It’s the middle of winter; you and your children are becoming restless. If you like outdoor winter activities, you’re in luck, because our region has all sorts of winter fun and snow related activities to keep you and your family busy until spring. However, if by chance you don’t like the great outdoors this time of year; there are also plenty of indoor winter pastimes too.
Bundle up for outdoor activities
If your idea of winter fun is slip, sliding down a hill on a snowy day, give snow tubing a try. Below are a couple places where you can enjoy tubing down a hill, no lessons or skills required; just be sure to call ahead for hours and conditions.
Polar Wave Snow Tubing (888-727-2794; www.polarwavebatavia.com, 3500 Harloff Rd., Batavia) offers six different runs with a variety of terrains, for slow, medium or fast riders. They also have three tube tows, so you don’t have to trudge back up the hill on foot. They also have lights for night time tubing and also have snowmaking equipment if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate.
A bit closer to home, Colden Tubing (716-592-4228) 10296 State Rd., Glenwood, adjacent to Kissing Bridge Ski resort, is the area’s largest downhill tubing park, and the closest one to the city of Buffalo.
Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing
There are many places in western New York to cross-country ski and snowshoe, including many area parks and nature centers, as well as a few of the region’s downhill ski resorts. Here are a few places that specialize in cross country-skiing and snowshoeing.
Byrncliff Resort (585-535-7300;
www.byrncliff.com, US 20 A., Varysburg) offers 20 KM of groomed trails, including 7 km that are illuminated for night skiing. Rentals are available and they also have snowshoe trails. Overnight accommodations are available and there is a restaurant on premises.
Byrncliff’s 16th annual Cardboard Olympics will take place on February 15th starting at noon. This year’s theme will be “Transportation.” Participants make sleds out of cardboard, tape and glue to be judged on creativity, construction and best run.
The Genesee County Park and Interpretive Center (585-344-1122; www.co.genesee-ny.us, 11095 Bethany Center Rd., East Bethany. (Open daily 9-5, longer hours in summer. Interpretive center open Sat.-Sun. 12-4.) offers cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and skating. They also have a Braille and large print nature trail.
Down in Salamanca, at Allegany State Park, the Art Roscoe Cross-country Ski area (716-354-9121, 2373 ASP Route 1, Salamanca.) is named in honor of Art Roscoe, a park forester who was instrumental in developing Nordic skiing at the park. It offers 35 miles of skiing, with eight loop trails ranging from 1.5 to 6 miles long.
In Canandaigua in the Finger Lakes Region, Bristol Harbour Golf & Resort (1-800-288-8248, www.bristolharbour.com , 5410 Seneca Point Rd., Canandaigua.) is a year-round resort that offers golf in the warmer months and cross-country skiing during the winter. The resort has 5 ½ km of cross-country ski trails. Rental of skis, boots and poles is available. Call ahead for trail conditions; often they have less snow there than in metro Buffalo. Overnight accommodations are available in their Adirondack-style lodge which has 31 guestrooms. All have balconies and gas fireplaces. Ski and stay packages are available.
There are over 8,000 miles of snowmobile trails throughout New York State; many in state parks. It is one of the more popular winter activities in the state. Riders under 18 are required to take a training course. For information on the course or for trail maps, contact snowmobiling, New York State Parks (518-474-0446). For information about snowmobiling in Chautauqua County, where there are 400 miles of trails, contact the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, 1-800-242-4569.
Winter events and Festivals
Here are just a few of our area’s outdoor winter festivals and events.
Mayville ICE FestivalMayville Cool Jazz Festival is held in conjunctions with the ICE Festival. See www.mayvilleevents.com for more details.
Penguin Paddle. on February 21 from 11-4 at Holiday Valley Ski Resort Holiday Valley (716-699-2345; www.holidayvalley.com, US 219, Ellicottville.) This annual event is a fund raiser for the Bill Lounsbury adaptive Ski Program. Participants slide down the slopes “penguin” style on their bellies. Afterwards, enjoy a huge BBQ and raffle. Also, the annual Winter Carnival and Mardi Gras Parade, takes place March 14-15 at Holiday Valley and Downtown Ellicottville. The carnival features a huge parade, music, snow ponies race, cardboard box race, lots of food and more.
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.
Bring in outdoors indoors
The one thing about winter that makes it 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.
The Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse (905-371-0254; www.niagaraparks.com 7145 Niagara Parkway, Niagara Falls, Ontario. Open daily 9-5.) is one of the best deals in the falls. It has free admission and at this time of year, parking is even free! The conservatory was originally built in 1945; the visitor’s center with its 40 foot glass dome was added in 1980.
No matter how cold it is outside, you’ll be slipping off your coat inside the conservatory. The calendar may say February, but the inside of the greenhouse the yellow, blue and pink flowers say Spring! From February until April, Schizanthus, a plant unique to exhibition growing is prevalent. Floral exhibits are changed eight times a year.
