Monthly Archives: June 2011

Buffalo, NY – Art

For a city of its size, it is surprising how many art venues exist in and around Buffalo.  There is a world class art gallery, a philharmonic, concerts in parks, plays in parks, museums, and many programs at the area universities.  Yesterday I talked about the architecture in Buffalo and today I’ll talk about the other forms of art around Buffalo.

  • Albright-Knox Art Gallery – (1285 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, NY) Founded in 1862, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery is on the oldest art institutions in the United States.  Known for its collection of modern and contemporary art, the collection includes works from artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, and Paul Gauguin to name a few.  The gallery is free to the public on the first Friday of every month or $12 for adults, $8 for seniors and students (13 and up), $5 for kids (6-12) and free for kids 5 and under.  Admission is also free for active duty service members and their families.

  • Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Kleinhan’s Music Hall (3 Symphony Circle, Buffalo, NY), and Art Park (450 South Fourth St, Lewiston, NY) – The home of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is Kleinhan’s Music Hall.  But they also perform at many parks, including Art Park during the summer.  Many of the summer performances are free to attend.  Both Kleinhan’s and Art Park also host many other artists and programs.  I’ll never forget seeing James Galway perform at Kleinhan’s when I was in high school.  He ended the show with The Flight of the Bumblebee.  It was absolutely amazing!

  • Shakespeare in the Park – Located in Delaware Park, Shakespeare in the Park is a Buffalo staple in the summer.  Shows run Tuesday through Sunday and are free!  Many people bring a picnic to enjoy while watching the show.

  • Concerts in the Park – As I mentioned above the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra performs for free at park locations throughout the summer.  Many towns run a series of concerts in the park over the summer.  Check the local newspaper for locations and times or the link I provided at the beginning of this bullet.
  • Allentown Art Festival – Every second weekend in June, the Allentown neighborhood of Buffalo hosts the Allentown Art Festival.  It includes art from approximately 450 artists from nearly every state, as well as Canada and Europe.

  • Griffis Sculpture Park – (6902 Mill Valley Road, East Otto, NY) I love Griffis Sculpture Park!  I don’t think that you will find anything like it anywhere else in the U.S.  It is the oldest and largest outdoor sculpture park in the U.S.  It’s located approximately 45 miles outside of Buffalo on 400 acres of country land.  There are hiking trails that take you past over 250 sculptures.  You are allowed to touch and even climb on the sculptures.  The cost is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and students and kids under 12 are free.

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Buffalo, NY – Architecture

At the turn of the 20th century, Buffalo was one of the wealthiest cities in the United States.  The immense wealth led to the construction of beautiful buildings.  Major architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan designed buildings in Buffalo.  There are grand mansions built along Delaware Avenue known as Millionaire’s Row.  And you can’t miss the art deco style of Buffalo City Hall.  You could easily spend a day or more touring these masterpieces.

Use this link for a self-guided driving tour of Buffalo’s architecture, this one for audio while you’re touring, or this one for a paid guided tour in an open-air bus.

Here are a few examples of some of Buffalo’s finest buildings:

City Hall (George Dietel):

The Martin House Complex (Frank Lloyd Wright):

Guaranty Building (Louis Sullivan):

Buffalo State Hospital (Henry Hobson Richardson):

Our Lady of Victory Basilica (architect: Emile Ulrich; located in Lackawanna, NY):

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Buffalo, NY – An Overview

When thinking of vacation destinations, most people probably think of Caribbean islands, Europe, Florida, or National Parks.  I’d like to suggest that maybe you should think about places around the Great Lakes, typically referred to as Rust Belt cities. 

As I’ve mentioned, I grew up outside of Buffalo, NY and was at times one of its harshest critics.  Bethlehem Steel was shutting down when I was a kid and I remember what it did to the people and the area.  Nearly all of my siblings (and myself) have moved away from Buffalo because the economy was hit so hard.  That said, Buffalo does have so much to offer, much more than just Niagara Falls.  I think you’d be hard pressed to find another place where the people are as friendly.  The nickname of the City of Good Neighbors is not just an expression.  I like to saw that Buffalo is the most eastern mid-western city in the U.S.  So think about making a visit.  You won’t be disappointed.  I’ll spend several posts talking about places to visit in Western New York which I hope will tempt you to visit.

