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A Christmas bucket list for the Buffalo area

We're making a list and checking it twice. And we would like to invite you to join us.

Because when the Christmas season ends, we don't want to have any regrets.

The holidays are hectic. The days fly by. Too often, we don't have time to do the things we wanted to do. To bask in the beauty of a Christmas tree, say. To hear one of our town's magnificent choirs. To enjoy our Christmas shopping, rather than see it as a chore.

There is one solution: a Christmas bucket list. Check it out. Check it twice. Then check things off.

You can thank us later.

Sip hot cocoa by a great fireplace. We recommend Hamburg Brewing Company (6553 Boston State Road, Hamburg), the Eagle House (5578 Main St., Williamsville), the Scotch and Sirloin (3999 Maple Road, Amherst) or the Chestnut Ridge Casino.

The fireplace at Hamburg Brewing Company, pictured in 2014. (Harry Scull Jr./News file photo)

Perry's Christmas flavors must be tried. Think Peppermint Stick, White Christmas, Gingerbread Cookie, White Christmas and the iconic, Buffalo-centric Zero Visibility. Extra credit if you try them all.

Go ice skating. We have seen the Zamboni in the east, cleaning off the ice at Canalside. Skaters are already circling the ice at Fountain Plaza on Main Street downtown. Find out when the rink of your choice is open, and go.

Catch a classical concert. 

The John Morris Russell's BPO Holiday Pops concert is at 10:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. Dec. 15, 8 p.m. Dec. 16 and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 17 in Kleinhans. Mike Randall narrates "The Polar Express," with the book’s stunning illustrations and the glorious film score.

"Christmas at Westminster" gives you the Westminster Presbyterian Church Choirs, the Handbell Choir, the historic Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ, and the Buffalo Brass Octet in Christmas classics, including Britten’s "Ceremony of Carols" and the effervescent Gloria of John Rutter.  A Christmas singalong follows. 7:30 p.m. Dec. 22 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 724 Delaware Ave.

If it snows, get to Anderson's and grab a frozen custard cone for half price. It has to still be snowing for you to get that deal, so when those flakes start flying, get moving. And if you go to the Anderson's on Sheridan Drive ...

Grab a selfie with Paul Bunyan. The giant fiberglass statue, which used to tower over Crystal Beach, now emerges annually to tower over the lot of Christmas trees for sale by Anderson's (2235 Sheridan Drive, Tonawanda).

See a Festival of Lights. Choose one of these three.

Festival of Lights at Our Lady of Fatima Shrine (1023 Swann Road, Youngstown). In a tradition going back to 1991, lights bathe the shrine's 15 acres from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. nightly until Jan. 6. Tableaux include a giant Nativity scene as well as the Mysteries of the Rosary. Free.

Festival of Lights at the Hamburg Fairground. 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. every weekend through Dec. 17, with an expanded schedule after that through Dec. 23. Buildings and grounds staying open until 10 p.m.

Admission is $25 a carload and includes an array of activities and holiday fun that includes six decorated buildings, live family entertainment, craft making and vendors.

The Niagara Falls, Ont., the Winter Festival of Lights traces a glittering 17 kilometers throughout Victoria Park, Dufferin Islands and various other tourist areas. The festival boasts the world’s largest Canadian-American Flag as well as Noah's Ark, the illumination of the Skylon Tower, and more than 50 trees in Dufferin Islands wrapped with lights.

Free, but donations are accepted by Festival Ambassadors at the exit of Dufferin Islands. Through Jan. 31.

Wassail, wassail. Have a Christmas drink. Choose one:

The Place served its traditional Tom & Jerry in a commemorative mug last year, marking the restaurant’s 75th anniversary. (Elizabeth Carey/Special to The News)

Punch. They make it regularly at the Angelica Tea Room (517 Washington St.). It's non-alcoholic but still smacks of the season.

A Tom & Jerry. Perhaps at the Place on Lexington, where they have historically been a specialty, or the Glen Park Tavern in Williamsville.

Enjoy a Christmas beer. Pearl Street Grill and Brewery (76 Pearl St.) has brewed a spicy Gingerbread Cookie Brown Ale, such as is sipped in Merrie Olde England. Resurgence Brewing Co. (1250 Niagara St.) has a Holiday Ale they say is like French toast, with hints of caramel and cinnamon. Yum!

A third option: Flying Bison Brewing Co. (840 Seneca St.) has trotted out its German Blizzard Bock. Quoth the brewers: "It got us through last winter, it can get you through anything."

"And heaven and nature sing ..." Go out caroling with your friends. Join a group and carol at a hospital or community center.

For the 45th year, the East Aurora Carolcade will take place on Main Street in East Aurora between Olean and Riley streets. All it wants for Christmas is you. 7 to 8 p.m. Dec. 16.

Gather around the Christmas tree. Contribute a toy to the growing heap under the glittering Christmas tree in the lobby of The Buffalo News. While you're downtown, marvel at the magnificent Christmas tree in the glorious atrium of the Ellicott Square Building. It is said to be the biggest in Buffalo. Enjoy a beef on weck from Charlie the Butcher while you're there.

"Silver bells, silver bells, it's Christmas time in the city." A Western New Yorker, Ray Evans, wrote those famous lyrics, so do what he says and shop the Elmwood Strip or Hertel Avenue.

Send at least 10 Christmas cards. You still have time. Extra points if you send out cards made in Western New York. Be Santa's helper. Snail mail is in.

Visit a grandly decorated home. We recommend Graycliff, the home on Lake Erie that Frank Lloyd Wright designed for Darwin Martin's family. Or the Theodore Roosevelt site, formerly known as the Wilcox Mansion (641 Delaware Ave., 884-0095).

The holiday season sparkles at the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site. (Harry Scull Jr./News file photo)

Set your car button to Star 102.5. Open your window when you're stopped at a light so that all might enjoy. (The colder the better.)

Pop goes your Christmas. Catch one of the following acts.

You don't necessarily need ice-cold peppermint schnapps to chill during the Christmas season. You can chill just as easily with Jim Brickman. The New Age piano man brings "A Joyful Christmas" to North Tonawanda's Riviera Theatre at 8 p.m. Dec. 15. Tickets are $29-$49.

Another mellow fellow follows at the Riviera Theatre two days later. That's when soothing sax man Kenny G rolls in with "The Miracles Holiday & Hits Tour." The show is at 8 p.m. Dec. 17. Tickets are $59-$69.

Do you hear what we hear? It's the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, heading this way. The mega-band brings "The Ghosts of Christmas Eve" and other signature seasonal material to KeyBank Center at 3 and 8 p.m. Dec. 16. $43.50-$73.50.


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