Boating -- Find out what Lake Erie is all about on a trip aboard the Miss Buffalo II (tel. 800/244-8684 or 716/856-6696; www.buffaloharborcruises.com). Narrated tours and lunch cruises, providing views of Buffalo's unique architecture, depart from the Erie Basin Marina downtown from July to Labor Day (Tues-Sun).
Playing in the Parks -- When Buffalo business was booming, the city hired New York City Central Park designer Frederick Law Olmsted to create a parks system that was unrivaled in its era. If you only have time for one, Delaware Park is a 350-acre gem with wide-open spaces and quiet walkways. On some summer evenings, you can enjoy Shakespearean plays performed alfresco. The other parks are Martin Luther King, Jr.; Front; South; Cazenovia; and Riverside.
Outside the City
Erie Canal Experiences -- Take a ride on the man-made water route that transformed upstate New York. Get on a boat with Lockport Locks and Erie Canal Cruises, 210 Market St., Lockport (tel. 800/378-0352 or 716/433-6155), for the 2-hour experience of being raised through the 49-foot elevation of the Niagara Escarpment in the only double set of locks on the canal (mid-May to mid-Oct; $15 adults, $8.50 kids 4-10). Pass under bridges, see water cascade over locks, and travel through the solid walls of the "rock cut." No, it's no speedboat ride, but if you haven't experienced going through a lock, it's pretty cool. Or take the Lockport Cave and Underground Boat Ride, 2 Pine St. (tel. 716/438-0174). You'll walk through a 1,600-foot tunnel, blasted out of solid rock in the 1800s, then ride a boat to see the start of geologic cave formations and miner artifacts (early May weekends only, end of May to mid-Oct daily; $9.25 adults, $6 kids 4-12).
Parks -- You can explore cliffs, crevices, cavernous dens, and caves of quartz in two parks with tons of the hardened rock: Rock City Park, 505 Rte. 16 South, Olean (tel. 866/404-ROCK), open early May 1 to the end of October, and Panama Rocks, Route 10, Panama (tel. 716/782-2845), open mid-May to mid-October. Take an hour for either. Or get out among the trees in Allegany State Park (tel. 716/354-9121): Its 65,000 acres, most of it primitive woodland, make it the largest state park in the system, with sand beaches as well as hiking and nature trails.
Skiing -- It's not exactly Colorado, or Vermont, or even, well, the Adirondacks. But here's where to go when you absolutely must get your swoosh on. At Kissing Bridge, in Glenwood (tel. 716/592-4963; www.kbski.com), you'll find 38 snow-covered slopes, encompassing 700 acres of terrain and served by 10 lifts. And Holiday Valley, in Ellicottville (tel. 716/699-2345; www.holidayvalley.com), has 13 lifts, 56 slopes spread over 1,400 acres, and a 750-foot vertical drop -- so you'll get good variety no matter what kind of skiing or riding you like.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.