Chocolates is renowned for its Sponge Candy. It's the ultimate in chocolate luxury. New to the downtown is
The Winery of Ellicottville where they produce their own wines on site. If you prefer barley to grapes, check out the nearby
Ellicottville Brewing Company and their fabulous craft beers. At one end of the main street is a white gothic style
St. John's Episcopal Church, built in 1837. It cries out to be photographed.
When time to eat I head to one of my favourite eating spots. The
Gin Mill is an Ellicottville institution since 1976. At this popular watering-hole you can choose to eat your meal on an old-fashioned chrome stool or slide into a high-backed hardwood booth. You won't go wrong when you order the Ostrich Burger with carrot sticks for $7.99. Quaff it down with one of their micro brews. Expect wall to wall people on weekends.
Venture off the main drag (Washington Street) and walk the tree-lined side streets. You will see lovingly preserved and well maintained 19th century homes. Look for several trees that sport "interesting faces."
If you want to stay overnight, there are a number of hotels and bed and breakfast to choose from. One B&B I like very much is the elegant country inn Ilex Inn B and B just on the outskirts of town .Expect to pay $125.00 for two on the weekends.
On this visit, I accepted an offer to stay at a luxury vacation home, with the thought of purchasing. Ellicott Villas is a new development of 16 spacious vacation homes. These homes start at just under $100,000. Hey, who knows, maybe I'll win the lottery and become one of those Canadians that call Ellicottville their seasonal home.
One of the other appeals about this village is the multitude of festivals throughout the year. Brian Mac Fadden, General Manager of the Chamber of Commerce, says, "We have 11 festivals throughout the year. One of our most popular is the upcoming Summer Music Festival from July 1 to 3rd. There's a performance by the Rusted Roof on Friday evening, on Saturday evening the Buffalo Philharmonic and rounding out the weekend is a concert by KC & the Sunshine Band on Sunday evening. The price of tickets range from $25.00 to $35.00."
When able to drag yourself away from the village, take a short drive to nearby
Allegheny State Park. Chances are you will pass some of the local Amish residents travelling the same roads in horse-drawn buggies.
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.