1. Presque Isle State Park
Buffalo News reporter Michelle Kearns once described the picturesque peninsula as “a skinny spit of land that makes a curving line along the shore, like a fishhook.” A road system within the park forms a loop about 13 miles in length. People enjoy many recreational activities including swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, bicycling, kite-flying, bird-watching and in-line skating. Rentals of bikes, surreys and kayaks are available.
Details: Presque Isle State Park, 301 Peninsula Drive in Erie, Pa., is about a two-hour drive from Buffalo. Website: www.dcnr.state.pa.us. Phone: (814) 833-7424. There is no admission charge, and parking is free. All pets must be on a leash. For swimming area pet guidelines, information on beaches, trails and a whole lot more, see the Presque Isle Park Recreational Guide. It can be downloaded on the website. Once you click on Presque Isle State Park, it’s under the maps heading.
Or, once you arrive at the park, pick one up at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center (TREC) at the entrance. Visitors are encouraged to stop here for information on Presque Isle. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week. See www.trecpi.org.
Note: Waldameer & Water World are located across the street from the park.
2. Letchworth State Park
There are 70 miles of trails to hike, rated easy to moderate difficulty; a swimming pool ($1-$2 fee; there is no swimming in the river), picnic areas and much more. For information on cabins, camping, whitewater rafting, canoeing, hot-air ballooning and more, visit the website.
Details: Letchworth is located about an hour and a half from Buffalo. The visitor center’s phone is (585) 493-3600. The website: nysparks.com. Parking is $8 per car. Hours of operation: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Restaurants and snack bars are located throughout the park.
Coming up: The Concert on the Hill and Classic Car Show from 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday.
3. Griffis Sculpture Park
Details: The park at 6902 Mill Valley Road in East Otto is about 45 miles south of Buffalo – eight miles outside of Ellicottville. Admission is by honor system: $5 for adults; $3 for students and seniors. Children under age 10 are free. You drop money through a small slot in the yellow box.
It’s open dawn to dusk May 1 to Oct. 31, and some picnic tables are on site. There are rules: No littering, no camping, no alcohol, no campfires or smoking and a few others listed on a sign near the entrance. You’ll also find a simple map on the sign marked with easy, moderate and difficult trails. For directions, trail map, rules, special events and other information, visit the website, www.griffispark.org. Phone: 667-2808.
Coming up: The first annual Griffis Sculpture Park Summer Festival from noon to 6:30 p.m. Aug. 18. Admission will be $10 for adults, ages 12 and under free. Live music, artists at work, children’s activities and more. The festival will take place at the top of the hill at the Mill Valley site of the park. See the website for details.
4. Toronto Islands
Details: For Toronto Islands information and map, visit www.toronto.ca/parks. Ferries leave from the Toronto Ferry Docks located at the foot of Bay Street at Queens Quay, just west of the Westin Harbour Castle hotel. There is some construction going on in the area.
Parking lot options and approximate prices (may vary by day and time) include Harbourfront Centre (about $12 per day); Green P Parking at 45 Bay St. (about $17 per day), and 10 York St. (about $15 per day). Plan on a five- to six-minute walk to the ferry docks.
There are three ferry drops on the islands. Travel time is about 15 minutes each way. The summer schedule is posted online at www.toronto.ca/parks/island/ferry-schedule.htm. Toronto Island ferry and other island information: (416) 392-8193. Summer ferry fees: adults, $7; student under 19 with a student card; and adults over 65, $4.50; children under 14, $3.50; children under 2, free.
5. The National Museum of Play at the Strong in Rochester
New for summer: The Boardwalk Arcade exhibit inspired by resorts of the 19th and early-20th centuries such as Coney Island and Atlantic City. Visitors can pose in front of fun house mirrors; spin the wheel of fortune; play lots of games. Most are free; a few require the purchase of tokens priced six for $1. Boardwalk Arcade continues through Sept. 8.
Other popular interactive exhibits include: a newly expanded Wegmans Super Kids Market, Sesame Street, American Comic Book Heroes, Berenstain Bears, Reading Adventureland and a Field of Play. The museum also has a carousel, a Strong Express passenger train, a National Toy Hall of Fame, Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden, food court, diner, museum shops and more.
Details: National Museum of Play at the Strong, 1 Manhattan Square, Rochester; (585) 263-2700, www.museumofplay.org. Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. It’s a little more than an hour’s drive from Buffalo; you’ll probably want to spend at least four hours here.
General admission is $13 for ages 2 and older. Admission is free for tots under 2 as well as museum members. Admission to the Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden is in addition to general museum admission fees. Timed tickets are required; advance purchase is recommended. Fees: $4 per person for nonmembers, $3 for members. Free for under age 2. See the website for details.
Note: The doll section is closed for renovation until fall 2014.