Disclaimer: Due to Covid-19, regulations may have changed since this article was published along with the status of the listed businesses and events. Please check with a business/event directly before visiting for the most up-to-date information.
This year is a bit more challenging than others to find fun things to do when you’re trying to get through our long winter. We’ve had a rough year to say the least and It’s difficult to navigate all of the changes that seem constant, but we’re all doing our best to stay positive and continue finding fun ways to stay above water. There are still a lot of interesting things to do during the cooler months to keep these next couple months fun and exciting, we just might need to be a little more creative.
1. Shop ‘til you drop…locally!
Elmwood Avenue and Hertel get a lot of love when it comes to shopping local, as they should. The area is full of amazing great places to grab a coffee and pick up some things. Don’t rule them out, but try to explore some areas that maybe you don’t often think about. Lockport has some really great shops like Tattered Tulip (4090 Lake Ave, Lockport, NY 14094), an antique store with plenty of hidden gems and Windsor Village Artisan & Antique Market (43 Stevens St, Lockport, NY 14094), a general store with toys, books, art, and more. I love the village of Lancaster for shops and coffee, they have some of the best. Bloomsbury Lane Toy Shoppe (1 W Main St, Lancaster, NY 14086) is so helpful when it comes to finding the perfect toys for the kids on your holiday shopping list. Warm up with a pistachio or lavender latte and a macaron at the Lancaster Coffee Co. & Cafe (24 Central Ave, Lancaster, NY 14086) after browsing the shops. Main Street in Williamsville is another amazing location to explore. You have beautiful Glen Falls and shops along the strip like Village Artisans (560 Main St, Williamsville, NY 14221), one of my absolute favorites. They have glassware, kids stuff, home decor, jewelry, art, and more. Rove Jewelry, Accessories & Gifts (5596 Main St, Williamsville, NY 14221) has amazing purses, accessories, and apparel.
2. Winter wonderland waterfalls
I have defended this to the very end; hiking is better in the winter. If you live in New York in general, you’re probably like me where you embrace the cold. Hiking during the winter, as long as it’s safe and the trails are open, creates an amazing sense of peace. The trails are much calmer, you’re not sweating, you don’t have to worry about bugs, and especially if the trail has a waterfall, they’re arguably better in the winter than the summer. When icicles are dripping around them and the falls are half frozen over it’s like a beautiful piece of glassy art. We have so many wonderful opportunities to see frozen waterfalls with Chestnut Ridge and the eternal flame, Glen Falls which I mentioned earlier, Akron Falls, or if you really want to go with the big boy, Niagara Falls. They even do a winter excursion to keep the cave of the winds alive where they built a special viewing platform from the bottom of Bridal Veil Falls. You can even rent snowshoes and enjoy the park on really fluffy snowfall days.
3. Fill up on candy and fun knick knacks at local country stores
Every year it’s a family tradition that we head to Vidler’s (694 Main St, East Aurora, NY). There’s nothing quite like it! With the huge amount of kitchen supplies, books, ornaments, decor, Christmas decorations, candy, games, silly gifts, apparel, and more you can spend hours there looking around at all of the stuff! However, this year I want to add at least one new spot to our family trip by exploring some of the other shops that have a similar vibe, that maybe don’t get as much attention as they should. Next up is probably Marilla Country Store (1673 Two Rod Rd, Marilla, NY) which gets a good amount of traffic, but not as much as Vidler’s, it seems. Kelly’s Country Store (3121 Grand Island Blvd, Grand Island, NY) is another that deserves to be a destination. Some locals treat Grand Island like it is separate from the city in it’s own little bubble, but there’s a lot to do there and has great restaurants to check out too. Kelly’s Country Store is packed full of holiday decor and treats that are definitely worth checking out. I highly recommend making time for all of three shops this holiday season if you can.
4. Games and drinks
Gather & Game (205 Grant St, Buffalo, NY) opened with the intention of getting people together for some old school fun. Obviously, gathering right now is not the smartest plan, so although they are not yet open for game play at the store, their retail shop is! You can go there and choose a game to purchase, grab some beers from your favorite local brewery and have a socially distanced game night with your close family or a couple of friends at home. Keep up with them on social media to find out when they’re reopening game play at the location.
