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NeXt: Some suggestions for enjoying the summer in Western New York

Summer will be in full tilt before we know it. Students already are fantasizing about the unending bliss of summer vacation, and school is coming to a close. Surely everyone can appreciate the nicest weather of the year. Record cold, during what was perhaps Buffalo’s most savage winter in history, mean that the warm rays of the sun, and green grass of the year’s best outdoor season, will make the next few months all the sweeter. With the resurgence of activity in the downtown area and wide variety of events and festivals throughout all of Western New York, there is surely no shortage of activities to choose from.

Get festive

Festivals and community cultural celebrations are always a favorite. Perfect for a day with the family or a group of friends, there are plenty of events to fit the taste of every individual.

• Pirates Weekend in Olcott, held July 10-12, is a fun experience for all ages. Every participant is encouraged to wear a pirate costume. With rides, food, music, a car show and live entertainment, all who attend are sure to have a blast. A parade will be held at noon July 11. Admission and parking are free.

• The Taste of Buffalo, a two-day food festival, will be held July 11 and 12. Here, Western New York’s finest restaurants and wineries offer the best of what they have to offer. The purpose of the event is to showcase downtown Buffalo and the wonderful restaurants that our region contains.

• The Erie County Fair is always a family favorite. This year, it will run Aug. 12-23. During 2014, the fair easily surpassed more than 1 million visitors. First held in 1820, the event has been a mainstay in Western New York for nearly 200 years. It’s worth noting that numerous discounts on admission are offered each season, with the only necessity being help to a just cause. (For example, last year one of the discount requirements was simply to bring a nonperishable food item.)

• The Niagara County Fair, Aug. 5-9, offers a slightly different flavor than that of the Erie County Fair. It still features all the rides and food that one might be accustomed to at such a venue, however this particular fair has a bit more of a country feel. It sports a slightly different, charmingly intimate atmosphere.

• The Clarence Center Volunteer Fire Company Benevolent Association’s annual Labor Day fair features rides, food and even a demolition derby among area fire departments.

• Also held Labor Day weekend is the Buffalo Wing Festival. Besides an incredible number of flavors, types and original wing recipes, the main attraction is certainly the U.S. Chicken Wing Eating Championship. Professional eating champions collide in an attempt to out-gorge their opponents. Watching the competition go down is equally as entertaining as it is confounding. How can a single person eat so many wings?

Outdoor adventures

• In Ellicottville, the Sky High Adventure Park offers a singularly unique experience. Here you can hang, climb and walk your way through a 4-acre section of the woods on platforms built in the trees. Using strategy and balance, one can traverse through a diverse array of obstacles, all of which are high in the air. This could be the perfect place to try if you’re looking for a thrilling summer adrenaline rush.

• The battleships in the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park downtown also are an adventurous spot. As part of Canalside, visitors can navigate the cavernous memorial ships, gaining just a small taste of what it must have been like as a sailor in the Navy. The land-based museum buildings also offer a nice addition to the historical viewings.

On the water

• The Queen City Bike Ferry is a new addition to the waterfront. Connecting the inner and outer harbors, it takes passengers as well as bikes back and forth. The fee to ride is $1.

• The Miss Buffalo offers sightseeing cruises, party and private charters.

• The Spirit of Buffalo is a beautiful ship. There’s nothing quite like watching the sunset from a sailboat. From the shore you can often see the unmistakable red sails and green hull of the vessel.

• If you want to explore at a personal pace or take a tour you can rent a single or tandem kayak or a stand-up paddle board for an hour or a half day from Buffalo Harbor Kayak.

• Paths, Peaks & Paddle also rents equipment, offers classes and leads weekly paddles on Ellicott Creek, the Buffalo River and at Wilson Tuscarora State Park.

Beach bound

There are a great number of sandy, beachfront areas in Western New York.

• The Newfane and Olcott Beach is a great place to try. On the south shore of Lake Ontario, you’ll discover the quaint hamlet of Olcott Beach. In the shadow of the town’s famous lighthouse is a wonderful vintage amusement park. Its signature carousel truly speaks to generations past.

• Angola is another great place to spend an evening. There are a number of beaches to choose from in the area. The sand is cool and soft underfoot. Lake Erie Beach Park, Bennett Beach Park, and a little further out, Evangola State Park are all superb options. Moreover, the name Sunset Bay says something in the feel of its name.

Although the summer season in Buffalo may be a short, there is certainly no shortage of things to do.

Landin Murphy is a senior at St. Mary’s High School.