A Hidden Treasure in Western New York

Monday, August 31, 2009

We are planning to return for the fall event October 3.


Antique boats...one of the rides the boys enjoyed



My 2 silly ducks....waiting patiently for the gates to open



My favorite part--the Lakeview Village Shoppes!



I liked the cute little shops along the shore.



The carousel



Ben wasn't thrilled about the flowers. He wanted more rides!



Little ferris wheel




Having lived in upstate New York for every year of my life except one, I pretty much know about the quaint little towns and the sites to visit. Apparently, I missed one of the best little finds there is.


One of my Facebook friends, Elizabeth, mentioned taking her daughter to a little place called Olcott Beach earlier this summer. I had never heard of it. She explained that she found it on her way to Niagara Falls and that is was really a wonderful little place. She was right.

Ever since Elizabeth told me about Olcott Beach and posted some pictures, I have wanted to take the boys. I meant to take them sooner, but ended up taking them Friday. We've had a cold spell here in this part of the state. It's been rainy, a bit windy (a tornado touched down in Canandaigua on Saturday), and just downright cold. When we left Friday morning, it was in the low 60s and sunny. When we arrived in Olcott Beach, it was pretty cloudy and even a bit chillier than here in Irondequoit. I'm glad the boys had their sweatshirts on.

Olcott Beach is exactly 65 miles from our driveway. It's actually easy to get to. I took the Lake Ontario State Parkway all the way to its end and got on Route 18 West. I was there in about an hour and ten minutes. Olcott Beach is a tiny hamlet by the Town of Newfane. It's in Niagara County and is located about 25 minutes from Niagara Falls. After driving in such a rural area, I began to wonder if it's be worth it. I don't like rural areas--this was rural! We passed dozens of farms and were in the middle of nowhere. After passing through all of these little towns which don't even all appear on my atlas (yes, I use an atlas still!), we encountered a hidden gem.

We turned on a street that had a large, old-fashioned boat in the median. I quickly found the Lakeview Shoppes. These are small cottages by the lake all painted in pastel colors. I turned on Main Street and found the Olcott Beach Carousel Park. What a small amusement park! Do not get me wrong--small in a good way!

I parked the car right across the street from the park. It was a couple minutes before noon and the park doesn't open until noon. The boys and I waited and looked at the rides (only 6) and then one of the employees came over and opened the gate for us.

What I really found wonderful about the park is that it was built for children only. Kids need to be 52" tall or less and under 75 pounds to ride the rides. Parents are welcome to ride the carousel and are free with children under 5. The park is actually a not for profit company and is run entirely by volunteers who truly love what they do. Did I mention that rides are only 25 cents each?

I told the boys they could ride as much as they wanted to and I spent a total of $6 for the day of rides. You may be thinking, "There are only 6 rides, though." While that is true, this is ideal for small children and they were truly content with their choices. I know when I take them to our nearby parks, Sea Breeze and Darien Lake, that they are overwhelmed. First of all, both parks are full of teenagers running around unattended. The rides are typically built more for older "thrillseekers" with only a handful of kiddie rides. There's also the high admission fee. I don't necesarily mind the fee, but I do mind paying it when the little one says, "I'm tired and I want to go home right now!" after an hour of riding. I also have to say it's a plus to walk through the park without crowds of teens mumbling the F-bomb around my little ones!

The boys really had a ball. There were only about 25 or 30 other children there that day, most likely because it started raining. We took a break to walk next door to an Italian restaurant, Carmella's. I wish I could recommend it, but we didn't have the best experience. Aside from the flies hovering over our table (we ate indoors) and the hair in my spaghetti and meatballs, the options on the kids' menu were really terrible. They could have fried mozzarella sticks with a side of fries, fried chicken fingers with fries, etc....basically a fried entree with a fried side. I asked if they could have steamed veggies as a substitution and was told it was not an option.

I think next time we'll eat elsewhere. After our lunch, we walked just a few feet to Lakeview Village Shoppes, a collection of several shops along the boardwalk. The shops are right along the Lake Ontario shoreline and were just so quaint. Each shop was painted a different pastel hue. They had everything from a gift shop full of Crabtree & Evelyn products to a candy shop to a kite store. The stores were super tiny, so I really didn't get to look much because my boys are like bulls in a china shop.

One of the shopkeepers told me that if I liked his shop, I'd really love the shops in the nearby town (5 minutes away) to the west called Wilson. He said there were several gift and antiques shops that way as you get closer to Niagara Falls. He also recommended a restaurant for our next visit, Mariners Landing, and I think we'll go there. There really are lots of things to do if you want to spend the day away. You could even make a weekend of it by heading to the falls and staying over.

After a few hours of riding, the boys were chilly and tired. We headed back home and stopped at one of the several farm stands along the side of the road. Nearly all were un-manned and had a coffee can out for you to put your money honor system style. At Johnson's Farm on Route 18, I bought a some wonderful peaches and tomatoes larger than any I have ever seen before.

I think what I liked most about the day is that it reminded me of a simpler time. Kids weren't walking around with iPods and cell phones. There was no sense of urgency. Everything was just simple and funny. The people were all so relaxed and friendly. The park was a place I could picture from a whole other era. The boys and I had lots of fun--so much fun that we're going back for their fall festival the weekend of October 3 and 4. This time we'll take Tom with us...that way he can be with the boys while I enjoy the shops a little bit more and see creations from local artisans.

If you live in the Rochester area and have small children, check this place out. It really is a hidden gem in Western New York.



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