Playing Tourist for a Morning

When my sister Paige comes home from Salem, it’s usually for a holiday. So, when she spent a weekend at home just because this fall, we had to head downtown for a little sightseeing. We packed three tourist-worthy stops into just a couple hours.

Buffalo City Hall Observation Deck

This has been on my Buffalo bucket list for years. We finally made it to the 28th floor of Buffalo City Hall, which offers 360° views of the city, both inside and out. Of course, it was cold on the ground and even colder 350 feet up. But what is a late-fall morning in Buffalo without a brisk breeze? 

The bird’s eye view isn’t the only thing to look at here. The murals in the lobby, ornate Art Deco elevators and location on Niagara Square add to the draw of City Hall. 

View of Buffalo from City Hall Observation Deck
View of Buffalo from City Hall Observation Deck

Public Espresso + Coffee

Paige wanted to see Jaime Schmidt’s new murals, which weren’t a part of the space last time she had free time in town. So, we walked to Hotel @ The Lafayette from City Hall for lunch and coffee. 

PSL at Public Espresso + Coffee

The best part about Public is how immediately you feel at home. Everyone is always so friendly, which is something I really value as a tourist, even in my own city. The amazing grilled cheese and tomato soup didn’t hurt.

Wildflowers for Buffalo

Just a block from Public is another piece of art that I wanted to see, Louise Jones’s Wildflowers for Buffalo. 

Louise Jones's Wildflowers for Buffalo

It seems like every time I blink, Buffalo’s collection of public art is more impressive. To be good tourists, we had to check out one of the newest pieces. The purple coneflowers (which my mom grew dozens of while we were growing up) looked stunning against the blue sky, despite the freezing cold wind.

Green Water and Blue Skies at Green Lakes State Park

We knew this fall’s vacation to Smugglers’ Notch State Park would be a bit of a drive from Buffalo. We also didn’t want to take more than a couple days of vacation after enjoying a lot of long weekends this summer. To make the trip to northern Vermont more manageable, we made Wednesday night reservations at Green Lakes State Park, just outside of Syracuse.

This park is just as old as Allegany State Park and in both parks many of the existing trails and buildings are thanks to Depression-era CCC efforts. What’s different about Green Lakes is that it feels like a little oasis just outside the busy suburbs of Syracuse. You could hear the planes at the airport take off and land from our campsite.

This may be why Green Lakes has received a lot of love the last few years. The bath houses in the loops were both beautiful and very clean, the beach was closed but still perfectly groomed and new grass was growing by the playground.

Green Lake at Green Lakes State Park, Syracuse, NY

We picked Green Lakes State Park as our stop on the way to Vermont because of the Instagram-worthy lakes, which are indeed green. The layers of water within Green Lake and Round Lake don’t mix. The minerals of the deeper layers are what makes the water the blue-green color. It’s also incredibly clear and you can rent kayaks with clear bottoms to see more of what lies below the surface.

Our original plan for our time at the Park was to bike around Green Lake, starting at the beach and taking the short path at the south end of the lake to make our way around Round Lake as well. It turns out you can’t bike around the lakes, so we only saw Green Lake before hitting the road.

Green Lake at Green Lakes State Park, Syracuse, NY

I didn’t expect the water to be so green. It was cool to see the water between the trees every few yard as we walked. We’ll definitely be back because I so badly want to swim and kayak in this water!

A Classic Birthday Buffalo Brewery Tour

We have visited a lot of Buffalo’s craft breweries but never organized a proper brewery tour – until a few weeks ago. To celebrate Cody and his brother’s birthday, as well as a friend’s upcoming move, we rented a big yellow school bus and hit some of our favorite breweries.

1. 12 Gates Brewing Company

It’s still weird that 12 Gates is in an industrial park. However, I’ve never received bad service here and our brewery tour was no exception. We were the only group in the taproom, so I didn’t feel bad about tasting some new brews. The Coffee Porter on nitro was everything I wanted it to be on a cold, rainy day.

