Ellicottville, NY

4-Season Adventure in Small Town New York

Washington St., the main street in the center of Ellicottville, NY

Ellicottville is the quintessential small town. Located just 1 hour south of Buffalo, NY, the town offers a multitude of activities for every season. Quaint shops and unique restaurants are centered along one main street, with side streets affording visitors a variety of different options. Year-round festivals turn the small town into a center for activity which only enhance the enduring locations such as breweries, distilleries, cafes, cupcakery, and winery.


Slopes at Holiday Valley Resort

Visitors come to Ellicottville for many different reasons, but first and foremost, the town offers the best skiing and snowboarding opportunities for hundreds of miles. Two resorts, Holiday Valley and Holimont, provide visitors with the chance to conquer the slopes in an area that receives plentiful lake effect snow totaling more than 100 inches per year. Additionally, the snow-making capabilities and cooler temperatures provide a great base for snow conditions. Although Holimont is a private resort, non-members are able to ski and snowboard Sunday through Thursday. These two locations are a short drive from the center of the village of Ellicottville, making it convenient to enjoy the slopes as well as spending time in town. Five minutes east of the village is Holiday Valley Tubing Company, where guests can slide down the snow-covered hill on an inner tube, making it a great alternative for those that are not inclined to ski or snowboard. (Minimum height requirement is 42″ tall for the “big” hill.) When not on the slopes, visitors to Ellicottville can wander the streets lined with restaurants, breweries, wineries, and cafes. There are many choices of places to have a drink in town, but Ellicottville Brewing Company and the Winery of Ellicottville have some of the best. Christmas in Ellicottville is a special time for families to come and celebrate the season. Visit with Santa, take horse and wagon rides, meet a real reindeer, and participate in many children’s activities.


View from teebox on hole 13 at Holiday Valley Golf Course

In the summer, Holiday Valley Resort offers an exciting and challenging golf course, with a back 9 that is dominated by severe elevation changes on almost every hole. Shoot over valleys and down the side of the mountain, but good luck trying to figure out how far the ball will travel on each hole. Also nearby is the Sky High Adventure Park, an adventure course in the treetops with rope obstacles and zipline runs. (Minimum age is 7 years old.) Also, at the adventure park, is a mountain coaster where you travel 4,805 feet in a single or double car, twisting and turning down the mountainside (this can also be done during the winter). The Ellicottville area is used for many different competitions as well. Half marathons and mountain biking races happen throughout the year, taking advantage of the hillsides and valleys of the Enchanted Mountains. Hiking trails wind through the area, one taking you to the top of the Holiday Valley resort, where Spruce Lake provides kayaking, paddle boarding, and fishing experiences.

Balloons Restaurant and Nightclub, Cupcaked, Public House Restaurant


Throughout the year, Ellicottville hosts different events that attract people throughout the United States and Canada, temporarily increasing the population of the town exponentially. The town has several music festivals such as Winter Blues Weekend, Winter Music Jam, Summer Music Festival, Jazz and Blues Weekend, and Rock ‘N Roll Weekend. There are also big party events such as the Winter Carnival, Mardi Gras, the Beer and Wine Festival, and the EVL Halloween Half Marathon.But the highlight of the entire year is Fall Festival, taking place the weekend of Columbus Day each October. Hundreds of craft booths bring thousands of people to the town and after the booths close, the beer tents and nearby restaurant bars are jammed with activity.


Within a 30-minute drive are several locations and activities that will enhance your trip to Ellicottville. Allegany State Park has miles of hiking trails centered around Red House Lake. These trails are great for families to explore nature and witness wildlife. It is also possible to snowshoe and cross-country ski in the park during the winter. Just outside of the State Park, and on the complete opposite end of the tranquility spectrum is Seneca Allegany Casino. Located on the Allegany Indian Reservation, this casino offers constant entertainment and a spa and salon to relax from the excitement. The flashing lights and buzzing slot machines are a grand departure from the quaintness of Ellicottville. If you are visiting in the fall, there is also a pumpkin farm where family-friendly activities abound and nightmare hayrides are held in honor of Halloween for the older kids.

