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Enjoy summer's last gasp with food, festivals, fun

It’s that time of year again. The NFL preseason has started and we are into the last weekend of the Erie County Fair – both sure signs that summer is coming to an end.

So let’s face it, there are a limited amount of weekends left in the season, and you are slowly realizing that you did not do and see all those things you dreamed about during the long months of the polar vortex. As summer comes to a close, it’s hard not to lament the days of May when everything seemed possible, when we were looking forward to our vacations and kids had yet to be squirming with that familiar August boredom. Here’s a list of those “C’mon, just do it!” activities that you’ll be happy you finally tried.


It’s not too late for a “vacation.” While it’s difficult to travel too far for just a weekend, here are two close getaways – one for the adults and one for the whole family.

Ontario Wine Country: You keep saying you will do it, and there is no time like the present. Sure, there are some wineries here in Western New York, but there also are many treats just 30 minutes over the border. If you feel like swallowing the samplings, sign up for a tour. If you tend to use the bucket and want to save some money, create your own tour. Two wineries not to miss are Malivoire Wine Company (fans of reds: try the pinot noirs) and Kacaba Vineyards.

Cedar Point: If the kids are bored of trips to the pool and the season passes to Darien Lake just don’t seem as exciting as they did a few months ago, one of the best amusement parks in the country, maybe the world, is just about four hours away by car. For roller coaster geeks, Cedar Point is a mecca complete with many record-breaking and tummy-turning rides that will definitely give you that adrenaline rush. New for 2014 are the Pipe Scream coaster with more than 300 feet of track and the airborne Lake Erie Eagles.


If you want to spend less money than a weekend trip might require and stay closer to home, staycations are a wonderful option. Some may remember when ranked Buffalo as the No. 1 city in which to have a staycation. There might be a “Law & Order: SVU” marathon on and the couch might look tempting, but there’s also that nagging feeling that you should be taking more advantage of the weather. So do it.

Niagara County farm stands: With the late growing season, some of the best fruit and vegetables like tomatoes and peaches are just starting to hit their peak season. Why not go directly to the source? Try places like Hiller Farms at 2039 Lockport Road and Coulter Farms at the corner of routes 93 and 425 in Cambria. There are also tons of smaller venues along the road. It’s worth the car ride.

Festivals: What better way to spend your weekend than at another festival (for those of you who aren’t all festivaled-out)?Late August is full of them with the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts on Aug. 23 and 24 and the annual National Buffalo Wing Festival at Coca-Cola Field on Aug. 30 and 31. For music fans, the Lewiston Jazz Festival is Aug. 22 and 23.

Whirlpool Jet boat tours: It’s often the locals who never get around to going to tourist attractions. Sometimes, this is just fine. After all, there are plenty of places to get great wings without visiting the Anchor Bar, right? But sometimes, these attractions are deemed as such for a reason. If you are craving some last-minute, summer adventure, try the Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours. There are two locations: at 115 S. Water St. in Lewiston and at picturesque Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.


And then, there are those activities you can do any time of the week and are just better in the summer: eating and drinking outdoors. You can take your choice from the seemingly endless array of hot dog and ice cream stands in the area, but here are a few other ideas.

Canalside: You keep hearing about how great Canalside is these days. Yes, there are free concerts on Thursdays, but those are wrapping up. Luckily for us, Canalside is more than just a concert venue. There are the water bikes, the kayaks, the waterfront history tours and the Instagram-worthy Adirondack chairs. If you are looking to jumpstart an exercise routine, there are free fitness classes like Power Yoga and Zumba. For less strenuous fun, you can play ping pong or a giant game of Connect Four daily. Last but not least, there are a growing number of restaurants in the area. Take the family to the Hatch for great summertime food like ice cream and off-the-grill favorites including burgers and hot dogs. The nearby Liberty Hound has a great patio out back on the water to enjoy a microbrew, signature cocktail, food – and the view.

