There are more hidden treasures in Western New York than you may think. Nestled between the foothills and valleys of the Allegheny Plateau lies the small village of Ellicottville.
Founded in 1820, Ellicottville is known as a popular skiing and snowboarding destination in the wintertime but is quickly becoming a year-round tourist destination with other attractions like golfing, swimming, hiking, biking, local shopping, wineries, breweries, fine dining, casual dining and more. The town will soon celebrate its bicentennial in mid-July with free festivities, including street dancing in the park square, a reunion of the descendants of the 154th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Civil War memorabilia on display and a chicken barbeque. But even if you miss this anniversary, the Ellicottville Chamber of Commerce website keeps track of all the town’s upcoming events and festivities, so you can plan a trip for any season.
While Ellicottville is the closest drive south from Buffalo at about 55 minutes along Route 219, it’s about two hours from Rochester and three hours from Syracuse, making it a long but doable journey to make in one day if you’re a travel enthusiast or if you’ve just got the travel bug to see something new in Upstate New York.
So, whether you’re looking for a casual getaway or a fun and exciting weekend with your friends and family, Ellicottville has plenty of options for everyone, but we’ll highlight a few of our favorites from spending just one day in the town.
Holiday Valley Resort
You don’t need to be a winter sports enthusiast to visit Ellicottville, but the Holiday Valley is a must-stay if you’re interested in anything outdoorsy and recreational. While the wintertime does bring skiers and snowboarders to the mountain, the resort also offers summertime tourists a variety of packages that include golfing on a private golf course, mountain and e-biking rentals and trails, and chairlift rides to Spruce Lake. The four-season ski resort also provides a number of different lodging options for those who want a quick cozy stay at the Inn at Holiday Valley, a luxury condominium at the Tamarack Club or even a lodging property for short or long term rentals through their rental management office.
Sky High Adventure Park
But within the Holiday Valley are some of the most alluring attractions for kids and families. Sky High Adventure Park, the largest outdoor aerial adventure park in New York and third largest in the country, is designed for our hours of fun with 13 treetop courses varying in difficulty that reach heights of up to 68 feet and at least 43 zip lines. Children must be at least 7 years or older to climb the park, but all guests are equipped with harnesses with special safety guards. Sky High also features a climbing forest along real trees, the Sky Flyer Mountain Coaster, where riders can control their speed by zigzagging through the trees and up the mountain, and Mister Happy Gem Mining, where kids as young as two-years-old can pan for gemstones or fossils in an sluice that mimics old-fashioned gold-panning.
The Ratchet Hatchet
If you’ve never tried it but always wanted to, one of the most popular, thrilling and trendy activities to book for you and a bunch of your friends is axe-throwing, since bar games like darts and pool got the green light to resume in New York early this year. Ellicottville’s only axe-throwing lounge and bar, The Ratchet Hatchet, is open Thursday through Sunday and by appointment only with different package options, and they allow you to sign their waiver ahead of time on their website before your reservation. A very detailed FAQ list about cost, age limits, alcohol and cancelations is also available to view before you “axe” the staff any additional questions.
Ellicottville Brewing Company
For the beer lovers with a passion for supporting local businesses, Ellicottville Brewing Company offers more than two dozen seasonal and specialty beers right in the heart of Ellicottville. It’s also one of Upstate New York’s oldest craft breweries since 1995, and EBC now owns three locations in western New York for their commercial selling and two brewhouses for their production since opening Ellicottville Brewing at Little Valley in 2018. But in the small ski town where it all began, EBC is a year-round brewpub with fresh American cuisine, authentic German brewhouse tanks where they continue to produce their beer and a European-style beer garden for outdoor seating in the summer. Whether you enjoy hops or not, their menu has a flavor for every taste this summer, from a crisp Blueberry Wheat Ale and Blood Orange Hefeweizen to a classic Ellicottville IPA.
The Tee Bar
Ice cream is supposed to make you smile, and The Tee Bar is probably one of the best and only ice cream shops in Ellicottville to get a cold scoop of soft serve in a homemade waffle cone. With a hip and fun logo design, stock of Ellicottville branded T-shirts and hoodies for tourists and many photos of young people enjoying their ice cream on their social media, this spot appeals to the millenials or families with young kids who want a refreshing treat this summer when visiting the village.
Across Upstate New York, there’s no shortage of chocolatiers that make their own handcrafted sweets specific to their region. In western New York, Buffalo was named one of the top six candy capitals of the world, according to a ranking from SmarterTravel in 2017, for its abundance of sponge candy-makers. In Ellicottville, the best place to get your sponge candy, chunks of caramelized spun sugar coated in melted chocolate, is Watson’s Chocolates. This local candy company has a long history of more than 75 years and four generations of family-owned experience in the chocolate business. Their Ellicottville location is one of eight stores statewide with online ordering on their website. In addition to sponge candy, there are chocolate creams, caramels, truffles, turtlettes, butter crunches, nut clusters and more. If you’re a chocolate lover, you can’t pass up an opportunity to stop by Watson’s and build your own assortment of favorites straight from the candy counter.
The Purple Doorknob
Have you ever wanted to find an entire store just to shop for a funny pair of socks? Then you can walk right up to the bright purple exterior of The Purple Doorknob in the village of Ellicottville. Whether you’re physically in their store or online on their website site, you can browse their collection of novelty socks for men, women and children for any occasion, emotion, activity or hobby. There are Christmas socks, socks with alcohol jokes on them, cat and dog lover socks, food socks, superhero socks — and that’s just to name a few. With so many colors and designs, you’re bound to find something fun and quirky to fit your feet and your personality.
If you’re more interested in taking a leisurely walk through a calm setting, the Nannen Arboretum might be the perfect place for you to reflect and explore a little nature. Managed by the Nannen Arboretum Society and the Town of Ellicottville, this eight acre garden was designed to provide natural resource education and nature appreciation for people of all ages. Trees from all over are planted along the main trail with many signs and markers to educate visitors on their origins. It’s open from dusk to dawn, 365 days of the year and donations are welcome to further the support and conservation of the arboretum and the volunteers who maintain it. People can also schedule a wedding or special event under the Chapman Sanctuary, an outdoor chapel inside the arboretum, or donate a memorial brick to the Celebration Walkway that leads to it.
Ellicottville Salt Cave & Spa
Some tourists might come to Ellicottville just to relax or unwind, but if you want to experience an innovative yet ancient form of therapy that few spas can provide, you could book a session at Ellicottville Salt Cave & Spa. Halotherapy, or salt therapy, involves breathing in tiny salt particles in a confined space, which many medical professionals say can be an alternative treatment for people who struggle with asthma, bronchitis, cough and other lung problems, because salt can help loosen congestion or widen airways. Inside the spa’s European-style cave built by Polish architects sits more than 20 tons of Himalayan salt for people to sit inside and experience the cave. One session for 45 minutes in the cave is $40 per person for up to 4 people in one private party and $35 for seniors and children under 10. And if you don’t believe in the healing powers of the salt cave, the spa also offers different packages with their infrared sauna, foot scrubs, massages and facials for you to relax however you like when you stay in Ellicottville.
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