by Michelle Blackley
The holidays bring up a lot of strong feelings for people. For many of us, childhood memories are the most prevalent. The traditions, people and places that made it the most magical time of year when we were younger stick with us - and if we're lucky, they can be revisited.
Sledding in Lockport and seeing the lights in Niagara Falls with my parents and brother are my favorite childhood memories during the holidays. As I got older, coming home from New York City for days of rest and relaxation, and catching up with old friends in Lockport were something to look forward to. Since I moved home a few years ago, it's comforting to know I don't have to catch a round-trip flight, and I have all the "time in the world" to take advantage of all of the holidays events in Niagara USA.
Growing up in "wine country," before it was known as the Niagara Wine Trail, was surreal. But now it's exciting to be in close proximity to 19 wineries, many award-winning, when I'm at my childhood home. The Niagara Wine Trail, other than being ranked in the "Top Ten Wine Trails" by The Weather Channel, offers year-round events and showcases wines for the holidays - a perfect hostess gift.
Also in Lockport is the Winter Wonderland Project light display on Main and Market streets - perfect locations to purchase unique gifts from local businesses. Take in the historic Erie Canal with festive decorations lighting the way.
In Hyde Park in Niagara Falls, the annual "Holiday Lights of Niagara Trail," a seasonal charity event that raises funds for United Way, boasts more than 60 displays. Coupled with Old Falls Street and the Erie Canal, it's a dazzling seasonal spectacle.
New Year's Eve is best spent locally, so look no further than Hard Rock Café, and the fifth annual Guitar Drop. The Hard Rock, located at 333 Prospect St., Niagara Falls, offers partygoers a chance to relax and regroup after a day downtown. A free outdoor concert starts at 8 p.m., and a 10-foot Gibson guitar will drop from The Giacomo hotel to ring in 2014.
Not only are all of these activities free, but they provide locals and guests with the chance to create - or recreate - memories that will last a lifetime.
Michelle Blackley is the communications manager and interim director of marketing at the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp., as well as adjunct instructor of communication at Buffalo State College. She can be reached by email at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @shellblackley.