Sunday, June 7, 2009

This Summer in Buffalo

Some of the posts I most enjoyed writing last summer were the ones I wrote about getting out and about and doing some things in Buffalo. (If you missed them you can find them under the tag "Top Shelf Does Buffalo.") This year I want to get do even more. I did some of the biggies - ArtPark, Taste of Buffalo, Allentown Art Festival - but I know there's a ton I've yet to do. I poked around on the internet, talked to people, and pored over Artvoice's List of 100 Things You Must Do This Summer. (Technically it's from last year but I figure the list still applies.)

I'm going to try and be a little more organized this summer. There's no way I can do 100 things in the next few months so after careful consideration, I'm going to aim for 25. I feel like even that may be aiming high but some of the things I took off AV's list are pretty straight-forward. And cheap. Which is good. We like cheap here at Top Shelf.

For the purpose of this list, I'm eliminating all the things I did last summer. I probably will do some, if not most, of those things again but I want to do a lot of new things. Not sure if I'll blog about repeat experiences either. I eliminated all the things that don't really hold any interest for me (go to every Thursday in the Square concert? I'd rather kill myself) along with everything that involves swimming or jumping into large, natural bodies of water.

Here's what I came up with. If you're not interested in knowing all my plans, please at least scroll down and read the last paragraph. I have some questions for you all.

1. Eat ice-cream every day.

Well, gee, if you're gonna make me. Okay, I probably won't eat ice-cream EVERY day but I will make a solid effort. Really I just want to try some of the places that Artvoice name-checked: Sweet Tooth, Dolci, Anderson’s Custard, Fowler’s, Sweet Jenny’s, Condrell’s, Charlap’s, Parkside Chocolates, the Hatch, Rascals. I'm also going to make an effort to break away from my tried and true favorites and try some new flavors.

2. Determine my favorite Buffalo pizza.

A few months ago I did an interview on First Time, Long Time and one of the questions was, "What's your favorite Buffalo pizza?" I didn't really have an answer and gosh darn it, it's about time I did. I'm going to visit all the most talked up local joints so next time someone asks me this question, I'll have a real answer.

3. Visit every Olmsted Park.

I definitely want to check out Shakespeare in the Park this summer so I'm going to make that my trip to Delaware Park. Not sure yet what I'll do at Cazenovia, the Front, Martin Luther King, Jr., Riverside, South, and Parkways but I'll think of something.

4. Tour Forest Lawn Cemetery.

5. Watch a sunset at the Front.

6. Visit the Butterfly Conservatory at Niagara on the Lake.

7. Go to a drive-in movie.

I'm not sure if those of you who have always lived in WNY realize how unusual it is to have so many drive-in theaters around. There is nowhere to see a drive-in at Alabama and I always, always wanted to be able to do that. We did see a movie at the drive-in back when I first moved to Buffalo but we had about a million people with us, most of whom were very loud. I'd like to try again.

8. Tour City Hall.

9. Visit the Wilcox Mansion.

10. Go to Fantasy Island.

Okay, this is a little bit of a cheat. I don't particularly want to go there but I will be going there with my kiddos during summer school so I'm counting it.

11. Find a favorite fish fry.

Yes, more food. One of my favorite Buffalo things is the Friday Fish Fry but I've definitely gotten stuck on a couple of places, primarily because they've always been close to me. I want to try a bunch of new ones.

12. Grow tomatoes in your backyard.

I changed tomatoes to potatoes and this is already under way. Might blog about this one soon. Funny story about why I moved from tomatoes to potatoes...

13. See Zoar Valley on an an inner tube.

This was an Artvoice suggestion and I'll be honest, I have no idea what or where this is. I do know that one of my favorite things in the world is a nice lazy river ride so this immediately struck my fancy.

14. Explore Letchworth State Park.

Mark and I visited there a couple of years ago and quite literally explored it when we wandered off the path and spent a couple of hours trying to find our way back. We were only there for a day though so I know there's a ton 'o area we didn't see. I'd love to check it out again. I was kind of thinking about trying a hot air balloon ride but since they run $225 per person for five or fewer, I'm probably going to have to wait until a summer when we haven't just spent an abhorrent amount of money on an injured dog. She was totally worth it but good grief.

15. Visit the Darwin Martin House and Graycliff, both in the same weekend.

I can't promise I'll do them both in one weekend like Artvoice suggests but I'll definitely check out both of them at some point.

