Commentary: The annual Special Olympics New York fundraiser is both a duel with the elements and a rousing good time. One of the day's highlights is a costume contest - the competition is stiff, often both literally and figuratively, judging by years past.
After fundraising awards are doled out and a warm up staves off pulled hamstrings, plungers - many scantily clad - dash into chilly Lake Erie, which sits at a moderate 44 degrees entering December.
Commentary: It's a special year for the Festival of Trees for two reasons: the annual event celebrates its 40th anniversary, and it benefits the Women's and Children's Hospital (one of my favorite local acronyms - WCHOB) in a vital year of transition (OK, it's been renamed the John R. Oishei Children's Hospital, but that interferes with my WCHOB joke).
Anyways, the Snowball Gala - part of a slate of events that runs through Dec. 5 - is a ritzy affair featuring dinner, auction and dancing in the convention center, which has been transformed into a festive forest. If you don't want to drop $350, the Festival of Trees is free and open to the public between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Dec. 4.
Commentary: Borgore sold out the Ballroom in his last visit to Buffalo, as MNM Presents and local electronic dance music fans tend to rally in support of the big-name artists who schedule shows here.
The 30-year-old Israeli producer recently collaborated with Disney star Bella Thorne on a rather lurid track, which falls in line with his eagerness to push the boundaries of his subject matter. Borgore is in the final month of his Blasphemy tour.
4) Canalside Holiday Celebration, 5 to 10 p.m. Dec. 1 at 44 Prime St. Free to attend, although open skate is $6 for 13+ or $5 from 6-12 years old.
Commentary: The first of several tree lightings this weekend, Canalside - for which there are big plans in the next three years - will glow with the colors of the season.
Naturally, the event is family friendly - I don't think we've come across a tree lighting that's not - but skating, an appearance by Santa, a wealth of food and drink options, plus local pop-up music and dance performances add spice to an evening by the water.
5) Holiday Live at Larkin, 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 1 in Larkin Square (745 Seneca St.). Free to attend.
Commentary: Buffalo boasts a musical collective that writes its own quirky, nontraditional holiday music - Robot Holiday - which shines each year at the Holiday Live at Larkin.
From a tree lighting in the middle of the square to mulled wine and hot cider to food trucks to a visit by local furry celebrities from Thistle Creek Alpaca Farm, Friday night's gathering in the Hydraulic District will have no shortage of entertainment.
6) Downtown Tree Lighting, 5 p.m. Dec. 2 at Rotary Rink in Fountain Plaza (Main and Chippewa streets). Free to attend - skating is free with your own skates; renting skates costs $2 for kids, $3 for adults.
Commentary: If you time it right, it's possible to hit three different tree lightings this weekend; I'm sure there are people who like tree lightings that much. Buffalo Place will brighten Rotary Rink for the season, Santa will hang out on the premises from 6:15 to 8 p.m. and amusement rides will be available for kids. Don't miss the fireworks display, too.
Commentary: Hamburg native Aaron Perrino leads four-piece the Sheila Divine back to Buffalo for a gig in Black Rock live-music haven Sportsmen's Tavern.
In Toni Ruberto's 2014 interview with the frontman, Perrino mused why his band, based out of Boston, strikes a chord with Buffalonians. "Maybe it’s that my songs have that underdog ‘aching to be’ that resonates so well,” he reflected.
8) Queen City Market, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 2 in the Karpeles Manuscript Library (453 Porter Ave.). Free to attend.
Commentary: More than 50 vendors will post up in the Karpeles Manuscript Library - the one on Porter, mind you - for a holiday shopping bonanza. Amy's Truck and Lloyd Taco Truck will be on hand to satisfy those who are either hungry (or over-exert themselves) and, with further ado, the top three chuckle-inducing small business names to be in attendance:
No. 3: Lumpy Buttons
No. 2: Carla's Crumby Creations
No. 1: Knotty Moose Studio
Honorable mention: Pickled Punks
9) "The Nutcracker," doors at 12:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Dec. 2, 12:30 p.m. Dec. 3 in the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts (103 CFA, Amherst). Tickets range from $19.50 to $28.50 and may be purchased here.
Commentary: Even for people who aren't typically into ballet, American Academy's performance of "The Nutracker" pulls away the curtains of the niche and thrusts the Christmas classic into the spotlight. The three showings leave plenty of flexibility for scheduling, and if you loathe the seven-headed Mouse King as much as you should, you won't miss this.
Commentary: News contributor Mary Friona-Celani, also the creator of the Totally Buffalo blog, will hold a two-day, Buffalo-focused holiday market in Buffalo RiverWorks.
Some of the 100+ attendees are profiled in detail here, and Santa, the Bisons' mascots, Star Wars characters (likely nervous due to the approaching debut of the "Last Jedi") and Disney Princesses - as requested by the organizer's daughter, Emma - will mill about at various times throughout the weekend. A capella group the Royal Pitches is among the musical acts slated to perform.
BONUS: Buffalo Cask Festival, noon to midnight Dec. 1-3 in Mr. Goodbar (1110 Elmwood Ave.). Free to attend, although some of the shows associated with the festival involve a small entry charge.
Commentary: Goodbar dedicates a weekend to robustly flavored, unfiltered ales, which can be tried as a free sample, as a flight or a full glass. Typically served warmer than draft or keg beer, cask ales are generally on the smoother side (read: less carbonated). Check out which varieties Goodbar has in tow while enjoying a slate of live music, including MoChester on Friday and a karaoke party on Saturday.
BONUS No. 2: Tree Lighting at the Buffalo Zoo, 3 to 5 p.m. Dec. 2 at 300 Parkside Ave. Admission to the event is $5 per person after 3 p.m., although it's included with zoo admission.
Commentary: The Zoo's tree lighting is short, sweet and included with admission if you're already moseying around the grounds. Hot chocolate, an animal meet-and-greet and seasonal music mark the "most wonderful time of the year."
Commentary: This Carly's Club event benefits the organization dedicated to helping kids fighting blood disorders and cancer, while also collecting holiday gifts - a list of which you can find here. The evening includes an open bar, appetizers and live music by Michael Nanula.
BONUS No. 4: Alternative Brews' closing party, 3 p.m. to midnight Dec. 2 at 3488 Sheridan Drive, Amherst. Free to attend.
Commentary: Alternative Brews - one of the first bars in Buffalo to fully embrace craft beer (and one of the last licensed cigar bars locally) - announced its closing date a few weeks ago, and owner Paul Madsen will throw a final bash on Saturday night featuring Big Sauce Trio and High Horse, as well as a slew of entertainers who've graced the stage over the years.
BONUS No. 5: Williamsville Tree Lighting, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 2 in Village Hall and Island Park. Free to attend.
Commentary: Scroll down to the second page of this .PDF to see the full list of activities for Williamsville's daylong holiday village and tree lighting on Saturday. Holiday vendors, children's activities in abundance, caroling and much more are on the docket.