Did you know that Buffalo and the rest of Western New York offers an exciting lineup of fun activities for kids of all ages? I came to Buffalo 62 years ago to attend Buffalo State College and met my husband, Dan, a Buffalo native, in college. Since then we have lived in western New York. Our children enjoyed the many activities the area had to offer over 50 years ago, including our many museums, camping and playing in the parks, and visiting Niagara Falls many times.
Now that our children are grown, we haven’t had the opportunity to go to places intended for children in years. Recently our niece and nephew came from out of state with their children, ages 5, 8 and 10. As I explored places to entertain them, I began to realize how many other options there were now – a real treasure.
Everyone loved going through Locks 34 and 35 on Lockport Locks and Erie Canal cruises. Did you know there is an exercise track, with child-friendly stations, along the canal just east of there? Along the same trail, through a grove of 40 different tree species, Lockport Library has created a StoryWalk. Every two weeks, pages from a different book are displayed on storyboards along the promenade. Our young companions loved “The Pout-Pout Fish”, which was posted that week.
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Olcott Beach has been child friendly for many years. A large playground has been added in Krull Park with places to climb, slide and splash. The park also has shelters and grills, where we enjoyed roasting marshmallows for s’mores. The Olcott Carousel Park still offers 25-cent rides on its beautifully restored Grand Carousel, as well as 25-cent games and other rides. A highlight of our day was the patrolled sandy beach along Lake Ontario, where building sand castles and truck roads was particularly enjoyable.
Niagara Falls never disappoints. We all stayed dry under our bright blue ponchos while riding the Maid of the Mist – so close to the falls! Our guests were mesmerized by the raw power of the thundering water. So we drove just down the road to the Niagara Power Vista where the New York Power Authority has interesting, kid-friendly interactive exhibits on two floors. We all “rolled” through the power grid with splashing water, wind and bumpy clouds along the way. Our 5 year old wanted to do this tour again.
One of our favorite activities is one of Buffalo’s newest. Every child must visit the Ralph Wilson Children’s Museum – Explore and More. It offers four exciting floors of child-led play in the heart of Canalside at a very reasonable price.
Opposite the museum is the sailing ship, The Spirit of Buffalo, which offers a pirate cruise. It was great fun for the kids, who spent over an hour playing pirate games, singing pirate songs and watching the sails unfurl, while the adults enjoyed the scenery of the inner harbor and adult beverages, if desired.
The Buffalo Heritage Carousel, also found at Canalside, is the former Spillman Carousel, made in 1924 in North Tonawanda and then brought back to Western New York to be restored near where it was created. It is now powered by the sun and has been upgraded with Buffalo themed panels. One dollar is the prize for anyone wishing to ride the colorful horses and other animals.
It must be obvious how far I am from my childhood, but I haven’t had this much fun playing in Western New York in years.