by | Jun 12, 2024 | Travel

When people plan a holiday, typically it’s around a beach vacation somewhere, maybe a shopping trip to a world capital like New York or London, or a luxury cruise ship excursion, island hopping somewhere south. What if there was a place where you can still unplug and unwind, but experience an overall enrichment of mind, body and spirit? Take Chautauqua Institution, for example, a not-for-profit, 750-acre community, located southwest of Buffalo, around a three-hour drive from Toronto, which blends music, dance, theatre, visual arts, opera, interfaith, a platform of distinguished lecturers, and recreational activities like golf, sailing, pickleball, boating, fishing and tennis.

And this is the year to go – Chautauqua Institution, being held June 22 to Aug. 25, is celebrating its 150th anniversary. People come here year after year for intellectual and spiritual growth. It’s not just a vacation – it’s an experience. That’s what people who come here will tell you. Chautauqua Institution also just so happens to be nestled on Chautauqua Lake, along with the beauty of its National Historic Landmark architecture.


Sunset Bay Beach

Guests stay at the historic Athenaeum Hotel, situated right on the grounds of Chautauqua Institution. The hotel is located on the lake, so it’s ideal in the summer to sit on the deck, have a cocktail or tasty bite, and take in the views. The lakeside bar at 3 Taps is another great location for that. The literary-themed Spencer Hotel & Spa, built in 1909, with 25 rooms, is another spot to stay, with rooms inspired by Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare and Elizabeth Browning.

Chautauqua Institution is a true learning vacation, where people can take multiple paths, bringing purpose to leisure time. Guests customize their programs, it’s multi-disciplinary, and inter-generational, around the four programming platforms (arts, education, recreation, religion). There are over 100 classes people can sign up for. Programs delve into the important social, political, and religious issues of our time. It’s a celebration of the arts (Chautauqua Institution has their own symphony orchestra, theatre and opera companies). More than 100,000 attend scheduled public events.

Chautauqua Lake Aerial Chautauqua Belle

Chautauqua Lake, Chautauqua Belle

The 4,400-seat, open-air Chautauqua Institution Amphitheater is the central gathering place, where the Signature Morning Lecture Series happens, performances by the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra and nationally touring entertainers, as well as family-friendly events like concerts and flying acrobats.

What’s on the schedule for the Chautauqua Institution this upcoming season? Noted poet, educator, producer and #1 New York Times bestselling author Kwame Alexander hosts a writers’ lab and conference June 18 at 6:30 p.m. at Smith Memorial Library. One of country music’s biggest stars, Martina McBride, a multiple Grammy nominee who has sold over 23 million albums, will open the 150th Anniversary season at Chautauqua on June 22 at the Amphitheater.

Presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham gives a talk entitled “The Evolution of the Modern Presidency” on June 24, 10:45 a.m. in the Amphitheater. Julian Castro and Kevin McCarthy are there July 19 at 10:45 a.m. in the Amphitheatre to talk current-day politics. The Beach Boys are stopping by. Wilco too. More details here.

Live Music At Big Inlet Brewing

Live music at Big Inlet Brewing

The lecture series, events around opera, classical music, literary arts, theater, visual arts exhibitions and classes available for people to attend – along with a plethora of water activities like kayaking, sailing and paddling, a 36-hole golf course, fitness and yoga classes, tennis, hiking – are too numerous to detail here. But there’s something for everyone. There are planning tools you can access via their website, to better organize your stay, and maximize what you get out of it.

Bottom line? Go to a special master class with one of the speakers going deeply into a subject of the week, maybe hear the symphony, take a nature walk, go to an art gallery, and at the end of the day enjoy a meal by the lake.

Chautauqua County is an idyllic summer community, with its beautiful natural spaces, as a wonderful backdrop, making it a true one-stop vacation experience.

Dunkirk Music On The Pier

Dunkirk Music on the Pier

There’s a ton of other things to do when you visit there this summer, as well. Just hop in the car and go. Dunkirk’s City Pier Park has the Music on the Pier summer concert series, which just sounds better during warm summer days. Lake Erie has fishing, birdwatching, a boat launch, and picnic facilities.

The Boardwalk Market has great shopping and places to eat. And on the shores of Lake Erie, The Sunset Bay Beach Club and Cabana Sam’s Beach Bar & Grill are popular hangouts for live entertainment, volleyball, all along five acres of clean, sandy beaches. And for the Independence Day celebrations July 4, people will flock as they always do to Bemus Point for the fireworks show.

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