It’s already started, hasn’t it?
The sadness. The longing and feeling of loss. The irrational panic of it all slipping away, yet it hasn’t even happened yet.
Dramatic? Yes — but in Buffalo and across Western New York, the end of summer can feel like this. After a few months of pristine climate and a local landscape pulsating with ambitious activity, the season transitions to change. Students go back to college. Teachers return to work. Sensible staycations are shelved for the year, and we all fetch our NFL gear and sweater collection from the back of the closet.
But this summer’s not technically over until Sept. 23, which means there’s still plenty of time to cram in all the stuff you never got to do throughout your presumably overstuffed summer.
Delicious craft beers on the beach. Rides at a delightfully nostalgic amusement park. Outdoor exercise in the fading September sunlight. The uplifting amplification of acoustic guitars across a bucolic suburban farm. Dining delights designated specifically for this time of year.
There’s still time to do all these things and more before the calendar flips to fall. Here’s some expansion on those suggestions, as well as others to add to your end-of-summer checklist.
Toast waterfront panoramas at Wilkeson Pointe
You’ve been there for the Irish Festival, bike rides or to let your dog frolic at the city’s favorite canine beach. But have you ever just rolled down to Wilkeson to find an Adirondack chair, grab a beer inside the Consumers Beverages Beer Garden — and just be? There’s still time to do it.
What to drink: Resurgence’s Cosmic Truth Session IPA, available in cans ($6) from Consumers (open Monday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.) Delightfully crisp and tasty, the Resurgence selection teams well with the Outer Harbor view.
Tour the trippy majesty of Griffis Sculpture Park
Griffis may be the most unexpected and artistically impressive outdoor expanse inside the region’s footprint. One could tell you about the endless twists and turns of the park, the plethora of hulking sculptures or how easy it is to miss its Mill Valley Road entrance. Instead, just go and have your own experience.
On the drive back: Stop by Hamburg Brewing Co. (6553 Boston State Road, Hamburg) and relax on its pondside back patio with one of its still seasonally appropriate drafts, straight from the source.
Enjoy the retro fun of Fantasy Island
Sure, Six Flags Darien Lake boasts more death-defying fare and a nationally renowned amusement park brand. But the forever family friendly Fantasy Island — with more than 40 rides, Western Town Shootout and kitschy live shows for kids — is the timeless end to the summer you and your brood needs.
Be sure to ride: The Silver Comet. Lots of selections among the park’s classic rides, but enduring the jerks of this nostalgically named wooden roller coaster shouldn’t be missed.
Catch some rays at Woodlawn Beach
Summer days are beach days, and for those settled in the Southtowns, South Buffalo or even downtown neighborhoods, Woodlawn Beach State Park provides a convenient respite — as well as the area’s only sandbar sidled by massive wind turbines. Vehicle entrance fee is $7, but the late-summer ambiance is worth the cost.
Be sure to: Grab a cocktail at Woodlawn’s Tiki Bar, then catch one of the season’s last live shows happening on the beach with Beatles tribute act Beatlemagic at 7 p.m. Aug. 31 (tickets at eventbrite.com).
Family movie night at Transit Drive-In
Want to reintroduce your iPad-addicted kids to the magic of movies? Grab their sleeping bags or blankets, load everyone in the truck, then drop the tailgate for some big-screen time under the stars via a double feature (and an armful of snacks) at Transit.
Showings to consider: Catch kiddie favorites “The Lion King” and “Toy Story 4” on the same screen. If your children are older (for PG-13), consider the Dwayne Johnson-fronted “Hobbs & Shaw,” which should stick around for a while. Customers 12 and older are $10. Kids 5-11 are $6, and 4 and younger are free.
Stand tall — on the Buffalo River
Kayaking Buffalo’s waterways certainly has its allure, especially when passing through the industrial canyon of Silo City. But perched upright and gliding forward on a standup paddleboard (or SUP)? That’s a whole different level of excitement, empowerment and exotic draw, all while navigating the remarkably restored riverbend.
How to rent: Find the BFLO Harbor Kayak location at the southern end of the Canalside boardwalk. SUP rentals are $25 an hour, and are available through September.
Hammer down some lunchtime dogs
Do Buffalonians eat hot dogs year-round? Yes. Does pounding down a two-dog lunch in the summer — at a picnic table, under the sun and possibly chased with onion rings and a loganberry — feel more seasonally appropriate? Also yes. Find your favorite stand or shack, and get your outdoor bites in while you can.
Your choice, but: With its deep menu, self-serve condiments station and adjacent location to the beach, it's hard to find a better goodbye-to-summer hot dog than at Connors Hot Dog Stand in Angola. Take a drive, dine on some dogs and enjoy the smell of the season, dancing on lakefront breezes.
Find a waterfront dinner destination
In mere months, you’ll be huddled in your favorite French onion soup joint, asking for a table near the fireplace. That’s why now is the time to find a seat at any waterfront spot within Erie County and its outskirts, then dine aside the season’s beautiful Lake Erie imagery.
Your choice, but: With a new expansion to its cozy barroom and additional windows to see even more lakefront scenery, it’s a great time to visit Hoak’s Lakeshore (4100 Lake Shore Road, Hamburg). First have a drink inside the new digs, then enjoy dinner on the back patio.
Ice cream for dessert
Ice cream’s not a seasonal dessert, but ice cream stands are seasonal locations. Walking up to their windows to order is a summer thrill passed from generation to generation. No matter how old you become, the thrill never wanes. Weird but thankfully true, so take advantage before those windows close.
Your choice, but: If you’re not already a regular, get to Lackawanna’s Fran-Ceil for its otherworldly soft-serve custard. You can get conventional ice cream anywhere. Fran-Ceil’s vanilla-chocolate twist is its own singular experience.
Exercise under the sun
If you blew off the entire summer's worth of Independent Health-sponsored Fitness in the Parks options (that ended on Aug. 25), never fear: There are still a few more final options in the coming days for you to get the stretches, swings and squats you neglected to get all season.
Get your workout at: Pierce Lawn at Canalside, where fitness fanatics can find classes from BikeOrBar HIIT, Boxstar Boxing and Core Velocity Yoga between now and Sept. 1. To find classes, go to buffalowaterfront.com/canalside, then scroll down the events section to find classes.
Say goodbye at Borderland
Finally, what better way to say goodbye to the season than with a two-day concert on the last days of summer, held in a rural expanse that’s beautiful year-round? That’s the second edition of the Borderland Arts & Music Festival, set for Sept. 21-22 at Knox Farm State Park in East Aurora, and perfect to transition attendees from the area’s most cherished season to its second-most cherished season.
Don’t miss: The twofer of Rayland Baxter and the Felice Brothers on Sept. 21. Both have plenty of new material to share, with the former armed with a new EP, and the latter still touring off this year’s “Undress,” which they performed on their spring visit to the 9th Ward @ Babeville.
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