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A Buffalonian's Take on Winter in Western New York

Buffalo has a reputation all over the country for having pretty horrid winters. We’d like to take a moment to debunk that myth. It snows in Buffalo, but we think that’s pretty great. (The view of millions of incandescent sparkles in the snow on Christmas morning can’t be beat.) Although you will need some winter gear to be comfortable here, it’s not insanely cold: the average low temperature in Buffalo in December, according to The Weather Channel, is 23° F. Here, it’s all about lake effect snow, baby — thanks to the wind coming down from Lake Erie. Coincidentally, Western New York is a perfect place to celebrate the holidays.

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Hamburg Festival of Lights "Festival of Lights" by gardener41 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Hamburg Festival of Lights

The Hamburg Festival of Lights (through Dec. 29) is an event perfect for the kid in all of us. Head 20 minutes south of Buffalo, tune the car radio to Christmas tunes and take a leisurely drive through the twists and turns of The Fairgrounds, which reveal display after display of holiday-themed lights. 2013 marks the festival’s 9th season. After gawking at the illuminations, be whisked away on a reindeer-pulled carriage ride, chat with Santa, or get a thrill on the rides of Santa’s Magical Midway amusement park. Admire the handiwork of holiday contest winners, and walk through a Christmas tree field, where visitors can admire (though not buy) the lights and snow. Admission is $20 per carload at the gate.

The Buffalo and Erie Botanical Gardens

Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens
" 2013 December 07,Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens." by  gardener41 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

If you think being in Buffalo means not seeing green for half the year, think again! The Buffalo and Erie Botanical Gardens is a national historic site, built from the visions of Lord & Bumham Architects, botanist John F. Cowell, and Fredrick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect who designed Buffalo’s Park and Parkway System (and also served as chief architect for Manhattan’s Central Park, and as designer of both Prospect Park in Brooklyn and Niagara Falls State Park). It was a site for the Pan-American Exposition in 1901, which we wrote about here (link to the City of Light article). If you’re interested in the Botanical Gardens’ development, make sure to take a look at their History page. The Poinsettia Show will be running through Jan. 5, from between 10 am to 5 pm daily. Admission for non-members is $9 for adults, $5 for kids and $8 for seniors and students. In addition to early December events — the “Puttin’ on the Ritz Holiday Luncheon” at the Orchard Park Country Club, and a visit from Santa — New Year’s Eve is also Dollar Day, where admission is $1 for non-member adults and free for children.

Rotary Rink

Rotary Rink at Fountain Plaza is downtown Buffalo’s only outdoor, free-to-enter public ice skating rink. The rink was completed in 1998, and it is named after the Rotary Club of Buffalo, who made a $500,000 commitment to the project. Annually, the opening of the rink on Dec. 1 is celebrated with a public tree lighting ceremony and fireworks display. Skate rentals are $3 for adults and $2 for children. The rink is weather-dependent, so if it gets a little warmer (if the temperature reaches 45° F), be sure to call first.

Cut Your Own Christmas Tree

There is nothing like trekking out on a crystal-clear day to find the perfect Christmas tree to decorate your home. But where should you go? In Erie County, there are lots of options! We’ve put together a list of some of the places you can go to cut your own Christmas tree in Erie County. A couple of tips: you may want to call beforehand to learn about the different tree varieties, to make sure there are trees still available and to see if the farm provides cutting tools. Also, make sure to bring a warm jacket and gloves! Arboretum On Blue Hill, 981 Jamison Road, Elma (Phone: 716-652-4206) Boston Hill Nursery, 7421 Old Lower East Hill Rd, Colden (P: 716-662-7411) Country Pine Farm, 11996 Humphries Road, Holland (P: 716-537-2927) Highlander Forest, 11730 Warner Gulf Road, East Concord (P: 716-496-8845) Jurek Plantations, 6600 Strickler Road, Clarence (P: 716-741-3302) Kathie and Jerry’s Christmas Trees, 1731 Gowans Rd, Angola (P: 716-432-3936)

The Ball Drop

According to WKBW News 7 and Buffalo Rising, Buffalo holds the second largest ball drop in the United States, after New York City’s Time Square ball drop. This year marks the 26th anniversary for this event at the Iskalo Electric Tower at Roosevelt Plaza, where Huron, Genesee and Washington Street come together. Come out New Year’s Eve to celebrate with entertainment and fireworks!

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