Swing Into Summer

This is the time of year to leave work at five, let the dust bunnies multiply and chase fun. For some, that means thrills like trying a new ropes course, striking a warrior pose on a paddleboard or taking part in a zombie mud run. For others, it’s chilling to Tchaikovsky with a glass of wine, going on a firefly walk or spending an afternoon picking peaches. Whatever your definition of a good time may be, now is the time to have it. Here are 35 trips, outings and events to take you from now until …  well, there’s no reason to even think about that yet.
Sail on a Tall Ship
Go for a sail on the U.S. Brig Niagara. The reconstructed flag ship of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry will offer about a dozen day sails this summer and fall. The ship is considered a schooling vessel, so passengers are encouraged to pull ropes and help out the ship’s sailors during the six-hour sail. But there is also time to look out over the water, watch the sails billow above you, and embrace the quiet that comes from being away from land on a ship powered by wind. Tickets are $85 for most passengers. Minimum age is 12. Erie, Pa., 814-452-2744, flagshipniagara.org

Get into the Flow
It may just be the ultimate in relaxation

“Vino and Vinyassa on the Lake” is a weekend yoga retreat taking place May 30-June 1 at The Lakehouse Inn & Winery in Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio. The retreat includes two night’s accommodations at the lakefront winery, five meals and four full yoga practices held at the inn’s event room or on the property’s private beach if weather permits. The schedule allows ample free time to relax, explore the community or indulge in one of the winery’s award-winning wines.

“Since we’re stay at the stunning Lakehouse Inn & Winery, it’s easy for participants to taste the local wine if they choose, says yoga instructor Stacey Vespaziani. “Of course, the wine is optional and we only recommend enjoying it after the yoga sessions.” Prices range from $609 to $1,049 depending on the choice of accommodations. For more information about the retreat, visit southhillspoweryoga.com/lakehouse-inn-lake-erie or call The Lakehouse Inn at 440-466-8668 to inquire about availability. 

Outrun the Undead
The Lake Eerie Zombie Mud Run (July 12) gives new meaning to surviving a distance race. This 5K course pits humans against mobs of undead (fresh waves occur every half-hour) and obstacles such as mud crawls, rope climbs and slides. Take your place among the living and try to make it to the end of the course, or sign up as one of three types of zombies – hunting, hobbling or haunting – to knock out the runners one by one. This year’s race is held at the East Sandusky Bay Metropark. Sandusky, Ohio, lakeeeriezombiemudrun.com

Grab a Brew
Quench your thirst at Beer on the Bay (July 26) in Erie, Pa. About 40 brewers will converge on the bayfront Liberty Park for the popular event. Samples are plentiful, the brewers knowledgeable, the crowd fun, and the view stellar. 814-454-7191, ext. 123, eriepa.com/beer-on-the-bay.  

Hear an Island Legend
Singer/songwriter Pat Dailey first made his way to Put-in-Bay in 1978 and quickly became an island institution. Hear him sing crowd favorites such as “Put-in-Bay,” “Legend of the Lake” and “Island Fever” at the Boathouse Bar and Grill where he will be performing at 7 p.m. every Saturday in July and August and on Sept. 13. The Boathouse, Put-in-Bay, Ohio, 419-285-5665, boathousepib.com

Go Above and Beyond
Are you ready to go to new heights? More and more aerial adventures are coming to a treetop near you; some are even venturing indoors. Zipline and ropes courses have increased in popularity since the 1970s when they were first established as educational and corporate team-building experiences. These days, challenging courses create a memorable recreational experience for people of all ages. It’s amazing what fun you can have when you step out of your comfort zone and take that first leap onto a spinning log suspended 40 feet in the air or swing through the forest like Tarzan. 

Tree Tops Ropes Course at Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park
Erie, Pa., 866-377-5274, splashlagoon.com
Challenges: 19
Type: Tightropes, bridges, balance beams
Duration: 30 minutes
Requirements: Must be taller than 42 inches
Cost: $6.95 or $9.95 for an all-day pass. Admission to the waterpark not required.

