Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Holiday Activities to Share with Family and Friends

I've made no secret that gift-giving and receiving is my least favorite part of the holidays (see: Shopping for Christmas Gifts: What's Your Strategy?).

After many Christmases absent of the warm and fuzzy feeling that Christmas movies have trained me to expect, I think I've hit on a solution. Instead of giving gifts, I'm giving of my time. I'm making plans with family and friends to do things that we normally wouldn't, like going to the theatre or spending a day caroling. This means that we can skip the gifts that clutter our homes and put our money towards experiences (memories last a lifetime, you know).

I've made a list of holiday-themed activities that are happening in Western New York this December, none of which involve shopping for presents.

If you're thinking of going this route but must have something to give on Christmas morning, create an album of the day you spent together – it could even become a Christmas tradition, where you add to the album each year.

Victorian Christmas at the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site (Buffalo)

Date: December 5-8
Time: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: $5 (discount admission)
More Information: Website

The Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site transforms the Wilcox home on Delaware Avenue into a Victorian Christmas experience.

Christmas with Wayne Newton (Niagara Falls)

Date: December 5-9
Time: 1:30 p.m., 7 p.m.
Cost: $20-$40
More Information: Website

Celebrate the holidays with “Mr. Entertainment” himself at the Seneca Niagara Casino Hotel.

It WAS a Wonderful Life! (Buffalo)

Date: December 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30
Time: 11 a.m., 2 p.m.
Cost: $25
More Information: Website

In the Forest Lawn Cemetery chapel, narrator John Lay (the first person to take up permanent residence in Forest Lawn, in 1850), will introduce several of the new friends he’s made over the last 160+ years at Forest Lawn. They, in turn, will create musical, comical and poignant glimpses of Christmases past, when they enjoyed life on this side of the Lawn. Seating is limited; reservations are required. Call (716) 885-1600 for reservations.

Poinsettia Show (Buffalo)

Date: December 5-30
Time: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Cost: $9 adults, $8 students and seniors
More Information: Website

Thousands of Poinsettias fill the Gardens. Come out to enjoy the beautiful and rich colors of nature!

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (Lancaster)

Date: December 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16
Time: 7:30 p.m. on Dec 7 and 14; 2:30 p.m. all other days
Cost: $20 adult, $18 student/senior, $13 children (12 and under)
More Information: Website

The Lancaster Opera House presents a hilarious Christmas tale adapted from the best-selling book. A couple struggling to put on a church Christmas pageant is faced with casting the Herdman kids, probably the most inventively awful kids in history.

Fairgrounds Festival of Lights (Hamburg)

Date: December 7, 8, 9, 14, 23 December 26-30
5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Cost: $20 per carload
More Information: Website

See over one million lights in a drive through that spans nearly 2 miles. You'll see a nightly Holiday Magic Show featuring Kandy Kane and the Fabulous Darnells, reindeer carriage rides on the weekends, and of course, Santa.

White Christmas (Buffalo)

Date: December 5-9
Time: Shows at 7 p.m. on Dec. 9; 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 4, 5, 6; 8 p.m. on Dec. 7, 8; and 2 p.m. on Dec. 8, 9
Cost: $30-$65
More Information: Website

The classic holiday movie White Christmas comes to the Shea's Theatre stage! This brand new musical shines with classic Berlin hits like "Blue Skies," "How Deep is the Ocean?" and, of course, the unforgettable title song. Irving Berlin's White Christmas tells the story of two buddies putting on a show in a magical Vermont inn and finding their perfect mates in the process.

A Christmas Carol (Buffalo)

Date: December 6-16
Time: 1 p.m., 7 p.m.
Cost: $17 - $30
More Information: Website

At the Alleyway Theatre, Beloved British actor John Smeathers who has played Ebenezer Scrooge for the past 15 years returns to Buffalo for one last time to give his final performance as the old miser before retiring from the role.

