By Shannon Traphagen

Warmer weather and sunshine are finally here, along with renewed hope as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has loosened its guidance for those who are fully vaccinated. As for Western New York, Erie County is winning the race, with more than 61 percent of residents having received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. With plenty of vaccines to go around, and the approval of the Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 12 to 15 years old, this summer may resemble a return to pre-pandemic life.

While some of our traditional festivals have yet to make their decisions about whether to stage their events or postpone for another year, there’s still plenty to look forward to, including farmer’s markets, which are in full swing. So, get out and move, and enjoy the newfound freedoms associated with being vaccinated, including being able to do away with masking in many indoor and outdoor venues, and check out some of these ideas for things to do.

  • Explore local, county, and state parks. Get outside and go for a walk or hike. Turn the outing into a nature scavenger hunt where you search for different kinds of plants, flowers, animals, and birds.
  • Start a garden in your backyard or plant some herbs in pots. For inspiration, take a walking tour of the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens.
  • Head to one of Western New York’s beaches or pools. The CDC says there is no evidence that COVID-19 spreads through water in pools, hot tubs, or play areas. However, since person-to-person spread of coronavirus is ongoing, it’s important to remain vigilant.
  • Take the family on outings to places like Explore and More Museum, the Buffalo Museum of Science, Canalside, the Buffalo Zoo, or a drive-in theater.
  • Sign your kids up for summer camps. Check out for a list of camps, as well as their COVID safety guidelines. You can even recreate the summer camp experience at home with your kids or grandkids in your backyard. Pitch a tent, develop your own special cheer or song, make decorations, hang cozy paper lanterns, and don’t forget the s’mores.
  • Take an art class, learn to horseback ride, row, or join a local bike club. For a unique experience, the Lothlorien Therapeutic Riding Center has a special group just for women to help ease life’s stresses.

Think about some of what you’ve been missing during the months of COVID and get out and enjoy the season. If you aren’t vaccinated yet, visit There are plenty of options within five miles of your home!

For more great summer ideas, including a list of healthy happenings and farmer’s markets, visit