Common Ground Canopy Tours at the Common Ground Center
Oberlin, Ohio, 440-707-2044, commongroundcenter.org
Challenges: 1 long canopy tour through the tree tops plus a ropes course
Type: 3 sky bridges, 2 aerial staircases, 13 platforms, 8 ziplines and 1 sky stairway
Duration: 2 1/2 to 3 hours
Requirements: 70-250 pounds
Cost: $85
Opens June 2 

Sky High Adventure Park at Holiday Valley
Ellicottville, N.Y., 716-699-4444, holidayvalley.com
Challenges: 13 different courses of varying difficulty, including a brand new black diamond course called “Black Bear” debuting this year.
Type: Bridges, ladders, ziplines, logs, platforms
Duration: 3 hours
Requirements: Children must be at least 7 years old; 265 pound maximum weight
Cost: $48

Long Point Eco Adventures
Turkey Point, Ontario, 519-586-9300, lpfun.ca
Challenges: 11
Types: Ziplines, suspension bridges, 40-foot rappel
Duration: 2 1/2 hours
Requirements: Must be at least 8 years old
Cost: $95 CAD for adult, $75 CAD for youth

Treetop Adventure Park at Boler Mountain
London, Ontario, 519-657-8822, bolermountain.com
Challenges: 4 different courses and one junior course 
Type: swing bridges, Tarzan swing, rolling logs, nets and ziplines
Duration: 3 hours
Requirements: Must be able to reach at least 5'11" on adult course and 5' on the juniors course with arms above head; 50 to 275 pounds
Cost: $47 CAD regular course, $24 CAD juniors

The Peak Mountain Adventure Park at Peek’n Peak Resort
Clymer, N.Y., 716-355-4141, pknpk.com
Challenges: 8 courses, including one just for kids
Type: Rope bridges, cable walkways, cargo nets, ladders, ziplines and a Eurobungy trampoline
Duration: 3 hours
Requirements: 50 pounds
Cost: $44 for adults, $39 for ages 10-11, $34 for ages 7-9

See the Light
Take a Firefly Walk (June 29) at the Backus Heritage Conservation Area in Port Rowan, Ontario, and learn about the interesting life of fireflies as they dazzle in the night sky. There will be a children’s craft at 8 p.m., followed by a family-friendly presentation at 8:30 p.m. and then a guided hike. Admission is $10 per family. 519-586-2201, www.lprca.on.ca

Watch the Sun Set from the Sand — with Music
Sink bare toes into the warm sand while taking in a free concert on the beach. Kids splash happily in the shallows while a brilliant orange setting sun completes the idyllic evening. The UPMC Sunset Music series on Presque Isle have, for good reason, become a can’t-miss summer event in Erie. They begin at 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays between June 11-July 16. Beach 1, Presque Isle State Park, Erie, Pa., 814-838-5144, discoverpi.com

Put Your Patch on in Put-in-Bay
Learn what life as a pyrate was like at Put-in-Bay’s sixth annual Pyrate Fest (June 20-23). The festivities begin Friday afternoon with the traditional invasion as the Pyrate King returns for four days of mayhem, including costume contests for both adults and kids, a Pyrate village and market place in DeRivera Park and a cardboard boat race. And just in case you were wondering, Pyrate (with a “y”) was a common spelling for the marauders in the 1700s. Put-in-Bay, Ohio, 419-285-2832, visitputinbay.com

