Historic Tours To Take This Holiday Season

By Brian Hayden

Published on | Last Updated

A lot has changed in Buffalo Niagara over years, but year-end holiday celebrations have remained a constant and been passed down from generation to generation. Several of our top historical attractions and tour companies are recreating Christmas past with holiday tours transporting you to another era. Here are several of our favorites, broken down by the era each tour will be celebrating:

18th Century

Old Fort Niagara was an integral part of Western New York as the region changed hands from French to British and ultimately American control. The fort’s centuries-old buildings and grounds are decked out for its Castle by Candlelight Tour (Dec. 9 & 16), complete with musket and artillery firing and historically accurate characters.

Costs for Castle by Candlelight special event are $30. General admission at other times is $20 for adults, $12 for youths (age 6-12) and free for children (age 0-5).

It WAS a Wonderful Life / Photo: Forest Lawn Cemetery

19th Century

Join Forest Lawn Cemetery for a critically acclaimed original production, It WAS a Wonderful Life (various dates from Nov. 25-Dec. 31), as the historic and festively decorated Forest Lawn chapel is transformed into a live theater.  The narrator, John Lay – the first person to take up permanent residence at Forest Lawn, in 1850 – will introduce several of the new friends he’s made over the last 165 years at Forest Lawn. They, in turn, will create musical, comical and poignant glimpses of Christmases past, when they enjoyed life on this side of the lawn.

Tickets are $35. See all the dates at forest-lawn.com.

Victorian Luncheons at the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site


President Theodore Roosevelt took the oath of office in Buffalo at the Wilcox Mansion. For the last 40+ years, the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site has decorated the mansion as it would have appeared in that Victorian era. Take one of the regularly offered tours to see the home decked out for the holidays during the site’s Home for the Holidays event (various Dec. 1-Dec. 30). Led by various gardening associations from around the community, the decorations will focus on natural evergreens and Victorian-era details.

The decor is visible on all regularly scheduled tours and costs $15 for admission, $10 for youths (age 6-18) and $1 for children (age 0-5).


Buffalo’s boom of magnificent American architecture was in full swing with the completion of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House Complex. Stop by the meticulously restored Martin House and Barton House to see the Tree of Light (Dec. 2) on in the plaza adjacent to the house. Enjoy holiday treats, caroling and explore the house which will be open for walk-throughs. Plus, the Museum Store will be fully stocked for holiday shopping.

This event is free and open to the public.

Check out our Holiday Guide for more seasonal fun in Buffalo!

Brian Hayden headshot

Brian Hayden

Brian Hayden is a lifelong Buffalonian and storyteller, author of the new book “111 Places In Buffalo That You Must Not Miss,” and director of communications at The Buffalo History Museum.