While fishing lore says that in 1872, a mammoth paddlefish was caught in Chautauqua Lake, chances are that looking for an equally outrageous event isn't on your list of things to do with kids in this scenic New York region. On the other hand, the Chautauqua area does offer more than enough children's activities that will keep your active toddler or precocious preschooler busy all day long.
With more than 13,000 acres of fresh lake water, it's almost a no-brainer that you might want to take your little one for a fishing expedition on Chautauqua Lake. Suit your child up with her protective flotation device, give her a pint-sized rod and reel and get ready to cast off and catch an array of fish such as Yellow Perch, Smallmouth Bass or Crappies. While local fishing enthusiasts take to the lake year-round, keeping your child-friendly fishing outings to the warmer spring and summer months will head off any snow, ice or cold weather safety hazards. Before you begin this favorite local activity, don't forget to pick up a fishing license for yourself (you can buy a license online or by phone from the Department of Environmental Conservation, the town clerk's office or at local sporting goods stores). Don't worry about a license for your little one; anyone under the age of 16 can go license-free.
Sure, it's not the exotic clear blue waters of the tropics, but a cruise around Lake Chautauqua is a fun-filled way to entertain your little one. The historic Chautauqua Belle (269belle.com/) offers private charters as well as specialized cruises such as the July 4th Fireworks Cruise. The Picnic on the Paddle Wheel cruise is an ideal option for families who are looking to spend the day looking at the fresh water scenery while having a bite to eat. If you are looking for a more modern way to tour the lake with your child, try the Summer Wind (thesummerwind.com/boat.asp). This yacht-style boat offers private lake tours, group public tours and special events such as a Mother's Day cruise.
You don't have travel to the sea shore to get a taste of the sandy beach. Lake Chautauqua's shoreline has an abundance of public beaches (tourchautauqua.com/Beaches.aspx) that will please your little water lover. The Chautauqua Institution has four swimming beaches that are open to the public during the summer months, the Bemus Point Beach and Park is a free swimming beach that also features a childrens' playground and the Cassadaga Beach has picnic tables along with its kids' playground.
The Chautauqua Institution (ciweb.org) is an arts staple of the area that hosts more than 100,000 visitors each summer. While you might think that your little one isn't quite ready to take on a full-scale grown-up performance, you can try out the kid-friendly Family Entertainment Series. This introductory arts program for children features interactive shows such as puppetry, dance, music and mime. As an added bonus, these Tuesday evening shows are completely free.