Enjoy Old Indie Rock
Make your way to Lakeside Chautauqua on June 28 to see the 10,000 Maniacs take the stage at Hoover Auditorium and play such hits as “These Are Days” and “More Than This.” The band formed in 1981 in Jamestown, N.Y., and recently released its first album in 14 years — “Music From the Motion Picture.” There is no additional price for the concert, but guests must purchase a daily Chautauqua pass to enter Lakeside. The pass is $19.75 for adults and includes access to the beach, shuffleboard courts and various lectures. So, plan on arriving early, strolling along the flower-filled lakefront path, eating dinner at the Hotel Lakeside Café and then walking to the show. 419-798-4461, lakesideohio.com

Make Your Own Ice Cream
What is it about a sticky, drippy glob of ice cream that recalls so many fond summer memories? This summer, make your own ice cream, but hold the high-fructose corn syrup and fake food coloring. If you don’t have an ice cream maker already, try the Cuisinart Automatic Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker. It doesn’t have an automatic compressor and must therefore be frozen ahead of time, but at less than $50, it leaves more room in the budget for what’s really important — high-quality ingredients and toppings galore. Here’s a soda shop favorite that’s bound to bring back the good old days

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream 
(one quart)

1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup white sugar
2 cups spearmint leaves, rinsed, drained well and torn 
4 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons cream cheese, room temperature
Pinch of kosher salt
3.5 ounce dark chocolate, roughly chopped (we recommend Chocolove’s 65 percent dark chocolate bars)

1) Combine 1 ¾ cups milk, heavy cream and sugar in a saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When bubbles begin to rapidly form at the sides, remove from heat.
2) Submerge the mint leaves in the milk mixture, cover and steep at least 20 minutes. Then strain and discard the mint leaves, reserving the milk.
3) Combine 2 tablespoons of cold milk and cornstarch in a small bowl and whisk to create a slurry. Whisk the slurry into the hot milk mixture, return the saucepan to the heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
4) In a separate bowl, whisk cream cheese and salt together, then add the hot milk mixture and whisk until smooth. Cover and chill. 
5) Freeze according to ice cream maker’s directions, adding the chocolate just a minute or two before the process is finished. Transfer this mix to your freezer and chill another 2 hours, until the ice cream has set into scooping consistency. 

Build a Sandcastle
Whether you’re entering a castle competition or just building on the beach with the kids, check out these tips from Cleveland professional sand sculptor Carl Jara on what you need to construct the perfect castle. 
1. The Right Sand
“Good sand can make the difference between a good castle and a not-so-good castle,” Jara says. Fine sand tends to pack together well and allow for finer details, while course sand is much harder to work with. In the Cleveland area, Jara says that 
Huntington Beach in Bay Village has the best sand.
2. Location, location, location 
“You really want that edge of the shoreline where the high tide is stopped and then receded,” Jara says. Being close to the water is a good thing, because you’ll need lots of it. But not too close to where your castle might be wiped out by a wave.
3. You guessed it: water
“You want the sand really, really wet,” Jara says. “When it’s really wet it packs beautifully. Think of water as a lubricant for the sand particles. It allows them to pack together and squeeze all the air out from them.” 
4. The right tools
“If you’re serious about carving something, having some sort of carving tools is a great idea,” Jara says. Pallet knives (like painters use) are great for smaller details, but you can even get away with a plastic knife, depending on what you’re working on.
5. Creativity
 Think beyond the castle. “If you want to carve a dinosaur, carve a dinosaur,” Jara says. 
6. The Right Shape
Whatever you’re making, it should have an overall cone shape. “If you go too straight up and down, the sand will have tendency to collapse in the middle,” Jara says. “If you overhang too far it will fall off.”
7. Last, but not least, persistence
“Keep at it. I’ve been doing this for 22 years, and I can honestly say that my first one was so bad I don’t remember what it was,” Jara says. “The last contest I was in, the piece collapsed on the second day, but I was able to come back and completely finish the piece and was completely happy with it.” 

