If you'd rather not change accommodations nightly, Buffalo can be your base for exploring much of the surrounding area -- it's only about 75 miles to the Pennsylvania border. Niagara Falls, of course, should be one of your destinations. Another thing you'll likely want to do is to take a drive either south along Lake Erie or northeast along Lake Ontario -- the views over both of these Great Lakes are spectacular. Follow the Seaway Trail, which blazes a path from top to bottom, and check out the historic and informative stops along the way. If you head inland, the landscape quickly transforms into mile upon mile of rural farmland. You probably won't want to do much random exploring through the back roads, but there's plenty worth seeing. You'll find quirky museums celebrating everything from the kazoo to Lucille Ball, along with one of the nation's premier educational vacation spots and one of the state's best parks.
Getting There -- A car is absolutely essential in this rural part of the state.
Visitor Information -- Cattaraugus County Tourism, 303 Court St., Little Valley (tel. 800/331-0543; www.enchantedmountains.info), is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm.
Museums & Attractions
When we went to press, the wonderful Toy Town Museum, in East Aurora, was temporarily closed, in the process of finding a new location in town. But it's worth tracking down this small museum, which preserves some of America's earliest dolls and playthings, as well as some of the latest toy crazes. Call the Chamber of Commerce (tel. 716/652-8444) to get the scoop.
Offbeat Museums in and around Buffalo -- Jell-O was discovered long before Bill Cosby was born, and the world-famous dessert can trace its roots to this area -- in particular, the town of LeRoy. For the entire history of the gelatinous stuff -- likely more than you ever wanted to know -- visit the Jell-O Gallery, 23 E. Main St., LeRoy (tel. 585/768-7433; www.jellogallery.org).
At the Lucy-Desi Museum, 212 Pine St., Jamestown (tel. LUCY-FAN; www.lucy-desi.com), you'll learn how Jamestown's hometown heroine Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz met and collaborated on what this museum calls "the most famous comedy series of all time." Yes, that's debatable, but if you're a fan, you'll enjoy the collection of clothes and merch. If you're not, give this place a pass.
Head to the Kazoo Museum, 8703 S. Main St., Eden (tel. 716/992-3960; www.edenkazoo.com), to find kazoos of all shapes and sizes: wooden kazoos, liquor-bottle-shaped kazoos that celebrated the end of Prohibition, silver and gold kazoos, and many more.
Okay, so the Pedaling History Bicycling Museum, 3943 N. Buffalo Rd. (Rte. 277), Orchard Park (tel. 716/662-3853; www.pedalinghistory.com), may not exactly qualify as offbeat, but it is highly specialized. And, frankly, this place -- the world's largest bicycle museum -- is amazing, with army bikes mounted with machine guns, tandem bikes with side-by-side seating, folding paratrooper bikes from World War II, the only surviving floating marine bike from the 1880s, and a bicycle built for five.
Wineries -- It's not just in the Finger Lakes region that you'll find nice upstate New York State wines. The southern shore of Lake Erie, with just a thin strip of soil suitable for grape production, has its own grape-and-wine heritage; the wineries make for a fun stop-off. Check out Johnson Estate Winery, 8419 W. Main Rd., Westfield (tel. 800/374-6569); Woodbury Vineyards, 3215 S. Roberts Rd., Fredonia (tel. 716/679-9463); and Merritt Estate Winery, 2264 King Rd., Forestville (tel. 888/965-4800).
Elbert Hubbard founded the Roycroft Arts and Crafts Community more than 100 years ago in the tiny town of East Aurora. Now, craftspeople carry on the fine workmanship of the Roycrofters -- makers of furniture, pottery, lamps, metalwork, and handcrafted books, all notable for their sturdiness and clean lines -- and have made it a big business here. Browse their galleries and shops; with any luck you'll see them at work. Go to the Schoolhouse Gallery & Cabinet Shops, 1054 Olean Rd. (tel. 716/655-4080), for some of the most beautiful works. Other artisans sell their work at West End Gallery, 48 Douglas Lane (tel. 716/652-5860).
For a step back in time of a different kind, visit Vidler's 5 & 10, 676-694 Main St., East Aurora (tel. 877/VIDLERS). Since 1930, this quaint store has been selling candies, confections, dry goods, and knickknacks. There's even a section of the store with the original wood floors -- and take note of the brass cash register.
The Amish maintain a small enclave on the eastern border of Chautauqua County and the western border of Cattaraugus County, bisected by Route 62 in the Conewango Valley area. Drive along Route 62 and you'll run across numerous shops selling cheese, crafts, and baked goods. Shops aren't open on Sunday and the Amish request that you not take photographs.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.