Ellicottville Brewing Company


No Excuses Travel is pleased to announce that we have our own rental home to offer to anyone interested in staying in Ellicottville. The 4-bedroom, 2 bath single family home allows visitors with up to 10 guests to stay in a relaxing countryside home. Located just 5-minutes outside of the village, and directly next to the tubing slopes, this location provides the convenience of the Ellicottville excitement but also the tranquility and peace and quiet of the Enchanted Mountains countryside. Check out our listing at the link below or scan the QR Code. If you send us a direct message through the website with the subject No Excuses Travel, we will send you a promotional offer discount for a stay at our place. Whatever your family’s interests are, there is something for you in Ellicottville, NY during each season. Plan more than one day, as this area necessitates a visit full of different activities that cannot be enjoyed in a brief one-day stop.

Rental property in Ellicottville, NY. Scan the QR code below or follow the link to see more photos or book your stay with No Excuses Travel.

Trail Ridge Road – Drive into the sky in Rocky Mountain National Park

Park Entrance Sign

One of my favorite places to visit is the Rocky Mountains. With scenic vistas and endless wildlife, the opportunities for memorable family moments are prevalent wherever you may visit along the third longest mountain range in the world. The best place to enjoy all of this is Rocky Mountain National Park! Our family stayed outside the park in a condo, travelling back and forth into the park several days over the course of a week. Each day offered a new experience that thrilled the children. Whether it was a drive over Trail Ridge Road maxing out at 12,183 ft. or a short hike to Holzwarth Historic Site camp, each encounter had its own story to tell and a chance for our children to learn.

Mama Moose, baby was close behind

The most unexpected moments undoubtedly occur when you get to view wildlife in their natural habitat. Viewing animals as giant as a moose or as small as a pika will allow children to realize why it is so important for us as humans to protect the lives of all animals. Sitting at home watching nature shows on TV will not have the same impact as your children witnessing a baby moose follow her mother through a field. Or watching a small pika scurry off a rock outcropping above the tree line of 10,500 ft., as cool winds blow. My daughter watched in wonderment as three huge moose grazed next to a slowly flowing creek. I held her in my arms from the other side, taking selfies yet warily staying a “safe” distance away. These magnificent creatures certainly left an indelible mark on her, even at a young age.

One of the more interesting activities in which we partook was a hike back to Holzwarth Historic Site. A short “stroller-friendly” path led to an old settlement where John and Sofia Holzwarth settled in 1917. Here children can learn about the history of some of the first settlers in the area, the life they lived, and the hardships they faced. I have two distinct memories while spending time with my children here. The first is my son using the washboard to clean “dirty” socks and the ringer to dry them off. He would not leave until all the socks that had been staged nearby had been washed, scrubbed, wrung out, and hung out to dry. I asked him if he would like to do all his laundry like that, and after his expected response, “No!”, he had one of those light bulb moments. He realized the difficulties faced by the people that lived there and gained a better appreciation for his own conveniences of life. Then as we stood there holding dripping wet socks, we heard a rustling in the field nearby. A herd of 30 elk meandered past us, only about 100 feet away. A ranger working at the site took this chance to explain the elks’ habits as well as their gestation period, since the herd also included a handful of young elk, only a couple months old.

Trail Ridge Road

Stopping at the visitor center at the top of the pass offers a remarkable view from an area that seems like it is a different world. High above the tree line lies the barren Alpine Tundra with mossy rocks and snow packed cervices, even in the middle of summer! The thin air and endless views remind children the variety and expanse our planet contains, opening their minds and inspiring their imagination. We stood on a wind-swept overlook, listening to the bleating of another herd of elk while what felt like hurricane force winds sent hats flying and empty strollers rolling. Truly a remarkable experience! No child’s visit to Rocky Mountain National Park would be complete without them working on the junior ranger packet and reciting the oath to protect nature. When my son, only 2 ½ at the time, looked through the workbook over the week we stayed near the park, I was amazed by how much he had learned. And when he took the oath to earn his Junior Ranger badge, I could not be prouder. I still have the recording of his sweet innocent voice telling his grandma, “I’m a junior ranger!”.

