At this time of year we usually find ourselves so caught up in the hustle and bustle of preparing for the holiday season that we often forget to take the time to actually relax and enjoy the beauty and magic of the season.
The Western New York area has many places we can visit to enjoy the season. One such place is Chautauqua County where holiday events can help you get into a festive mood.
The most unique area holiday event is at Peek 'N Peak Resort and Spa in Findley Lake, where the Ski Slope Trail of Lights, the first event of its kind in North America, is being held.
During the event, the Finsbury Field Slope will be closed to skiers and decorated with 14 animated light displays. Guests will take a leisurely 20-minute round-trip chairlift ride over the colorful exhibit. Although it is suitable for young and old, guests under age 3 are not permitted for safety reasons. The Trail of Lights can be seen 6 to 9 p.m. daily through Dec. 23.
Peek 'N Peak, which has recently undergone a multimillion dollar renovation, will be offering a number of accommodation packages in conjunction with the trail of lights. Some of these packages include children's activities, sleigh rides and more. Be sure to check out the 24-foot Christmas tree decorated with more than 4,500 lights that is displayed inside the Inn at the Peak.
The Fenton History Center in Jamestown will have American holiday traditions of the past and present displayed throughout the 1863 mansion, once the residence of New York Governor Reuben Fenton.
In the holiday exhibit, "Deck the Halls," each of the mansion's 29 rooms will have an exhibit focusing on a different era of holiday decor. The entire mansion will reflect the Victorian tradition of decorating with greens, berries and blossoms. During your self-guided tour of the mansion, you will view a mid-1800s tabletop tree; a huge 12-foot tree in the parlor (something very popular in the late 1800s); and a 1940s-era snow village, complete with animated ice skaters and twinkling lights.
"One of the new exhibits we have is Living Dolls, an exhibit of antique dolls dating back to the 1840s," said Joni Blackman, director of the Fenton History Center. "It's a new venture between the Fenton History Center and the Chautauqua County Historical Society [McClurg Museum in Westfield] working together on an exhibit."
Also on display at the Fenton History Center are exhibits focusing on Kwanzaa and Hanukkah, as well as a display on the Mexican religious celebration Las Posadas and Los Tres Reyes (the Three Kings) a Puerto Rican Celebration. On Dec. 8, the center hosts its annual Family Day, which will feature period musical entertainment and local school groups.
>Parade and lights
About 10,000 people are expected to show up for the annual Jamestown Holiday Parade on Dec. 7. The parade, which begins at the Third Street Bridge and travels to Tracy Plaza at Spring and Thirds streets, begins at 6:30 p.m. The theme of this year's parade is "A Jamestown Christmas Story."
A tree-lighting ceremony and fireworks immediately follow the parade. A new event this year will be the Jamestown Snowball Drop. Ping pong balls, imprinted with coupons and gift certificates from Jamestown area businesses, will be dropped from a firetruck.
The Jamestown Santa's Family Workshop also takes place on Dec. 7, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in the Jamestown YMCA, 101 E. Fourth St. Kids can enjoy activities and meet Santa and his reindeer.
Other holiday events in Jamestown include the Market on Main, where vendors have such holiday items for sale as toys, gourmet foods, handmade items and home decor. Located on the corner of Second and North Main, it's open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays through Dec. 22. Musical entertainment is featured on Saturdays during December. Free authentic stagecoach rides through downtown Jamestown will be offered from 1 to 4 p.m. on Dec. 8, 15 and 22. Rides start on Third Street near Main.
Head to the village of Fredonia on Dec. 1 for the annual family event, "Miracle on Main Street."
Start the day at 10 a.m. in the 1891 Fredonia Opera House with a free screening of the holiday film, "Elf." Later, take part in a gingerbread decorating workshop at the White Inn from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Reservations are required; call the inn at 672-2103.
There will also be horse-drawn trolley rides through the village during the afternoon and early evening. For reservation, call Time Pieces Gift Shop at 672-4818. Rides are $2 for adults and $1 for children.
The village tree-lighting ceremony takes place at 4 p.m. at Barker Commons Park gazebo; afterward, free cocoa and cookies will be available at the nearby Intermezzo Coffee House. Chautauqua County Hospice will also have a tree-lighting ceremony on the front porch of the White Inn at 5:30 p.m. The day will conclude with a free screening of "White Christmas" at 8 p.m. in the 1891 Fredonia Opera House.
* Carol Lorenc of Amish Flair Tours will be offering a holiday tour of Amish shops in the Cherry Creek/Leon area. Morning and afternoon tours are available and both tours include a luncheon at the Cherry Creek Inn B&B. The tour visits a variety of Amish shops where you can purchase unique handcrafted items. Tours take place on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Dec. 6, 11, 13 and 15. Cost is $30 per person and reservations are required.
* The newly open Chautauqua Suites Meeting & Expo Center in Mayville will be creating a Christmas tree wonderland through December with the display of more than 50 trees decorated by local businesses and organizations. The public will get to vote on which trees are the best in show by purchasing voting ballots; proceeds will go to area food pantries. The winner will be announced Jan. 7.
* Just over the county line in Randolph in Cattaraugus County, the annual Country Christmas Extravaganza will take place Dec. 7-9.
At 7 p.m. Dec. 7, a 30-foot memory tree erected in Triangle Park will be lit. People can make a $5 donation in the name of someone they wish to remember and honor.
A Christmas Parade takes place along Main Street beginning at 11 a.m. Dec. 8. Afterward, Santa will be available for photos and storytelling in the Randolph fire hall. A grand display of Trees and Treasurers in the fire hall will feature trees decorated by local businesses, clubs and organizations. There will also be children's activities, live entertainment and a gingerbread house contest. A pancake breakfast will be held from 7 to 10:30 a.m. Dec. 7.
On Dec. 9, enjoy a chicken and biscuit dinner Sunday at noon, followed by the annual pie auction. People who live in the community can participate in a home decorating contest; winners will be announced at the dinner.
>If you go
Peek 'n Peak Resort & Spa, 1405 Olde Road, Findley Lake. Ski Slope Trail of Lights, 6 to 9 p.m. daily through Dec. 23; $5 a person. Tickets are available at the resort and Wegmans stores. Info: (716) 355-4141, www.pknpk.com.
Fenton History Center, 67 Washington St., Jamestown. "Deck the Halls" exhibit through Jan. 19. Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Saturday through Jan. 19; also 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays in December. Admission: $5 adults, $4 children 5-12, under 5 free. Info: (716) 664-6256, www.fentonhistorycenter.org.
Jamestown Holiday Parade: (716) 664-2477, www.discoverjamestown.com.
Miracle on Main Street: (716) 672-4818 (Festivals Fredonia).
Amish Flair Tours: (716) 962-3412.
Christmas Wonderland: Chautauqua Suites Meeting and Expo Center, 215 W. Lake Road, Mayville, (716) 269-STAY.
Randolph Country Christmas Extravaganza: (716) 358-9701, Ext. 208.