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Local Matters Guide | A monthly guide to unique gifts, experiences and adventures

Perhaps the biggest lesson that we need to take away from last year is that self care is important.  Whether its taking some time at the beginning or end of your day to meditate or disconnecting from social media for a night, we all need to take time to regardless of the reason.  In a normal year, I would take a week or two off to travel.  Thankfully, our region offers a myriad of options that offer everything that we need to create the perfect staycation to help us feel refreshed, mentally and physically.  I love travelling, its my way of satisfying my wanderlust and disconnecting and decompressing. There are so many different options around Western New Year that anyone can thoroughly relax and satisfy that need to get out.  Whether its going down the slopes at Holiday Valley, a romantic getaway at The Lofts at 42 North, taking a weekend to explore the region’s wineries, a quiet evening enjoying some great barbeque at This Little Pig, or axe throwing at Grand Throw House, our beautiful region offers all sorts of ways to relax and refresh ourselves. We highly recommend checking these places out, and guarantee that they will help you create the perfect staycation.

The Lofts at 42 North

42 North is grounded in the roots of our region. Located on the 42nd parallel, it’s where wars were fought, fortunes lost – and found – and where legacies are made. And when it comes to beer, the 42nd parallel is unparalleled as well. Some of the world’s best hops grow along it, and in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, it’s where New York State hops grew bountiful and full-bodied. This tradition – and the legacy of arguably the most important parallel on earth – have found a new home, and a new future, at 42 North. 

42 North is more than just a bar and brewery though, its a destination.  Located in East Aurora, 42 North offers a great staycation option with its Lofts.  Each room tells a different story of our great city, region or town. Check in at the bar, grab a beer and enjoy a few nights with us at 42 North. Explore the incredible restaurants, shops and parks that East Aurora & Buffalo, NY have to offer. Windows that peek into the brewery floor, complimentary growler pours and balcony doors to live music in the Biergarten are just a few of the original experiences these rooms offer.

They offer four different suites, each with a different theme.  The Hopland room is located on the first floor and is completely ADA accessible. The room is extra large with beautiful vaulted ceilings and special touches to reflect the craft and agriculture of the area.  The Prohibition Suite takes you back in time to the days of the constitutional ban on the production and sale of alcoholic beverages; but not to worry, plenty of beer is available!  The Queen City Room features decor representing historic, industrial Buffalo.  Images from the city’s grain silos and original molds from the Buffalo Foundry & Machine Co. adorn the walls.  The Borderland Room was inspired by East Aurora’s very own Borderland Music and Arts Festival. The decor is whimsical and fun. You are even invited to strum the guitars hanging on the wall.  The Prohibition, Queen City and Borderland Rooms all feature a Juliet balcony that overlooks the brewery’s beer garden below.

If you are looking for an inexpensive escape, The Lofts at 42 North are a great option!  They offer inexpensive rates and an overall great experience that will let you recharge your internal battery so when you return home, you’ll feel refreshed and relaxed.  They are also conveniently located within walking distance to many of East Aurora’s shops and restaurants.  We highly recommend checking out the Lofts at 42 North when planning your staycation!

25 Pine Street, East Aurora, NY 14052 | 716-805-7500
Brewery Hours: Mon-Tues: Closed; Wed-Fri: 4pm-10pm; Sat: 12pm-10pm; Sun: 12pm-6pm
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Holiday Valley Ski Resort

JAN 22, 2020, Ellicottville NY. Holiday Valley Resort Winter promo photos. Photo by Craig Melvin

You don’t need to travel far from Buffalo for a great winter getaway. Holiday Valley in nearby Ellicottville, NY is the perfect place for a memorable staycation with a beautiful resort, exciting ski slopes and cozy on-site lodging. Add in funky little Ellicottville with unique shops, galleries and a wonderful variety of places to eat and drink and you have a great family – or romantic – vacation.