Boat trip on Grand Lake

The towns outside of the park offer an idyllic mountain atmosphere that coincides with the vibe from Rocky Mountain National Park. On the east side of the park is the quaint little village of Estes Park. The town of only 6,000 people is lined with shops and restaurants, all with the feel of a mountain town. The products and items for sale in the stores are somewhat touristy but add to the ambiance of the area. The drive to and from Estes Park is a winding, curving road with switchbacks and mountain vistas, making for an enjoyable trip. Grand Lake to the west of the park is located on a gorgeous lake with hidden inlets and mountains rising up in the background. This one-lane town of shops and restaurants has a dramatic view of the lake and access points for all types of water sports. We rented a houseboat for a couple hours and traversed the upper portion of the lake and its bays, seeing different types of wildlife, including an eagle. .

Panoramic View from the top of Trail Ridge Road

Rocky Mountain National Park is an experience that many people will not forget. With the mountainous views and wildlife galore, it is a place that will give visitors a different experience each time they visit. Repeat visits are encouraged, but everyone should try to get there at least once.

Next stop – Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

The Snake River brings imagination to life in the Magic Valley

Southern Idaho’s most valuable resource – WATER!

When you enter Southern Idaho, you will see desert sagebrush and small brown mountains dotted with the occasional tree. Giant rock cities are scattered around the area, including the most famous, City of Rocks National Reserve. However, as you close in on the Snake River, the area is transformed! The brown, dried up grass is now lush and green. As you close in on the city of Twin Falls, small towns and housing developments begin to appear. Deserted farmland and ghost towns are no more. You seem to be transported into a different world. All of this is thanks to one thing, the Snake River. The river that winds through Southern Idaho, starting in Yellowstone and ending in the Columbia River has carved beautiful canyons and inspiring views. But it is one coveted resource that brings the area to life, WATER. In the early 1900’s, irrigation canals were dug to deliver water to the valley, magically turning it into lush farmland capable of supporting life and thriving agriculture.

Shoshone Falls

In this valley, dubbed the Magic Valley, the contrast between the irrigated land and natural growth is stark. But as the Snake River Canyon winds through Southern Idaho, carved 500 feet deep in some places, it provides bountiful opportunities for exploration and wonderment. Centered in Twin Falls, the Magic Valley is a haven for activity. The most picturesque spot in the valley is Shoshone Falls. Here an overlook provides an exquisite view of a multi-tiered waterfall navigating around giant rock formations and emptying into a pool of clear green water. The mist rising up from the falling water creates a rainbow spanning the bottom of the falls. The overlook provides a great family photo op from above the falls and across the canyon. The state park that surrounds the falls has picnic areas and hiking trails that are stroller friendly. In addition, a 2-mile bike and hiking trail willl take you to the spot where Evil Knievel attempted to jump over the canyon back in 1974.

Perrine Bridge, from the overlook

Another great spot to witness the beauty of the Snake River is at the Perrine Bridge overlook, a must stop for any visitor to the Twin Falls area. The overlook provides views of the canyon, the beauty of which cannot be captured by a mere photo. As I stood at the overlook taking photos with my son, several kayakers gently paddled the Snake River, passing between two lush golf courses located at the bottom of the canyon. The sheer cliffs plunge to the river below and then curve, following the route of the river. Do not miss this overlook while travelling around Southern Idaho.

Snake River Canyon

30 minutes west of Twin Falls is the Thousand Springs area, where waterfalls cascade down the side of the canyon, wineries dot the area, and boat tours are available on the Snake River. This area is known for excellent fishing opportunities due to the fact that the majority of trout in the country are raised right here. Several state parks provide enjoyment for families, especially Ritter Island, an oasis for activity in the middle of the Snake River. Hiking, swimming, and paddling opportunities abound, in addition you can visit a historic dairy farm on the island.

Buffalo Caves trail at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

90 minutes north of Twin Falls is Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. This unit of the National Park Service protects a large area of volcanic deposits, left there thousands of years ago. Lava bombs, spatter cones, and cinder cones are interrupted by paved walking trails and stairs, providing visitors up-close access to these interesting landscapes. Visitors even have the chance to visit several underground caves that have been formed by the long-cooled lava or climb to the top of Inferno Cone to overlook the entire valley. Snow-capped mountains in the distance climb toward the sky at the edges of this vast land area. This area was great for our children to get out and walk, inquisitively looking at the strange and unusual formations dotted with areas of life here and there. The junior ranger booklet my son completed encouraged him to find items such as monkeyflowers, bitterroot, and lichen. The wide array of new and intriguing species tantalized my son’s imagination.

