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Special outdoor events on tap in WNY this winter

Those who haven’t set foot on the Buffalo waterfront the last several years – including the Old First Ward – gaze in amazement on that first trip down these days.

Even in winter.

“We’ve got some pretty significant partners that have invested quite a bit to make this a destination,” Robert D. Gioia, chairman of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., said when introducing a new Buffalo Winter Weekends promotion this week. “Seven years ago, this was a vacant lot,” he said while standing on the Lloyd Street Bridge overlooking The Ice at Canalside.

During the last several years, more than $300 million has been invested in four projects alone on the Buffalo waterfront: HarborCenter – which accounts for about two-thirds of that investment – Canalside, Larkin Square and RiverWorks.

All are linchpins of Buffalo Winter Weekends, spearheaded by Visit Buffalo Niagara. Also participating are Canisius College Hockey, the Arts Services Initiative of Western New York and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

See a complete listing of related events at buffalowinterweekends.com. Meanwhile, below is a list of special outdoor winter events across the region in the coming weeks.

DOWNTOWN

Chillabration

Canalside, 44 Prime St.; 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Starts Saturday with an attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records Longest Ice Line at the Rink at Canalside and continues with children’s activities on and off the ice, a vendor market, live music and more. A Bonspiel from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, presented by Catholic Health, will allow the first 80 teams to sign up for curling to do so free. For more info, visit canalsidebuffalo.com.

Snow Soccer

The Ice at Canalside, 44 Prime St.; 10 to 11 a.m. Jan. 24, Feb. 21. Soccer shots will host free clinics to introduce kids ages 3 to 8 to the sport of soccer. For more info, visit canalsidebuffalo.com.

Larkinville Ice Festival

Larkin Square, 745 Seneca St. and nearby; 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 30. Family friendly event teams up Larkin Square, Hydraulic Hearth and Flying Bison Brewing Co. for live music, snow globe making, snowman-building, sleigh rides and “snowga,” or “yoga in the snow,” said Leslie Zemsky, Larkinville “director of fun.” A talk on the future of Buffalo, winter pickleball and other games for all ages also is part of the mix. Flying Bison, 745 Seneca St., will host an ice sculpture contest and second annual Slow Role bike ride, the latter of which starts at 12;30 p.m. Hydraulic Hearth, 716 Swan St., gets things started at 10:30 a.m. with a Bagels and Brooze brunch. “You can go to multiple venues downtown on any weekend,” Zemsky said. “Getting outside is the whole idea.” For more info, visit larkinsquare.com.

Heart & Soul 5K

Larkin Square, 701 Seneca St., Feb. 13. Race starts at 10 a.m. on Van Rensselaer Street, behind Larkin Square and benefits family programs in the city. For more info and to register, visit heartsoul5k.itsyourrace.com.

Labatt Blue Pond Hockey Tournament

RiverWorks, 359 Ganson St.; Feb. 19-21. The three-day tournament will feature up to 144 teams. The RiverWorks’ dual rinks will be split into six playing surfaces and the public is welcome to watch. Last year, more than 25,000 attended. For more info or to register for the tourney, visit labattbluepondhockey.com/buffalopond or buffaloriverworks.com

ELSEWHERE IN BUFFALO

Winter Blast

Martin Luther King Park, along Humboldt Parkway; 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Hasek’s Heroes and Buffalo Sabres alumni will run a hockey clinic for kids. Hot cocoa, fresh fruit and face painting also will be part of the fun in this BlueCross BlueShield of WNY Healthy Zone.

Bring your own skis tour

Tifft Nature Preserve, 1200 Fuhrmann Blvd.; 10:30 a.m. to noon Monday. Guided cross-country ski tour of 5 miles of trail for adults. $5; Buffalo Museum of Science members save 10 percent. Preregistration is required at tifft.org or 825-6397.

Cabin Fever Frolic

Tifft Nature Preserve, 1200 Fuhrmann Blvd.; 2 to 3:30 p.m. Monday. Guided frolic on the trails for kids. $5; Buffalo Museum of Science members save 10 percent; snowshoe rentals $2. Preregistration is required at tifft.org or 825-6397.

