For Buffalo events, this weekend is the best of January and February, without question. A compelling list of 15 events could be made for Saturday alone, but since we don't want to overwhelm with options, here is a balanced selection with some Friday and Sunday choices woven in.
Note that Jerry Seinfeld, coming to Shea's Buffalo this weekend, sold out both of his performances well in advance. Sorry, but "Seinfeld" fans act quickly and decisively.
Larkinville Ice Festival, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26 at Larkin Square (745 Seneca St.). Free to attend.
Outdoor festivals in January aren't easy to pull off in Buffalo, but Larkin Square's annual Ice Festival has a few weather-proof attractions. The heated boardwalk houses local vendors and serves as a nice refuge after Snowga - which, as you might have guessed, is yoga in the snow.
The Thistle Creek Alpacas are quite capable of handling winter adversity, donning fashionable apparel to become even cuter than usual. Just keep them away from the free hot chocolate toppings bar, an additional perk for humans.
If four hours of fun isn't enough, then Hydraulic Hearth's Bavarian Winterfest, which begins at noon and runs until midnight, is a German-themed party across the street. Jagermeister is the sponsor, and there will be a shot luge. Here are the Smiles from last year's Ice Festival.
Good timing for the Cincinnati, Ohio rock band's arrival in Amherst, as the four-piece released a video for its single "Timebomb," which dropped less than two weeks ago. The Center for the Arts is the third stop on the winter tour for Walk the Moon and frontman Nicholas Petricca, who will take the stage after opener Bear Hands.
Look back at Smiles from Alternative Buffalo's Kerfuffle Before Christmas in 2014, when Walk the Moon headlined.
Support the endeavors of the Kenan Center - a community staple in Lockport that embraces everything from art to education to recreation - by enjoying the Wine and Beer Fest, which welcomes roughly 30 breweries, wineries and restaurants to the arena. A list of participants may be found on the Facebook event page, and Easy Street Big Band will tackle the music.
Kenan Center teased a new event for 2019 - the inaugural Niagara Barbecue Brew Fest. We'll keep our eyes peeled for further details.
Penguin Run 5K, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27 at Classics V (2425 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst). Registration is $35 in advance for the 5K, $15 for the 1K waddle; details here. Prices rise at day-of registration.
Along with the Polar Plunge, the annual Penguin Run is not suited for those averse to cold winter temperatures. It's the 25th anniversary of the run that benefits Cradle Beach, which makes the certified sanctioned 5K (and even the shorter waddle) more special. The race begins at 11 a.m., and prepare with a Smiles gallery from 2017.
For what it's worth, the Penguin Run logo is among the most underrated of local events.
Buffalo has two slightly impatient groundhogs. Buffalo Mack and Buffalo Bert, one considerably larger and less real than the other, will declare the remaining length of winter at the annual party at Flying Bison, replete with a heated tent, live music and food trucks.
The event, now in its sixth year, has tried to turn Buffalo into Groundhog Day central, with costumes, playful videos and a healthy dose of humor. The Maple View Alpacas will hang out at Groundhog Day, just down the road from (theoretically fierce local rival) Thistle Creek's squad at the Larkinville Ice Festival.
Proceeds from the event benefit Hawk Creek Wildlife Center, Buffalo C.A.R.E.S. Animal Rescue and the Buffalo Zoo.
Lumagination launch party, 6:30 to 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25 at the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens (2655 South Park Ave.). Cost is $50 for general admission or $40 for Botanical Gardens members. Ticket details here.
Credit the Botanical Gardens for injecting color and light into a bleak time in Buffalo's calendar. The annual Lumagination exhibit is quite the spectacle - as you can see from Mark Mulville's sneak preview gallery, just published today - and the launch party kicks off the festivities with an open bar (which includes new Labatt's new Citra release), live music and food from Salvatore's Italian Gardens.
[Related: Smiles at the 2018 Lumagination launch party]
Chestnut Ridge Winterfest, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27 at Chestnut Ridge Casino (6121 Chestnut Ridge Road, Orchard Park). Free to attend.
Chestnut Ridge Winterfest has been a hard-luck event the last several years, with weather interfering in both extremes. Erie County Parks and Orchard Park Recreation remain undaunted, however, returning the Winterfest for another year.
Sledding, snow sculpting, hay rides, a monster mural, two magic shows and more are on the agenda for the family-friendly function. Concessions will be available for purchased in the casino.
Few craft-beer events can boast a beer list as elite as the Brewers Invitational, as the participating area brewers were challenged to offer beer that best represents their brand.
Some of the brews are tailored to the season - like Steelbound's Portly Gentleman Stout and Five & 20's tiramisu stout - while others are unusual or trendy, such as Ellicottville's Black Daze Black New England IPA and Big Ditch's Pina Colada Milkshake IPA.
Wine and Chocolate Festival, two sessions: 1 to 4 p.m., 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26 in the Buffalo Grand Hotel (120 Church St., formerly Adam's Mark Hotel). Tickets are $30 in advance here or $35 at the door.
Galaxy Events presents a Wine and Chocolate Festival in nine different locations, split between New York and North Carolina. A regular winter event for Buffalo, the festival curates a strong list of wineries and distilleries that's complemented by an even bigger gaggle of vendors, ranging from chocolatiers to other food purveyors to artisans.
Event-goers are promised a "special chocolate surprise," which isn't a phrase you get to write every day.
Buffalo Golden Gloves, 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27 in Buffalo RiverWorks (359 Ganson St.). General admission costs $25, ringside seats are $35 and VIP tickets are $45, all in advance. Prices rise at the door.
Self-confidence, guile and toughness are required to step into a boxing ring, and that's the challenge that Sunday's Golden Gloves competitors - hailing from across New York state - face in Buffalo RiverWorks.
The bout list was posted yesterday, with weight categories ranging from 123 to above 201 pounds.
Mac Attack 2019, two sessions: noon to 2 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26 at the Buffalo Niagara Marriott (1340 Millersport Highway, Amherst). Cost is $20 in advance here; only 30 tickets remained as of noon Jan. 23.
Kiss 98.5 FM's Mac Attack - an annual celebration of some of the area's best macaroni and cheese - will sell out before Saturday. Eleven restaurants with a nice assortment, including Richie's Soul Food, Keglers in Transit Lanes and just-reviewed Schnitzel & Co., as well as usual suspects like Fat Bob's and Lloyd Taco, will be in attendance.
Event-goers receive a to-go container upon arrival - hey, not everyone can over-eat cheese with grace - and free water, which is not to be taken lightly.
SWEET BONUS: Park Edge Sweet Shoppe's Valentine's pop-up shop next to Alchemy, 50 Buffalo St., Hamburg. 2 to 9 p.m. Jan. 26 through Feb. 15 on Monday, Wednesday through Saturday. Closed Sunday and Tuesday.
5 events to look forward to next week
Stuffed banana pepper dinner at Coles
Gala 22:6: Catholic Education dinner
Lumagination at Botanical Gardens
Sunrise 6K on Skates at Canalside
12 Gates' chili cook-off
Story topics: Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens/ Buffalo Golden Gloves/ Buffalo Groundhog Day/ event previews/ Larkinville Ice Festival/ Lumagination/ macaroni and cheese/ Penguin Run/ things to do