A Perfect Leaf-Peeping Vacation in New York State

Upstate New York Fall Leaves
October Leaves Surrounding Chautauqua, New York

I was born and raised in Rochester, NY, home of Kodak, the world’s largest lilac collection, and Susan B. Anthony. Even though I no longer live there, I still take the opportunity to travel home to visit family and the beautiful surrounding area as much as I can. Here’s how we took the perfect leaf-peeping vacation in New York State.

Southern Tier New York State: Chautauqua Institution in the Fall

In honor of my sister’s 50th birthday, we made the trip to New York State in October, combining our trip to Rochester, NY with a visit to the world-renowned Chautauqua Institution.

Chautauqua is, in their words:

A community of artists, educators, thinkers, faith leaders and friends dedicated to exploring the best in humanity.

It’s also a truly spectacular place to visit in the fall. Our trip was mid-October, and the absolute perfect time to see the fall leaves in all their glory. Despite the fact that most of the homes are closed up for the winter, sporting huge awnings to protect them from the harsh winters, the grounds are a sight to behold. Their bookstore is still open in October, and I spent much too much time looking at all the unique and clever gifts, spending too much money as well!

Operating continually since it was completed in 1881, the Victorian Athenaeum Hotel is located on the grounds of the institution facing the beautiful Chautauqua Lake. A Road Scholar group was meeting in the hotel during our visit, so we kept our poking around confined to the lobby and the surrounding conference rooms. I can picture people from the Victorian Age gathered on the expansive front porch discussing things of great importance like politics, philosophy, literature, and travel. While there, take a look at the interior lighting, as some of the early wiring of the hotel was completed by Thomas Edison.

Athenaeum Hotel
The historic Athenaeum Hotel in Chautauqua, NY

Things to Do In The Chautauqua, New York Area

There are plenty of things to do in the Chautauqua, New York area, even in the fall when most of the Institution is closed. After visiting the Institution, we traveled a few miles to the well-known Southern Tier Brewing Company, known especially for its Pumking beers, one of the first of its kind if I recall. I tried one of their stouts and it was delicious. We also hiked a beautiful local trail and visited several wineries, including Johnson Estate Winery, the oldest estate winery in New York State.

The Wayne County, New York Apple Cider Trail

After joining up with my sister in the Rochester, New York area, we headed out for the Wayne County New York Apple Tasting Tour, where we not only enjoyed some of the best-tasting apples anywhere (in my opinion) but also got in on a local winery’s annual grape harvest. I’ve never had the experience of picking ripe grapes from the vine, so this was a treat! In exchange for the volunteer work from the locals, the winery treats volunteers to pastries, coffee, snacks, and a beautiful dinner with, of course, their wine. The trail takes you along the shores of Lake Ontario, winding through some of the most beautiful apple orchards in the country.

We sampled fried cakes (don’t you dare call them donuts), cider, apples, and of course, hard cider from the various apple orchards along the trail. There are ten stops in total. The tour has an official app and passport, which you can download from their website, along with tips and prizes for completing their challenges.

More Travel Tips

If you like this leaf-peeping vacation in New York State, check out similar trip ideas perfect for a long weekend in Louisville, KY, the Finger Lakes, NY, a week in Torch Lake, MI, and more. If Europe is your jam (and it is mine) take a look at my tour reviews of my many European Tours here. Happy travels!


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