The Town of Chautauqua is located at the northwestern end of Chautauqua Lake. Situated at the top of the continental divide, the town appeals to both year-round residents, summer vacationers, and those who call it home every year during the Chautauqua Institution season. The town is in many ways, the heart of Chautauqua County, as at one point, all other townships in the county were part of it.
There are multiple villages in the township including Mayville, the county capital, the picturesque lake village of Dewittville, and of course, the Chautauqua Institution.
Chautauqua Institution, located on the western shore of Chautauqua Lake, has played an important role in the history of America’s religious and cultural evolution. The very word Chautauqua is synonymous with a center for learning, art, education, religion and recreation.
Every summer, Chautauqua Institution offers a nine-week calendar filled with lectures, symphony concerts, chamber music, ballets, operas and a wide variety of contemporary entertaining artists – from country western to popular comedians. For the more active, sailing, fishing, water-skiing, golf, tennis, lawn bowling and other activities are available.
Many of the visitors who return to Chautauqua year after year describe it as an experience rather than a vacation – a place for renewal. The Chautauqua Institution was founded on the belief that everyone "has a right to be all that he can be – to know all that he can know.” The experiences come in many forms. A dramatic lakeside setting and the beauty of its National Historic Landmark architecture (designated in 1989) make the Chautauqua Institution a thriving community where visitors come to find intellectual and spiritual growth and renewal.
On Sundays, admission is free and many people come to Chautauqua for the religious services. Car access is extremely limited during the season, which offers visitors the opportunity to freely stroll the grounds and marvel at the Victorian architecture and beautiful flower gardens. In the heart of the Institution, guests discover the Colonnade building with its antiques and curios; the Refectory, serving sandwiches and ice cream, the Bookstore, with a collection of books, art, and Chautauqua souvenirs, plus a myriad of galleries, restaurants and gift boutiques. The Athenaeum Hotel, opened in 1881, is a great spot for Sunday brunch, with an outdoor terrace and spectacular lake views from the veranda.
There is usually a mid-afternoon concert next to the fountain in front of the Bookstore, or in the historic open-air Amphitheatre. At the Miller Bell Tower, a short stroll down to the public beach, there are changing rooms for those who wish to take a swim in the lake.
Chautauqua is hard to put into words. The PBS special, "Chautauqua: An American Narrative" provides a good start. The entire Special is at the bottom of the page