May 2009

by Doug Sitler

sunsetSunsets…there are not many natural delights that capture the imagination as much as the setting sun.

On Saturday night, a friend and I went down to the NFTA Boat Harbor (free admission) for a relaxing evening on Buffalo’s waterfront and to hopefully catch the spectacular sight of the sun going down over Canada. Before trekking down to the water’s edge, we had to make a quick stop at Wegman’s to pick up some delicious sushi for our little evening adventure.

Upon our arrival at the harbor, we found numerous clean benches and picnic tables waiting for us to sit, enjoy our meal, and watch daylight slowly fade away. We chose a spot on the shoreline trail that offered vast views of Buffalo, Lake Erie and the Canadian shoreline. To the right of us were boats entering and exiting the NFTA Boat Harbor – to the left were amazing grain elevators and the Steel Winds windmills that proudly stand on the Lake Erie shore. Even the Miss Buffalo passed in front of us, filled with what sounded like quite a party happening onboard.

Over the past five years there have been dramatic additions to Buffalo’s waterfront bike and pedestrian trails. A bike path runs 2.5 miles along Fuhrman Boulevard/Route 5 – with a spanking brand new spur trail added in the summer of 2008. The trails have definitely caught the attention of locals and visitors, judging by the amount of people out walking the paths this past weekend.

Getting back to why we were down there…and then it happened…at 8:40 p.m., a tiny sliver of the sun could be seen slowly lowering itself over the horizon…in the blink of an eye, the sun had set. Do yourself a favor by getting down to Buffalo’s waterfront this summer. You’ll be glad you did.

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by Ed Healy

ErieCanalHarborBuffalo’s Erie Canal Harbor has become, in less than a year’s time, a must see attraction on the city’s waterfront. Located on Marine Drive next to the Buffalo Naval Park, this re-creation of the original terminus of the Erie Canal is a great place to simply stroll along the broad and beautiful boardwalk, bask in the sun, while away an hour, or explore Buffalo’s industrial and maritime heritage by bike or kayak. Buffalo Harbor Kayak is now open for business and has bikes and boats available to rent by the hour or half day.

Erie Canal Harbor is also an impressive and well-thought-out heritage tourism attraction. Multiple signs, installations and interpretive exhibits tell the story of the Erie Canal and its critical role in the expansion of the United States as the “Gateway to the West.”

History buffs will be fascinated by the stories of DeWitt Clinton, the New York State Governor who dreamed the impossible and made it happen, silencing the critics who derisively referred to the Canal as “Clinton’s Big Ditch” and “Clinton’s Folly”; William G. Fargo, the Buffalo Mayor who invented the shipping industry and founded Wells Fargo and later American Express; Fingy Conners, the saloon keeper who ruled Buffalo’s docks and grew so rich he bought the Courier Newspaper; and William Wells Brown, the abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor who is considered the first African American novelist. These and other flamboyant characters made history here and their stories form a truly compelling slice of America’s heritage.

Erie Canal Harbor has also quickly assumed its place as a communal gathering spot. The great lawn that runs parallel to the boardwalk is a perfect spot to roll out a blanket and catch a concert or fireworks display. This summer’s highlights include a celebration of the Boundary Waters Treaty on Friday, June 12, that will feature a boat parade and art installations; the annual Fourth of July celebration; and Buffalo Place Rocks the Harbor on June 26-27, July 18-19, August 1-2, and Sept. 4-5. Featured performers in this summer’s concert series include the Robert Cray Band, the Black Crowes, Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers, Gov’t Mule, the Wallflowers and Great Big Sea. A complete list of concerts and performers can be found here.

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by Doug Sitler

observation_deckBuffalo is a handsome city – full of inspirational beauty, class and natural elements. Just driving down any street in Buffalo provides an authentic encounter with an early American city. Sometimes it’s fun to take a step back and inspect the city from afar. Over the years, I have found the following locations offer thought-provoking views of Buffalo and terrific photo opportunities.

Buffalo City Hall Observation Deck – Personally speaking, it’s hard to beat the views from City Hall’s 28th floor observation deck. The deck is open from 9:00 to 5:00 p.m. on weekdays and is worth the visit. From the observation deck you step out onto a narrow outdoor walkway that provides 360-degree views of the City of Buffalo, the waterfront and Lake Erie, the mist from Niagara Falls and 40 miles beyond on a clear day.

Chestnut Ridge Park, Orchard Park – Make this a stop on your fall leaf peeping tour. At the sledding hill there are amazing views of downtown Buffalo (16 miles away) over a canopy of lush trees – spectacular in the fall months.

Erie Basin Marina Lighthouse – Walk or ride out to the Erie Basin Marina Lighthouse in downtown Buffalo. At the base you’ll find some stairs that will take you to the 50ft high observation deck. I enjoy the view of Buffalo’s growing waterfront community, with the unique characteristics of Buffalo’s downtown skyline in the back ground.

Marcy Casino/Hoyt Lake, Delaware Park – The base of the Marcy Casino at Hoyt Lake offers tranquil views of a beautiful Frederick Law Olmsted lake and park, with a walking path and a grand concourse in front of the Casino. A creative photo opportunity awaits by looking up from the lake at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery – nature, architecture, fountain…all in one shot!

