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The heartiest and most enterprising souls among us realize winter can be not only a time of fun, but a time of tourism! Why not get the people out of their huts and into the open, they reason, if only for a brief while? The sun-deprived masses are bound to shell out for a cup of chili or an admission ticket here and there, right?

I don't know, but I'll wait in line for chili if you want to sign us up for the snowshoe demo. Hey, do you think there'll be fireworks later? I love fireworks.

Light in Winter, January 20 to 22, Ithaca: Hold the phone Poindexter, this sounds more like school than a festival. Not quite: while Light in Winter brings together scientists, artists, musicians, dancers, etc. to collaborate on events in music, art, and science, the organizers promise it's fun and easy to follow.

This year's theme is the natural world. You can see gallery exhibits --- like The Art of Fauna and Flora by the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators of the Finger Lakes or a collection of watercolors based on fractals --- learn how to appreciate Middle Eastern music, hear from an astrophysicist on the equation that couldn't be solved, see a play about Einstein, or enjoy a performance by NASA's first artist-in-residence.

Daytime or weekend packages are available or you can buy tickets for individual events. Tickets are available online at www.lightinwinter.com or at the door.

Mendon Ponds Winterfest, January 22: This festival is all about getting people excited about winter activities. Everything is free. Get information on or attend demonstrations in orienteering, skiing, camping, snowshoeing, or geocaching; check out the Genesee Valley Audubon Society, flame-working demos from the Corning Museum of Glass, astronomy, ice fishing, ice boating, or curling; take the kids for face painting, storytelling, or craft activities. 256-4950, www.mendonpondswinterfest.org

WinterCity, January 27 to February 9, Toronto: No, you can't take the ferry, but a drive to Toronto during the 14-day celebration of "culture, creativity, and cuisine" will earn you serious cool points. And all the pyrotechnics will leave your ears ringing --- just like when you used to be with the band.

Outdoor, weekend spectaculars like The Tower of Light (a performance involving things like "buckets of fire," "strobing lights," and "silver rain") and Il Corso (open-air production with actors, acrobats, musicians, dancers on 10-foot poles, and "a wall of fire") set the tone. A new feature, the Ice Lounge, is an ice sculpture playground by day, a DJ-soundtracked nightclub by night.

Foodies can revel in Winterlicious, a program where the top restaurants offer prix fixe menus at $15 to $35. A WinterCity passport gets you discounts at restaurants and landmarks throughout the city. Many outdoor performances are free. 416-338-0338, www.toronto.ca/special_events

Lakeside Winter Celebration, February 5, Rochester: This city-sponsored event at OntarioBeachPark brings two beloved traditions together for one afternoon, the Chilly Chili Challenge and the Polar Plunge. Hot chili, cold lake: what could be more fitting a pair? Ice and snow sculptures and activities for kids typically round out the day. The festival is free. Get information at 428-6755, or www.cityofrochester.gov. Register for the Polar Plunge at 800-836-6976, or www.polarplunge.net.

SyracuseWinterfest, February 15 to 26: The organizers of the Syracuse Winterfest ask: "Why Be Bored?" Why indeed? In a mere 12 days, this festival packs a whole boatload of activities: ice-skating, museums, art exhibits, ski and snowboard camps, live music. But this is Central New York, and you'll feel at home with the kinds of fun that keep it real: ping pong tournaments, card tournaments, trivia, a Wing Walk, poker runs, and various food and booze cook- and mix-offs. For out-of-the-ordinary diversions, get a team together for the human dog sled race, hunt for a hidden medallion worth $1000, or help break a record for the most simultaneous snow angels. Guinness, here we come. 315-466-9468, www.syracusewinterfest.com

--- Erica Curtis

In This Guide...

  • Winter Guide 2006

    City Newspaper breaks it down for you
    In this year's guide to the winter season, we've focused on things to do. Much like the government's odd, grammatical anti-obesity campaign ("VERB: It's what you do"), City wants you to get out and get moving.

  • City's winter choices

    City's winter choice: dancing There are plenty of ways to raise your body temperature this winter and have some fun doing it (i.e. you don't have to use words like "cardio," "reps," or "ow") That's right, you should be dancing. Many local groups and venues offer dance nights in their genre of choice, often at low cost and with some sort of basic instruction.

  • Listen

    Hear that? Because so many local organizations and institutions go all out planning them for this slow time of year, winter is a great time to attend lectures.

  • Hear

    Yup, it's DVD, CD, and fireplace weather for the next few months. But if you live alone, you might get a little lonely.

  • Frozen in pictures

    Winter Guide photo contest
    Our inaugural Winter Guide photo contest has been a success. We had great response to our call for photos of winter in the Rochester area.

  • Applaud

    Here's an outline to plan your ticket-foraging with. Scatter a few of these evenings through the season like little culture outposts and absorb some of the talent --- both local and bussed in --- at hand this season.

  • Look

    After some brief holiday downtime, local galleries and museums are back in full force. So you have an array of culture to choose from, if you're into that kind of thing.

  • Shelter from the storm

    Winter skills
    If you've lived in Rochester for any length of time, you've probably muttered nasty words under your breath about the weather. And during the five months we call "winter," one of those words was probably "arctic."

  • Play

    Spanking new year, same old story: we all peer outside from the warmth of our homes for a couple weeks and then, realizing that winter ain't going anywhere anytime soon, concede that if we want to stave off cabin fever, we're going to have to make with the bulky coats and really unattractive boots. So when you finally achieve acceptance (the final stage of grief), there are a number of activities you can participate in to make the cold-weather months tolerable, and possibly even enjoyable.