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Home for the holidays

There’s never been a better time to play tour guide to friends and family coming home for the holidays.

Sure, they might think they know where they want to go — old favorites like Chef’s, Duff’s and Mighty Taco offer tastes not found outside of Buffalo. But there’s also plenty of "new Buffalo" to show them: cocktail bars, breweries, restaurants and neighborhoods. Here are some suggestions for where to eat, what to do, and where to stay.

Wet your whistle

The Angelica Tea Room is one of downtown's buzziest new hot spots.

Yes, that Labatt Blue from Uncle Tony’s garage fridge is a holiday tradition. But Buffalo also boasts a range of local breweries and craft cocktail bars. Some hot spots: Big Ditch Brewing Company (industrial-chic hangout spot with house-brewed beer), Pearl Street Grill and Brewery (a downtown staple with a wide variety of choices) and Hamburg Brewing Company (a cozy winter spot in the heart of the Southtowns). For cocktails, try Vera (Buffalo’s original craft cocktail bar), Angelica Tea Room (new and buzzworthy downtown spot serving tea sandwiches, cocktails and more), or Lucky Day Whisky Bar (an array of choices for the beginner or advanced whisky drinker).

Local vittles

The wings at Barbill Tavern are a draw for expats.

If your visitors are keen on wings and weck, try something more “insider-y”, like the Bar Bill Tavern in East Aurora or the Nine-Eleven Tavern in South Buffalo. Or, go beyond traditional Buffalo fare and try one of WNY’s more popular new restaurants in the ‘burbs, like Grange Community Kitchen or Carte Blanche in Hamburg (don’t miss their famous popovers). In the mood for tacos? Lloyd Taco Factory on Hertel Avenue in Buffalo will not disappoint. Or, for a French experience where calorie counting is off the table, try the Croque Monsieur, fondue or croissant French toast at Raclettes on Main Street downtown.

Shop local

Bon Fire Craft is one of many new, locally owned stores on Hertel Avenue.

Yes, you can buy just about anything on Amazon these days, but where’s the fun in that? Find unique items — and support your community — by shopping local. Great neighborhoods with a collection of stores that make going worth the trip include: Main Street in Williamsville (Village Artisans, Second Chic and TeaLeafs are standouts); Hertel Avenue in North Buffalo (Modern Nostalgia, Bon Fire Craft); the Elmwood strip (Fern +Arrow, Sunshine and Bluebirds, The Treehouse); and Main Street in East Aurora (Vidler’s, Beulah’s, The Painted House).

Experience the outdoors

Ice skating is always fun, and there are plenty of rinks throughout WNY. But for something truly unique to our area, take your guests to Canalside to ice bike. Unlike skating, ice biking requires no balance — you’re essentially on a bike with two blades that keep you sturdy and safe. Or, try Canada’s famous sport — curling — at Riverworks (played on ice, the players push stones at a target and earn points). If you feel like a short drive, there’s also the mountain coaster at Holiday Valley — a manual, all-season coaster you control yourself with a hand brake. Or, consider classic sledding at hotspots like Delaware Park (near the rose garden) or Chestnut Ridge, near the main lodge.

Stay somewhere unique

Hotel Henry entrance.

Buffalo has experienced a hotel boom, so if you don’t have room to house all your out-of-town friends and family, there are plenty of places to accommodate. The latest and greatest include the Hotel Henry (beautifully restored on the Richardson Complex) and The Curtiss Hotel, with its over-the-top décor, revolving bar and indoor/outdoor hot springs. Other unique area hotels include The Mansion on Delaware, where guests have access to a private butler, transportation to locations around Buffalo and a nightly happy hour; and Reikart House in Willamsville, a boutique hotel featuring custom-designed rooms in the heart of the village. Also of note: at the Hyatt Regency downtown, there is now a swanky new Morton's The Steakhouse.

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