My favorite part of living in Western New York is that there’s no shortage of things to do all year ‘round.
Whether you have toddlers or teens, it might seem challenging to find something the whole family can enjoy together. These are a few of the favorite options that are sure to please most.
Outdoor Family Fun in WNY:
I asked several people with children of all ages what their go-to activities are that the whole family enjoys. Hiking and walking around the Western New York area was the number one recommendation. The Upper Great Gorge Hike and Great Gorge Scenic Overlook Hike are part of the Niagara Falls Hiking Trails, which are easier terrain for all ages and even manageable if you have a stroller or jogger.
One family said, “We do a lot of hiking with the kids. Kid-friendly ones in the area include Lockport nature trails, Reinstein Woods, Knox Farm and Tifft Nature Preserve. Outside Chronicles does the WNY Hiking Challenge, which is a great reason to get out and hike and the kids get a patch at the end, so it makes it a goal too.”
If you’re looking for a little bit of a drive, consider going to Varysburg where Hidden Valley Animal Adventure is another option. You can take your own car or ride a safari bus to see about 350 animals of more than 35 species. Kids can feed and pet some of the animals, too.
Penn Dixie Fossil Park and Nature Reserve is a great opportunity to get the family outside and digging to discover the past. Its website boasts that with more than 15,000 visitors each year, it is ranked as the #1 fossil park in the country. Penn Dixie has several events throughout the year, including Fossil Hunting for Beginners and Digging with the Experts.
There’s also a new family-friendly version of a popular annual event. Doors Open Buffalo is put on every year by Explore Buffalo as a day to explore architecture and history in the area. This year’s event is scheduled for Saturday, September 30 and will give visitors access to dozens of buildings around downtown Buffalo. This year, Explore Buffalo decided to add a family-friendly trail with a half-dozen buildings providing tours and activities designed for families and children. “When you visit a building like City Hall, you see the story of Buffalo,” said Executive Director Brad Hahn, “and every family in Buffalo today is a part of that story. We want everyone, every age, to be proud of that story.” More information about Doors Open Buffalo, including all the participating locations, will be on Explore Buffalo’s website around midsummer.
Indoor Family Fun in WNY:
If you’re like me and only want to be indoors if the weather doesn’t cooperate, Western New York has plenty of options for the whole family, and of course, these places can be enjoyed any time of the year, rain or shine. My top indoor activities are three interactive museums.
The Buffalo Museum of Science is one of my favorite places to visit. There are always new exhibits and activities to try, and the whole museum is designed for families. From adults-only events to discovery camps for kids to everything in between, there’s no shortage of fun. I particularly like how accessible everything is, whether it is for a stroller or wheelchair. Even if you have limited mobility, you can enjoy a visit to the Buffalo Museum of Science.
Explore and More has several floors of hands-on activities. You can check out the calendar of events to see what’s happening. The best part of this attraction is its proximity to Canalside and all of the other fun activities there, especially if it is a nicer day when you can enjoy the carousel, sandpit, and of course, ice cream.
Be sure to head to North Tonawanda to check out the Herschell Carousel Factory Museum this summer. Not only does it share the history of the carousel, but with a variety of themed days and events, there’s always something going on. Admission is affordable for the whole family and includes two ride tokens that can be used for the carousel or outdoor rides.
If your kids are eight and older, the Lockport Caves and Underground Boat Ride is a great option for the family. The tour does include about 70 steps and is not handicapped or stroller accessible, but it does go at a leisurely pace along the canal and then into the caves themselves. It is a really interesting history tour with a fun boat ride through the cave. While you’re in Lockport, if your kids are over 80 pounds and at least 4 feet 8 inches tall, you can check out the Niagara Zipper, zip lines over the Erie Canal. Make a day of your trip to Lockport and enjoy a bike ride along the canal and stop for some ice cream.