16. Take a boat ride through the canal locks in Lockport.

17. Hang out at Canal Fest.

18. Go see Shakespeare in Delaware Park.

19. Watch rowers from the steps of the Frank Lloyd Wright boathouse.

20. Don’t miss the Erie County Fair.

We'll see. We lived within a 5 minute walk of the fairgrounds for almost 5 years and never went so the likelihood of finally making it this year are slim. But hey, you never know. This has been on the list of things to do pretty much since we moved here.

21. Pick my own berries.

22. Catch a movie at Riviera Theatre.

I'm aiming for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid which is a favorite of mine and part of the Paul Newman tribute series they're doing this summer.

23. Walk through Rock City Park or Panama Rocks. Or maybe both.

24. See Sonnenberg Gardens.

25. Walk Griffis Sculpture Park.

There you go. 25 things. There are a couple of more things I'm noodling over that I'm not sure will work out so I may or may not stick completely to this list. And I'm admitting up front that it's very likely I won't get all 25 things done this summer. But hey, it's good to have goals.

So what do you guys think? Anything on here you've done and loved? Anything you think is a dud? Anything that isn't on the list that you think everyone in Buffalo should absolutely see or do? What pizza places should I try? How about ice-cream? Fish fries? What are your favorites? What's the over/under on how many things on this list I actually get to before Labor Day?


Lee Andrew said...

All of those things are things to do in the area? A guide to Birmingham would be something like:
1. Go to a movie.
2. Go to a bowling alley IF you can get reservations ahead of time, but you probably can't, they're probably booked full because the only things to do in Birmingham are go to a movie or go bowling unless you want to go downtown and probably get mugged or shot because it has one of the highest crime/murder rates in the country.

If you're trying all those ice cream places does that mean I don't need to bring my homemade ice cream machine for vacation?

I think we were planning on going to a movie while we were up there on vacation. I think Thursday night was one of the options. According to their website the Riviera Theater is showing Cool Hand Luke. I'd actually like to see that if you want to go there instead of a regular movie.

I have a memory of going to see a drive-in movie in the parking lot (or it might have been a softball field then) at the church. Am I making this up?

Heather B. said...

Lee, I'm totally down with Cool Hand Luke if you want to see it. That was actually my first choice because while I know I've seen it, I don't really remember it. But I went with Butch and Sundance because there was a conflict with Cool Hand... which was evidently you guys.

You should bring your ice-cream maker anyway. One of the suggested summer things was "Make your own ice-cream."

And you're not imagining the drive-in at church. I believe it was still a field at the time. We watched that Disney movie with the donkey that plays football. Or am I making THAT up?

Anything else strike your fancy? I think we might have all day Thursday and Friday before the game to kill too.

Heather B. said...

I didn't make it up! Behold the glory of Gus!

Anonymous said...

I remember dad taking us through a lock it was pretty cool for the first ten minutes or so. Then your stuck in the lock while the water slowly goes down and down and down...and down.....and down. You get the picture.
Cool Hand Luke sounds cool.

I actually remember going to the Drive ins. To do it right though we have to pop a garbage bag full of Popcorn and all sit in the back seat in our Pajamas. That's how me and John did it. My only question is who's going to carry me into the house after I fall asleep.

I'll help you pick your favorite Pizza. We should have a Pizza crawl.


Ebscer said...

Not to get too much about food but if you have a reason to head south some, take up the suggestion to go to Earls...

Heather B. said...

Chris, I've been hearing about the locks on Erie Canal since I moved here but I didn't even really know what they were until a few days ago. Now I'm fascinated by the idea of seeing one in action. I'll make sure to take a book in case I get bored. I can arrange for the popcorn and the PJs but yeah, you're gonna have to sleep in the car if you fall asleep. Next year maybe we could throw you over Marlowe's back but this year she'll still be laid up. Pizza crawl? I'm all about that. Seriously, there are what seems like endless non-chain pizza places in Buffalo.

Ebscer, Earl's was on my original list but didn't make the final 25 cut. I do have it in the back of my mind though. I have eaten there which is why I went with some stuff over it but it was many, many years ago. I like my food so it has a good chance.

Becky said...

If you friend Transit Drivein in Facebook you'll get all the updates and other info without opening a newspaper.

Preview night at the fair is inexpensive, since you're not all that enthused.

I still haven't visited Forest Lawn in the summer...this year, maybe.

S.A.M. said...

What a fun idea, Heather!

I love Letchworth. I've been there several times and it's totally worth it, because there is so much to see!
I have also been to Griffis Sculpture Park and it is really really neat. Bring your camera!