City of Rocks National Reserve

Southern Idaho is a place of distinct differences. Desolate volcanic formations to the north and rock cities to the south contrast with the activity of the city centers. Brown barren grass surrounds lush green, irrigated areas. Flat plains are punctuated by deep canyons and powerful waterfalls. All of these different areas provide opportunities for different family-friendly activities that will strengthen relationships and create memories. With so many choices it is easy to try something new. Perhaps a kayak trip down the Snake River? Maybe learn about the famous Hagerman horse at Hagerman Beds National Historic Site? See a woolly mammoth skeleton at the Herrett Center for the Arts where you could also catch a movie in their planetarium turned into an IMAX-style theater. Learn about a less-than-proud part of American History in Minidoka, home to a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II. Check the local event calendar and attend a festival or visit a farmers’ market. With so many different options, Southern Idaho is a great place for families to visit that may not have been on your travel radar, yet.

Top of Inferno Cone at Craters of the Moon National Park and Preserve

Next Stop – Rocky Mountain National Park

The Towering Cliffs of Rim Rock Drive – Colorado National Monument

Entrance sign at the beginning of Rim Rock drive

Towering cliffs and scenic vistas fill my mind as I recollect a recent family trip to Colorado National Monument. I knew very little about the park before visiting and wished we had planned more time. A short drive outside of Fruita, in Southwest Colorado, looms a park unlike any other. 23-mile Rim Rock Drive traverses through the cliffs and rock outcroppings, climbing almost 2,000 ft. to the summit before descending the other side. Along this narrow, winding road are three tunnels carved right through the rock, eliciting my son’s excitement at each one we approached. “Another tunnel”, he would yell from the backseat as we would enter, knowing full well that I was about to beep the horn to let the echo reverberate in our heads. At the top of some of the mammoth cliffs lies the visitor center, where hands-on exhibits offer children a chance to learn about the history and wildlife of the area. Here is a great spot to stop and spend some time with the family. Allow your children to work on the junior ranger booklet, designed to reinforce the important lessons of the area. Take a short hike to view the canyon below and point out the wide array of various plants and birds. Have lunch at a nearby picnic bench and sit back to enjoy the breathtaking views.

One of many tunnels along Rim Rock Drive
Independence Monument

As you leave the visitor center, you will pass many scenic overlooks. Two of the best, must-stop points are Independence Monument View and Upper Ute Canyon Overlook. At Independence Monument, you can hear the story of the original climbers of the famous rock and the many that have followed. If your timing is right, a park ranger will be there to explain the history and possibly have displays on hand as well. This is a great spot for that holiday card-worthy family photo to trigger your excuse-making friends’ jealousy. A short walk at Upper Ute Canyon, while tightly holding your child’s hand, leads to an overlook that exemplifies the grandeur of the area as you peer down into the canyon below. The sheer red cliffs dotted with tufts of green foliage are a sight to behold.

Upper Ute Canyon Overlook

Colorado National Monument is a park that few outside of Southwestern Colorado know about, but one that is worth every minute spent in the awe-inspiring landscape. Your children will be able to better appreciate the grandeur of the world and realize in it just how small they really are. Just make sure to plan more time to spend in the park with your family then I did.

Rim Rock Drive switchback

Next Stop – Southern Idaho

Southtown Salt Cave (Orchard Park, NY)

Check out the Southtown Salt Cave Saturday mornings at 9:00 am for children’s sessions. Children get to play in the salt cave for only $10. Enjoy the healing experiences while your children enjoy the beautiful environment and restorative powers.


5020 Armor Duells Road
Orchard Park , NY 14127


Inside the cave

Big South Fork Scenic Railway

Hidden in the middle of the backcountry, on the Kentucky and Tennessee border, is a little know National River and Recreation Area with a family adventure for all ages. An exciting rail excursion takes you through winding forest passes on a 16-mile (round trip) trek into the valley to the location of the Blue Heron mining community. This area was inhabited by workers in the coal mine and their families from 1937 to 1962. As you traverse the hillside, you are greeted by babbling brooks or roaring rivers, depending on the time of the year. Birds sing delightfully and butterflies flutter in the air as the train chugs through the forest. My son sat mesmerized by the action as this was his first ever train ride. The first time to experience the sounds of the wheels on the track, the engine fighting the pull of gravity, the locomotive’s horn blaring into the expansive treetops.

