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12 activities to step outside your comfort zone

Sure, you should keep your annual tradition of camping at Letchworth or riding the roller coasters at Darien Lake, but why not try something new, too? We’ve made it easy — start checking these off your bucket list!

1. Hit the rodeo

If you think you have to go out West to experience the thrills and action of a live rodeo, you are mistaken. Western New York is home to the Ellicottville Championship Rodeo, a four-day event each summer. Along with unique outdoor family entertainment, you’ll also enjoy plenty of food options, fireworks and more. Kids ages 10 and under are invited to bring their own stick horse to saddle up and join the 11th annual Kids Stick Horse Round-Up (don’t worry if you don’t have a stick horse handy – they are available for sale on site). Giddy up.

Ellicottville Championship Rodeo
6319 Sommerville Valley Road, Ellicottville

June 29, June 30, and July 1 at 7 p.m., and matinee show Sunday, July 2 at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $20 adults; $12 children 12 and under; free for kids 5 and under (discounts also available on pre-sale tickets; see website.)

2. Try out a pedal tour

Have you seen one of those group pedal bikes where people are having the best time — laughing, maybe even belting out a rousing rendition of “Sweet Caroline?” Add it to your bucket list, and check it off this summer. Perfect for out-of-town friends (or hometown buddies), family reunions, corporate team building, bachelorette parties or just because it’s a Thursday in the summer, pedal bike tours are a party on wheels. With pedal-powered trolleys for 13 or 15, plus seats if there are any non-pedalers in the group, groups can go on tours (led by a guide — yes, there is someone in charge) ranging from pub crawls to architectural tours.

Buffalo Pedal Tours
319 Elm Street, Buffalo

Pricing: $345 plus gratuity Monday-Thursday; $380 plus gratuity Friday-Sunday.
All tours are 2 hours.

3. Watch some really fast cars

Did you know NASCAR is the most popular spectator sport in the United States and the second-most watched sport on TV, second only to football? To find out what you’re missing, you don’t need to go far. Holland International Speedway is about 30 miles from downtown Buffalo and hosts car races most Saturday afternoons in the summer (check for schedule and ticket information).

Holland NASCAR Motorsports Complex
11586 Glenwood Road, Holland
418-RACE (7223);

Ticket prices vary, but average at $10 or less; flex packs and season passes are also available.

4. Hike the Niagara Gorge

Whirlpool State Park in Niagara Falls boasts some of the best hiking trails in the region, with a range of trails suitable for everyone from the casual walker to the hardcore hiking enthusiast. Easy trails still provide beautiful views while the more challenging hikes offer some steep stairs and rocks for scrambling. All trails originate from the Niagara Gorge Trailhead Center; popular hikes include the Great Gorge Scenic Overlook Hike (easy one-hour round trip hike, recommended for beginners and families) and Upper Gorge Great Hike (another easy hike – two-hours round trip). Guided hikes are available now through October (call 282-5154 for more information).

Niagara Gorge

5. Sleep on a war ship

The only guided missile cruiser on display in the United States, the USS Little Rock is a real life war ship. It’s open for tours daily, but if you really want to experience life at sea, overnight stays — a.k.a. encampments — are available now through the second weekend in June, and in mid-September through late November. Reservations are taken by telephone only at 847-1773, ext. 10. Cost is $50 per person, regardless of age. Ticket price covers dinner, breakfast, the overnight, a tour of the Park and one ride on the ship’s motion simulator. Ahoy matey!

Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park
One Naval Park Cove, Buffalo

Open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m., now through the end of October. Open Saturday-Sunday, Veterans Day and Friday after Thanksgiving 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Closed December – March 24.
Tickets: $12 adults; $6 kids 16 and under; $8 seniors; free for kids 5 and under. Group rates available.

6. Take a jet boat ride

Get up close and personal with the mighty Niagara rapids from a whole new — and thrilling — perspective when you book a seat on a jet boat. Not for the faint of heart, tours last around an hour and travel (at death-defying speeds!) into the Niagara Gorge and through the Devil’s Hole rapids up to the very edge of the whirlpool. Note there are three different launch points — Lewiston, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls, Canada (new check-in location for the 2017 season – contact 1-888-438-4444 ext. 0 for more information). While you don’t technically “see” the falls, there are plenty of thrills as you experience class 5 whitewater rapids. Prepare to get wet!

Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours

Tickets: Adults: $63; Children 6-12: $45

7. Go ziplining

For all you daredevils out there, Western New York has a variety of area zip lining parks to satisfy even the biggest adrenaline junkies. MistRider Zipline to the Falls has four parallel zip lines that face the American and Canadian Horseshoe Falls as riders travel over 40 miles per hour at 2,200 feet to the edge of the Niagara River Gorge. At Niagara Falls Adventure Park, scheduled to open this spring, dual racing zip lines take riders up to speeds of 30 miles per hour down a 350-foot hill. Or, head south and float through the trees at the popular Sky High Adventure Park in Ellicottville. The aerial park offers 13 courses (the largest aerial park in New York State and 3rd largest in the U.S.) with 43 zip lines of varying degrees of difficulty and height. Rates range by age and activity; check websites for details.

WildPlay’s MistRider Zipline to the Falls
5847 Niagara Parkway, Niagara Falls, Ontario

Niagara Falls Adventure Park
427 First Street, Niagara Falls, NY

Sky High Adventure Park
6557 Holiday Valley Road, Ellicottville

8. Ride a water bike

Check out Buffalo’s revitalized waterfront and take in Canalside from a water bike. No experience — or athletic ability — is necessary. Bikes can be rented by the hour; single bikes are $18/hour and tandems are $26/hour. Check out the grain elevators, naval ships and the lighthouse near Lake Erie. No reservations required.

Water Bikes of Buffalo

9. Enjoy a Slow Roll

Get in on the one of the most popular – and free – events to hit Western New York and join a weekly Slow Roll, the group bicycle ride for all ages and abilities that meets every Monday evening, May-October. Over 1,000 participants take advantage of these community events each week, where you’ll explore Buffalo’s unique neighborhoods from a whole new perspective – your bike seat. Check the website to find out the weekly meeting time and place. Make sure your tires are pumped and your water bottle is full before you head out.

Slow Roll Buffalo

10. Ride a helicopter

Seeing WNY’s topography from the sky is fascinating — doing it by helicopter is breathtaking. WNY Helicopters offers a number of tours, including one that starts at the Hamburg airport and takes you over the windmills of Lackawanna, along the waterfront and north to Grand Island. Tours take place Thursday-Saturday and reservations can be made for up to three passengers per flight.

WNY Helicopter Tours
6765 Heltz Road, Lakeview

11. Catch a wave

While Lake Erie may not offer the ocean shores of Malibu, there is a dedicated surfing community in Western New York. On a windy day, a good bet is Hamburg Beach where you can catch five-plus foot waves. The waves are best in fall and winter, when a thick wet suit is a must, but surfers flock to beaches when the wind is blowing in the summer, too. Check for surf conditions at local beaches, including Woodlawn, Hamburg and Wendt.

Hamburg Beach
4432 Windsor Terrace, Hamburg

12. Take in a polo match

Pretend you’re in Palm Beach for an afternoon and catch one of the most well-heeled sports around – a polo match at Knox Farm State Park in East Aurora. The Knox Memorial Polo Cup is held each July and benefits Knox Farm State Park. It’s the only event of its kind in the area, so if polo is your cup of tea – or glass of champagne – buy your tickets when they go on sale. Tailgate parking is available for an additional fee and there’s a champagne brunch available as well. Cheers!

See the Knox Memorial Polo Cup page on Facebook for updates and information.

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