When heading to Ellicottville, there's no option but the scenic route.
Is the drive down your favorite part, hungrily anticipating the picturesque chairlift ride at Holiday Valley and all the beer you're going to chug at Ellicottville Brewing Co. during the annual Ellicottville Fall Festival?
Or is the arts and crafts fair the crowning moment, handpicking unique holiday gifts that your friends and family will cherish?
Maybe it's the sheer joy on your kids' faces as they run from one carnival ride to the next, begging for more kettle corn?
It seems that everywhere you turn, a Western New Yorker has a fall fest story. To say it's a staple is relegating it to a simple cliché. Before there were local festivals for nearly everything under the sun – not that I'm complaining – there were a few standbys you could always count on to bring the community together. Since 1975, people have flocked to the sleepy ski town of Ellicottville for this weekend of live music, handmade crafts and, of course, beer.
If you're spending the weekend down in the Southern Tier hills, here's what you should know.
When: Oct. 5 to 7 in downtown Ellicottville and Holiday Valley Resorts
Art and craft show: Vendors line Washington and Jefferson streets while festivalgoers eagerly move shoulder-to-shoulder through the crowd, peeking at booths full of artisan goodies. The show, which runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, is the place to purchase early holiday gifts that will stand out from what you bought from big-box retailers.
If you don't mind a little (huge) crowd, grab a hot cider or an Oktoberfest and a bag of freshly popped kettle corn and stroll the streets.
Carnival rides will be up and running in Washington Square from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
[Related: A guide to everything Ellicottville, from 2015]
Transportation: Ellicottville is a scenic, nearly hourlong drive down Route 219 from Buffalo. Once you're there, the festival offers a shuttle service to take you from downtown events to Holiday Valley. It runs from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday. Each shuttle ride costs $3.
Lyft and Uber will be available.
Lodging: Hopefully you've already booked your room, if not, well ... good luck. You might be better off couch-surfing at a Southtowns friend's house than finding a last-minute rental. Hotel lodging, cabin rentals and Airbnbs within 30 miles fill up months in advance for the weekend.
Music and drink: What's the first place you picture when you read "Ellicottville bars?" Probably, Ellicottville Brewing Company, or EBC, to locals.
At the 28 Monroe St. location, the bar serves a special brew named just for the occasion, Fall Festival lager. The expansive, trendy craft brewery is going to be packed inside and outside in a quaint beer garden and under a mammoth tent. If you can't fully experience the fall festival without drinking Fall Festival, then it's worth fighting your way to the bar for the seasonal Oktoberfest brew.
[Related: EBC remains a craft-beer leader]
Four-piece alternative meets Americana band Tim Britt Band is playing funk, blues, alternative, disco or "whatever makes you dance" from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday on EBC's stage. Uncle Willy's Penthouse Players is playing dance and blues music in the brewery's beer garden from 5 to 8 p.m Friday.
"Saturday Night Live" character Stefan might say Balloons (20 Monroe St.) is "New York's hottest nightclub" if he visited the Ellicottville bar. Well, it definitely earns that title in Ellicottville, since it's the only nightclub. Escape the arts and craft show and enter the small club and restaurant for "ROCKtoberfest," bumping along to the pulsating beats by DJ Xcite, DJ Snarski and the Porcelain Bus Drivers.
Party all weekend long at their musical stage and inside the bar as late as 2 a.m., while downing beers, mixed drinks and, perhaps, a Big Kahuna burger (house-smoked pork belly, fresh mozzarella, grilled pineapple and Thai chili drizzle).
Food: Aside from Villagio and Ellicottville Brewing Company, which both serve full menus, the rural ski town is rife with eating options.
There's Dina's (15 Washington St.), a dark-wood-paneled, in-vogue restaurant with made-to-order, upscale American-fusion food. Katy's Cafe (38 Washington St.), serves classic cafe-style breakfasts and lunch, including healthy salads and panini, along with a full range of espresso drinks.
The Public House (24 Monroe St.) opened in late 2017 and serves indulgent comfort food. Menu items include lobster poutine, jumbo crab cake sandwich and a chicken avocado wrap. There's even chicken fingers and mac and cheese, for non-lobster-eating children.
Holiday Valley activities: The ski lodge – nestled in the red, gold and brown dotted foliage-filled hills – goes all out for the fall festival. On its three-day-spanning itinerary, there's a ski swap, 5k road race, chairlift rides, mountaintop cookout, live music, rail jam with DJ, mountain bike race and a Birds of Prey show.
I know, I know, we had you at chairlift rides.
What better way to snap that breathtaking fall foliage shot – the one you need every year – than flying through the middle of Ellicottville's hills? Rides are $8 (a small price to pay for the perfect photo) and season pass holders receive a free ride when they present their pass. Dogs are not allowed on the lifts.
Bird-watchers and enthusiasts, the Birds of Prey show is for you. Learn about the history of falconry, how to train a bird using a lure and get up close and personal with falcons, hawks and owls at the show, held at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The Fall Festival 5k road race starts at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. The mountain bike race begins at 10 a.m. Sunday. Register for either (or both) ahead of time.
What should I wear? Expect to see a lot of people wearing red flannels, brown leather riding boots, a Bills cap (worn backward), cream cable-knits and fleece button-ups. Classic fall stuff.