The train makes a stop at the old mine depot, complete with a tipple (train car filling station) and bridge crossing the Big South Fork River. A short walk up a grassy hill and you can enter an abandoned mine to learn about the miners that used to work this land. Hold the tools from a bygone era and feel the stories of the past. These locations are a great place for families to stop to share a moment together where they can discuss the families that used to live in Blue Heron. The contrast of your children’s lives to the lives of children that attended the small schoolhouse there will help them grow a better appreciation for the sacrifices made by past generations and how lucky they are to live in the time they do now. The train returns the passengers back to the visitor center, providing a new perspective from that of the journey into the forest. The Big South Fork Scenic Railway is a great family adventure, hidden in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains.

Next Stop – Colorado National Monument

The Idyllic Fatherhood Moment – Sagamore Hill

Sagamore Hill is the home of one of the most revered leaders in our nation’s history. Nestled on a hill in the quaint town of Oyster Bay, New York, sits the charming home of Theodore and Edith Roosevelt and their children. A great reason NOT to take a house tour with children is the fear of their boredom, disrupting others, or the need to preemptively leave the tour. But my wife and I decided to make the attempt regardless with our 6-month-old son, Aiden. Although too young to truly appreciate the splendor and magnificence of the first-floor rooms and their stories, his eyes explored the room, undoubtedly recognizing images of things he has seen in the books we read to him daily. Buffalo heads, cheetah print blankets, rows and rows of books, ivory tusks, and life-sized portraits. The impressiveness of the first floor of Sagamore Hill is difficult to describe and leads to an awe-inspiring visit.

Sagamore Hill

As we continued our tour to the second floor, the moment we were holding our breath hoping to avoid began, as my son started crying. We realized we were getting those looks from the other visitors on the tour thinking, “Why did you have to bring a child on this tour? How inconsiderate!” A quick look over to my wife and we knew it was time to separate from the pack. She walked off into a side room, rocking my son habitually. In the uncomfortably awkward moments that followed, something remarkable happened that would not otherwise have occurred. I wandered away briefly from the group to check on my son and witnessed a sight that I may never forget. There standing in just another bedroom on another historic home tour was my wife holding our son asleep in her arms. But this room was different. When Theodore Roosevelt was raising his children in this home, the room was used as a nursery. Our 26th president undoubtedly stood in the same room as my wife, rocking his own children to sleep. As my son peacefully slept in her arms, the difference between the life of a US president and my own seemed to shrink immeasurably. These are the moments that making excuses will cause you to miss. A room that would have been honored with a 10 second viewing otherwise, turned into a memorable moment in my new life role as a father.

As the tour moved on to its conclusion on the expansive front porch, I sat down in a rocking chair and held my son. I looked over the scenery with the American flag flapping in the wind, contemplating life, just as Roosevelt must have 100 years earlier. Sagamore Hill allows visitors to transport themselves into the life and mind of an American hero. Touring the house of a man renowned for his family-oriented lifestyle with your own children can only emphasize the connection you will make to history visiting the site.

Aiden with his first Junior Ranger badge

Next Stop – Big South Fork Scenic Railway

A child’s playground – Baltimore, Maryland

Inner Harbor view

Opportunity abounds in the city of Baltimore for families of all interests and ages. The national aquarium is a staple of any itinerary, situated in the center of the Inner Harbor. The multiple levels of exhibits and the dolphin show offer children a multitude of varying experiences. I am not sure what was more amazing, watching the jellyfish majestically floating around their tanks, or watching my son’s face filled with awe and amazement as he stared at the tiny creatures. At one of the displays, my son and another boy began talking about the turtles in one exhibit. From that point on, the two of them went from tank to tank, pointing out each animal to each other, excitedly announcing when they had found each one. These are the experiences and moments that you don’t quickly forget and why it is important for families to put excuses aside and create memorable trips. Both of my children had the opportunity to touch horseshoe crabs and jellyfish on another floor of the aquarium, giving them a better appreciation for how delicate living things can be and why it is important for them to be protected. Yet, this enlightening encounter was contrasted by the dark walkway winding down through the shark tank. Children can also understand how small they are in the world compared to the mighty kings of the ocean and appreciate their magnificence and power.

