Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Secret Gardens of Buffalo

Ever since I was little girl, I've been fascinated by Frances Hodgson Burnett's story of The Secret Garden. In it, a girl discovers a beautiful garden hidden in the middle of her sad and lonely life. Tending to the garden helps her and the damaged people around her to grow and heal.

I've always wanted to discover my own secret garden: a place filled with beautiful flowers that was hidden from the outside world. Today, during Garden Walk Buffalo, I was able to do that.

This year's Garden Walk Buffalo was part of the first annual National Garden Festival. Gardening organizations from the Buffalo Niagara region have come together to create the festival, which consists of five weeks of garden walks, tours, and other events taking place throughout the summer. Visitors have come to Western New York from all over the globe to visit the gardens in what has been called "America's best event of it's kind."

Today I participated in the free festival during the Garden Walk Buffalo. This walk is a self-guided tour that takes place on Buffalo's West side, in the area between Delaware Park and downtown Buffalo. I visited some of Buffalo's beautiful historic neighborhoods and discovered gardens that I would have never imagined could be hidden in them. Behind small cottages were breathtaking sanctuaries filled with gorgeous beds of colorful flowers, peaceful fountains, and beautiful artwork. The painstaking work of the owners results in gardens so lovely that visitors are whisked away to places they thought only existed in storybooks.

I was delighted to be able to discover these secret gardens for myself. I hope to someday have a garden of my own that is even half as beautiful as some of the ones I saw today. In the mean time, the Garden Walk Buffalo helped me to live out a little childhood fantasy of mine. Though this weekend marked the end of the  festival, there are additional garden-related events taking place in Buffalo later this summer.

National Garden Festival - Events Calendar
Urban Roots Buffalo - Events Calendar
Buffalo Botanical Gardens - Events Calendar

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tuesday Nights

Tuesday nights in Buffalo mean it's time for one of my favorite Buffalo Summer events: Bidwell concerts. Apparently, the official name is The Elmwood Village Picnic in the Parkway Summer Concert Series. Every week, the people of Buffalo bring their folding chairs and their picnics over to the parkway to enjoy music and eachother's company. I go with some of my closest friends. We each bring a bottle of wine, and a summer salad or fancy cheese, and we visit. We people watch. We dance. The Elmwood Village Association always brings in some really talented musicians, and this week was no different. N'Dias kept the whole crowd moving with their dynamic African drum rhythms. What could be better than good music, good friends, and good wine? Everyone can enjoy the event. There are always families with young children, senior citizens dancing together under the trees, and adolescents hanging out without getting into trouble. I can't think of a better way to spend an evening. Unfortunately there are only a few weeks of the 2010 season remaining. The shows run through August 10. I hope to see you there!

Sometimes my friends and I finish the night at McGarrett's bar on Elmwood and Bidwell, right across from the concert location. Tuesday is "2 for 1" night at the bar. They have some great microbrews on tap and a good selection of bottles as well. You can't beat the two-for-one prices! The place has gone through some name changes over the years, but is probably still most well-known as the "no name." It's a great bar for just hanging out with friends in a casual setting, and a nice way to end a perfect Tuesday evening on Bidwell.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Square, The Taste, and Shakespeare, oh my!

Last weekend was definitely a busy one. As I've said before, there are dozens of things to do on any given day, and I'm really enjoying trying to hit as many of them as I can.

The weekend started with another Buffalo favorite, Thursday at the Square. Since 1986, Buffalonians have enjoyed this free concert series which takes place in Lafayette Square, downtown Buffalo. Some of my personal favorite shows ever have been at the Square. The music is always great and there always an abundance of positive energy and Buffalo pride that flows freely through the crowd. Thursdays at the Square are produced by Buffalo Place, the same group that does the Buffalo Rocks the Harbor series. This week's act was Ozomatli, a Latin/funk/hip-hop group from L.A. I knew I had to be ready to shake my groove thang, and shake it I did! The high-energy performance from the band had me and the rest of the crowd dancing in spite of the overwhelming heat. The series runs through August 12 and I encourage anyone who's never been, or who hasn't gone in a while to check it out!

I started my Saturday with another trip to the Bidwell farmers market, and from there headed downtown. On my walk from my car to Niagara Square, I was delighted to stumble upon the Buffalo Book Fair. I'm a big fan of books in general so I stopped and walked around the fair for a little while. There were bookselller tents at which I was tempted to spend all of my money. The fair also featured book signings, seminars, readings, and workshops. From there we walked the few blocks to Niagara Square for the Taste of Buffalo.