The ski slopes range from gentle beginner trails that wind through thick pine forests to wide cruising runs to challenging steeps full of moguls or trees, or both! The 60 trails are cleverly laid out over 5 different mountain faces, serviced by 11 quad chairlifts and 2 conveyor lifts. Three beautiful base lodges invite you to take a warm up break with hearty food and hot beverages.

The Inn at Holiday Valley and the Tamarack Club offer slopeside lodging and lift ticket packages. End your day with a swim in the heated outdoor pools or a soak in the hot tubs and look out over slopes lit for night skiing. Tamarack is also home to the soothing Ellicottville Oasis Day Spa. And there are plenty of nearby condos, townhouses and spacious chalets with all the comforts of home, available through Holiday Valley Rental Management. Book a midweek vacation at Holiday Valley and up to 2 kids stay and ski free!

Don’t know how to ski or snowboard? You might as well learn how to love Buffalo winters! The Holiday Valley Snow Pros can take you from never ever to exploring the whole mountain in just a few sessions.  Lessons for all abilities are available for the entire family, ages 3 and up. Additional fun family activities include the Sky Flyer Mountain Coaster, a ride that winds down through the snowy trees and the thrilling Holiday Valley Tubing Park.

This year especially, we all need a place to relax, rejuvenate and enjoy life. Holiday Valley is that place with its big mountain feel in a nice neat package, and it’s only an hour south of Buffalo. Visit or call 716-699-2345 for more information or reservations.

6557 Holiday Valley Road, Route 219 PO Box 370, Ellicottville, NY 14731 | 716-699-2345
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This Little Pig

Buffalo and it’s surrounding communities offer some unique and delicious options.  Over the past ten to fifteen years, the region has really experienced a food renaissance, with a lot of great chefs opening their own restaurants.  My partner and I love to try different locally owned restaurants and prior to the start of the pandemic, we had the opportunity to check out This Little Pig.

This Little Pig (TLP) is an upscale, casual restaurant featuring New American cuisine.  Their guiding principles are simple: Authenticity, Generosity and Gratitude. TLP is the creation of husband and wife partners, Jeffrey and Mandy Cooke who have spent their careers in the food & beverage and field. Jeff and Mandy met while working on a riverboat casino in Missouri. Mandy in the beverage department and Jeff in the back of the house (kitchen).  The couple loves to travel and has a passion for Americana and local, traditional foods. Their mission is to create a cuisine and an experience that is both familiar while new and exciting to the senses. We utilize as many indigenous, local ingredients as possible from local farmers, artisans, brewers, coffee roasters, distillers, cheesemakers and foragers. It is important to Mandy that you have a warm & welcoming experience with us and Chefs Jeff and Jane (a brother and sister team) bring creativity and commitment to quality with them to the kitchen each day.

Because they have a changing a menu, not everything we enjoyed is currently featured.  Two of the items we enjoyed that are still featured are their “Smoked Wings” appetizer and their “Blueberry Glazed Bacon Bones” entree.  When it comes to chicken wings, most places offer the standard mild, medium, hot and barbeque options, sometimes with their own take on these sauces.  TLP’s smoked wings are hardwood smoked with with garlic butter, cayenne and other spices, served with a side of pickled carrot and celery kimchi and a smoked blue cheese dressing.  I’m not normally a fan of spicy things but these were delicious, the kick offered by the cayenne was beautifully balanced with the garlic butter and blue cheese, leaving me wanting more when we had finished them.  We ordered a whole rack of the blueberry glazed bacon bones, which are brown sugar-cured St. Louis ribs, hickory smoked and glazed with house-made jalapeño-blueberry jam with pickle and served with two sides.  The sweetness of the brown sugar combined with the tartness and slight kick of the jalapeño-blueberry jam created a deliciously unique flavor that became an instant favorite.