See for Yourself
Watch Jara do his thing at the Headlands BeachFest (July 26) at Headlands Beach State Park in Mentor, Ohio. The festival will also feature a sand castle-building contest, kite flying, kayaking, live music and more. 440-974-5794, headlandsbeachfest.com

Be a Water Warrior
Take your yoga poses to the lake with yoga lessons on a stand-up paddleboard. “It pushes your limits of balance in a way that being on a mat won’t,” says Lake Erie Paddler’s Jim Lawhead. The activity requires calm waters, so expect the lake to dictate your class schedule. 
Where to try it: 
Lake Erie Paddler, Lorain, Ohio, 440-935-1645, lakeeriepaddler.com
South Coast Watersports, Port Dover, Ontario, 519-909-8079, southcoastwatersports.com

Celebrate Beach Glass — and Lake Erie
Nearly two decades ago, sisters Jennifer and Terri Reed turned their love for beach glass into Relish Jewelers Beach Glass Studio & Gallery. And, just last year, they launched the Great Lakes Beach Glass & Coastal Arts Festival in Erie. Pa.. This year, the event (May 24-25) is even bigger. “Our geographical location in the Great Lakes region and our beautiful facility — perched right on Erie’s bayfront — is the perfect combination for this show’s success,” Terri Says.

Visitors will find more than 70 artisans at this year’s festival, which will also include a shard contest with $1,000 in prizes for best beach finds, lectures by a geologist about how beach glass is made, and expert identifications of mystery glass. There will be live music, family fun, great food, wine and 10 booths donated to nonprofits with an ecological and educational message about the Great Lakes. “This is a great venue to facilitate education and awareness about issues,” Terri says. 814-836-1827, relishinc.com

Run the Shore
Navigate 14 manmade and natural obstacles along the shoreline of Presque Isle State Park in Erie, Pa.. This is the second year for the Three Mile Isle (June 14), during which participants dodge over, through, down under and across obstacles meant to challenge mind and body. Registration is limited to 500 people and costs $75 through May 16. 814-838-5144, discoverpi.com

Paddle the Shore
Take to the waters this summer for the ultimate sightseeing experience. “Any place along the shore, it doesn’t matter if you’re looking for natural features or man-made stuff, it’s going to give you a different perspective on the water,” says Brenda Culler, spokesperson for Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Office of Coastal Management. Check out these great spots for kayaking and canoeing, and don’t forget a waterproof camera.
• Avon Lake, Ohio 
Culler has paddled nearly a third of Ohio’s 312-mile Lake Erie coastline and recommends following the shore between Avon Lake and Bay Village, Ohio. While the stone bluffs are gorgeous in this area, the real reason to visit is its lakeside cave. At about 20 feet wide and 6 feet from water to ceiling, it’s large enough to paddle inside, depending on the water levels. It’s one of the shore’s more closely guarded secrets, though: “We don’t like to give out the exact coordinates; we like people to stumble upon it themselves,” says Culler. Miller Road Park, Avon Lake, Ohio, 440-930-4130, ohiodnr.com/parks
• Erie Islands, Ohio
For an all-day excursion, pack your kayak or canoe and head to South Bass Island to take in the 100-foot cliffs and 352-foot Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial. Experienced paddlers can launch from Catawba Island, but catch the ferry over if you’re not ready for open water. “Paddling around the islands is an interesting challenge, because you’re going in a circle so you’ll have the wind to your back, front and sides, all at different times,” Culler explains. South Bass Island State Park, Put-in-Bay, Ohio, 419-285-2112, ohiodnr.com/parks
• Barcelona Harbor, N.Y.
For a romantic twist on this sport, head to Barcelona Harbor in Westfield, N.Y. It’s known for beautiful pink and gold sunsets set against the silhouette of one of Lake Erie’s oldest lighthouses, and locals recommend the view from the water. Launch from the east so you can follow along the rocky bluff, which reaches heights up to 50 feet. Once you approach the harbor, join Evergreen Outfitters’ sunset paddling tour — they meet  every Tuesday night from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Evergreen Outfitters, Ashville, N.Y., 716-763-2266, evergreen-outfitters.com

