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Discount Diva: Where to find free Christmas fun in Buffalo Niagara

Sometimes, the holiday season can pass us by in a blur. One minute you’re shopping for a Thanksgiving turkey, the next thing you know, you’re taking down your Christmas tree.

But in between are many fleeting moments that you and your family can fill with seasonal fun. There’s no place more magical than Western New York when it comes to making lasting holiday memories.

And, you know, maybe you’ve had plenty of holiday togetherness and now you just need everyone out while you drink a hot toddy and wrap some presents. Western New York is good for that, too.

There’s plenty of fun, free stuff going on this week to keep everyone busy.

• Jingle Falls USA is full of fun stuff to do in Niagara Falls on Saturday, such as cookie decorating and visits with Santa from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute, 28 Old Falls St. For the full schedule of events, which starts with a street hockey tournament at 10 a.m. (registration is at 9 a.m.) on Third Street and ends with a fireworks display at 8 p.m., visit JingleFallsUSA.com.

What I find most exciting are the free horse and carriage rides from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at 101 Old Falls St. Parking is free all day on Niagara Falls streets and surface parking lots.

• Every Person Influences Children, a community organization, will host an EPIC winter celebration at South Park Community School, 150 Southside Parkway, from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. There will be a slew of activities, including lacrosse, volleyball, painting, crafts and free family photos with Santa. Parents can attend a free “Healthy Cooking on a Budget” class and students can learn about goal setting, mentoring and SAT Prep. There is also a free breakfast at 9 a.m. and free lunch at 11:30 a.m. For more information, call 816-4828, extension 1526.

• The Broadway Market, 999 Broadway, hosts special holiday events every Saturday through Dec. 23. There are $5 photos with Santa from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., live music, delicious holiday foods for sale, market vendors, and some of the most unique Christmas gifts you can find in Western New York.

But this Saturday will be extra Christmassy, with a free holiday train show, complete with an operating train layout and door prizes. Don’t let your kids grow up without those special Broadway Market memories. Visit BroadwayMarket.org for more information.

• Noel at Niagara is in full swing at Veterans Memorial Community Park, 7000 Lockport Road in Niagara Falls. The holiday light displays twinkle from 5 to 9 p.m. nightly through Dec. 22. Children can visit the North Pole workshop at the Calvin K. Richards Senior and Youth Activity Center inside the park for a visit with Santa Claus and other activities from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, call 297-5243 ext. 1.

• Stories in the Woods. Cozy up in the visitor center and listen to a book about nature before taking a guided walk through the Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve, 93 Honorine Drive in Depew. It goes from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday and is open to children ages 3 to 7. Registration is required by calling 683-5959. If you’d like to pack your own book and maybe a thermos of hot cocoa, the trail is open daily from dawn to dusk.

• Free pictures with Santa at Cabela’s, 2003 Walden Ave. in Cheektowaga. Visit the store from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday to say hello to the big guy.

• Free pictures with Santa at all Bon-Ton stores from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. There will also be free children’s activities, including crafts like make-your-own reindeer ears and greeting cards.

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