A Southtowns WNY Getaway

Let’s be real: the last six months have been exhausting. This is not how we were meant to be living, and it’s okay to step away and take a break for a little while. Not just okay, maybe even necessary.

That’s part of why Ryan and I took a mini-weekend trip to the Southtowns a few weeks ago for his birthday. Obviously, we played it very smart and safe amidst the ongoing coronavirus, taking all the necessary precautions, but it still felt good to just escape for a few days.

We didn’t leave NYS, so we didn’t have to deal with any travel restrictions or quarantine requirements. We headed to the Southtowns, where the COVID-19 rate is lower than at home in Erie County. And, of course, we brought along plenty of hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes and wore our face coverings.

That Friday night, we stayed at the Inn at Holiday Valley. I actually had a free night to redeem from Hotels.com, so we used that. While we enjoyed our experience, I’ll be quite frank: it wouldn’t be my first choice to stay there again. When I walked into the building to check-in, there were two staff members behind the desk. Neither of them even looked away from the computer, looked up, greeted me or anything for several minutes. One of them walked away, and the other finally greeted me before saying “I don’t know how to check you in.” Just not great customer service, in my opinion.

Our room also smelled a bit musty (perhaps an indication of the lack of traffic they’ve seen due to the pandemic). And while I understand their options are limited in terms of what they can do for breakfast service, their “to-go” package was…. a small apple juice box and a package of graham crackers. Not even cereal, or fresh fruit?

Otherwise, there were some positive components! I usually don’t like rooms that open right to the outside, but it was nice having the car parked *right* outside there. I also loved that we had a little outdoor sitting area of our own to enjoy the view of the hills and the chairlift and all that. I can imagine how nice it must be in the winter!

We got dinner to-go from John Harvard’s Brew House just down the road, and that was great. I enjoyed the BBQ chicken dinner, while Ryan had the BBQ pork. We ate in our hotel room and it was fine. I also snagged a few cupcakes from a local bakery, Cupcaked!, to celebrate Ryan’s birthday. Those were delicious – definitely a special treat.

On Saturday, we found an outdoor mini-golf course and played a few games there. It was so strange – doing something NORMAL… I honestly can’t remember the last time I went out and did something like that. We then spent the night at the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel, located in Celoron, right on Chautauqua Lake. That was a great experience, and I look forward to returning there someday – for a longer stay. We booked a king room with a lake view, and what a view it was! Definitely worth the extra dollars for the view, and next time I’ll splurge a little more and get a room with a balcony. (We did have a door in our room that opened, though, so we got the benefits of the fresh air!)

On Saturday night, we had dinner outside at the Carousel Bar located at the hotel. It was our first time eating out at a restaurant since March, and I felt okay about it for a number of reasons. Seating was very limited and well spaced-out. The food offerings are limited and there are no menus – so less to worry about everyone touching. They also used plastic/paper cups, plates, etc., which isn’t environmentally friendly *BUT* is definitely easier on the mind in times of COVID. Ryan and I split one of their big pretzels and then shared one of the wood-fired pizzas. It was great!

The hotel also has some nice outdoor seating, including a few fire pits. We didn’t use any of those (nor the pool) but lots of other folks did. We got breakfast to-go from the restaurant onsite, and it was expensive but definitely a “treat yourself” moment. We ate in our hotel room and it was overall a really enjoyable experience there. The hotel is right on the lake, which is so nice, and right next to a park honoring Lucille Ball. On our travels, we also stopped around Jamestown and at Lucille Ball’s childhood home.

We finally headed home on Sunday and then it was back to normalcy… or whatever sense of normal life we have nowadays. Honestly – it felt really good to get away for a few days. We couldn’t escape the thought of coronavirus, of course – having to sanitize everything, wear our face masks, etc. – but it was nice to at least not have to deal with normal responsibilities on top of pandemic responsibilities for a few days.

Our other stop over the weekend was at the Griffis Sculpture Park on our way down to Ellicottville. We only briefly stopped/drove through part of the park, but we did get to see several of the sculptures and it was neat! I’d love to go again someday and explore a bit further. We truly have so many gems in WNY and so many that are close to home, just a short drive away. At no point during the weekend were we ever more than a 90-minute drive from Buffalo, but it can feel like a whole different world. I look forward to seeing more!