5. Enjoy a staycation somewhere new
With big travel plans being put on hold this year, a staycation is an amazing idea for the colder weather. There are popular locations like Hotel Henry (444 Forest Ave, Buffalo, NY) or The Mansion on Delaware Avenue (414 Delaware Ave, Buffalo, NY 14202), both excellent options. However, I highly recommend looking for something with more of a unique element. I’m sure as of now you guys have all heard of The Curtiss Hotel (210 Franklin St, Buffalo, NY) and their amazing restaurant and rotating bar, but did you know they have a hot spring? They actually have a half indoor half outdoor urban hot spring that you can enjoy and it’s officially reopened since closing down due to covid. Living so close to Niagara Falls I feel like we often forget that it’s kind of a big deal. The Red Coach Inn (2 Buffalo Ave, Niagara Falls, NY) is a quaint little hideaway in Niagara Falls tucked behind all of those chain hotels that take over the area. It has a very old school, charismatic vibe with warming colors and vintage decor.
6. It’s like sledding… but intense
I feel like tubing is the adult version of sledding. It’s a little more intense and extremely fast. Seriously though, I was dragging my toes to try to slow myself down a little and ended up shredding the tip of my boots a little bit, so yeah. Don’t do that. That being said, tubing is an absolute blast in the winter. We need ways to make winter fun and this is certainly one of them! The best part is there’s a conveyor belt, so you don’t have to drag the tube up the hill. Grab a group of your friends and have a socially distanced outdoor tubing adventure at Holiday Valley (6557 Holiday Valley Road Ellicottville, NY) and then be sure to check out West Rose (23 Washington St, Ellicottville, NY) for some delicious, super cheesy wood fired pizza. Keep in mind that for the 2020/2021 season, tickets will be available for $25 online only because they want to be sure to meet the Covid 19 rules and regulations.
7. Become an eskimo in an igloo
It seems like now more than ever, the igloos are in huge demand to keep guests socially distanced during the cooler months. Tappo (338 Ellicott St, Buffalo, NY) has always been the OG of igloos, bringing the concept to Buffalo a few years ago to allow guests the opportunity to continue using their amazing rooftop patio year round. In addition to the clear huts they set up on the side of the building in the parking lot, they’re also bringing back their popular rooftop igloos for another season, available for reservations. It truly is a beautiful experience! You get great views of the city while being served family style meals, cocktails, and dessert. You can check out their different options and pricing on their website before reserving a date and time.
8. See an outdoor art gallery
We have an incredible amount of street art in our city already and it seems like every week more murals are being added to the mix! Hopping in your car and taking a tour of the city is a great way to stumble upon little gems like random shops, restaurants, and bars, while taking fun photos in front of some of our beautiful murals like the ‘Keep Buffalo a Secret’ sign (812 Main St, Buffalo, NY), the ‘Canalligator’ on Proctor Place (a block from Main Street) in Medina, the General Mills mural (54 south Michigan St), and more. The possibilities are endless and you can take fun winter themed, or holiday-themed, photos in front of them!
9. Let off some steam and smash some things
To say 2020 has been a year is the understatement of the century, so let’s let off some steam in the most interesting way possible. At Smash Brothers you can set up an appointment to literally break and beat things. They supply you with safety gear to cover your face and body before letting you into a private room with electronics, bottles, metal bins and car doors along with purge style weapons so you can smash, throw, and beat the objects. You can even create your own playlist for the room to amp you up! I’ve done it and let me tell you, it’s therapeutic and hilarious! Space is limited due to Covid, so you can book your appointment on their website.
10. Dine in at home with your local favorites
Uncomfortable dining inside? Grab, go, and cook at home all while supporting local businesses. Spend the day scooting around to different shops to grab quality ingredients like farm fresh eggs and a jar of ghee from the Farm Stand to make your own hollandaise, breakfast sausage or double smoked thick cut bacon from Spars, english muffins from Dash’s, bubbly from Winkler and Samuels , fresh pressed OJ from Squeezed, bloody mary mix from Barrel and Brine, vodka from Tommyrotter. The list can go on and on! You can cook a delicious homemade meal with quality ingredients at home.