Beer gardens: There’s nothing better than sitting in the sun and drinking good beer on a warm summer afternoon. The Germans caught onto this pretty early and created the beer garden. Thank goodness Western New Yorkers have caught on, too. Resurgence Brewing Co. on Niagara Street is one of the new kids in town and has great outdoor space. If Elmwood Avenue is more your scene, hit the Blue Monk. Bring your friends.

Food Truck Tuesdays: If you haven’t been to Larkinville yet for the Food Truck Tuesdays, you must go. It’s just too much fun not to get there before they stop in October. Not only can you get great food of all types from more than 20 food trucks, you can dance to live music or drink beer and wine while you watch the kids who take over the dance floor and large hula-hoops (spoiler alert: they are really cute). If you bring your own lawn chairs, you won’t have to worry about snagging one of the coveted pieces of lawn furniture already there. Upcoming entertainment includes the Jony James Band on Tuesday and Party Squad on Aug. 26.


As we count down the last three weekends to Labor Day, here are some fun ideas to keep you outside.

Aug. 15

Dozynki Polish Harvest Festival: Today through Sunday at Corpus Christi Church (199 Clark St.). Ethnic music, food and a pierogi contest.

Aug. 16

Scottish Festival: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village (3755 Tonawanda Creek Road, Amherst). Highland games, activities and music.

Newfane August Festival and Parade: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. along Main Street in Newfane. Enjoy a parade, music, food and lots of family entertainment.

Aug. 17

Clutch Artists Autorama: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Canalside. Hundreds of cars and bikes, plus music and a beer garden. Free for spectators.

Down by the River Tour: 10 a.m. to noon Sundays through August. Meet in front of the Swannie House (170 Ohio St.) for a waterfront walking tour.

Aug. 22

Lewiston Jazz Festival: The 13th annual free festival takes place from 5 to 10:30 p.m. Aug. 22 and noon to 10 p.m. Aug. 23 along Center Street in Lewiston. Among the performers are trumpeter Chris Tedesco and vocalist Tony Galla in “A Night of Hollywood and Jazz” at 8:30 p.m. Aug. 22 and Karrin Allyson at 8 p.m. Aug. 23.

Goo Goo Dolls: After playing two intimate, indoor venues earlier this year, Buffalo’s favorite rock band returns for a show at the large Darien Lake Performing Arts Center. “American Idol” fave Daughtry and the Plain White-T’s are there, too.

Aug. 23

Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts: Artisans and crafters take over Elmwood Avenue from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 23 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 24. This family friendly event also has plenty of children’s activities.

Buffalo Funk Fest: 2 to 10 p.m. in LaSalle Park. Free event showcases local and national artists plus the annual Rick James Tribute concert.

Aug. 24

Dennis DeYoung: The former lead singer of Styx is sure to perform all your favorite hits in a special early show at 3 p.m. in Gratwick Riverside Park, North Tonawanda. Best of all: It’s free.

Aug. 29

Miranda Lambert: Country star brings her hit-making “Platinum” tour to Darien Lake.

Aug. 30

National Buffalo Wing Festival: Love wings? Then this is your event. Restaurants from across the country will serve their unique version of the mighty wing from noon to 9 p.m. Aug. 30 and noon to 7 p.m. Aug. 31 at Coca-Cola Field.

Aug. 31

Live art at the Ruins: 6 to 8 p.m. at Canalside. Live art-making plus belly dancers and performers.

Food Trucks N Fire Trucks: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Firemen’s Field, Pine Street Extension in East Aurora. Antique fire truck, food and music.


More to look forward to in September:

Sept. 5-7

Niagara County Peach Festival Academy Park, Lewiston

Sept. 11-14

Niagara Falls Blues Festival Old Falls Street, Niagara Falls

Sept. 13-14

Niagara Celtic Heritage Festival and Highland Games Krull Park, Burt

Sept. 13

Music is Art Delaware Park

Sept. 20-21

Quaker Arts Festival Orchard Park

Sept. 27-28

Wildlife Festival at the Niagara Power Project Lewiston

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