Autumn is magical in Western New York. There is so much going on – fall festivals, corn mazes, Halloween preparations. It is also the time of year when the shadows lengthen and our thoughts naturally turn to the world after this one and the people who have gone before us. And as the sun goes down, and you put down that pumpkin-carving knife and savor that final sparkling cider of the day, well might you ask yourself:
Why waste your time sleeping?
You could be using those nighttime hours to absorb a little more of the vivid feeling of the season.
Happily, a host of atmospheric places are open for overnights. Here is a list of options. Some are romantic. Some are thrilling for historic reasons. A few are geared toward kids. All of them are designed to spark your imagination.
Whether you go with a spouse, a friend, a bunch of kids or solo – you’re in for an adventure. Pleasant dreams!
The Red Coach Inn
Lovely and legendary, Niagara Falls’ Red Coach Inn dates to 1923, when it was opened by William Schoellkopf and Charles Peabody. The inn was meticulously modeled after England’s famous Bell Inn, nicknamed the “Old Bell” and considered to be Great Britain’s oldest pub. The Red Coach Inn is a stop on New York’s Haunted History Trail, owing to old whispers. But it doesn’t need ghosts to make it fascinating. Its name comes from the red carriage that the Marquis de Lafayette rode when he came to Niagara Falls. There is a painting of the coach. Dine in the inn’s respected restaurant, then fall asleep in your suite listening to the roar of the Upper Rapids, which are just yards away, and picturing Niagara Falls as it once was. The Red Coach Inn is at 2 Buffalo Ave., Niagara Falls. Call 282-1459.
Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse
Let your mind drift toward weird movies you’ve seen involving lighthouses. “Portrait of Jennie.” “To the Lighthouse.” “The Light at the Edge of the World.” Your room awaits at the Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse in Barker. This is a real lighthouse, built in 1876, that stands in Golden Hill State Park on the south shore of Lake Ontario. The Lighthouse Cottage on the second floor is open for overnight stays. It has a private entrance, three bedrooms with queen size beds, a kitchen equipped with a refrigerator, electric stove, microwave, coffee maker, cooking utensils, silverware and dishes, and a full bath with an old-fashioned bathtub. The living room features a cherry-finished electric fireplace, a couch, two chairs and a writing desk where you may record this memorable experience, preferably in a German Leuchtturm, because it means lighthouse. The New York State Parks rents this lighthouse out for $200 a night. You can make arrangements online, or call (800) 456-2267.
The Roycroft Inn
Mason Winfield, the area’s prominent authority on the supernatural, explores the historic Roycroft Inn on his East Aurora ghost walks. And small wonder why. The ghost of Elbert Hubbard, the long-haired mystic who founded the Roycroft community and died in the sinking of the Lusitania, is said to linger in the Ruskin Room, and has been sighted elsewhere, too. Furthermore, Winfield has pointed out, the Roycroft sits on a site of unusual electrical activity and auspicious earth lines. The rooms and suites at the Roycroft are lovely in a monastic way, designed to give you a time-out from the world. The Roycroft Inn is at 40 S. Grove St., East Aurora. Call 652-5552.
469 Franklin St.
Artist Tony Sisti, born in 1901, came to Buffalo in 1911 and went on to lead a colorful life. He was not only a painter, but a boxer. He traveled with Ernest Hemingway and back in Western New York, he painted portraits of people he met, from Father Baker to Jimmy Slattery. He also bought and remodeled a 125-year-old house at 469 Franklin St., and opened a gallery there in 1938. Why are we telling you all this? Because the building that housed the old Sisti Gallery is now an airbnb. Here is a plan: Visit the new Sisti Gallery in the Burchfield Penney Art Center, then return to the master’s house, and sleep well as you absorb all those artistic vibes. Another plus: The columns in front of the building came from the Federal Reserve building in Buffalo that was torn down in the 1930s.
