Chautauqua Lake Rest Area (I-86 Between Exits 10 & 11) - Ellery, NYI’ve been lucky to grow up and live within a day’s drive of Chautauqua Lake for most of my life. Growing up outside of Cleveland, the two and half hours it took to get there felt like an eternity as a kid because of the fun ahead. Now, having been in Chicago for a decade, I split the difference, and either make it the I-90 to I-86 tollway oasis stop or bypass the toll road and turn it into a small day road trip. What’s a few extra hours when your destination is Chautauqua Lake.
The Chautauqua Lake Rest Area is relatively new and a couple miles off the beaten path for me. My family’s house is the exit before the rest area, so for many years I never pulled off to give it a once over. I’m glad I finally did during a trip to Peterson's Farm for sweet corn. I now make it a point to stop at least once while visiting friends and family.
This rest area is different than any I’ve been to. Most have nothing to offer, but restrooms and vending machines. But the view of the lake afforded at this stop is spectacular, changing every season, if not every day. One can see clear to Jamestown, NY, learn about the history of the lake and surrounding area, and take a respite from traffic on I-86 East.
I’m reminded of the historical markers or small parks that dot the blue highways each time I pull into the Chautauqua Lake Rest Area. They are the hidden gems of the road less traveled and this break from interstate asphalt is significant and rewarding.