As for pizza, this place is actually in Getzville but I count that as close enough to Buffalo- Besta Pizza on Millersport Hwy. VERY tasty. Then head next door to Elmo's for some wings. Their wings are amazing.

I've long thought a canal tour would be cool but what I'd really like to see are the locks on the Welland Canal which connect Lake Ontario to lake Erie.

And Panama Rocks and Rock City Park look totally sweet.

Good luck with your quest and be sure to keep us updated! :)

Erin said...

Best pizza outside of Manhattan is in Rochester. No lie. We have two places battling for supremecy. Joe's Brooklyn and Pizza Stop. We are so spoiled. BEST PIZZA EVER (with my respect to Lombardi's)

I have a plan to go to the Darwin Martin house this summer. I've been prepping with books on FLW and I even bought a book with a copy of the floor plans of all of his early work. Let me know if you want a copy. I think it's interesting to know a lot before you go. I also want to visit the parking lot that used to be the Larkin there's something to look forward to.

Finally, must round out your Olmsted park visits with a trip to Rochester's 'Highland Park' and then jump over to see Susan B. Anthony's gravesite across the street at Mt. Hope cemetary.

(I love Rochester. They should put me on the payroll for promoting them so much. And yes, of course, Rochester is not Buffalo but I like to think of them as kindred spirits)

Heather B. said...

Ooh, Becky, good tip, thanks! I'm going to friend Transit right now.

Sam, I've heard of Besta Pizza and I'll add it to the pizza crawl. I'll definitely keep you updated!

Erin, when I finally make it up to Rochester we'll have to try out one of those pizza places. I'll let you know about the FLW stuff. I definitely agree that it's nice to know at least a little bit going into that kind of thing.

Meg said...

1. If you go to Sweet Jenny's I recommend getting your ice cream and going for a walk through Glen Park. It's a lovely little place.

7. If you go to the Transit Drive-In you can get there early and play mini-golf. :D Also, while it's been a few years since I was there, I remember really liking their fries.

18. When you go to Shakespeare in the Park spare a moment to be glad that you don't have to wait in line for hours to get free tickets like people have to in some cities. (Cities that start with an "N" and end with an "ew York.") The whole just-bring-your-lawn-chair vibe is so nice.

Caroline said...

Great list! Buffalo is such a happenin' place in the summer.

I've also been wanting to do a tour of City Hall...I've lived here my whole life and I've never taken a tour. I want to go up to the observation tower even though I'm terribly afraid of heights.

PS...the bakery Delish! on Elmwood just opened up an ice cream shop on its upper level, maybe you'd like to swing by there while on your ice cream endeavors.

Pookie said...

I can't wait to read about your potatoes! I really wish we'd been more on the ball and put ours in bins this year like you. Next year, next year.

amy said...

6. I've never been to the Butterfly Conservatory itself, but Niagara-on-the-Lake is gorgeous. The town is so quaint and it's just a short walk to a park overlooking Lake Ontario. If you do go to NotL, take the Rainbow Bridge and avoid the Lewiston Queenston bridge. The waits at the LewieQueenie Bridge are ridiculous.

21. Get a lime fizz at the fair. It's just a lime squeezed into seltzer water, but it's really refreshing.

Also fun to do visit Allegany State Park. If you don't do the camping thing, there's still plenty of hiking trails to make it a fun day trip.

And my favorite Buffalo pizza is probably from Mike's on Ontario Street.

Heather said...

(Cities that start with an "N" and end with an "ew York.")

Meg, your secret code is practically undecipherable! :P

Thanks for all the suggestions, guys! I'm taking notes!

Mary said...

I liked the Butterfly Conservatory when I visited in 2000. I'm not sure what's changed since then, but it was a fun experience to have the butterflies actually fly onto you as you walked around. They aren't as easy to get off of you though, ha!

And with the Fontana Boathouse... my sister rows for West Side/my brother just finished at Canisius, and every race on the canal is great to see from there. July 12 is the next regatta at West Side but there are always people at camps and practicing there. I've also heard that the inside of the boathouse is pretty nice but I've never been inside.

Definitely a great list!

Anonymous said...

May I suggest the "Langford Tractor Pull"? (or at least the Jamboree and Concert?)

It's down the street from where I grew up! I know it's a bit further than the Fair grounds and way out in the country but from what I hear a good time is had by all! :-)

Sue in Virginia

Anne said...

#3! #3! I work at Shakespeare in the Park! Come see Julius Caesar and you might get a sneak peak of the awesome assistant stage manager (its me!)