Use the Inner Harbor as a springboard for many family activities around Baltimore. Paddleboard in summer for a differing perspective and family team-building. Take the water taxi to Fort McHenry for a better appreciation of the American flag and our national anthem. Stand with your children as the screen is raised after the historical video to see the flag flapping in the wind in all its glory. Salute the flag with your children to reinforce the patriotism that makes this country great. Visit a couple chain restaurants on the water like Bubba Gump Shrimp, Cheesecake Factory, or Hard Rock Café. Make sure to stop by the local favorite for breakfast, Miss Shirley’s Café. Ripley’s Believe it or Not and the Maryland Science Center are conveniently located at the Inner Harbor as well.

Port Discovery Children’s Museum

A short distance from the Inner Harbor is the Port Discovery Children’s Museum. You will discover four floors of interactive excitement with the most incredible slide and climbing contraption at its center. Children can enhance so many developmental skills participating in the various activities. Dig in sand for dinosaur bones. Operate a boom, loading and unloading train cars. Splash in water and manage a system of locks. Kick a soccer ball or throw a football. All this while incorporating the vital skills of cooperation, teamwork, and sharing with other children. The children’s museum is a great stop for families with younger children as they expend an abundant amount of energy built up from travelling. Make this your first stop after arriving and dinner that night should be a little bit less hectic.

No stop in Baltimore would be complete without experiencing the culinary delicacies of the area. Leave the Inner Harbor to encounter some of the best seafood around. Crab cakes are a must, but seafood paella, oysters and lobster should be on your list as well. The best way for children to expand their palate and learn the cultural dishes on their travels is to watch their parents experiment with different foods themselves. Set the example that new foods aren’t scary, and children will be more willing to venture away from chicken fingers and French fries. I remember my daughter watching in astonishment as my wife cracked apart crab legs, ripping out the meat before dipping it in a cup of melted butter. If you are lucky enough to be visiting at the right time, wander through a local farmers’ market where the variety of unique choices will broaden your horizons and expose your children to new people and culture. Overall, Baltimore is a city filled with diverse experience for families to grow and build their relationships. Precious family time can be reinforced in Charm City.

Crab Legs!

Next stop – Sagamore Hill

William Seward House

Local gem in Small Town USA

Hidden away in central New York is a site dripping in political manipulation and historical enlightenment. Although a marginal figure in American history, William Seward’s mansion in Auburn, New York, transports visitors into the story of a life that epitomizes an historic house tour. Seward is known for his “folly” purchasing Alaska from Russia, but do you know his connection to the Underground Railroad as well as the success of Harriet Tubman? Do you know the gruesome story of an assassination attempt on his life that took place simultaneously to the attack on Abraham Lincoln? The back-story behind our 24th Secretary of State’s life is highlighted by the moving account of his daughter’s death as well as his wall of famous faces, both integral points of the tour. His burial is not far away, in a charming, hilly cemetery where he is not alone in his fame, thanks to the presence of Harriet Tubman’s headstone, where remembrances honoring her heroism are ever present. Immerse yourself in a life less-known, a man that played an integral role in our nation’s history. A man who steered the country through the Civil War, the beginning of reconstruction, and secured valuable land and resources. He definitely deserves a spot on your next itinerary as you travel across New York State. Auburn, New York, a short drive off of interstate 90, is the personification of Small Town USA. But unfortunately this is an example of a place where hidden gems are left unvisited. When you finish your tour, consider visiting the Auburn Prison, Harriet Tubman NHP, or possibly Prison City Pub and Brewery, where you will have the craft brewing experience of your dreams.

Why No Excuses

My wife and I hear people saying that they can’t travel because they have children. Many excuses are mentioned – spending the money, time, kids’ sleep schedule, food preferences, rowdy behavior, will it be entertaining enough, etc. Every trip can be tailored to minimize, although not eliminate, these excuses by adapting the experiences to the children’s ages, likes, routine. This blog is intended to inspire parents to take their children on adventures and experiences that will shape their concept of the world around them. Our goal is to inspire families to spend time together traveling and leave the excuses behind, creating memorable moments and quality experiences together.