The priority for our Family Day Weekend getaway from Toronto was learning to snowboard as a family at a beginner-friendly ski resort that was less than a four-hour drive. And discovering Ellicottville, NY was a delightful surprise and I was glad we took the time to explore a teensy bit when we weren’t ripping it up at Holiday Valley.
If you have a pre-conceived idea of what Western New York is like, you’ll likely be as surprised as we were by Ellicottville–or E-ville as the cool kids call it. Growing up in Toronto and watching Buffalo TV stations, I get excited seeing road signs for exotic-sounding places like Lackawana and Cheektowaga, and I was so pleased to see that Attorneys at Law Celino & Barnes reconciled. Pulling up to our hotel and seeing that Tops Friendly Market was across the street totally made my day. Not only did I have their jingle as an earworm for the entire weekend (Tops never stops, saving you more. Tops never stops, here’s what’s in store!), but seriously–it’s awesome and so convenient to have a supermarket across the street from your hotel.
This little long weekend getaway felt like a true vacation. Visiting Ellicottville, NY was a revelation. It is a charming small town, with lots of great restaurants and pubs, and some really eclectic little shops. I know we’ll be back–maybe to play during the summer months or perhaps to see the leaves change. What a gem.
Ellicottville Hotels: The Wingate by Wyndham
There are some smaller inns and B&B-type lodgings nearby, but pretty much THE Ellicottville hotel is the Wingate by Wyndham. It is an ideal hotel set up for a family: spacious rooms that aren’t too fancy, a pool (and this is a pretty good one as far as hotel pools go), and an included breakfast buffet with all the trimmings. There is a storage room for ski equipment, as well as a small gym. This place was bustling–full of families and couples ready to get outside and play.
I was a little concerned that the hotel might be noisy, given that the apres ski scene is pretty big in Ellicottville, but apparently playing in the snow tires everybody out; by 10pm all was quiet except for the odd footsteps or reveler coming in late from one of the nearby pubs.
Overall, the Wingate in Elllicottville is a great spot to crash after playing hard. It’s totally family friendly, spotlessly clean, and steps to pretty much everything in town.
Eating in Ellicottville: The Armor Inn
Our first day in Ellicottville we drove in and hit the slopes pretty much straight away. By the time we made it back to the Wingate we were ready for dinner! Luckily The Armor Inn is just next door, and we were so happy to discover a family-friendly pub with really cheerful and attentive service, and super duper low prices. Our Canadian dollar has been taking a bit of a beating of late, but the great prices at The Armor Inn (and throughout most of Ellicottville, pretty much) took the sting out of the exchange.
This is pub food, but really really good pub food, and we were pleasantly surprised to see gluten-free options and substitutions as well. After an afternoon spent falling in the snow, I devoured my Buffalo chicken salad completely guilt-free. Although visiting Ellicottville, NY and starting with The Armor Inn may have caused me to develop a bit of a Buffalo chicken problem.
Our two adult entrees, plus two kids’ meals, two pints of cider and one glass of wine (I’ve become a lightweight) came to $53. Crazy, crazy reasonable–especially compared with Toronto prices!
Eating in Ellicottville: Tips Up Cafe
Tips Up Cafe is a true Ellicottville staple. It’s been open since 1980, and given the busy-ness of the place it’s clear this is a tried and true classic. The fare is simple and delicious, with a reasonably-priced kids’ menu. My guys shared an entree instead, because who can resist steak and scampi? Tips Up is famous for their selection of homemade salad dressings (I tried a little of each… they were all awesome) and I was delighted to see that yet another area restaurant was sensitive to gluten allergies — with gluten-free substitutions available for pizza and pasta, as well as knowledgeable staff who could recommend some other gluten-free dishes.
And while some can fuel up with a great dinner at Tips Up before heading out to the pub, I appreciated that the restaurant was just a short “stumble” home to our hotel. We dined at Tips Up on our second night there, after a full day on the (freezing !) slopes, so needless to say I was incapable of staying up even a minute more. This playing in the snow is tiring stuff!
Playing in Ellicottville: Holiday Valley
Holiday Valley is literally just a 5-minute drive to town, and the resort has a number of lodging options. But getting there and back from the Wingate was no issue at all. And then we were free to make the most of visiting Ellicottville with kids!
Admittedly my experience with ski resorts is nonexistent, but my thinking that Holiday Valley is a fantastic and easy resort for all levels of skiers and riders. Access to the lifts is so easy; they are practically beside the road. And the large beginner area with lots of ski school groups and learn to snowboard instruction compounds the welcoming and inclusive attitude.
The instructors are great with kids (and their parents) and beginner adults even have their own special area for rentals, to help find their way around the resort protocols and procedures. I’m certain the practice chair lift was instrumental in helping me avoid (even more) spectacular crashes when attempting to get off the lift, and I’m grateful that everyone in the beginner area was respectful and kind.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that, once again, gluten allergies were respected and accommodated in the Holiday Valley cafeteria–with a gluten-free pizza available and knowledgeable staff who could point out the other gluten-free options. We also made great use of the cafe–hot coffee and cocoa and cookies helped warm us up to get through the unseasonably frigid temperatures.