The Winter Wonderland in Western New York

B25FpqYIMAEf68s  Ahh, winter in the wonderful world of Western New York. Well – technically it’s still autumn, as winter doesn’t begin for another month, on December 21, but you get the idea. The snow has officially begun falling in Buffalo and the surrounding areas, temperatures have hit below freezing for long periods of time, and it feels more like winter than fall out there.

But have no fear. Even though the snowflakes are falling and temperatures dropping, there’s still plenty to do in the Buffalo area. I’ve compiled this list for those of us who are looking to shake out of that cabin fever, maybe try something new, or revisit an old adventure.

Either way, there’s no excuse for staying home throughout the winter in the 716 — plenty to do and plenty to see…. provided there’s no travel ban, that is. If that’s the case, please stay home and obey the laws, of course. But provided the streets are clear and you’ve got the green light, get out there and enjoy the winter wonderland of Western New York.

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Tifft Nature Preserve: An Oasis Just Steps from Downtown Buffalo

Tifft Nature Preserve
Photo: Melissa Kania

As the temperature begins to rise and spring and summer (hopefully) begin to creep their way into Buffalo and the surrounding area, it’s great to get outside. Exercise, fresh air, and a chance to connect with nature in ways that simply aren’t possible if you’re cooped up in the house.

One great way to do all those things at once is to visit Tifft Nature Preserve. Now, this isn’t my first time writing about Tifft – I first posted about it in July 2012, but I feel it bears repeating.

Tifft is a 264-acre nature refuge located between downtown Buffalo and Lackawanna, New York. It’s easily accessible and is a great way for you to get a taste of fresh air, connect with nature, get some exercise and perhaps gain a great appreciation for the world of nature that surrounds us.

I try to visit Tifft as often as I can, though I never get to visit as often as I’d love to. I could go every week if I had the time. Whether it’s winter, summer, spring or autumn, it’s a wonderful place to go. In fact, I suggest visiting it in all different seasons. The setting is so unique, and it’s neat to watch it go from green grass and plenty of things blooming to a snow-covered wonderland. You can go alone, with a significant other, with family, with children or adults, with friends…… anyone. They also have guided tours every Sunday at 2 p.m. and have other events throughout the year. You can even host a child’s birthday party there!

My most recent visit to Tifft was on Sunday, May 4. My father and I went, despite it being slightly muddy outside due to lots of recent rain. (Thankfully, I was smart and wore my rubber rain boots, so none of this really affected or hindered me!)

I find that I almost always use the same trails while at Tifft, so this time, we made a conscious effort to take a different route through a new part of the preserve. I saw the low-maintenance marsh trail and walked through a bit of that (thank you, rain boots) and walked up part of the trail that covers the mounds. We saw deer grazing, we saw the bat clouds, lots of geese around eating, other people walking through the trails, etc.

(Note: I’d never seen or noticed the bat clouds before, but apparently they’ve been at Tifft since 2012. They were installed in May 2012 by a UB professor and a group of students and are designed to educate the public about bats while providing a high-tech home for them. As someone who used to be really interested in bat conservation as a kid, I thought it was super neat!)

I really need to find more places like Tifft. The only place I’ve found so far is the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in Seneca Falls, New York. I visited there last summer on a trip to Aurora, NY. It was nice, but it just didn’t have the same charm…. having to be in your car while driving through the refuge, not exactly the same thing.

There’s just something about visiting Tifft, or places like it, that makes me happy. It’s my peaceful place where I can just breathe the fresh air and connect with nature in a way that I don’t get to do every day. It’s my oasis.