Inflate your Fun in Ontario
More than 80 cold air balloons and other inflatables will descend upon downtown Windsor at Balloonapalooza (Aug. 16-17). The festival will be spread throughout the downtown area and will include a midway full of rides and fun, clowns, face-painters, balloon artists, great food and more. 519-252-5723, balloonapalooza.ca

Man the Grill
Build skill on the grill at Laurel Run Cooking School in Vermilion, Ohio, which offers several May classes to help you up your outdoor cooking game, including Everybody Loves a Burger (May 28) where participants learn not only how to cook a classic quarter-pounder, but also how to make a bleu cheese-stuffed burger, a pork Thai burger and such sides as lemon-garlic potato salad and grilled eggplant salad. These classes attract plenty of men, offering an atmosphere that the school’s Lindsey Wilson says is more laid-back than your typical cooking school. 440-984-5727, laurelruncookingschool.com

Pick Your Own Peaches
If you want the sweetest, juiciest peaches, you’ve got to pick your own. Peach season typically starts in mid-July and goes through August, according to Burnham Orchards bakery manager Brittany Castillo Morales. She recommends redhavens, “the No. 1 sought-out variety of peach,” and cresthavens, which “sometimes get to be the size of a softball.” Don’t squeeze; just look for rich color to determine ripeness. Berlin Heights, Ohio, 419-588-2138, burnhamorchards.com
Pick Your Own Dinner
If you think pick-your-own farms are great, think bigger. Mason Farms lets you pick just about anything it grows, including beans, beets, peas, raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries and tomatoes. Plus, the farm stand is open every day, June through October from 9 a.m. to dusk, so you can shop for your dinner the old-fashioned way. Lake City, Pa., 814-833-9933, masonfarms.net

Find Fish for Sure
 You could hook up with a buddy and his boat, but the best walleye or perch catch will come from fishing with a pro. “You need to know where the fish are,” says charter boat captain Bruce Curtis of Payable Guide Service. “There are a lot of private fishermen who go out there guessing.” Curtis is a 45-year veteran of Lake Erie fishing, and captains two boats out of Toledo Beach Marina in La Salle, Mich. His charters attract families and fishing fanatics alike, and everyone’s guaranteed a catch. Averse to fish guts? Curtis will even clean your catch for that night’s dinner. 
Where to try it: 
• Payable Guide Service, La Salle, Mich., 517-740-5295, payableguideservice.com, 
•Sara-J Fishing Charters, Lorain, Ohio, 216-346-2654, lakeeriecharterfleet.net, 
• Sea Wolf Fishing Charters, Erie, Pa., 800-784-1232, fishfry.com

Swim, Bike, Run
Up to a challenge this summer? Join your fellow athletes in Maumee Bay State Park on June 15 for a 70.3-mile race for a good cause. The ninth annual triathlon benefits Racing for Recovery, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting recovering addicts and their friends and families. Like all triathlons, this one features 1.2-mile swimming, 56-mile biking and 13.1-mile running legs. Both the land routes through Maumee are flat, while the swim portion takes place in an inland lake. If you’re not quite up for the full event, go for the half-length triathlon the same day. Registration is $95 through May 14. Oregon, Ohio, 419-824-8462, racingforrecovery.com/events

Hit the Lawn
Sip on a glass of Reflections of Lake Erie while listening to live music in the backyard of Penn Shore Winery, where the lush lawn is surrounded by vineyards. The winery holds free family-friendly concerts ever Saturday in July and August. North East, Pa., 725-8688, pennshore.com. 

