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Great Winter Getaway Ideas: Greater Niagara

Published: Jan 23, 2014

Natural wonders are just the beginning!

Even in winter, the majestic Niagara Falls takes center stage. With dazzling ice flows and colorful nighttime illumination, it's an awesome sight!  But that's just part of the show. This region's other natural wonders include the magnificent Letchworth Gorge that's ideal for winter sports, mountains for skiing, and two Great Lakes famous for trophy fishing. And there's more-world-class arts and architecture, lively entertainment, fascinating history, and delicious culinary treats, from Buffalo Wings to fine wines!

A. Glenwood

Just south of Buffalo, Kissing Bridge ski resort has wide-open trails, super-size terrain parks, and an average annual snowfall of 180 inches. The giant tubing park's magic carpet lift gets you up the hill fast for a thrilling 10-story slide down!

B. Orchard Park

A few miles north, find outdoor fun at Chestnut Ridge Park, where folks fly down the restored toboggan chutes on wooden toboggans, cross-country ski and snowshoe. There are also designated snowmobile trails.

C. West Seneca

Of course you should taste the famous chicken wings at Buffalo's Anchor Bar, where they were invented, but don't miss the other local specialty. Try a "beef on a weck" at Schwabl's. They've been piling the roast beef high on their special rolls since1942 at their current location just east of Buffalo. And they know what they're doing: The Schwabl family's been in the food business since 1837!   

D. Buffalo

See one of the world's finest collections of modern and contemporary art at the historic Albright-Knox Art Gallery.  

Just across the street, the sleek new Burchfield Penney Art Center presents the art of watercolorist Charles Burchfield and other regional artists.

Tours and interactive exhibits at the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site put you in the moment when "Teddy" Roosevelt became America's youngest president, following the shocking assassination of President William McKinley in 1901.  

Experience the Grammy Award-winning Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in Kleinhans Music Hall, one of the world's most renowned concert venues.  

The Broadway Series at the elegant 1926 Shea's Performing Arts Center presents Warhorse in November, Wicked in January, and Beauty and the Beast in April.

On November 30, over 300,000 people don their best disco duds and get down to music of the ‘70s at the World's Largest Disco. Why not join the party?

Explore the world's ecosystems, from rainforest to rose garden, in the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens' cozy glass conservatory.  

The Buffalo Zoo, a perfect place for families year-round, has polar bears, sea lions, giraffes, gorillas, meerkats and more!  

Nearby Elmwood Village has some of Buffalo's coolest boutiques, galleries and cafes.

America's 2nd largest New Year's celebration, First Night Buffalo's big on family-friendly entertainment. Head downtown by midnight for the 26th Buffalo Ball Drop & Fireworks!

F. North Tonawanda

Up for a challenge? Just north of Buffalo, the Niagara Climbing Center indoor rock climbing gym is a perfect winter activity for the whole family. Walls and routes suit climbers of any level, from beginner to advanced.

G. Niagara Falls

Just north, Niagara Falls State Park's a frosted wonderland with sparkling layers of ice. Warm up in the Niagara Adventure Theater. At dusk, the Falls are illuminated in a rainbow of colors. Open 365 days a year. 

Overlooking the majestic rapids and just 500 yards from the Falls, the English Tudor-style Red Coach Inn's a unique place to dine or spend the night amid a warm country ambiance.  

Visit the Aquarium of Niagara to meet 1,500 aquatic animals, from sea lions to penguins,  year-round. 

H. Lewiston

Niagara River fishing is best from fall through mid-April, and some of the best trout fishing in the world takes place in winter and early spring. This quaint historic village is a perfect stop for relaxing in town and fishing the local waters. Area charter/guides include Riverside Sportfishing, whose captain has appeared in sports magazines and on ESPN.

The NY Power Authority's Niagara Power Vista has fun down to a science! There's an observation deck perched 350 feet above the Niagara Gorge and over 50 interactive exhibits on hydroelectricity. It's open year-round, and free for all ages!

Theatre in the Mist productions at the Stella Niagara Theater range from Broadway hits to innovative drama. This season's schedule includes An O. Henry Christmas, Driving Miss Daisy, and the zany comedy The Queen of Bingo.

I. Lockport

Head east to the Erie Canal Discovery Center. This interactive museum will transport you back to the 1820s and the early days of the Canal. Climb aboard a recreated packet boat for a virtual-reality night excursion.

For an optional side trip, follow the Niagara Wine Trail where 17 wineries (5 in Lockport) and BlackBird Cider Works offer tours and events year-round. The New York Times just rated this New York's most cutting-edge wine region. Specialties include some of the world's best ice wines; it's their prime season!

J. Youngstown

Go northwest to Our Lady of Fatima Shrine, where 100 life-size marble statues represent Saints from around the world. Unique architecture highlights a glass dome Basilica that offers glorious views of the countryside. During the Festival of Lights, a wondrous display every evening from November 23 to December 5, the Basilica's illuminated and surrounded by colorful displays. Gift shop and cafeteria on-site.

Old Fort Niagara brings the 18th and 19th centuries to life year-round, with colorful living history programs, historic architecture and artifacts.

For more ideas and information, see Greater Niagara's Regional Tourism Website

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