Wellness walks

Tifft Nature Preserve, 1200 Fuhrmann Blvd.; 10 a.m. to noon Thursdays. For all ages. Call 825-6937 to confirm walk will take place. $2 donation appreciated.

Starry Night Valentine Hike

Tifft Nature Preserve, 1200 Fuhrmann Blvd.; 6 to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 13. For those 18 and over. Stroll the preserve trails and finish with hot chocolate and music near the fireplace at Tifft’s candlelit cabin. $6; Buffalo Museum of Science members save 10 percent; snowshoe rentals $2. Preregistration is required at tifft.org or 825-6397.

Buffalo Shamrock Run

Old First Ward Community Center, 62 Republic St.; 8K race starts at 10 a.m. March 12 outside the center. To register or for more info, visit buffaloshamrockrun.com.

CHEEKTOWAGA – Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve

93 Honorine Drive, Cheektowaga

Winter programs are free unless otherwise noted. For more info, visit reinsteinwoods.org.

Stories in the Woods: 10:30 a.m. next Saturday, Feb. 20. Enjoy hearing a nature story, followed by a guided walk in the woods. For children ages 3 to 7. Registration required; call 683-5959.

Learn to Cross-Country Ski: 10 a.m. Jan. 30, 10:30 a.m. Feb. 18. Learn the basics before going on a short guided ski tour. Ski rental $8 per person; $5 per person for Friends of Reinstein Woods members. Registration required; call 683-5959.

Buffalo Nordic Ski Club regional tour: 9:30 a.m. Jan. 30; for more info, visit buffalonordic.org.

Winter Wonderland in the Woods: 1 to 4 p.m. Feb. 6. Try out snowshoes or cross-country skis for free, go on a winter scavenger hunt, and make snow art. Enjoy ice fishing demonstrations, winter crafts for kids. No registration required.

Sweetheart Snowshoe Walk: 10:30 a.m. Feb. 13. Celebrate Valentine’s Day by taking a walk in the woods with your sweetheart. Snowshoe rental (if appropriate) $5 per person; $2 per person for Friends of Reinstein Woods members. Registration required; call 683-5959.

Winter Nature Play: 10:30 Feb. 17. Play nature games, build snow sculptures, and go on a scavenger hunt. For kids ages 4 to 8. Registration required; call 683-5959.

Track and Scat Snowshoe Walk: 1 p.m. Feb. 19. Search for animal tracks and scat, and learn about wildlife living in the woods. Snowshoe rental $5 per person; $2 per person for Friends of Reinstein Woods members. Registration required; call 683-5959.

Amherst Day at Reinstein Woods: 1 to 4 p.m. Feb. 28. Snowball throwing and snow art, or renting snowshoes or cross-country skis. Light refreshments available for sale. Town of Amherst residents: show ID for free snowshoe or ski rental courtesy of Amherst Youth & Recreation Department. No registration required.

ORCHARD PARK

Winterfest 2016

11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 24, Chestnut Ridge Park, 6121 Chestnut Ridge Road. Free family event includes sledding, tobogganing and snowboarding, marshmallow roasting, arts and crafts, a snow sculpture contest and magic shows at 11;30 a.m. and 1 p.m.; $3 hayrides run from noon to 3 p.m.

NIAGARA COUNTY

Snowshoe patrol and winter life at the fort

Old Fort Niagara, northern end of the Robert Moses Parkway near Youngstown. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 6. Families are invited to experience mid-18th century winter life at the fort with activities that include a snowshoe patrol. Admission is charged. Visit oldfortniagara.org or call 745-7611. The park also provides land for cross-country skiers and snowshoers.

Polar Bear Run

Olcott Volunteer Fire Co., 1691 Lockport-Olcott Road, Olcott, Feb. 28. Race starts at 10 a.m., followed by a pancake breakfast. To register and for more info, visit score-this.com/web/scorethis/pb5k. (Olcott Polar Bear Swim for Sight takes place March 6 in nearby Krull Park; to register, visit olcottlions.org/swim.htm.)

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