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Ten ways to enjoy the winter – or avoid it

With images of lake-effect snow covering the Southtowns and roofs collapsing fresh in most Western New Yorkers’ minds, it’s safe to say Buffalo and winter are well-acquainted.

With a winter of epic proportions now one year removed, meteorologists are predicting a somewhat warmer winter season this year due to El Niño. However, the snow will inevitably fall, and when it does, here are 10 things to do to either enjoy it or avoid it.

1. Go ice-skating at Canalside

With the revitalization of the downtown area, specifically Canalside, well-chronicled, see for yourself what all the hype is about. Not only is there skating, but new this year is a warming tent. Additionally, local vendors will again be selling items along the historically aligned canals and local attractions such as HarborCenter and the First Niagara Center are literally steps away. Just be sure to check Canalside’s website before you go, because weather conditions occasionally (well, OK, maybe more than occasionally) force the ice rink to temporarily close.

2. Go to a Sabres game

The Sabres’ drafting of young prodigy Jack Eichel also has been very high profile. But it isn’t just Eichel that has people talking. Other recent additions to the team include Ryan O’Reilly, Evander Kane and Robin Lehner. Though the revamped team may not make the playoffs this year, they are certainly entertaining to watch and make for a fun evening. With the Sabres offering many deals on tickets, especially through their social media pages, spending a cold night watching hockey is a great way to at least manage a Buffalo winter.

3. Visit a park in Erie County

Erie County has a wide array of parks that offer everything from lake views to skiing (both downhill and cross country). During the winter months there is no shortage of activity in the parks. Snowshoeing, sledding and tobogganing are just a few of the activities that are enjoyed in many of the county parks. It is important to note that some parks have certain restrictions in place during the winter months, so be sure to check Erie County’s website before heading out to enjoy the outdoors.

4. Go to the zoo

Sure it may be cold out, but experience the zoo in a new way by visiting it during the winter months. Though some animals will of course be indoors due to their inability to cope with the cold (though many are still able to be viewed indoors), many animals, including the bison, polar bears and mountain goats, are native to cold environments and are perfectly fine in the cold winter. And unlike in the hot and sweaty summer months, the zoo is not crowded, so there are virtually no lines or straining to see that cute baby gorilla.

5. Visit Niagara Falls

You know, that big waterfall people around the world come to see? Yeah, that one. Like the zoo, Niagara Falls is typically thought of as a summer-type adventure. However, the falls are just as mighty and awe-inspiring during the winter months, and in fact actually can be even more fascinating when the snow is falling. Though the falls have never completely frozen over, they certainly appear to do so if the temperature is consistently cold enough. This spectacle happens very rarely, but when it does it is not something to ignore. And even if this ice display fails to form, the ice-covered trees next to the cold falls are a decent consolation.

6. Attend school functions

Many adults reminisce about their high school years, fondly recalling memories and often wishing they had a chance to do it again and take part in things they had previously neglected. Sure, the football games are over and it’s dark before dinner, but school functions are still in full swing. Whether it’s basketball games or musicals, most schools offer entertainment normally $10 or less, if not for free. Do something you might not ordinarily do. Enjoy all your school has to offer; you only get to go to high school once.

7. Have a snowball fight

That’s right, a snowball fight. Sure it may be juvenile, but this friendly competition is a great way to enjoy the snow that is a part of Western New York life. With the rigors of high school in full force, a snowball fight is a great way to relieve stress and a good chance to just get outside for some fresh air.

8. Give back

Sure, winter is tough for everyone, but there is nobody in worse condition than the homeless people throughout the Buffalo Niagara region. Driving winds, blowing snow, and at times deadly low temperatures all play a part in creating a virtual hell for the homeless. Though there are a few warming shelters across the region, these shelters are only generally only open when a “Code Blue” is issued and, what’s more, they cannot accommodate the influx of homeless people found in Western New York. However, you can help. Whether it’s serving food in a soup kitchen (a list of soup kitchens can be found at the Food Bank of Western New York’s website, www.foodbankwny.org); donating clothing, including gently used sweatshirts, gloves, hats and parkas; or donating money to the charity of your choice, there are many great options when it comes to helping the less fortunate. So if you’re having a bout of cabin fever this winter, put your time to good use and give back.

9. Go to (716)

Maybe snow’s not your thing and you prefer climate-controlled environments to the insanity that is Buffalo weather. If that’s the case, head to one of Buffalo’s biggest new attractions, (716) at HarborCenter. Not only is the restaurant one of a kind, featuring close to 100 televisions (including the 38-foot big screen that the restaurant is centered around), but the menu consists of locally sourced favorites. From beef on weck, to the somewhat cliché buffalo wings, to the beer-battered fish fry, (716) offers a big-city feel with a small-town touch. So if you’re not feeling snow drifts and jackknives, harbor your inner Buffalonian and head to (716) for a fulfilling night of Buffalo cuisine.

10. Sleep

You read that right. Sleep. With the wind howling and snow falling, getting some shuteye under a pile of blankets is certainly a pleasant thought. The problem is, most teens don’t get enough sleep. Whether it’s studying, “Netflixing” or aimlessly scrolling through social media, teens that should be getting upward of eight to 10 hours of sleep rarely get six. Teens’ lack of sleep could partially be blamed on many schools starting the day early, but there are things every individual can do to get more sleep. Work diligently on homework, avoiding frequent stops if possible. Have a goal to be in bed by a certain time, and when you set this goal, actually hold yourself accountable. Sure, there will occasionally be late nights spent frantically finishing a project or nervously preparing for a test, but make an honest attempt each night to be in bed as soon as you can. Boring as it may sound, increased sleep has great benefits. So with that in mind, while winter is wreaking havoc outdoors, get some more sleep and let the winter slowly run its course.

Jack Watson is a sophomore at Orchard Park High School.