Be a Birder
Search for migrating candy-colored warblers during the Festival of the Birds at Presque Isle (May 9-11). More than a dozen workshops are scheduled, along with field trips (by foot and boat), and banding. The keynote speaker is Sharon Stiteler, who runs the popular blog birdchick.com. Registration required. Presque Isle State Park, Erie, Pa., presqueisleaudubon.org

Visit a Lighthouse
Perhaps it’s the intrigue of a dark and stormy shipwreck or the chance to glimpse a bygone era, but no matter the reason there’s no debating that lighthouses capture the imagination. There are about 50 different sites to choose from on our great lake. Visit these icons to soak in the history.
• Marblehead Lighthouse
Featured on a U.S. postage stamp, license plates and countless photos, the lighthouse at Marblehead, Ohio, is one of Ohio’s most famous landmarks and is the oldest continuously operated lighthouse on any of the great lakes. Rachel Wolcott became the nation’s first female lighthouse keeper when her husband, Marblehead’s first keeper, died from cholera in 1832. Visitors can climb the tower – requiring 77 steps to reach the top – and the Victorian-era keeper’s residence next door now houses a museum. Marblehead, Ohio, 419-734-4424, parks.ohiodnr.gov/marbleheadlighthouse
• Erie Land Lighthouse
Completed in 1818, Erie Land lighthouse is the first American lighthouse built on any of the great lakes. Though it hasn’t functioned as a lighthouse for more than a century, its sandstone tower is now a popular tourist spot. Costumed actors from the Erie Playhouse conduct annual tours up the structure’s 59 steps, where the lighthouse’s bluff-top location offers great views of Erie harbor. The lighthouse’s turn-of-the-century lens was sent to Marblehead lighthouse when Erie Land was decommissioned in 1899. Erie, Pa., 814-452-3937, visiteriepa.com

Get Jazzy
Soak in the music at the Erie Art Museum Blues and Jazz Fest Aug. 2 and 3. The region’s largest blues and jazz fest is free and features both local and national acts each year. Come to Frontier Park early Friday to jockey for a spot to set up a tent for the duration of the festival (though there is no overnight camping allowed). Frontier Park, Erie, Pa., 814-459-5477, erieartmuseum.org

Bike the Vineyards
It’s summer. Take it slow and tour the vineyards and wineries of Lake Erie Wine Country by bike. The region stretches nearly 50 miles and is home to about two dozen wineries. And while you could easily pedal from one to the next, there are some well-established bike routes in the area that are designed for day-trippers to taste and take in the local sights. Bring your own bike or rent from one of the area’s several shops, but cycle responsibly. If you’ve sampled a little too much, there are a handful of car services in the area.

For well-curated rides, Lake Country Bike company has eight different wine trail routes from 12 to 50 miles — travel them independently or hire a guide and mechanic to accompany you. Alternatively, the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau has compiled a few routes for more experienced riders. “If you’re looking for a level yet picturesque ride, try the Chautauqua Lake route,” a 25-mile figure-eight that passes Mazza Chautauqua Cellars in Mayfield, N.Y., recommends one regular rider.

The Chautauqua North East route, a 50-mile loop that runs through the most densely populated part of the wine trail, is another popular choice and passes Johnson Estate, Heritage and Arrowhead wineries, among others. 877-326-6561, lakeeriewinecountry.org

Hook a Walleye
There’s no better place than Lorain, Ohio, for those hoping to find that prized walleye. “Lorain has access to some of the best walleye fishing in the world,” says fisheries biologist Travis Hartman of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The reason is Lorain’s mid-lake location and depth. It’s the first place walleye hit 50-foot depths heading east from their western-basin spawning location in the spring. A sandbar running northwest to southeast about five miles off Lorain’s shores also creates a prime feeding location for the fish, says Hartman. “In the central basin of Lake Erie, there’s nothing else like that.” 

