If you’re like most parents or teachers around here this time of year you’re in the midst of all the end of the year hubbub, Pre-school, and Kindergarten graduation, moving up ceremonies and the beginnings of summer vacation. While you may be signing your children up for every summer camp program you can find you will also most likely find yourself trying to find some family-friendly activities to keep those young minds occupied all summer. We put together a list of family-friendly activities grouped by location and price point to help you find the perfect summer fun that is close to home and doesn’t blow your budget.
$ Under $20 for a family of 4 (2 adults and 2 children)
$$ $20-50 for a family of 4
$$$ More than $50 for a family of 4
Chestnut Ridge Park (FREE) With over 1200 acres there is no shortage of exploring to be done at Chestnut Ridge. Pack a lunch and enjoy one of the many places to stop and have a picnic or hike over and find the “Eternal Flame”
Kazoo Factory (Free-$) Take a drive out to Eden and you can tour the first metal Kazoo factory which was established in 1916. The Eden Kazoo Factory is the only metal Kazoo Factory currently in North America. You can take a free self-guided tour of the museum or for $2 a person you can have a guided tour. They ask that you call ahead to schedule a guided tour so they have appropriate staff on site and for a few extra bucks everyone in your family can make their own Kazoo.
Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Nature Reserve ($$) Head out to Blasdell to experience the #1 fossil park in the United States. Staff will help you and your family search for fossils, you’re welcome to keep any fossils you find but Penn Dixie staff will want to grab a picture of anything really cool you find. Penn Dixie also has several astronomy nights throughout the summer for the future astronaut in your family, visit their website for more details.
Botanical Gardens ($$) The Botanical gardens have been a Buffalo staple since 1900 and are a great place for your young one to check out some cool and sometimes funky plants like Morty the corpse flower. Take a self-guided or audio tour any day, pack a lunch and enjoy some free time on the spacious lawn before or after your trip through the gardens. The Botanical Gardens also offer several children’s program throughout the summer.
Tifft Nature Preserve (FREE donations accepted) This 264-acre nature refuge is a great place to take any budding wildlife enthusiast. With trails open daily year-round, fantastic bird watching, and snowshoe rental in the winter, Tifft is a great place to visit any time of year.
Canalside (Free -$$$) If you haven’t been down to visit Canalside since its renovation what are you waiting for? Take the children down and visit SharkGirl or take part in one of the many free activities regularly hosted at Canalside. While you’re there tour the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park or hop on the Spirit of Buffalo for a Pirate Cruise your children will adore!
Theater of Youth ($$$) Are you raising a young thespian or perhaps your child is enthralled by musicals? The Theater of Youth not only has summer programs for children of all ages and theatrical interests but tickets will be on sale soon for the shows in their 47th season titles include Charlie Brown Christmas, Pinklicious, and The Jungle Book just to name a few.
Buffalo Bison’s ($$$) There is always something fun happening at the ballpark. Whether you’re getting tickets to see the after game fireworks or heading down for kids run the bases game you’re bound to have a good time. Make sure to check the schedule before you leave to make sure you’re wearing the correct outfit you wouldn’t want to confuse Princess Day and Star Wars Night.
City Hall Observation Deck (FREE) The observation deck at City Hall is a one of a kind way to view the city! Take the elevator up to the 25th floor and climb 3 flights of stairs for an amazing view of the Queen City.
Buffalo Transportation/ Pierce-Arrow Museum ($$) A perfect day trip for young and old car enthusiasts! The Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum tours highlight the history of the collection of the museum and feature a glimpse of The Buffalo Filling Station by Frank Lloyd Wright
Buffalo Zoo ($$-$$$) A trip to the Buffalo Zoo is sure to be a memorable experience for the whole family. With a variety of activities happening throughout the summer, there is sure to be fun & educational experiences for everyone.
Buffalo Museum of Science ($$) Bug Works, Buffalo in Space, an Elephant Bird Egg and the Kellogg Observatory what do these things have in common? They are all great features at the Buffalo Museum of Science. With the newly renovated Kellogg Observatory opening early July and Discovery Camps throughout the summer the Buffalo Museum of Science is a can’t miss summertime destination.
