Winter Adventures, Inside and Out
Lumagination at the Erie County Botanical Gardens
Photo by Elizabeth Licata
If you like outdoor winter activities, you’re in luck, because our region has all sorts of winter and snow-related fun to keep you and your family busy until spring. And, if by chance you don’t like the great outdoors this time of year, there are plenty of indoor winter pastimes too.
Downhill and cross-country skiing
Holiday Valley, 6557 Holiday Valley Road, Ellicottville, 699-2345; www.holidayvalley.com.
This is the most popular ski resorts in the Buffalo area. They have sixty trails and thirteen lifts, as well as trails for cross-country skiing. Ski rentals and lessons are offered. Overnight accommodations are available on-site and in nearby Ellicottville. The annual Penguin Paddle, a fundraiser for the Lounsbury Adaptive Ski Program, will be held on Saturday, February 25. Participants slide down the slope on their belly “penguin style,” so you don’t have to be a skier to participate. Pre-registration is required.
Holimont Ski Resort, 6921 Route 242, Ellicottville, 699-2330; www.holimont.com.
This is the largest private ski resort in North America, with more than fifty slopes and trails. Non-members can ski on weekdays. Lessons are available for both children and adults.
Kissing Bridge, 10296 State Road, Glenwood, 592-4963 (ski report hotline 592-4961); www.kbski.com.
Kissing Bridge is located about thirty minutes south of Buffalo in Western New York’s snowbelt. There are thirty-six slopes, plus ski and snowboard rentals and lessons.
Peek-N-Peak, 1405 Olde Road, Clymer, 355-4141; www.pknpk.com
Chose from twenty-seven slopes and trails serviced by ten chairlifts. Lessons and rentals are available. Other activities include cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Overnight lodging is available at the resort, which also has a full service spa, indoor pool, and fitness center.
Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating
There are many places throughout Western New York to go cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating. Unless indicated, you need to furnish your own equipment.
Akron Falls Park, Parkview Drive, Akron, 858-8513 for winter sport information.
Enjoy sledding, cross-county skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating at this 285-acre park.
Allegany St. Park, three exits off route 17, just west of Salamanca, 354-9121.
The Art Roscoe cross-country ski area in the park is named in honor of Art Roscoe, a park forester who developed Nordic skiing in the park. There are thirty-five miles of cross-country trails, which include eight loop trails, ranging from one and a half miles to six miles.
Beaver Island, 2136 West Oakfield Road, Grand Island, 773-3271.
Enjoy cross-country, sledding, tobogganing, and snowshoeing at this park. On the north end of Grand Island, on East River Road, cross-country ski at Buckhorn Island State Park, an 895-acre nature preserve.
Byrncliff Resort, Route 20A, Varysburg, 585-535-7300; www.byrncliff.com.
This resort offers twelve miles of groomed cross-country trails, including some illuminated for nighttime skiing. There are also snowshoe trails. Ski rentals are available. They have a full-service restaurant and on-site lodging.
Como Lake Park, 2220 Como Park Boulevard, Lancaster, 683-5430.
Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, and ice skating are available at this park.
Cumming Nature Center, 6472 Gulick Road, Naples, 585-374-6160; www.rmsc.org.Open Wednesday-Friday 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Saturday-Sunday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing (rentals available)
Darien Lake State Park, 10289 Harlow Road, Darien Center, 585-547-9481. (winter phone.)
Enjoy cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.
Erie County Forest, Genesee and Warner Gulf Roads, East Concord. 496-7410.
Trails that are used for hiking in the warmer months can be used for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter.
Fort Niagara State Park, 1 Scott Avenue, Youngstown, 745-7273.
Enjoy cross-country and showshoe trails along the Niagara River and Lake Ontario.
Genesee County Park and Forest, 11095 Bethany Center Road, East Bethany, 585-344-1122.
Cross-country, snowmobiling, snowshoe and skating available. Snowshoe rentals available Thursday through Sunday.
Golden Hill State Park, 9691 Lower Lake Road, Barker, 795-3885.
Enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in this park that overlooks Lake Ontario.
Ice at Canalside 44 Prime Street, Buffalo, 436-7100; www.canalsidebuffalo.com
Open Wednesday through Sunday, hours may vary depending on weather conditions. Enjoy ice skating, curling, and even a rent a ride on an ice bike. Skate rentals are available.
Riverworks 359 Ganson Street, Buffalo, 342-2292; www.Buffaloriverworks.com
It offers open skating; call or check their Facebook page for dates and times.
Rotary Rink, 40 Fountain Plaza, Main Street, Downtown Buffalo (between Chippewa and Huron), 856-3150. Open Tuesday-Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m.–10 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Skate rental is $3 adult, $2 children.
You can enjoy Buffalo’s only free, outdoor ice skating rink at Rotary Rink, weather dependent until mid-March.
Tifft Nature Preserve, 1200 Furhmann Boulevard, Buffalo, 825-6397.
Enjoy a snowshoe or cross country skiing trek through nature at this 264-acre nature preserve located just three miles from downtown Buffalo.
In a class by itself
Olcott Lions Club Polar Bear Swim, Olcott Beach, www.facebook.com/swimforsight/ March 4 from 12 to 4 p.m.
Watch as brave souls venture into the frigid waters of Lake Ontario, for this 49th annual swim. One of the country’s oldest and largest polar bear swims; it is a fund raiser for the Olcott Lions Club.
Indoor activities to warm your family on a cold winter day
While outdoor winter activities can be fun, sometimes it’s also fun to enjoy indoor activities. The one thing that makes winter so bleak is that there are no leaves on the trees, no flowering shrubs, flowers or green grass. A visit to one of the following places will brighten your spirits, as well as warm you up.
Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Garden, 2655 South Park Avenue, Buffalo, 827-1584; www.buffalogardens.com) Open Daily 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
The over 100-year-old Victorian-style glass conservatory is listed on the New York State and National Register of Historic Places. Poinsettias are on display until January 7, then the gardens gear up for Lumagination, a unique interactive exhibit that transforms the gardens with light and sounds, with a launch party January 26. This exhibit continues until February 24, see website for dates and times.
The Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse, 7145 Niagara Parkway, Niagara Falls, Ontario, 877-642-7275; www.niagaraparks.com. Open daily 9:30 a.m. –5 p.m. Admission $5 ages 13 and up, $3.75 ages 6-12.
The conservatory was originally built in 1945; the visitor’s center with its forty-foot glass dome was added in 1980. Floral exhibits change eight times a year.
Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory, 2565 Niagara Parkway, Niagara Falls, Ontario, 905-371-0254; www.niagaraparks.com. Open daily 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Nothing says summertime like butterflies, so head to the butterfly conservatory when it’s really cold outside. Once inside, you’ll swear it’s the middle of July. The 11,000 square foot conservatory, the largest of its type in North America, has 2,000 tropical butterflies. A 600-foot path winds through lush foliage. If you wear colorful clothing, for example, red or pink, butterflies may land on you.
Christine A. Smyczynski is a freelance writer and blogger and author of Western New York Explorer’s Guide.