Today I’ll talk about the reason that most people travel to Western New York – Niagara Falls.  Niagara Falls is located about 25 miles north of Buffalo.  If you’re traveling by air, you’ll want to fly into either the Buffalo/Niagara Airport (BUF) or Toronto (YYZ).  Toronto is a further drive to the Falls, about 80 miles.  You also will need a passport to travel both by air or by land to the Canadian side of the Falls.  Because of that fact, the American side of the Falls is becoming more popular.  In 2004, the Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel was built and adds another location for people to visit when in the area.

The main activities to do on the American side of the Falls are: the Maid of the Mist, the Cave of the Winds, and Prospect Point Park Observation Tower. 

The Maid of the Mist is an absolute must do when visiting Niagara Falls.  It costs $13.50 for adults, $7.85 for kids (6 – 12) and kids under 6 are free.  The Maid of the Mist is a boat ride that takes you past the American and Bridal Viel Falls and right up near the base of the Horseshoe Falls.  It is truly spectacular.

The Cave of the Winds is a walking tour at the base of the Bridal Veil Falls.  You are able to get as close as less than 20 feet from the torrents.  You are provided rain ponchos and sandals to help keep you dry.  It costs $11 for adults, $8 for kids 6 – 12 and kids under 6 are free.

Prospect Point Observation Tower gives you an impressive view of the American Falls.  It is located over the Niagara Gorge and allows you to travel down to the base of the Falls.  It costs only $1 per person.

One of my dad’s favorite locations in Niagara Falls is Goat Island.  It’s a park located on the American side and is a great picnic spot.  You can view the Niagara River rapids as they head down towards Niagara Falls.  Be careful when viewing the river.  It can be mesmerizing and you don’t want to fall in.

For a comprehensive listing of the differences between the American and Canadian Falls, visit this site.

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Looking for a different kind of family vacation?

I am all for relaxing vacations at high end hotels.  And hopefully with information you’ve read in this blog, you’ve learned how you can take those kinds of vacations for reasonable prices.  But maybe you’re looking for something a little bit different.  I recently read an article about vacations on farms in the Albany Times Union.

I grew up in a rural town outside of Buffalo, New York.  There were lots of farms around where we lived.  At church, the parishioners prayed for rain and good crops.  One of the neighboring towns had a Corn Festival every year.  And the town I went to high school in hosts the Erie County Fair, which is produced by the Erie County Agricultural Society and is one of the largest county fairs in the country.  I grew up in a town where you said hi to everyone you passed on the street and waved at every car that drove by.  We only had one real traffic light (and 2 flashing ones) in town.  I appreciate small town, country living, even though I don’t live in a town like that now.

The number of people living on farms has drastically decreased in the last fifty years.  And many people have little connection with where their food comes from.  What better way to teach your kids about food than to take a vacation on a farm.  Check out www.sleepinthehay.com or http://www.farmstayus.com/ for locations.

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Mystery Rides and Pajama Rides

Being from such a large family, we grew up on a tight budget.  So my parents got creative when thinking of how to entertain us.  Two of my favorite activities were of mystery rides and pajama rides.

For mystery rides, my parents would pile us into the van (a.k.a. “the mean green machine”).  They wouldn’t tell us where we were going.  We were allowed to ask yes/no questions as we traveled to the location.  It could be any kind of place; many times it was a park.  It was a brilliant strategy as it kept us quiet on the ride because we were trying to guess where we were going.  We weren’t fighting with each other or complaining about how long it was taking to get there.

Pajama rides are pretty self explanatory.  At night time, after we were in pajamas, they would take us out somewhere.  Sometimes they told us where we were going, sometimes they didn’t.  How many times do you get to leave the house in your pajamas as a kid?  That’s what made it so much fun.  I think the most memorable pajama ride was on Christmas Eve.  My parents took us to a local donut shop.  When we got there, we sang Christmas carols to the people working there.  For the kids, the most memorable part is the person working behind the counter gave us each a free donut.  My mom told me that employee pulled her aside and told her that he was beginning to think that everyone had lost the true meaning of Christmas and that we restored his faith.

For both of these activities, the destination really isn’t the important part.  The novelty is in the ride itself.

I remember the first time I took my sons on a pajama ride.  They were grinning ear to ear because they couldn’t believe we were taking them somewhere in their pajamas.  We only went to Target, but they absolutely loved it!

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