By Jennifer Weber

Winter is no longer coming; winter is here! While waiting for the daylight to slowly inch back into longer hours, why not spend some time outdoors embracing the season! There’s no shortage of options in Western New York. Check one off your bucket list this coming year.

Hockey fans rejoice! Don’t miss your chance to see some of the very best men’s players under the age of 20 from 10 nations around the world. For the first time outdoors the USA vs. Canada World Junior Outdoor Game will take place at New Era Field located at 1 Bills Dr, Orchard Park on Dec. 29, 2017, in a preliminary round game of the 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship. Additional games take place from Dec. 26, 2017-Jan. 5, 2018 at the KeyBank Center located at 1 Seymour H Knox III Plaza, Buffalo and HarborCenter located at 100 Washington St, Buffalo.

Everyone knows where to go skiing— we live in the middle of ski country surrounded by the slopes of Kissing Bridge located at 10296 State Rd, Glenwood, NY and Holiday Valley located at 6557 Holiday Valley Rd, Ellicottville and HoliMont located at 6921 NY-242, Ellicottville.

For those who like to remain upright, make sure to check out one of the many options for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing including Chestnut Ridge Park located at 6121 Chestnut Ridge Rd, Orchard Park, Knox Farm State Park located at 437 Buffalo Rd, East Aurora, Tifft Nature Preserve located at 1200 Fuhrmann Boulevard, Buffalo and Beaver Meadow Audubon Center located at 1610 Welch Rd, Java Center. Also, don’t forget to visit one of your local Erie County’s parks for cross-country trails.

This time of year there’s always a winter walk or hike planned. On Sunday, Dec. 31 at 9 a.m., the 16th Annual Holland Ravines Hike takes place at Holland Willows Restaurant and Bar, located at 177 Savage Rd, Holland. Bring your snowshoes and poles or in case there’s no snow, get ready for a hike!

How about ringing in the New Year on Monday, Jan.1 with a hike hosted by the Niagara Region Park Interpretive Programs. The First Day Hike: Explore Evangola or First Day Big Tree Hike at Knox Farm State Park, located at 437 Buffalo Rd., East Aurora. Or try for later in the month on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018 at 10 a.m. join in on the fun for snowshoeing and cocoa at the Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House located at 143 Jewett Pkwy, Buffalo. For more information, call (716) 549-1050.

Don’t forget ice skating! The good ol’ standby is Rotary Rink located at 20 Fountain Plaza, Buffalo where you can skate for free! Or head down at Canalside located at 44 Prime St, Buffalo where they have an outdoor ice rink four times the size of the famous Rockefeller Center in NYC ready for you to skate or ride ice bikes.

Last but not least save the date for WinterFest 2018 on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018 at Chestnut Ridge Park, 6121 Chestnut Ridge Rd, Orchard Park hosted by Erie County Parks, Recreation and Forestry. Free family activities from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. includes sledding, snow sculpture contests, marshmallow roasting, arts and crafts, magic shows, woodcarving and chainsaw carving demonstrations and hay rides!