There's simply no better weekend in January for Buffalo events. You could even argue it's the best weekend of winter altogether.
Choosing specific highlights is a Herculean task – most of them appeal for different reasons, from decadent food to goofy alpacas to an annually stunning plants-and-light exhibition.
Good luck picking what to do, but know that it will be hard to choose wrong.
Buffalo Soup-Fest, two sessions: 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 3 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 26 at Buffalo RiverWorks (359 Ganson St.). Entry is $4, and parking is $5. Each soup is roughly $2-$3.
Sunday brings a special iteration of Soup-Fest, which celebrates its 10th year, boasts two sessions for the first time and heads to a new venue in RiverWorks. The Buffalo influence is extreme, with several chicken wing soups to try, as well as more outlandish options like a savory loganberry soup.
Breweries, wineries and cideries will converge upon Kenan Center Arena, with Tragically Hip tribute band Strictly Hip serenading attendees as they sample beverages and snacks from these area businesses. It's been quite a cheerful crowd in years past.
Salt caves, stalactites and crystals are at the heart of this year's interactive light-based exhibit at the Botanical Gardens, dubbed Mysterious Minerals. The production – which runs Jan. 25 to Feb. 29 – is dramatic, a sensory wonder.
The launch party includes a sneak peek, cocktails from Ketel One Vodka, hors d'oeuvres from Salvatore's and creative popcorn from What's Pop-In' Gourmet. Get an even earlier peek by perusing Robert Kirkham's gallery.
Penguin Run 5K, registration from 9 to 11 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 26 at Classics V (2425 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst). Registration is $40 and supports Cradle Beach.
Dress warmly, show off your seasonal toughness and athletic prowess at Sunday's Cradle Beach fundraiser, which has traditionally boasted a rousing postrace party, too, inside Classics V. (Or, there's a 1-mile Fun Run/Walk/Waddle). Keep an eye out for the impressively slim penguin mascot, too.
Explore the historic Roycroft in East Aurora during a night of opulence, including a champagne/cocktail hour, a four-course dinner with wine pairings, a dessert display and coffee bar, and an entertainment room with the BPO's Sal Andolina and SwingBuffalo. Swanky.
SPEND THE DAY AT LARKIN SQUARE
Larkinville Ice Festival, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25 in Larkin Square (745 Seneca St.). Free.
Playful alpacas always steal the show, but ice sculptures, snow yoga, sleigh rides down Seneca Street, kids activities and a Paula's Donuts giveaway also excite. Take the family and enjoy Larkin's offerings.
Two groundhogs are better than one. Taylor Swift even sang about it! Join the Groundhog Day crew and furry prognosticators Bert and Mack for drinks from Flying Bison and BFLO Distilling in their outdoor party tent. It's a blast; groundhogs have developed quite the tolerance, to the point where they won't stumble over their shadow.
Bavarian Winterfest, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25 at Hydraulic Hearth (716 Swan St.). Free to attend.
Sure, it's chilly outside. But Hydraulic Hearth's beer garden will be toasty, with warm drinks featuring Jagermeister (as well as a shot luge, which is cold) and live German music and food available. The inside of the Larkin restaurant will be transformed into a tiki bar, so we're at a loss for attire suggestions. Is Hawaiian lederhosen a thing?
FOUR LOCAL BANDS WORTH CHECKING OUT
Against the Storm Foundation returns its popular charity concert to fight leukemia and lymphoma for a fifth year. Scott Scanlon tells you all about it before the show, and here's a more thorough look at Ron Hawkins' connection to Buffalo.
It must be exhausting to play at the clip Marquee Grand has for the past several months. Hard work often pays dividends; this Rec Room gig can be an intimate introduction to the '90s/new wave alternative rock band, which was just featured on Alternative Buffalo's Localized last weekend and in Cobblestone Live's January concert series.
Kurt & the Loders' double feature, 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24 in Nietzsche's (248 Allen St.). Cost is $8.
One of Buffalo's go-to bands for '90s covers, Kurt & the Loders will again appreciate the decade, playing back-to-back songs from each artist throughout the night.
At least seven high school ensembles will take part in this Music is Art fundraiser, including Cheektowaga, CSAT, Kenmore East, Starpoint and more. The undertaking is part of MiA's mission to bolster Buffalo's music scene at large, courtesy of the Industry Alliance it formed last year.
GRAB BAG OF MORE EVENTS FOR THIS WEEKEND
• Pho Lantern ninth anniversary, Vietnamese New Year
• Pour a Good Cause: Australia at Ballyhoo
• Brewers Invitational at New York Beer Project
• Wine and Chocolate Festival at Buffalo Grand Hotel
• Shredd & Ragan Meat Raffle at Variety Club Lancaster
• Shakhti Yoga's 10th anniversary
THEATER: Missed the big weekend of opening productions? The vast majority are back for another go-around this weekend. "The Antipodes," a four-star Road Less Traveled production starring Broadway actor and Buffalo native Sean Cullen, continues through Feb. 9.
CONTINUING: Disney On Ice: Celebrate Memories in KeyBank Center
5 EVENTS TO LOOK FORWARD TO NEXT WEEK
• Jeopardy! for the Public Good at History Museum
• Buffalo Vegan Drinks at Wurlitzer Pizza Company
• Sweet Expectations Gift Gathering at Hydraulic Hearth
• YNPN Winter Happy Hour at Nine29
• Too Many Zooz in Buffalo Iron Works
SOLD OUT: Trampled by Turtles in Tralf Music Hall
[Read about more coming shows in "can't-miss shows"]