Don't get me wrong, I love Central New York and specifically the Utica/Rome area. But I just can't escape the fact that my hometown of Western New York is very close to my heart and a place I visit at least five times a year. You know, the Buffalo area, the place with all the hard to pronounce names like; Cheektowaga, Onondaga, Scajaquada, and Canandaigua. I'll be heading that way twice before the year is out and here are the top reasons why.

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10) First Niagara Center

If I'm lucky when visiting, someone will have an extra ticket to a Buffalo Sabres game. Sure the team is struggling this year, but when you're away, absence makes the heart grow fonder. I'll go to First Niagara Center and enjoy every minute of the game regardless of the outcome.

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9) Ralph Wilson Stadium

My son and I were there week one of the Buffalo Bills season and saw the team come very close to beating New England. Something that doesn't happen often. I hope to gather around a big screen with some long time friends to see a Bills victory from the 'Ralph'.

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8) General Mills Factory

Only a Buffaloian will know what I'm talking about but you can't help but notice the smell of Cheerios when driving over the Skyway. It's been there since I was a child and I look forward to a whiff every time I head towards the Buffalo waterfront.

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7) The National Buffalo Wing Festival

Buffalo is all about food with plenty of great food joints like Ted's Hot Dogs, Mighty Taco and Anderson's. But nothing says Buffalo food quite like wings. At the wing festival, people from all over the country bring their recipes and cook up some delicious hot wings for everyone to try. And they have the festival right in the middle of Coca Cola Field, where the Buffalo Bisons play baseball.

photo by Miranda Cone

6) Sahlen's Hot Dogs

Every trip I make to my hometown includes a cooler full of ice to stock up on foods that can only be found in Western New York supermarkets. I enjoy both regular and skinless Sahlen's hot dogs on the grill all summer long.

Mark Richards TSM

5) Weber's Mustard

Weber's mustard is another Western New York only food that comes in many varieties. You can find it in regular flavor, with horseradish, with relish and super spicy...Buffalo style.

4) Troyer Farms Potato Chips

These are becoming harder and harder to find in Western New York as Tops markets no longer stocks them. They can be found if you search a bit. If your looking for a chip full of flavor may I recommend; regular, salt-n-vinegar; barbeque and sour cream and onion Troyer Farms chips.

photo by Miranda Cone

3) Bison Brand Chip Dip

And nothing compliments a good potato chip like Bison Brand chip dip. I can eat it by the tub full. If you check the shelves of Wal mart you'll sometimes find it here in Central New York so, give it a try. It actually costs less that some other brands.

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2) Buffalo Chicken Wings

I know, I know..almost number one on the list? Well, no one makes hot wings like they do in Buffalo. They are always jumbo, cooked in fresh oil and dripping in Frank's hot sauce and butter. And it's blue cheese on the side, not ranch! If you want to take someone to the wing place that started it all, take them to the Anchor Bar on Main St, downtown or, you can't go wrong with Duff’s.

Mark Richards TSM

1) Family

Probably the number one reason why anyone heads for their hometown is to see family and friends. I SO look forward to seeing my nieces and nephews along with my cousins when I visit. I have a brother and an uncle along with a new aunt living in Western New York along with dozens of long time friends to between shopping for my favorite foods to bring back to Central New York.

photo by Miranda Cone