by Matt Steinberg

The inaugural National Garden Festival is coming to town this summer, and it’s an event like no other in the country. It’s a five week celebration (June 18 to July 25) of our garden walks, talks, tours and events. The Festival will be like a great, green umbrella under which garden tours, the Japanese Garden, the Erie Basin Marina Gardens, the Botanical Gardens, the Rose Garden, the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmer’s Market, the Olmsted Parks, Garden Walk Buffalo, garden symposia, and new special events will be presented to garden lovers, gardening enthusiasts and culturally inclined travelers who revel in the kind of tree lined streets, Victorian architecture and locally owned shops and restaurants that are found in abundance throughout out the Buffalo region. For more information, check out its new video and website,

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by Kathy Benzel

I’m ever in search of fun things to do with my grandchildren, and because their ages range from seven to fifteen, it can sometimes be a challenge to find something we’ll all enjoy. Delaware Park has always fit the bill, and we find plenty to keep us busy!

One of Frederick Law Olmsted’s first three parks in Buffalo, Delaware Park serves as the focal point of the Olmsted system and today contains many of Buffalo’s cultural institutions. Simply named The Park by Olmsted, this 350-acre setting serves as Buffalo’s “Central Park.” Delaware Park is the crowned jewel of the Olmsted system, with 350 acres of meadow, forest and lake.

The first thing we usually do is to play in one of the three playgrounds. Elijah’s favorite is in Rumsey Woods which is on the Lincoln Parkway side of the park. Next to the playground is the Rose Garden, which is extraordinarily beautiful when the roses are in full bloom. Hoyt Lake is next – a great place to explore or just sit peacefully, with rental boats on the lake during July and August; $10 for 30 minutes and $15 for 60 minutes for up to 4 passengers. Then we’re off to explore the many trails throughout the park. This could take days, and there’s always something new we discover.

That’s only one small part of Delaware Park. The other side of the park borders Parkside Avenue, and there you’ll find a golf course, baseball and softball diamonds, football, soccer and rugby fields. There’s lawn bowling courts, tennis courts, basketball courts, a couple more playgrounds, with plenty of picnic tables and shelters. And don’t forget the Parkside Lodge which houses the new restaurant, The Lunch Box and a Golf Shop.

And if Grandma isn’t exhausted by this time, we’ve sometimes even built in a trip to the Buffalo Zoo! But that’s a topic for another day!

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by Susan Braun

What better way to celebrate the first day of spring on March 20th than to attend the opening of the Botanical Garden’s annual Spring Flower Show on the very day? The show will include thousands of colorful spring bulbs and plants. Come feast your eyes on and breathe in the fragrance of tulips, daffodils, hydrangeas, crocuses, primroses, and hyacinths. Admission to the flower show also includes a visit with the Easter Bunny on selected days and admission to Farmer Brown’s Petting Zoo where you can see baby chicks, lambs, rabbits, and goats. This year the Botanical Gardens will be open from 10 to 5 every day and on April 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6, they’ll remain open until 8pm.

Some special events are scheduled in conjunction with the Spring Flower Show. M & T Bank is sponsoring the Dress Your Easter Best Weekend and Contest April 2-4, the annual Easter Egg Hunt on April 3rd and Dollar Admission Day on April 11th.

For a preview of the Spring Flower Show, consider attending Paradise under Glass on March 19th between 6 and 9pm. Wear your tropical finest, listen to great music and munch on food from a variety of well-known Buffalo restaurants. Beer and wine will also be available.

For more information about all of these events, visit or call 716.827.1584 x 305.

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By Doug Sitler

If you are ever looking for a relaxing and free evening outdoors, I suggest you mosey on down to the Erie Basin Marina and their beautiful gardens and riverfront walkway. Strolling through the Erie Basin Marina Gardens on Buffalo’s downtown waterfront is a magnificent feast for the eyes.

There is plenty of free parking at the Erie Basin Marina and the adjacent Erie Canal Harbor. The gardens accompany a pleasant .5 mile waterfront walkway from the historical Erie Canal Harbor, past the Buffalo & Erie County Naval Park and into the Erie Basin Marina, at which point you can continue onward to the observation lighthouse at the far end of the marina. As you stroll through the gardens, your eyes shift from the beauty and variety of the plants, to the waters and boats of Lake Erie and the Buffalo River, and onward to downtown Buffalo’s skyline mixed with classic architecture and contemporary design. It is certainly an area that’s like none other in Buffalo.

The gardens are not only beautiful, but educational as well. On a recent walk through the gardens, I talked to two wonderful caretakers of the grounds. They brought to my attention that the Erie Basin Marina Gardens are a “test” garden for floral and seed companies. Companies test their products to see if they will grow in the Northeast climate. Much like a fashion show, the gardens are sort of a sneak preview of many of the new flowers and plants you see in stores in 2010 and 2011.

The beauty of the Erie Basin Marina Gardens and the surrounding landscapes is simply intoxicating. It is a beautiful place that could only happen in Buffalo, NY.

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After a weekend spent touring Buffalo’s GardenWalk and the streets of the beautiful Elmwood Village neighborhood, Stacey Hirvela, Senior Associate Garden Editor for Martha Stewart Living Magazine, told readers of the Martha Stewart Living Radio Blog that she was “completely in love with Buffalo.” Captivated by the more than 300 gardens on the walk, enchanted by the beautiful turn-of-the-century homes – including Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House — and dazzled by the restaurants she and her husband, Adam, visited, Stacey blogged about “one of the most wonderful experiences I’ve been involved with during my time with the magazine.” To read Stacey’s complete post, click here.

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by Karen Huefner

olv-exteriorWhatever your religious denomination, Our Lady of Victory Basilica is truly beyond a justifiable description that encapsulates all of its beauty, history, and grandour. Having just visited the Basilica this past Sunday, I could go on and on about the impeccable Italian marble or the close to 2,000 angels seen inside and out but the story behind Our Lady of Victory Basilica is what gives it its’ true beauty. OLV’s history starts with one man, Father Nelson Baker.

Although Father Baker was 79 years old in 1921, he was still a visionary with great dreams. At a routine parish meeting, the humble priest shocked all in attendance as he unveiled ambitious plans for a shrine that would rival any within the U.S. Astounding all with his infectious vigor, construction was begun almost immediately.

Even with no money set aside, Father Baker was confident support would soon come. The “Padre of the Poor” sent out a call of support and it was answered by thousands of citizens from around the nation. Some contributed through Father Baker’s direct-mail fundraising club (via per-brick sponsorships of $10), while countless others sent offerings both large and small.

By late 1925, construction was completed and the first Mass was held there on Christmas Day. Amazingly, when it opened, the Basilica had no debt, having been completely paid for at a cost of $3.2 million. In 1926, an even higher honor was bestowed upon the shrine as it was officially designated a Minor Basilica.

In July 1998, Msgr. Robert Wurtz, pastor of OLV Parish announced that the remains of Father Baker would be transferred from a nearby cemetery into OLV Basilica. The move would help raise awareness of Father Baker, his mission, and his legacy. Today, the Basilica continues to draw close to 2,000 visitors every month. The future will no doubt hold even more promise, as Father Baker advances down the long Path to Sainthood.

Tours are offered every Sunday at 1pm; or call for special arrangements. Visit their website at While in Lackawanna, plan a stop at the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens, too.

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botanicalgardensby Karen Huefner

It’s February so let’s face it, it’s still a little crisp outside when you live in Buffalo but to the running community, temperature is rarely a deterrent for an opportunity to lace up your Nikes and hit the pavement.  With the Botanical Garden’s “Dash for the Dome” being the first race of my life, and therefore not classifying myself as a member of any “running community”, I was a little nervous about looping South Buffalo’s South Park in a 5k race in 30 degree temperatures.  But after 30 minutes and 57 seconds (and one harmless blister) later, the race was over.

Post party festivities took place right inside Buffalo’s Botanical Gardens and so starts my inspiration for this post.  The Botanical Gardens truly is a gem for this community.  No matter what the temperature outside, inside the mercury never dips below 72 degrees.  The plants inside are arranged in classic Victorian style and similar plants from throughout the world are grouped together. Although there are some plants native to our temperate region, most of the plants call the tropical regions of the world their home.  The Rainforest Garden, which includes its own Koi fish pond, along with the Dinosaur Garden are my favorite areas to explore.

While the Gardens are open 10am-5pm 363 days of the year, you might want to consider planning your trip around their annual Spring Flower Show in April or their Poinsettia show in December.  Granted the Gardens boasts numerous events throughout the year, but these two standout at the top of my list.

So get out there to stop and smell the roses….or orchids….or daffodils….or bonsai tree?