The Iron Island Museum
First it was a church, then it was a funeral home, and now, the Iron Island Museum welcomes you for an overnight investigation. We do not suggest ghost hunting equipment. We do not recommend willfully pulling back the curtain that separates the living and the dead – but you can if you want. Groups of five or more are invited to take part in these overnight investigations, from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m., where they have access to the entire building with a guide. Reservations are a must. For those who are daring, arrangements can always be made for an actual sleepover. The Iron Island Museum is at 998 Lovejoy St. Call 892-3084.
The Bennett Station, an 1800s train station at the corner of Amherst Street and Starin Avenue in North Buffalo, was once part of the “belt line” – the network of stations that formed a ring around Buffalo. It is now an airbnb. That means you can fall asleep while imagining the din of a million trains rumbling past just a few feet away, including the train that, in 1901, carried the body of the slain president William McKinley. You will also hear actual trains. Conrail trains still go clattering past. The place has a lovely old bohemian look, with a long cobblestone driveway that overlooks the tracks. It rents through Airbnb for about $300 a night.
Old Fort Niagara
Whether or not you believe in that 200-year-old story about the headless ghost, Old Fort Niagara never sleeps. It offers overnights geared toward kids, but adults can participate too – and should, as chaperones. “The most complete of our programs, providing an educational and enjoyable experience based on the daily life of a soldier of the garrison before 1815,” is how Fort Niagara describes this overnight adventure. “Infantry drill with wooden muskets, artillery and fortification training, cooking, baking and fatigue duties. After supper clothing and daily life programs. Finish the evening with a ‘Weird Tales Walk’ to the post cemetery. In the morning cook breakfast and take a guided tour.” Old Fort Niagara is in Youngstown. Call 745-7611.
At the Inn Buffalo, 619 Lafayette Ave., you can stay in suites named for dead presidents, the Grover Cleveland Suite and the Millard Fillmore Suite. The house belonged to industrialist H.H. Hewitt. Hewitt was the founder of Buffalo Brass and Hewitt Rubber Co., which employed 700 people in its plants on Kensington Avenue. His friends included Cleveland as well as the Rands, the Schoellkopfs, the Albrights, and the Huntleys (as in the Huntley Plant). Hewitt, who now occupies a mausoleum in Forest Lawn, died in this home in 1922. His spirit, and the spirit of old Buffalo, shines in the 22-karat gold leafing in the library, the 1871 piano in the music room, and stained glass windows picturing Greek gods. Rooms at the inn range from $139 to $230. Call 432-1030 or 867-7777.
Niagara Falls Aquarium
Picture it, you and the shark in the dark. And those super-weird fish that glow like neon. And the cavefish, a creature that has swum around in the darkness for so many eons that it has finally decided it has no more use for sight. And the nocturnal soldierfish – OK, we don’t want to give it all away. You can experience this kind of magic by staying overnight at the Niagara Falls Aquarium, Fridays and Saturdays throughout the year, for $25 per person. 701 Whirlpool St., Niagara Falls. 285-3575.
We’ve peeked into the Buffalo Zoo after hours, and it is a strange sight. The animals seem to take over. Peacocks saunter across pathways. The bison show a new energy. The Gorilla Habitat turns into the Planet of the Apes. OK, we’re just imagining now, but the possibility is intriguing. Why not go and see for yourself? The Zoo offers overnights called Zoo Snooze – again, geared toward kids, but they need a few adults, right? “With each snooze, campers will sleep in our Ecostation exhibit surrounded by live animals. Don’t be surprised if the roar of our lions and tigers wakes you up in the morning as they greet you at the viewing windows at each end of the exhibit!” That is the zoo talking. Call 837-3900, Ext. 128.
Buffalo Museum of Science
It sounds too good to be true, but it’s not: You can sleep under the same roof as mummies, dinosaur bones and strange crystals. There’s all kinds of atmospheric stuff in the Science Museum. What luck that they invite you to bring your group or family for an overnight Camp-In and explore and experience the museum at night. The adventure includes hands-on science, crafts, a nighttime snack, a movie, breakfast and access to all the exhibits. For info, call 896-5200, Ext. 345.