When the pandemic struck and COVID-19 turned our travel plans into a great big dumpster fire, we were forced to take a step back and reevaluate.
We’ve always been advocates of traveling in our own backyard, within a drivable distance to Buffalo, and the pandemic just kind of pushes that into the spotlight because let’s face it, that’s really all we have right now. You can plan trips a little bit further away, but realistically there’s a lot of uncertainty about where the rest of the U.S. will be a few months down the road. Some states are improving as others are taking a step back, so staying within New York State pretty much ensures that we can keep our trip alive and well. One thing New York State has no shortage of are beautiful parks that have gained nationwide attention.
If you’re looking for a quick trip South, head to Chautauqua Lake in Jamestown, NY. The area is full of fun things to do within a small distance of each other, and it is only a short hour drive from Buffalo!
Culture Catch-up: National Comedy Center
Fun fact: famous comedian, Lucille Ball is actually from Jamestown, so they have a museum to honor her memory along with the National Comedy Center. Here, you will find the best of the best comedians, interactive exhibits, and even viral memes! The museum often hosts events that are fun for the whole family so it’s well worth a trip regardless of age.
Nature Adventure: Panama Rocks Scenic Park
If it’s nature you crave, head to Panama Rocks Scenic Park. If you plan on visiting, you can register online and ensure your timeframe. Although walk-ins are available, they are trying to limit the number of people in the park at one time, so signing up is encouraged.
While the trail is on uneven ground, the hike itself is pretty moderate. It loops about a mile in length, but the real fun comes from going off the beaten path. In the Panama Rock Park, there are giant rock formations and boulders, secret passageways, and cold damp caves that you can explore if you’re brave enough.
Obviously enter at your own risk, but they fully encourage people to check out the formations, rock climb, and explore the caves, just be careful while doing so! If you do happen to get turned around after exploring the rocks and climbing through pathways off the main path, if you go in one direction, you’ll eventually make it back to the parking lot.
Where to Stay: Chautauqua Harbor Hotel
Planning to stay longer than a day? We highly recommend the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel. For starters, it has a waterfront view, but beyond that, it has an outdoor pool, friendly staff, and rooms with comfortable bedding and modern decor.
Jamestown is the perfect getaway if you’re looking for more of a staycation kind of getaway.
This guide was originally written and published in 2020 and has been updated. Some amenities may have changed since.