When snow accumulates on the ground, few travelers here in Niagara want to take road trips that are too far from home. Here are a few travel destination suggestions, two hours or less from home.
Buffalo, N.Y. Yes, shuffle off to Buffalo which has lots to offer including the new, massive 3,252 square metre (35,000 square foot) outdoor skating rink, the largest in New York State, called Ice@Canalside located at the former home of the Buffalo Sabres, Memorial Auditorium. It opened in December, 2014. Admission: $5.00 for 13 years and older. Nearby parking is free at the Erie Basin Marina at 329 Erie Street. Skate rental is $3.00. Try the nearby unique Tim Horton's HarbourCenter.
Another kid-friendly place to visit is the Buffalo Zoo at 300 Parkside Avenue, a 9.5 hectare (23.5 acre) zoo in the middle of beautiful Delaware Park, established in 1875 and open daily year round. It has more than 1,000 animals and birds. Check out the Rainforest Falls exhibit which is included in the admission price. Adults: $10.50, children 2-12 years: $7.50, and seniors (65 plus): $8.50. Free parking. Both are wonderful family trips.
Paris, Ontario. This lovely town of about 12,000 is an easy 1.5 hours drive from Niagara, known as the "Cobblestone Capital of Canada." There's a vibrant historic downtown tucked away in a wide valley on the edge of the Grand River, void of big-box retailers and chronic 21st century hurry-up-ism. There are lots of nice restaurants such as The Brown Dog Coffee Shoppe at 63 Grand River St. N. or The Cedar House Grill and Martini at 12 Broadway Street West. On Sunday, prime rib is served from noon at half price ($12.50 and $14.50). The homemade soups are delicious.
Elora, Ontario. This 183-year-old village is a two-hour drive from Niagara, a place to explore on foot. Have your camera ready when you arrive in the village to photograph the fast flowing Elora Gorge water as it winds its way through the community. A few of the interesting stores to check are The Village Olive Grove where you can get a free tasting of different olive oils and Sante Natural Emporium with local organic and fair-trade foods and gifts. Don't go home without a loaf of artisan bread from the Elora Bread Trading Company located at 73 Metcalfe Street. Take in a matinee at the Gorge Cinema featuring popular movies that you might have missed.
Oakville, Ontario. This charming community of 183,000 hugs the shoreline of Lake Ontario with plenty to offer, steeped in history and culture. The historic main street - Lakeshore Road contains an array of buildings dating back to the 1830's re-born as boutiques, art galleries, gourmet food purveyors, bakeries, flower shops, and of course, restaurants. If it's not too blustery outside, walk the nearby neighbourhood homes from the mid-1800's, magnificently preserved. Many have plaques outside indicating who originally owned the home and their occupation.
Ellicottville, N.Y. This small, New York State village is just over an hour away from the Niagara border, an excellent place to go skiing. Holiday Valley Resort in the village also offers snow shoeing, cross country skiing and tubing. My daughter and granddaughter who went there last winter still speak about the great times they had. If winter sports aren't your thing, spend time in their lovely turn-of-the-century village and enjoy some quality retail therapy. Ellicottville myriad restaurants to suit every taste and budget. We like eating at Dina's Restaurant inside an 1880's building that was once a Masonic Temple. (15 Washington Street)
George Bailey contributes to Sun Media's 43 paid-circulation newspapers across Canada as well as numerous magazines. George has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, Canada AM, The Discovery Channel, and Live with Regis and Cathy Lee. He has published five books on Niagara Falls.