Fall has fallen upon us and it’s slowly but surely becoming everything your pumpkin-spiced dreams are made of. Western New York is consistently rated one of the best places in the United States to view the changing autumn leaves, so why not take advantage of the fact that you live here and go see ‘em? Here are 6 fall drives that will make you fall in love with fall more than you can imagine.
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1. Letchworth State Park
Hop on Route 20A and take it all the way to Routes 19 and/or 39. The drive is filled with wilderness, farms, hills, and virtually no other cars around. Your final destination is absolutely gorgeous. No matter what season you visit Letchworth State Park you’re going to be in for a treat, but during autumn when you’re completely surrounded by fiery colors of fall, the experience is much more magical. When you get hungry head to the Glen Iris Inn, a hotel built in 1914 within the Park. The restaurant at the Inn is called Caroline’s and their menu includes hearty entrees like prime rib, roasted duck, and herb-crusted racks of lamb. Caroline’s is open for both lunch and dinner, and they also sell picnics-to-go during the warmer months.
Avoid the chaotic usual ways to get here (we’re looking at you, Grand Island Bridge) and take the scenic route instead. Hop on the 270 near Getzville and go north, then turn left on the 31/Saunders Settlement Rd and take it all the way to Lewiston. Note: if you go straight for a little bit instead of turning left at the 31 you’ll come across the Cambria Corn Maze, and we say if you’ve got some extra time to get corny then this is the place for you. Once you eventually get to Lewiston put the car in park and enjoy a good old fashioned walk around town. Lewiston is a cute spot with lots to do – you may be lucky enough to coincide your trip with a wine festival, a jazz festival, a concert at Artpark, or one of the many other happenings that seem to always be going on in this town. Once your stomach starts to growl we highly recommend grabbing a bite to eat at Carmelo’s or Waterstreet Landing if you’re in the mood for a view.
Spice things up and take an international adventure to visit our neighbors to the north! Niagara-on-the-Lake is just a short drive further from Lewiston and it’s well worth the extra effort. Cross over the Rainbow Bridge (don’t forget those passports) and drive along the Niagara River up Canada’s Niagara Parkway for picture-perfect houses that will make you want to get a dual-citizenship.
After you arrive at Niagara-on-the-Lake check out the two Fort George National Historical Sites (one is a Battlefield from the War of 1812), walk along Mississauga Beach, or catch a show at the Shaw Theater, then head into town for a bite to eat at one of their many adorable eateries. Be sure to take a mini-wine tour or at the very least go to one of the areas many wineries and drink some wine. Mmm wine.
There are two ways to get here: Option 1 – take the 219 all the way (a beautiful option) OR Option 2 – be adventurous, possibly get lost, and spend the day driving aimlessly and discovering places you never knew existed. We like option number 2, so we’ll tell you that you can take the beautiful (especially this time of year) Sisson Highway (Route 75) all the way to where it ends in Collins then choose your own adventure. If you’ve had enough backroads for one day turn left on the 39 to get back to the familiar 219, or turn right on the 39 and discover some new territory. The choice is yours.
When you get to Salamanca you’d be crazy not to go to Allegany State Park to take in the cool autumn breeze, the colorful leaves, and the quietness of your surroundings before heading back home. There are more than a handful of places to eat in the area depending on what you’re in the mood for, again-choose your own adventure and let us know how it goes!
To get here you can either take the 62 all the way to the 86 or take Sisson Highway/75 to the 39 and then to the 62 and 86, but either way you’re in for a view. For extra scenery points leave a little earlier and drive around Chautauqua Lake before making your way into the town of Chautauqua.
While you’re in the area make sure to take a plethora of photos of the town’s beautiful Victorian Houses, visit one of Chautauqua’s many wineries, and head over to Southern Tier Brewing Company’s actual brewery. If you’re seeking more nature, then drive down the 474 and go to Panama Rocks, one of Western New York’s best kept secrets. You’ll find there are several restaurants and food stands along this journey, so keep your eyes/palates open and pop into whichever one looks the most appealing. Who knows, it could become your new favorite getaway spot.
The Finger Lakes region is a fairly easy day trip and Canandaigua is the closest and one of the prettiest “fingers” of them all. You can actually take Route 20 all the way there, which is only about 20 minutes longer than taking the thruway and is infinitely prettier, plus there are no tolls! The ground in this area is more fertile/suitable for growing wine, so stopping at a winery or two or ten should be at the top of your list.
In addition to all of the wineries in the area, you should make it a point to visit the Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion Historic Park, a summer home built in 1887 by a wealthy New York City banker. Of course, the grounds also have a tasting room with a rotating selection of wines called the Finger Lakes Wine Center.
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This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated.