by Pete Burakowski

Fueled by transportation along the Great Lakes and the Erie Canal, manufacturing, and milling, Buffalo saw astronomical financial and population growth throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Along the way, some of the greatest American architecture was built (like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin D. Martin House and Louis Sullivan’s Guaranty Building), Buffalo became home to the largest number of millionaires per capita in the country, communities of hard-working blue collar families were born, and Buffalo’s waterfront earned the reputation as one of the most dangerous and vice-ridden in the world.

It’s one thing to read these stories in a book. It’s another to walk Buffalo’s streets and see for yourself where history was played out. Buffalo Tours helps you do the latter.

With dozens of tours with titles like “Crime & Scandal,” “Gold Medal Grain Elevators,” and “Splendors in Stained Glass,” Buffalo Tours offers fun, informative looks at each aspect of Buffalo. Like to have a pint with your tours? They even have a series of happy hour walks that begin and end at local pubs.

The Buffalo Tours schedule runs through October and the tours are a bargain – most are either $10 or free!

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by Carolyn Batt

One of my favorite annual traditions growing up in Western New York was going to the Festival of Lights which used to take place in Niagara Falls. Now, Erie County has revived that tradition with the Fairgrounds Festival of Lights in Hamburg, a 20 minute drive south of Buffalo.

Taking place at the fairgrounds that thousands of flock to in August for the Erie County Fair, this festival is a combination of sights, sounds and experiences. There are plenty of indoor, outdoor and in-car activities.

You begin by entering a lighted winter wonderland pathway in your car. This one-mile stretch features unique light displays—everything from Santa on a surfboard to a canopy of lights over your car. At the end, you can park and enter the “North Pole” with Santa’s shops, a midway for children, lightshows, and reindeer sleigh rides.

While most of the activities are geared for children, there were a lot of young couples and adults there as well.

The Festival of Lights is open nightly through January 2nd (with the exception of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), from 5:30-9:30pm.

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by Karen Huefner

I’m always looking for new ways to experience Christmas year after year. Between the shopping, decorating and cookie-baking I feel like there’s little time for anything else! Don’t get me wrong, it’s imperative I watch ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ and the Holiday Pops concert with the BPO is a must but I always crave something different. This year I found it. I took a ride north of Buffalo to Youngstown, NY, home to Old Fort Niagara. For two weekends in December the Fort comes to life for their annual Colonial Christmas by Candlelight event.

Having been to the Fort numerous times when I was younger, I was familiar with the grounds. However with the chance to experience the Fort in the evening, that was a whole new ballgame. I arrived at the park around 8pm, sun already set, snow on the ground and a crisp breezing blowing in off Lake Ontario. Ladies, leave your heels at home for this…boots are a must.

I stayed at the Fort about an hour and a half watching (and partially covering my ears for) the firing of the Christmas guns, mixing and mingling with the soldiers, sampling some holiday cooking and clapping along to the music. It’s about as close as one can get to experiencing an 18th century Christmas.

This is the last weekend for Christmas by Candlelight. Make this a new holiday tradition with your family. Oh, and bring your flashlight!

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by Carolyn Batt

Want to see 25 of Western New York’s greatest attractions—literally from A to Z in two hours? On Tuesday, December 1st, at 8pm on WNED, it will be possible as this special spotlights more than two dozen local cultural attractions, one corresponding to each letter of the alphabet. From the Albright-Knox Art Gallery to the Buffalo Zoo, get ready to be taken on a journey across Erie, Chautauqua, Niagara, Cattaraugus and Wyoming Counties.

Highlighted through a series of “video postcards,” viewers will be able to experience unique nearby places, including attractions that house pop art by Andy Warhol and original manuscripts by Mark Twain.

Best of all, for all you Buffalo fans out there, 17 of the 25 attractions are located right in the Queen City!

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by Leah Mueller

Spirit of BuffaloThe Spirit of Buffalo is a new attraction at the Erie Canal Harbor. They are a pleasant and eye-catching addition to Erie Basin Marina and the overall harbor. I’ll begin with an insider tip about parking; there is a stone lot adjacent to the harbor on the East side; you can park here and cut your walk down considerably. The ship, the cruise and the crew were all very enjoyable. My kids got to steer the ship, raise the sail and pick a surprise from the pirate’s treasure chest.

It is a two hour sail on Lake Erie with beautiful views of the city! They offer morning, afternoon and sunset cruises. The ship holds about 45 people and is 73 feet in length. The crew was very friendly and I noticed they spent time visiting with all the guests on board this full excursion. They do private charters, birthday parties and pirate themes along with the public sail.

You’ve only got a couple weeks left to take advantage of this vessel and then it will go into storage for the winter. Relax and allow yourself to go back in time on this coastal sailing ship.

Don’t wait until next year, enjoy the autumn colors and get out on the lake one more time; I’m so glad we did!

PS. Save time to stroll along the waterfront and treat yourself to some ice cream at The Hatch!

For more information visit

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by Doug Sitler

olmstead_carvingThere are a myriad of activities that can be found at the Erie Basin Marina on downtown Buffalo’s waterfront. It is a destination for recreational boating, waterfront dining, bike and walking paths, and beautiful gardens. This summer some familiar faces have returned and are overlooking this abundance of activity…lifesize wood carvings from the Carvings for a Cause art project.

Carvings for a Cause is a charitable effort to retree Western New York using trees and wood from the disastrous ice storm of October 2006. The wood leftover from the storm has been transformed by a chainsaw artist into 25 lifesize figures of historical personalities with ties to Buffalo. Sponsorships of individual carvings have help support planting efforts to replace the thousands of trees that were destroyed during the surprise storm.

Currently at the entrance to the marina, ten prominent figures reside welcoming visitors to the waterfront. Thomas Edison, DeWitt Clinton, Frederick Law Olmsted and Tim Russert are a few celebrated people who are immortalized in wood. The carvings make an excellent backdrop for photos or an impromptu history lesson.

The marina is not the only place where you can see these unique creations. Carvings currently reside in Buffalo, Clarence, Orchard Park, South Buffalo, Tonawanda and Williamsville.

To learn more about Carvings for a Cause and where you can view them, visit

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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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