One of the many great treasures that Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties hold are the Old Order Amish communities that dot the landscape.
The majority of New York's "Amish Trail" is located in Cattaraugus County's Enchanted Mountains, but there are also communities throughout Chautauqua County. These are Old Order Amish communities, a sect of Amish that adhere very strictly to their religious beliefs and avoid modernization for the most part. In total, there are about 250,000 Old Order Amish in the United States and Canada spread across more than 20 states.
There are several companies that provide tours of the Amish communities in Western New York. Reservations are required for the tours, also.
New York’s Amish Trail, located in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties, allows tourists a chance to learn the ways of the Old Order Amish. Several local organizations over tours to shops and attractions along the trail.
Photo courtesy of www.amishtrail.com
Two different organizations operate tours through the NY Amish Trail website, www.amishtrail.com: The Randolph Area Community Development Corporation, which can be contacted at 358-9701, ext. 208, and the Leon Historical Society, which can be reached by calling 296-5709 or visiting leonhistoricalsociety.webs.com.
According to Debra Opferbeck of the Cattaraugus County Tourism Board, the tours can be customized to suit any type of person. Tour guides join the interested parties in their cars, and the tours cost approximately $40. Tours are available every day except for Sundays, as most of the Amish shops and attractions tend to be closed on Sundays. They also ask that guests respect the religious beliefs of the Amish and refrain from taking photographs while on the tours.
"This is by far the best way to explore this wonderful treasure nestled in the beautiful countryside," said Opferbeck. "It's so interesting to learn about another culture in our midst. People should take these Amish tours because they will get a closer, more intimate look at the Amish because of the relationships that have been established by the tour guides"
What: New York's Amish Trail
When: Monday through Saturday
Where: tours leave from Cherry Creek, Leon, Randolph and can be custom-designed
For more info: www.amishtrail.com
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approximately 20 miles from downtown Jamestown
The NY Amish Trail also provides assistance in planning trips and tours if it is needed.
Amish Flair Tours is located at 1880 Thornton Road in Cherry Creek and has been organizing motorcoach and van tours in the Leon-Cherry Creek Old Order Amish Community for around 10 years now. Patricia Frost, of Frost Builders and The Depot in Cherry Creek, and Carol Lorenc have been in charge of Amish Flair Tours since its inception, and Patty has lived among the Amish since they first moved into this area from Ohio more than 60 years ago.
The current rate for van tours starting in Cherry Creek and including an Amish-style lunch or three-course tea at the Cherry Creek Inn is $35 per person with a minimum of three people and a maximum of 10. The Cherry Creek Inn is also a full-service bed-and-breakfast. Amish Flair Tours also organizes tours for motorcoaches, and rates for those vary based on meals provided, stops, etc. Tours can be scheduled for any day other than Sunday.
"Remember that the Amish are in farm country; it's full of beautiful rolling hills, a patchwork of fields, barns and home businesses. The driveways aren't paved, so wear comfortable footwear that can get muddy," said Lorenc when asked about tips for first-time tourists. "The Amish don't accept credit cards, either, so bring cash or checks if you plan on buying baked goods, quilts, lumber, furniture, etc."
Cameras may be used to take pictures of the scenery, but Amish Flair Tours requests that tourists respect the beliefs of the Amish and avoid taking pictures of them.
"They strive to live simple lives dedicated to their God and their families," Lorenc said of the Amish. "It is fascinating to see people basically living as they did in the middle of the 1800s."