We visited during December, when the showhouse was decked out for the holidays with hundreds of poinsettias. My youngest referred to one wing of the conservatory as the “jungle room,” since it has a collection of palms, cactus, and other warm-weather plants. The kids also got a kick out of looking for turtles in the small pond under the dome in the visitor’s center.
Since nothing says summertime like butterflies, head to the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory (905-371-0254; www.niagaraparks.com, 2565 Niagara Parkway. Open daily 9-5.), 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 hundreds of 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.
Another nearby butterfly conservatory is the Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden at Strong National Museum of Play (585-263-2700; www.museumofplay.org, 1 Manhattan Square, Rochester. Open Mon.-Th. 10-5, Friday 10-6, Sat. 10-5, Sun. 12-5. Admission is by timed ticket only). The butterfly garden features 800 butterflies in a rain-forest environment. We visited it shortly after it opened and found it much smaller than the Niagara Falls conservatory, yet the perfect size if young children are in tow.
While in the Rochester area, you may also want to visit the Lamberton Conservatory, (585-753-7270. Located in Highland Park, 450 Highland Ave., Rochester. Open 10-4 daily.) The circa 1911 conservatory has a collection of tropical as well as seasonal plants. There is a tropical forest display under the main dome, which includes an observation deck. Other growing area displays include exotic and desert plants, along with banana and coffee trees. Seasonal floral displays are changed five times a year.
Have a ball with paint–indoors
Running around inside shooting paint at each other is not something you’d want the kids doing in your living room. However, given the proper equipment and the right facility to play in, paintball can be a fun, challenging and yes, safe, way for kids, age ten and up, to run around and burn off some excess energy. This sport is especially popular with teen boys.
Participants use air guns, which are loaded with paintballs. The object of the game is to shoot members of the opposing team with paint, rendering them “out,” while you try to avoid getting spattered with paint yourself. The playing field generally has makeshift buildings and other obstacles. Players wear goggles and protective clothing since the paintballs are shot at a high speed.
The sport is often played outdoors in the warmer months at specially designed paintball fields or sometimes just out in the woods. However, there are a couple indoor facilities, which allow for year-round, as well as nighttime, play.
GRC Paintball (585-466-3050; www.grcpaintball.net Angelica. Open Friday 7-11 p.m. and Saturday 12-6 p.m.) is the largest indoor/outdoor paintball facility in New York State. Owner Glen Cole actually developed this facility because his son, Rob, was a paintball enthusiast when he was younger. Glen wasn’t impressed with some of the facilities his son played at, so he decided that they would build their own.
The last time I visited Angelica, Glen gave me a tour of the facility and had some local teens put on an exhibition game for me. He explained that participants are required to wear protective equipment and headgear and that the guns must be set at a certain level of pressure, so it isn’t painful when you are hit with the paintball. It will set you back about $30 to rent the equipment, pay the entry fee and get 500 paintballs. Glen has a big heater in the corner of the indoor facility, so you won’t have to wear bulky winter coats when playing.
The only other indoor paintball facility in the area is N’Vasion Paintball (585-473-7529; www.nvp-proshop.com. 1046 University Ave., Rochester.) They are one of the largest paintball supply retailers on the eastern seaboard. Their 15,000 sq foot state-of-the art paintball field features Turf XL padded turf, making it easier on player’s bodies when they dive to the ground. There is a glass-enclosed, multi-level viewing area, so mom and dad can watch the action on the field. Rental equipment is available; however, all players are required to purchase paintballs at the facility. It will cost players about $30 to rent the equipment and buy 500 paintballs.
Discover some of our area’s museums
Winter is the perfect time to discover some of the region’s larger museums, since once the weather turns warmer, everyone tends to forget about visiting these regional treasures. You can easily spend the entire day, or longer in some cases, at these museums, as they have lots of activities for the entire family.
The Corning Museum of Glass Corning Museum of Glass (607-937-5371; www.cmog.org, I-86, exit 46, Corning. Open 9-5.), has one of the largest collections of glass objects in the world. In addition, the museum has all sorts of hands-on activities and offers a number of glass making workshops.
Looking for someplace to spend the entire day? Head to the Strong National Museum of Play (585-263-2700; www.museumofplay.org, 1 Manhattan Square, Rochester.) in downtown Rochester. Since their multi-mullion dollar expansion this past summer, the museum has much to offer, and not just for little kids. My two oldest boys, who are teenagers, enjoy it just as much as my younger two kids. Since it is an entire museum dedicated to play, most of the exhibits are hands-on and very interactive. There is also the previously mentioned Butterfly Garden at the museum.
Also in Rochester, the Rochester Museum and Science Center (585-271-4320; www.rmsc.org, 657 East Ave., Rochester.), has a lot of hands-on kid friendly activities. The last time we visited my kids had a lot of fun; they could have easily spent all day the Adventure Zone, which had lots of hands-on and physical activities. They also enjoyed the exhibit that featured K’nex building toys.