Be a VIP at Cedar Point
The great thing about Cedar Point is that, unlike Disney World, the lines are usually quite bearable, especially on weekdays. However, if even that is too much for you (and you have a little extra cash to spend), consider purchasing the park’s VIP Gold Tour. For $425 per person, a park tour guide will spend nine hours ushering you to the front of the line. That also includes complimentary food and beverages all day. Sandusky, Ohio, 419-627-2350, cedarpoint.com

See Fireworks over the Falls
From May 16 to Labor Day, fireworks are launched over the Falls every Friday and Saturday night at 10 p.m.  Make a night of it by booking a one-hour Hornblower Cruise that includes on-board music, a full bar and snacks. $35 CAD for adults, $31.50 CAD for kids 5-12 and under 5 free. Niagara Falls, Ontario, 905-642-4272, niagaracruises.com

Appreciate Art
See the town of Port Dover, Ontario, transformed into an outdoor gallery as artists, artisans and antique dealers line the streets with their treasures as part of the Port Dover Summer Festival (Aug. 16-17). For book lovers, there is also a pre-owned book sale. 519-583-1314, portdoversummerfestival.com

Swim the Bay
Swim one mile across Presque Isle Bay (from Presque Isle State Park to the Erie Yacht Club) during the seventh annual Bay Swim (June 21), an event that was started to celebrate the bay’s recovery from pollution caused by sewage and industrial waste. Presque Isle Bay’s recovery has been so remarkable that it became the first area that had been identified as a Great Lakes Area of Concern to ever be considered in Recovery Stage status. Register early: the swim is popular and the number of participants is limited to 300. Registration is $55 through May 31, then $60. Presque Isle State Park, Erie, Pa., 814-838-5144, discoverpi.com

Attend a Summer Music Festival
Bring the kids, bring your cooler, bring a group of your friends and a Frisbee and head to New York for the Ellicottville Summer Music Festival (July 4-6) at Holiday Valley Resort.

The event is billed as “easily one of the most affordable, family friendly events” and here’s why: Advance tickets start at $25 for adults and free for kids under 12 to see either of the headline acts — the Buffalo Philharmonic on Saturday night and the Gin Blossoms on Sunday night. The fact that guests can bring their own food and beverages keeps the tab on the night low. Parking is also free.

The stage is set up at the bottom of the ski slope and guests can spread their blankets and chairs on the hillside, where there’s plenty of room for kids to play (the Frisbee) while you enjoy a cool drink (the cooler). Make it a weekend by staying at the resort or in downtown Ellicottville and taking in some of the events there — an arts and crafts show, a pet parade and the Strawberry Festival.

For those who want to be right in front of the stage, VIP packages can be purchased for the weekend and include preferred seating and parking, as well as meals and refreshments. There is also a Holiday Valley Top of the Mountain P     arty on Friday night, which begins with an almost mile-long chairlift ride to the top, where there will be food and drink stations, live entertainment and a spectacular view of the valley below.

Still, it’s the music that shines. The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and its 80 musicians will perform everything from the “Stars and Stripes Forever” to a variety of popular classics, before they wrap up with the iconic “1812 Overture” by Tchaikovsky, complete with choreographed fireworks. The Gin Blossoms are known for such hits as “Hey Jealousy and “Allison Road” and “Found Out About You.” Ellicottville, N.Y., 800-349-9099, ellicottvilleny.com/summer-music-festival

Celebrate Watermelon
Join the crowds for Watermelon Fest (Aug. 23-24) in the picturesque town of Straffordville, Ontario. Thousands are drawn to the whimsical display of watermelon in every shape and form, including fun activities centered around this deliciously sweet fruit. 519-866-5573, elgintourist.com

Roar on the Shore
Tell Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider that “We’re Not Gonna Take It” during the 8th annual Roar on the Shore, a charity motorcycle rally in Erie, Pa. Snider will headline a free July 19 concert in downtown Erie during the rally. Other rally highlights include a parade of more than 5,000 bikers through the streets of Erie called Bringin’ In the Roar. Danny “The Count” Koker, the star of the reality TV series “Counting Cars” will lead the parade. July 15-19. 814-833-3200, roarontheshore.com