There are better alternatives to compulsive Black Friday buying from your couch, ones with lower stress, more community and – ultimately – more joy.
Here's just a taste from this weekend: the first of four Hotel Henry holiday markets leads the pack, but Women's Gifts and Small Business Saturday festivities across the area double as chances to back local vendors and explore neighborhoods.
The World's Largest Disco buzzes on Saturday, but as usual, the annual sequin-tinged highlight is sold out. There's still plenty to do if you did not snag a ticket.
Hotel Henry holiday market, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1 at Rockwell and Richardson roads, adjacent to SUNY Buffalo State. Free to attend. Runs Sundays through Dec. 22.
Variety is king at the three-floor Hotel Henry market, with an impressive 260 vendors participating in total. The four markets will be subtly different thanks to a rotation that limits each to 100 vendors, said Kristie Pottle, Hotel Henry's director of programming and special events. Stay tuned to the Facebook page for an updated list of vendors for each of the next four Sundays.
The beauty is in the space, too: the internationally recognized destination is expected to accommodate 2,000 people each Sunday and is equipped to handle the masses (except maybe with parking).
[Photos: Smiles at first holiday market at Hotel Henry in 2018]
Women's Gifts, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30 at Asbury Hall in Babeville (341 Delaware Ave.). Free to attend.
West Side Stitchery has assumed the organizing role for Women's Gifts, which returns for a 23rd year. More than 60 female vendors will be on hand in the majestic main hall, with food, coffee, snacks and drinks for purchase. The female-led music lineup is quality, too, with Sara Rodriguez of Saranaide, Curtis Lovell, a cellist and a percussion group all on the schedule.
You don't have to be a woman to attend; the title refers simply to the vendors and performers.
[Related: Buffalo holiday market guide]
Small Business Saturday in neighborhoods around Buffalo. Hashtags are usually #ShopSmall or #SmallBusinessSaturday for the digitally minded.
Hertel, Elmwood and Allentown – three major shopping districts – have laid out plans for Small Business Saturday, the local alternative to big-box Black Friday. The day dedicated to local shopping is crucial for small vendors in light of Amazon's quest for world domination, which has been felt locally with greater intensity.
From other chambers of commerce, East Aurora is another that we found with some level of organization, and two more West Side havens of handmade gifts, the West Side Bazaar and Horsefeathers Market, also have plans.
Lancaster Firetruck Parade, 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30. Parade begins at Lancaster High School at 6 p.m. and continues south on Central Avenue to Broadway. Free to attend.
This is a seasonal dream for kids – a seemingly never-ending line of firetrucks laden with Christmas lights. The holiday spectacle comes back to Lancaster for the 12th time, with several nearby towns (extending to Pennsylvania!) sending decorated trucks for the lineup of roughly 200.
If you're busy Saturday night – it is the disco, after all – the village's Christmas tree lighting runs Friday.
Hamburg Holidays Parade, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30 at Main and North Buffalo streets. Free to attend.
The Hamburg parade rolls down Buffalo Street, beginning at Main and ending at Maple; it's a short, slow jaunt. Clusters of businesses – with Saturday hours and, in some cases, Small Business Saturday specials – dwell at the start and end of the route.
The Facebook event page encourages attendees to patronize "uptown Hamburg," which will make more sense to village dwellers, probably.
Jingle Falls USA, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30 on Old Falls Street and the surrounding area. Most events are free. Continues Dec. 7 and 14.
Old Falls Street is a destination during the holiday season – with three Saturdays chock full of activities, beginning this weekend. A tree lighting (5:45 p.m.), fireworks, opening street party (6 to 8), food vendors and food trucks, mini attractions such as big snow globes, photo booths, plus corn hole and curling on Third Street are all worth checking out. See the entire schedule.
One cool tip: Explore the life-size Gingerbread Village, created by the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute, whose budding talents Andrew Galarneau wrote about last week. The LiveNF Makers Market (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.) touts a number of Buffalo vendors, too.
Mud, Sweat and Beers, 1 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1 at Wallenwein's Hotel (641 Oakwood Ave.). Admission is $25 at the door.
Oakwood Avenue businesses in East Aurora are fed up with the road project that's caused turmoil on several fronts since September. Elm Street Bakery, Wallenwein's and Pizza Del Aureo's are among the most affected, and they've joined forces with more village business owners to hold a fundraiser/meet-up on Sunday.
Cost of entry includes tacos made with smoked meat and Pizza Del Aureo's standard, plus live music from Neville Francis and the Riddim Posse, Doug Yeomans and Skiffle Minstrels. A drink voucher is included in the price, too.
Name a better "Nutcracker" trio than Neglia Ballet, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and a massive cast of Buffalo actors. (Fine, it's really the only "Nutcracker" trio I know). They're all back to present the classic musical for an 11th year, and not everyone realizes this annual show is a Buffalo production – although Neglia does attract dancers from across the globe.
There are cupcakes, dancing rats and pointy swords. Look back at elegant and mildly bizarre rehearsal scenes from last year's "Nutcracker."
The Festival of Lights does well to accommodate preferences: Want to walk through the holiday LED displays? That's cool. Drive slowly through in the warmth of your car? Perfectly fine. Take a "trackless train" around the festival grounds? Also approved.
While future showings might include snow, the cold white stuff isn't essential to enjoying the bright vibes of the Christmas season. If you want to do more than stare at lights, a magic show and photo ops with Santa are also attractive.
Christmas in Ellicottville, noon to 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 30 - Dec. 1 across Ellicottville. No cost to attend.
The Ellicottville Chamber of Commerce knows well the year-round appeal of its village. Even before ski season hits full gear, the wildly popular Fall Festival, Beer & Wine Festival and now Christmas in Ellicottville all represent other reasons to spend a weekend in the Southern Tier.
Witness the Christmas tree lighting Friday, take part in the 12 Days of Christmas Scavenger Hunt Saturday and meet a real reindeer Sunday; check out the complete list of events.
St. Gregory the Great's craft show, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30 at 200 St. Gregory Court, Williamsville. Admission is $2, with kids ages 12 and under getting in for free.
Best known in the event landscape for its summer festival, St. Gregory the Great's holiday craft show attracts more than 140 artisans wielding handmade goods in both the school and the ministry center. From food and clothes to jewelry and garden decor, there's no shortage of options for gift seekers.
8 quick hitters for this weekend
Polka vs. Country Night at the Cove
Polar Express Train Ride at the Medina Railroad
Fall Makers + Shakers market (two days!)
Sugar City Flea Market
Alchemy holiday market
Community Beer Works open house, pig roast
Daily Planet's fifth anniversary
World's Largest Disco after-party at Duke's
5 things to look forward to next week