Holiday Wreath Workshop (Buffalo)

Date: Saturday, December 8
Time: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Cost: $44 Members, $54 Non-Members
More Information: Website

Join Martin House Horticulturist Nellie Gardner for a fun, informative Saturday morning as she guides you through a wreath building workshop. You will design and craft your own unique holiday wreath using simple methods and all natural materials gathered from Nellie’s “Flower Fields” and from the wild. All materials are provided. Bring your favorite clippers.

Cocktails and Caroling for a Cause (Williamsville)

Date: Saturday, December 8
Time: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Cost: $5 donation to benefit The Food Bank of Western New York
More Information: Website

Sing Christmas Carols up and down Main Street. You can join in at any time.

  • Pizza Plant: 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
  • The Irishman: 5601 Main Street 1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
  • The Creekview: 2:45 p.m. - 3:45 p.m.
  • Parings: 4 p.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Milo’s: 5:15 p.m. - 6:15 p.m.
  • Cabernet CafĂ©: 6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
  • Sorrentino’s: 7:45 p.m. - 8:45 p.m.
  • Eagle House: 9 p.m. - 10 p.m.
  • The Glen Park Tavern: 10 p.m.

The Nutcracker (Buffalo)

Date: Saturday, December 8; Sunday, December 9
Time: 1 p.m., 7 p.m.
Cost: $19.50 - $27.50
More Information: Website

This magical performance at UB's Center for the Arts returns with special guest artist Misa Kuranaga (Boston Ballet) dancing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy. The show also features Isaac Akiba from Boston Ballet.

A Christmas Story with a Celebrity Appearance (North Tonawanda)

Date: Sunday, December 9
Time: 2 p.m.
Cost: Pre-Sale Adult: $10, Child: $5; Day of Show: Adult $15, Child: $10
More Information: Website

Come see Ian Petrella, who played Randy Parker (Ralphie's little brother) in the movie "A Christmas Story," at the Riviera Theatre. Ian will speak at 2 p.m. about filming the movie, followed by a movie showing at 3 p.m. Afterwards, meet Ian, see the fire truck that rescued Flick from the flagpole (rides available for a small donation) and try to win one of 2 limited edition Red Ryder BB guns donated by Ian Petrella.

A Jolly Holiday with the BPO (Buffalo)

Date: Sunday, December 9
Time: 2:30 p.m.
Cost: $12
More Information: Website

Get into the holiday spirit with your favorite music of the season. A very special guest will make an appearance. Create a work of holiday art with the Albright-Knox Art Gallery before the concert.

Christmas at Hidden Valley (Varysburg)

Date: Saturday, December 15
Time: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Cost: $12
More Information: Website

Celebrate Christmas at Hidden Valley Animal Adventure in Varysburg! Breakfast with Santa and Mrs. Claus will be served from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the lodge (Adults: $12, Children: $6). A lunch buffet will also be served from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride around the pond from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. ($7 per person, first-come first-served, no reservation required). You can also visit with reindeer, attend a craft show, decorate cookies, and make ornaments throughout the day.

The Castle by Candlelight (Youngstown)

Date: Saturday, December 15, Saturday, December 22
Time: 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Cost: $8
More Information: Website

Old Fort Niagara will greet the holiday season with a bang as the historic site presents its annual Castle by Candlelight program on Saturdays, December 15 and 22. The highlight of the evening will be the firing of a grand feu de joie (firing of joy) by the assembled Fort garrison. The feu de joie is a traditional military ceremony involving running fire by muskets and artillery to mark a special occasion or victory.

Inside the Castle, lit entirely by candles, historic characters will regale visitors with tales of Christmas past from the 18th and 19th centuries. Demonstrations of 18th and early 19th century trades and period music will be performed. In the Castle’s Boulangerie (bakery) cooks will demonstrate the preparation of a traditional holiday feast, including wild game.

Guests can arrive at the Fort Niagara Visitor Center at any time between 7:00 pm and 8:30 pm and are asked to dress for the weather, wear walking footwear, and bring a flashlight.

Free Film Series: The Polar Express (Buffalo)

Date: Sunday, December 16
Time: 2 p.m.
Cost: Free
More Information: Website

See the Christmas film The Polar Express in the historic Shea's Performing Arts Center. Doors open one hour prior to showtime.

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