Whether you're scouring vacation rentals on the beach for a summer getaway, or planning your annual holiday trip to visit family, there are plenty of options that will save you on commute time and plenty of money. There's no need to travel far to get the relaxation and family time you deserve, and with the money saved you could even spend it doing more exciting things.
So, regardless of season, there are plenty of things to do right at home that will make for the perfect vacation.
Western New York is the butt of too many jokes seeing as though it gets feet of snow every year, but honestly it's a great place to be during the winter months. You're almost always guaranteed to find great powder for skiing, sledding and snow boarding and there are hundreds of miles of trails for snow shoeing, hiking, snowmobiling; it's the adventure travelers dream.
Worried about getting snowed in? The streets are regularly plowed so getting around is a piece of cake. There are a number of winter festivals, great restaurants with hearty meals that make you feel right at home, and the holiday season couldn't be more beautiful. The city really goes all out to celebrate the holiday season with two different tree lighting ceremonies; one downtown at Rotary Rink at Fountain Plaza and the other at Canalside. There are also two skating rinks, one at each tree lighting site, with the Canalside rink being three times the size of the one in at New York City's Rockefeller Center.
You can even rent an Ice Bike if you're not the best ice skater because they make it a lot harder to fall over.
Just a short 30 minute drive north you can find Niagara Falls, a tourist destination all year round, but during the winter months you're almost guaranteed to have it nearly all to yourself. You could argue that the scenery isn't as beautiful, but honestly the views are stunning. The landscape is covered in a stark white and the falls emanate a glassy blue hue. You'd be hard pressed to find a more beautiful place within 100 miles.
If offbeat festivals is your thing than Buffalo is perfect for you. Every year a group of Buffalonians host their version of the Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania Groundhogs Day celebration in with their own distinct way. The Buffalo Mac celebration is held the first week in February, this past year in a local brewery. Then there's the Spring time Dyngus Day Festival the first week of April, celebrating the end of the Lenten season. Buffalonians gather in the old Polonia neighborhood on the Eastside of the city to celebrate the Polish-American holiday with good eats, music and a parade.
Anderson Cooper gave this holiday national attention a few years ago when he started cracking up on live TV while reporting about it.
There's an energy that runs through the city when the temperatures start to rise and the days get a little longer. You'll start seeing people drive by with their windows down when the temperatures break freezing because they know that soon enough it'll be summer weather but they just can't wait. Buffalonians have a thick skin, a tolerance they've built up against cold temperatures that gets them through the colder months. So when the thermostat reads anything above 40 you're guaranteed that it's only going to get better from there.
Springtime in Western New York is beautiful and there's plenty of places to embrace the increasingly nice weather. While it may not be warm enough to spend all of your time outdoors, you can definitely spend more time outside than you would during any winter month when the snow is piled high and it's no more than 15 degrees. While mountains of snow can be beautiful, the warmth from a fire is way more appealing.
Activities like touring the Botanic Gardens in South Buffalo, or walking the museums are great for the early spring days when it's just a little too cold. When things start to heat up a bit you could venture out to a Buffalo Bisons game for some time in the sun, or tour the stunning homes in North Buffalo's Parkside neighborhood during the Tour of homes (May 22).
Plenty of people pack their bags and hit the road in search of warmer destinations during the summer months, but that never made sense to me. From late May to late September the weather in Western New York is quite hot and there are a number of beaches within a short 20-45 minute drive. I mean, if you're dead set on finding a relaxing caribbean beach to lay out on (which I completely understand) why not do so during the winter months to give yourself a break from the cold?
Lining the coast of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario you'll find a number of both rocky and sandy beaches, many of which are relatively isolated and quiet. During the earlier part of last century and all the way up to the 1980s, Buffalonians were treated to Crystal Beach Amusement Park right over the border. You could take a ferry from downtown right across the Buffalo River, dropping you off at the amusement park. Now, the park is gone but the beach remains. Hundreds of locals hit the sand on any given day during the summer months making it one of the most popular beaches in the area, but just a few minutes away you can find quieter locations like Long Beach, Sunset Bay or Reebs Bay.
Headed east, you'll find the Finger Lakes that offer a quieter setting than most places on the New York-Canadian border. The shorelines are lined with smaller cottages, most of which you can rent during the summer months.
If you'd rather stay in town there are endless festivals to check out during the summer and tours that take you through the historic districts of the city. The Parkside Garden and Architecture Tour (June 26) gives you a glimpse at the beautiful homes in Buffalo's North Buffalo neighborhood. The Garden Walk is another popular tour (July 30 and 31) that takes you through the beautifully designed and maintained private gardens of Buffalo residents; and it's free.
If a food festival is more up your alley then the Taste of Buffalo (July 9 and 10) is perfect for you. It's the largest two-day food festival in the country and with nearly 60 vendors you're guaranteed to leave stuffed and satisfied. The Italian Festival (July 14-17), held on North Buffalo's Hertel Avenue in the heart of Little Italy, celebrates the heritage of Italian-Americans. There's tons of delicious food, great music and even a Miss Italian Festival competition. Then, at the end of the summer, there's the food-festival-finale with the Chicken Wing Festival every Labor Day weekend (September 3-4).
Not only are there hundreds of thousands of pounds of chicken wings, but there's also a 'bobbing for wings' event where competitors pull chicken wings out of a vat of blue cheese using only their mouths (check out a slideshow from 2014 here.) While participating might not be up your alley, a visit to the wing festival in the capital city of chicken wings is a must.
The foliage in Western New York is some of the most stunning in the country as the leaves make their change from hearty green to deep red, orange and yellow. The streets seem to get a little quieter and the air a little crisper. This is the time to spend outside in Western New York, to enjoy the final respite of nice weather before the snow starts to fall.
It's the popular season for wine tours, pumpkin and apple picking, foliage peeping, and country drives. Luckily, the city of Buffalo is relatively small so you can find yourself surrounded by country in a little more than 20 minutes in any direction you drive. It's pretty easy to find an orchard to pick fruits at if you drive upwards through Niagara County. Picking apples, pears, pumpkins and pears is a great way to spend the day and it's even better if you go home to make pies with everything you've collected.
While plenty of people talk about heading to Vermont or Maine to check out the beautiful scenery during Autumn, there's really no need to make the trip since you'd be hard pressed to find a more beautiful area than Western New York this time of year. If you're looking for a little more isolation, or a longer route for your Sunday drive, consider cruising through the Finger Lakes region. The lakes are stunning surrounded by rolling hills of trees of every color, and with the busy summer season over you'll have much more peace and quiet for a relaxing drive.