The Taste of Buffalo started in 1984 and has become the largest two-day food festival in the country. When I was in L.A. I bragged about how great the food in Buffalo is. The people who come from all over the country just to sample it at "The Taste" are proof of that! The event features all kinds of demos, workshops, and even live music, but I only go to do one thing: eat! There's always a huge variety of food so even picky eaters can find something to enjoy. I myself am a pescetarian (I eat fish, but no meat) and there were still plenty of options for me to stuff my face with! Some of my favorite dishes were the Saag Channa from Tandoori's (I have a thing for Indian food - YUM!) and the watermelon sorbet from Sweet Melody's - it was just the right amount of watermelon flavor without being too sweet, and the little chocolate chips were a great treat. A little shout out goes out to my friends at Bing's restaurant. Their artichokes gratinee won the award for best vegetarian dish. Congrats guys! You can sample the dish at the Italian Festival - going on now through the end of the weekend!

After the Taste, I decided to check out the Really Really Free Market. My brother and I had some old CDs to unload and we were interested to see if there would be anything worth picking up. Let's just say the market was a little disappointing. The items weren't even on tables. Rather, they were scattered across the overgrown lawn. Unfortunately the event seemed really unorganized. I have nothing against hippies, and I support any group that encourages the community to recycle, but in all honesty this "market" seemed to be little more than a bunch of dirty hippies trying to score some free stuff. Get it together, guys! Clean some of your junk before you donate it, get a table, and take a shower.

Finally on Saturday evening, some friends and I headed to Delaware Park to catch a performance of Shakespeare in the Park. Only New York City can boast a bigger (in terms of attendance) outdoor Shakespeare festival. The performances began in 1976 and take place on what has come to be called "Shakespeare hill" next to the rose gardens of Buffalo's Delaware Park. Last weekend marked the end of the first play of the summer, Much Ado About Nothing. This production of the play was set post-World War II, and featured some of the music of that era. I was surprised by the wide age range of the audience. Even groups of high school-aged kids seemed to be enjoying themselves. Audience members are encouraged to bring chairs, and picnics, and did I mention it's a completely free event?! The next production (An all-female performance of Macbeth) starts on July 22 and runs through August 15. I should mention that even though the event is free, attendees are asked to make donations during intermission, which I encourage everyone to do in order to keep this great Buffalo tradition alive!

Unfortunately for me, Shakespeare hill is the last place I remember having my camera, so the pictures I have were taken on my iphone.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Citybration Weekend!

I adore farmers markets. There's just something about home-made specialty breads, and fresh produce and the people who work hard to bring it to me. It makes me sublimely happy and tastes so much better than anything you'll find at the grocery store (even Wegmans!) So, last Saturday I headed to the farmers market on Bidwell, where my brother and I quickly devoured a pint of fresh raspberries. 

Happily, last weekend was also Citybration; a weekend-long series of events designed to encourage Buffalonians, ex-pats, and tourists to celebrate Buffalo. As a part of Citybration, Bidwell Parkway was host not only to the weekly farmers market, but also to this season's Indie Market. I was impressed by the great turnout in spite of the damp weather. I knew Buffalo was full of talent, but even I was surprised and delighted to discover some of the beautiful things created by the talented artisans at the market. These talented individuals include my dear friends the Jacobis, and their vintage Buffalo t-shirt designs. The Queen City Shirt Company pays homage to Buffalo's past with designs including the Iroquois Beer logo, Courier Express newspaper masthead, and lots of other great designs. I encourage anyone with Buffalo pride to visit them at their next event, or check them out on facebook.

I have been wanting to check out the Western New York Book Arts Collaborative since I read about the center's opening last spring. One of my favorite classes in school was printmaking, and I've always wanted to continue working in that medium. When I found out that the WNYBAC was participating in Citybration weekend, I finally went to check the place out. I was not disappointed. The center is in a beautiful space downtown and serves as a studio for local artists as well as gallery space for members. They also sell materials and member work including bound books, and prints. What I'm most excited about, however, is the full schedule of classes and workshops. I'm looking forward to getting a little refresher in linoleum printing as well as learning the art of bookbinding! Classes are relatively inexpensive and materials are provided.


I finished up my day at the Buffalo Place Rocks the Harbor concert. (Last week's headliners were Donna the Buffalo, and Moe.) I haven't been to one of these shows since they moved from the old location years ago and I have to say that it is such a gorgeous spot! The backdrop of the water and commercial slip on one side and the cityscape on the other is lovely, and the long stretch of land is perfect for a big crowd to spread out. Summer in Buffalo means a lot of really great live music, and this is one of the cheap options in a fantastic venue.

This weekend is the annual Taste of Buffalo festival. If you're in town, don't forget to check it out!