Old Lakeshore Road – on a return trip from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Graycliff Estate, you will experience an incredible view of Buffalo overlooking Lake Erie. It offers a visual reference of Buffalo’s binational location and how Lake Erie played an important role in the city’s past (grain elevators and industry) and future (Steel Winds windmills).

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by Karen Huefner

MangiaNo matter what language you speak, your mouth has to start watering at the sound of the word “Mangia!” (meaning “eat” in italian). That’s exactly what happened to me leading up to my visit to Mangia Ristorante & Caffe in Orchard Park this past weekend. Twelve of us made the 15 minute drive south of Buffalo to the town of Orchard Park (Also the home to the stadium for the Buffalo Bills). Complimentary valet parking greeted us at the front entrance to the restaurant. While waiting for our table in the dining room, we stopped at the bar to sip a little vino. With twelve of us approaching the bar at once and all relatively undecided on our wine selection, the bartender set up a mini wine-tasting for us to sample their organic wines. Molto Buono!

We hung at the bar long enough to finish our first glass of Reisling and then proceeded to our seats. The combination of dim lighting, soft music and endless laughter gave the room such a cozy feel. Eager to see what Mangia had to offer, we dove into the menu and started firing our order of appetizers to the waiter. Antipasto Lisa, Calamari, Bruschetta, and the caprese salad all made their way around our table of 12. Grabbing a bite here and there, all were very tasty and not to mention plenty for each of us to all get a taste. The thought of trying to recall the 12 entrees that were served is next to impossible (thanks to that glass of Reisling) but I’ll never forget the tasty choice I made for dinner. I went with the Veal Florentine. Two hearty slices of veal sautéed with artichokes, cherry tomatoes, red onions, & spinach in a roasted garlic cream sauce over rigatoni pasta. The list of adjectives to describe this meal is endless so I’ll resort to one word: Wow.

In fact “wow” describes everything about our experience at Mangia. Their menu is one of the most impressive menus I’ve seen for an Italian restaurant. Take a look at their website. From the atmosphere to dessert, Mangia is sure to please.

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by Carolyn Batt

Showhouse2009Last night my sister and I went to the 15th Decorators’ Show House. Every two years, the Junior League of Buffalo reaches out to the community and finds a historical home to be redecorated in a modern way but keeping with the home’s tradition. They then find local businesses and decorators to come into the house and transform each of the rooms. The Show House is one of the most anticipated Spring biennial events.

This year, the house is located on LeBrun Road, a street in the suburbs of Buffalo that has around a hundred jaw-dropping mansions. The Wallace Estate is composed of a 9,000 square foot country mansion, carriage house, built-in swimming pool and tennis courts. Built in 1929 by the famed architect, E.B. Green, the mansion is one of 160 remaining E.B. Green-commissioned structures in Buffalo.

Arriving at 8pm on a Tuesday night, we expected to beat the crowds. However, I’m not sure that’s possible this year. At times, the line has wrapped around the perimeter of the grounds—this is a “must-see” Buffalo tradition.

The house has three floors, and more than 40 rooms, each room thematically different and decorated by a different designer. From the deep violet walls of the Living Room and zebra print furniture, designed by the Kittinger Gallery to the cork wallpaper of the Master Bedroom and South African granite countertops of the Screening Room, every room sparks ideas and wish-lists for your own home.

The Show House takes a little over an hour to tour, and is self-guided, with docents available in every room for questions. It runs through Sunday, May 17th and tickets are $15 at the door. Proceeds are used to fund community projects.

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by Doug Sitler

buckhornisland1Buffalo & Erie County offers a bevy of recreation walking and hiking opportunities. This past weekend I brought a few friends to the tranquil trails and wildlife of Buckhorn Island State Park on the northern tip of Grand Island. The trailhead is located an easy 20-minute drive from downtown Buffalo and is only four miles from the world famous Niagara Falls.

Buckhorn Island State Park is a 895 acre nature preserve filled with wildlife, marshes, meadows and woods along the Niagara River. The main hiking trail stretches two miles one way from the parking lot on East River Road to a thin peninsula that situates walkers in the middle of the Niagara River. An old road lies underneath the trail, providing a flat and smooth walking surface for outdoor lovers of all ages and physical abilities. The path is also a popular destination for bicyclist looking for a mellow off-road ride.

During our walk we witness a variety of waterfowl, including numerous species of ducks. On previous visits to Buckhorn Island State Park, I’ve had upclose encounters with herds of deer. One of my favorite locations on the trek is where the trail wanders underneath the northern Grand Island bridges, which present some interesting visual perspectives.

For those who venture all the way to the end of the trail, an incredible and inspiring view awaits. The trail jets out onto a narrow peninsula offering beautiful panoramas of both the Canadian and United States shoreline, as well as unobstructed views of the mist from Niagara Falls which is situated 3.5 miles downriver.

You should set aside about two hours for the four-mile walk. Besides getting in a good walk, you’ll want to take time to stop and soak up the scenery. Click here to learn more about Buckhorn Island State Park.

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