If you’re looking for a delectable dining experience that will keep you coming back for more, look no further than This Little Pig.  In addition to a marvelous dinner menu, they also are offer take out and also offer a catering option.  I can’t recommend This Little Pig enough.  It comfort food that has been elevated and the prices won’t break the bank.

4401 Transit Road, Williamsville, NY 14221 | 716-580-7872
Hours: Sun-Thurs: Closed; Thurs-Sat: 4pm-9pm
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Grand Throw House

There is no doubt in my mind that this past year has some of us climbing up the walls.  Sometimes we need to let off a little steam and what better way to do it then hatchet (axe) throwing.  With options still very much limited because of the pandemic, now is a great time to try new, fun activities.  We recently spoke with the owners of Grand Throw House here.

Managing directors Steph, AKA Whistle and Ash, AKA Axely, became partners in crime when they joined the same league about a year ago. They have been travelling to every axe event manageable since, always willing to lend a hand or huff some axes and want nothing more than to share the enjoyment of axe throwing with others. They have such a love for the sport that they wanted to level up and run their own venue. They have experienced many venues in many locations and want to be able to put their own flare into presenting the sport. They have supported many venues and have seen first hand how amazing the axe world and the people within it can be. With Steph’s background in business and project management and Ash’s design and managerial skills, the plan is to grow the business with passion and the connections they’ve built within the community.

With 5 lanes, 10 targets, and one practice target, situated inside a roomy warehouse on what is considered the world’s largest fresh-water island, Grand Throw House has got a lot going for it. Not to mention the radical axe-wielding owners who are ‘in it to win it.’  There are only reservations at this point, because of the pandemic. They also have a league right now – it’s an 8 week season, and they’re on week 7.  They have a 2 week gap, and then they’re back at it. 

361 Lang Blvd. Grand Island, NY 14072 | 716-404-9987
Open Throw Hours: Thurs: 5:30pm-10pm, Fri: 4pm-10pm, Sat: 12pm-10pm Call ahead for reservations
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Niagara Wine Trail, USA

No staycation would be complete without a bottle of wine.  We are extremely lucky in this area in that we the climate in our region is perfect for growing fruits that produce some delicious wines, meads and ciders.  Western New York has an abundance of great wineries that are all a short drive away.  If you are new to the world of wines, meads and ciders, or even consider yourself an amateur sommelier, there are plenty of wineries for you to explore on the Niagara Wine Trail.

Geographically situated between the Niagara Escarpment and Lake Ontario, the wine region has a unique micro-climate. Located at Latitude 43 degrees North, the cool climate region of Niagara enjoys long days during the growing season. This makes it suitable for the production of the types of fruit that are used to create its fine wines. The length of a growing season is important to both the fresh fruit and wine industry. The longer the growing season, the more the fruit builds a chemical called fruit esters. These fruit esters give the fruit the qualities of aroma and taste – the longer the growing season, the better the fruit. We enjoy the second longest growing season for grapes in New York State.

Each winery on the trail offers a diverse selection of traditional vinifera style, native, late harvest and ice wines, as well as unique styles such as award-winning fruit wines, meads and ciders. There is something to please the palate of everyone along the Niagara Wine Trail, USA from the novice to the most discerning wine connoisseur. Although the wine trail takes pride in this diversification, each member winery shares one common theme – a passion for producing only the highest quality beverage. This region has been recognized by prominent wine publications as producing the best Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Ice Wine and Syrah that New York has to offer, along with top scores by wine critics and international wine competitions.

The Niagara Wine Trail has everything you need to plan either a daytrip or a weekend to explode what this region has to offer.  In addition to a list of participating wineries, they have links and info about lodging, restaurants and so much more to help plan the perfect trip.  Their site also lists upcoming events at wineries as well as events that they sponsor, like “Niagara USA Uncorked,” which has been postponed until July 31-August 1, and more recently their “Be Mine With Wine” Valentine’s Day getaway.  Whether you are looking to get away for just a day or for an entire weekend, the Niagara Wine Trail has everything you need!

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