Shakespeare in the Park (FREE) This nightly event in Delaware Park may be better suited for your older children but with a free show every day Tuesday –Sunday starting at 7:30 who can turn it down. This year King Lear will be performed until July 15th and Much Ado About Nothing starts July 26th and runs until August 19th
Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village ($$) Travel back to the 19th Century as you explore the 35-acre Heritage Village. Perfect for any up-and-coming historian visit a rural church then head over to the working blacksmith shop and watch one of the daily demonstrations by the New York State Designer Blacksmiths.
Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum ($) One of only two surviving manufacturing complexes the Herschell Carrousel Factory used to house the production of wooden carousels. Purchased by Allan Herschell in 1915 the museum pays homage to one of Americas favorite carnival rides. Admission includes one ride ticket too!
Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve (FREE) Another great place to get out and explore the great outdoors. Trails are open daily from dawn until dusk and the visitors center is open Monday-Saturday!
Niagara Power Vista (FREE) From a Seat-Gripping Virtual Reality Ride to Hands-On Experiments to the Power of Nature, Discover the Energy of New York at the Niagara Power Vista Center! At the Power Vista, you can design your own dam, operate a power grid during a storm and even walk through a turbine. A fun educational experience and you can’t beat the price!
Transit Drive-In ($$) Take in a movie under the stars! Movies are shown rain or shine and they are open 7 days a week to fit your schedule. Tuesdays are retro movie night with screenings of The Goonies, The Princess Bride & The Outsiders any day is a great day to attend!
Erie Canal Discovery Center ($) Interactive displays allow visitors to try their hand at moving a boat through locks, hear from people who worked on the canal and built Lockport, you can even explore the task of cutting through the bedrock. The most popular feature of the Discovery Center is the 15-minute “Gateways East & West” movie. The movie talks about the Flight of Five, and part way through visitor’s board a “packet boat” for a simulated night-time ride up through one of the 1820s locks!
Other: These places might take a little more travel time but are well worth the drive.
Letchworth (FREE) With 3 major waterfalls and cliffs as high as 600ft in some places Letchworth State Park is renowned as the “Grand Canyon of the East”. You can choose from over 60 miles of hiking trails and there are also opportunities for horseback riding, biking, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. Travel time about 1 hour from City Hall.
Allegany State Park (FREE) Allegany offers 5 miles of paved bike paths, boat & bike rentals and a sandy beach good for swimming and fishing. The Administration Building features a natural history museum and the Stone Tower structure has great views of the nearby hills. Travel time about 1.5 hours from City Hall.
Niagara Falls State Park (FREE-$$$) Visit the Niagara Discovery Center, Schoellkopf Power Plant Ruins, hop aboard the Maid of the Mist, climb the stairs at the Cave of the Winds or Hike the Niagara Gorge Trails. There is no shortage of things to do at Niagara Falls State Park, prices will vary depending on activity. Travel time about 30 minutes from City Hall.
Old Fort Niagara ($$) Take a step back in time to an era when great empires struggled for control of North America. You will visit 18th-century buildings, enjoy incredible views and take part in exciting live history programs. Travel time about 1 hour from City Hall.
Martin’s Fantasy Island ($$$) Pack a lunch and head up to Fantasy Island for the day. The Giant Gondal Wheel has been a WNY staple for years, enjoy three exciting stage shows, Kiddie Land or relax on the Mini-Golf Course. Travel time about 20 minutes from City Hall.
Darien Lake ($$$) With a new roller coaster just opened this year there has never been a better time to visit Darien Lake! The "coaster capital of New York" has rides for all ages and a waterpark to help you beat the heat on the really hot summer days. Travel time about 1 hour from City Hall.
Vidlers 5 &10 ($-$$$) Simply put you never know what you will find while roaming the aisles of Vidlers 5 &10. Guaranteed you will find something for everyone in the family. Travel time about 30 minutes from City Hall.
Explore & More Children’s Museum ($$) Where learning and play come together. With 9 different play zones including one for infants Explore and More offers a fun-filled day of play and learning. Travel time about 30 minutes from City Hall.
Hawk Creek Wildlife Center ($-$$$) Prices vary based on the event but you won't regret taking the drive out to view the majestic animals that call Hawk Creek home. With a variety of animals to visit with who cannot return to the wild Hawk Creek is a great educational adventure for any young wildlife enthusiast. Travel time about 30 minutes from City Hall.