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It may come as a surprise to some (here’s lookin’ at you, warm-weather dwellers) that Groundhog Day is cause for some major celebration in different parts of the country—especially in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the home and namesake of the special day, February 2, when a certain groundhog by the name of Punxsutawney Phil makes a prediction about how much longer we will endure the winter months.
Groundhog Day actually has quite a long history; it began as a Christian holiday called Candlemas Day, wherein Christians would bring candles to church in order to bring good blessings back into their homes for the rest of wintertime. Eventually, the holiday reached Germany and an animal was introduced into the tradition: if a hedgehog (a hibernating mammal) saw his shadow, it meant six more weeks of winter, and if he saw nothing, then winter would soon end. Eventually, as German settlers crossed the Atlantic, the holiday made it to the U.S. And since hedgehogs are not native to our country, another hibernating animal was chosen to make the prediction: the humble groundhog. The very first celebration of Groundhog Day was documented in Punxsutawney in 1886, and it’s stuck around ever since—there’s even a club, founded in 1887, dedicated to the holiday.
Now, Groundhog Day celebrations in Punxsutawney are taken very seriously—and absolutely warrant a visit to this western Pennsylvania municipality. In addition to gathering at the famous Gobbler’s Knob to witness little Punxsutawney Phil’s winter weather prediction, the town spends months planning all sorts of fun activities for a three-day celebration of the legendary day. Visitors can expect breakfast with Phil, a Gobbler’s Knob Got Talent performance, tons of specials at local bars and restaurants, chainsaw carving, a snowshoe shadow hike, Groundhog Day cookie decorating, live music performances, and a whole lot more. You can find a full schedule of events for the special weekend here.
While Punxsutawney certainly gets major credit for celebrating Groundhog's Day in style, they’re not the only northern city that takes the holiday seriously. Buffalo, New York—otherwise known as the 'Winter Capital of the World'—has got quite the lineup in anticipation of Groundhog Day this year. Visitors heading to the chilly upstate city can expect a major party at Flying Bison Brewery on Saturday, January 26.
Boasting their very own meteorological mammal, Buffalo Bert (they’re calling him the “Weatherhog”), who will make an appearance at the brewery on January 26, this celebration might be giving Punxsutawney a bit of a run for its money. Created with the intention of bringing the Buffalo community together to wholeheartedly embrace winter—even if it is predicted to be even longer than usual—the celebratory day benefits both locals, visitors, and animals. Travelers heading to this wintery wonderland can buy tickets in advance for $20 (or $25 day-of) and get three drink tickets good for either Flying Bison or Buffalo Distilling Company, access to legendary Buffalo food trucks and a food tent, live music performances from five local bands, a live animal demonstration from the Hawk Creek Wildlife Center, and of course, the special winter weather prediction. The best part? The celebration is a major philanthropic effort; proceeds will go directly to Buffalo Zoo, Hawk Creek Wildlife Center, Buffalo C.A.R.E.S. Animal Shelter, and a handful of other organizations that benefit our furry friends.
If you plan to stay the night in Buffalo, check out the five-star Curtiss Hotel, which weds elegance and sophistication with urban flare in the heart of the city (be sure to check out Vue, the hotel’s rooftop lounge and of course their very own in-house hot springs). For a delicious farm-to-table meal, stop by The Black Sheep to try local, thoughtfully-prepared dishes. If you’re in the mood for brunch, stop at Trattoria Aroma for some upscale, delicious Italian fare. And before you leave the city, be sure to check out Buffalo Melting Point for an out-of-this-world grilled cheese.
Where will you celebrate our furry friend’s winter weather prediction this year?