8 Free Winter Activities to Enjoy in WNY

As we brace ourselves for lake-effect snow, it is that time of year when early-morning commuters may grumble about the weather but cold-weather lovers embrace the wintery conditions.

Once your holiday shopping, cookie baking and present wrapping is done, you may look into your wallet or purse and see that there is little to no extra money to spend on yourself. Have no fear, because if you have the time, you should consider taking some time to enjoy the great outdoors by participating in one of these ten free winter activities, some of which involve embracing the elements, while others provide something educational and entertaining to do inside :

8) Go sledding at Chestnut Ridge Park

Chestnut Ridge Park is one of the most popular destinations for year-round recreational opportunities for Western New York residents and visitors to the region. When it comes to sledding, this park is the ideal place for adults and children to enjoy free wintertime fun.

The main hill used by most sledders measures at more than 600 feet in length. There are also alternate hills that can be used for snowboarding and there are various stretches of land for cross-country skiing opportunities.

Chestnut Ridge Park is located at 6121 Chestnut Ridge Road in the Town of Orchard Park. For more information, call (716) 858-8355 or visit www.erie.gov/parks/chestnut

7) Visit the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima

Our Lady of Fatima Shrine is a place of natural beauty, art, communal prayer and renewal to the thousands who annually visit the truly unique buildings and grounds. The Dome Basilica is the main draw, with its two layers of glass glistening with a contour of the Northern Hemisphere of the globe. The 13-foot-high statue of Our Lady of Fatima is carved from Vermont granite and is massive in size, weighing approximately 10 tons.

No matter what your religious beliefs or faith may be, this is a “must-see” site for anyone who is a fan of architecture and/or detailed works of art.

The Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima is located at 1023 Swann Road in the City of Lewiston. For more information, call (716) 754-7489 or visit www.fatimashrine.com

6) Browse the Wisteria Shop at the Darwin Martin House Complex

While this is the season to go shopping and spend money, even if you already have purchased all of your holiday gifts does not mean you can’t visit the Wisteria Shop at the Darwin Martin House Complex. If there was ever a place to browse at unique gift items inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Wisteria Shop is the destination to explore a wide variety of products.

If you simply cannot help yourself and decide to make a purchase, it is good to know in advance that proceeds will go directly to support the restoration of the Martin House. While the Wisteria Shop is open during tour hours of the Darwin Martin House Complex, you do not have to be on a tour to stop in.

The Wisteria Shop at the Darwin Martin House Complex is located at 125 Jewett Parkway in the City of Buffalo. For more information, call (716) 856-3858 or visit www.darwinmartinhouse.org

5) Go cross-country skiing in one of Erie County’s parks

While downhill skiing tends to get more attention, cross-country skiing is a challenging and enjoyable endurance sport that uses every major muscle group and has proven to be one of the best sports to burn calories. Locally, cross-country ski trails are free to access and are open from 10 a.m. to dusk at the following parks: Akron Falls; Chestnut Ridge Park; Como Lake; Ellicott Creek; Elma Meadows; Emery Park; Sprague Brook; Bureau of Forestry.

For more information on the locations of each park, call (716) 858-8355 or visit www.erie.gov/parks

4) Visit Niagara Falls

While many Western New York residents and visitors to the region have experienced the beauty of Niagara Falls during warmer weather conditions, a visit during the winter can be found to be inspiring and truly breathtaking. The natural beauty of the snow and ice covered Niagara Falls provides tremendous photograph opportunities. Since the conditions can literally take your breath away on some extremely cold and frigid days, you should plan accordingly and dress for the elements. Visitors can take the walk across the bridge to Canada and visit the Canadian side of the Falls, which offers a completely different view during the winter months.

For more information about visiting Niagara Falls during the winter, call (716) 282-8992 or visit www.niagara-usa.com

3) Visit Corpus Christi Church

Established in 1898, this place of worship has an incredible church interior that features perhaps the finest and most elaborate ecclesiastical art in the City of Buffalo. There are 11,000 light bulbs that illuminate the sanctuary and perfectly compliment the artist renderings and exquisite stained glass windows.

Again, no matter what your personal beliefs or chosen religion may be, the beauty and magnificence of Corpus Christi Church is something that really can only be appreciated by seeing it in person.

Corpus Christi Church is located at 199 Clark Street on the East Side of the City of Buffalo. For more information, call (716) 896-1050 or visit www.corpuschristibuffalo.org

2) Visit the Burchfield Penny Art Center

The second Friday of each month for December, January and February will feature events and programs for the entire family at the Burchfield Penny Art Center, located on the campus of Buffalo State College. Children are encouraged as tours will be provided and various activities will be offered. Sponsored by M&T Bank, “Second Fridays at the Burchfield Penny Art Center” are scheduled to take place from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on December 13, January 10 and February 14.

The Burchfield Penny Art Center is located at 1300 Elmwood Avenue in the City of Buffalo. For more information, call (716) 878-6011 or visit www.burchfieldpenny.org

1) Go ice skating in downtown Buffalo

Rotary Rink at Fountain Plaza in the City of Buffalo offers free public skating. Presented by First Niagara Bank, the 2013-14 season allows anyone from the community to enjoy free ice skating throughout the winter. Hours of operation are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Rotary Rink at Fountain Plaza is located at 20 Fountain Plaza in the City of Buffalo. For more information, call (716) 854-7465 or visit www.buffaloplace.com/rotaryrink


Written by Daniel Meyer


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