Coffee Porter on nitro at 12 Gates, Buffalo, NY

2. Flying Bison Brewing Company

I don’t have a go-to beer here, so I usually branch out a little bit more than other breweries. This time, I tried the Bisonberry Kolsch, which was refreshing after the creamy porter.

Stained glass logo at Flying Bison, Buffalo, NY

We ordered pizza and had it delivered here, which is, according to the Carbone’s delivery driver, totally fine. The pizza was delicious and tasted great with the beer.

3. Community Beer Works

Alpaca Porter and beer list at Community Beer Works, Buffalo, NY

I can’t get over how welcoming CBW’s new space is. It’s the perfect mix of good beer, repurposed industrial space, games and natural light. We stayed here for a drink (I had an Alpaca Porter) and a few more friends of friends joined our group.

4. Resurgence Brewing Company

Resurgence’s beer isn’t my favorite, but their space is an awesome place to end a brewery tour. Morgan, Shannon and I split a flight while watching a few intense games of giant Jenga. My personal favorite was, of course, Vanilla Cappuccino Pumpkin Ale.

Pumpkin Ale at Resurgence, Buffalo, NY

It was nice to visit some oldies-but-goodies, especially with Buffalo getting so many new breweries in the coming months.

I wouldn’t have changed anything about the breweries we visited or the order we visited them in. Coming from the Northtowns, we didn’t have time to fit all the breweries downtown or in South Buffalo. There are so many good options north of downtown I really didn’t feel like we missed out.

9 Downtown Dallas Gems

Last month, I had the chance to explore a little bit of Dallas, Texas thanks to a four day work trip. We stayed downtown and because I didn’t want to wander too far from our hotel, I kept my exploring to downtown as well. This probably isn’t the most exciting part of the city.

There has to be a neighborhood with cute boutiques, blocks of cute craftsman-style houses and streets lined with authentic Latin American and Asian restaurants somewhere. Unless I really messed up, they’re not downtown.

Because those more everyday experiences are my favorite part of getting to know a new city, I didn’t love Dallas like I love Austin, Ithaca or Boston. However, I did find a few gems hidden within the limits of Downtown Dallas.

1. Ascension

Thursday, my first full day in Dallas, I had most of the day to explore. Of course, my first stop was for coffee (and avocado toast) at Ascension‘s Elm Street location. The combination of amazing coffee, proximity to the hotel and a server who spent a few years in Buffalo means I ate here three of the four mornings I spent in Dallas.

2. Klyde Warren Park

Klyde Warren Park in Downtown Dallas

This pristine park sits on top of a freeway, giving visitors a unique perspective at either end of the park. When I walked through the arch-lined paths early Thursday morning, there were multiple staff working to clean up after heavy rains. Lots of tables, twinkle lights and pristine public bathrooms made this one of the cutest corners of Dallas I found!

3. Dallas Museum of Art

I arrived at the Dallas Museum of Art a little early, along with what seemed like 15 schools worth of field trips. We were ushered into the Museum together, but there are enough exhibits that it didn’t feel too crowded most of the time. The collection here is impressive, especially considering admission is free. I loved the impressionist collection, and ancient Asian and African pieces.

Dallas Museum of Art in Downtown Dallas

4. West End Historic District

I had a few hours to myself on Friday morning so I walked down Main Street to the West End Historic District. I stepped into the JFK Memorial Plaza for a few minutes as the sun came out for the first time since arriving at the airport. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time to go into The Old Red Museum, Dallas Holocaust Museum or Sixth Floor Museum.

I did spend a few minutes breathing in the smell of leather and looking at a hundred or so pairs of boots I don’t need at Wild Bill’s Western Store before walking back to the hotel.

5. Dallas Farmers Market

It should come as no surprise that I loved the Dallas Farmers Market. It was also one of the very few places downtown where I saw families enjoying the city together. A huge complex of permanent structures house various vendors, selling everything from pumpkins and peppers to ice cream and coffee, as well as tons of pretty accessories.

Dallas Farmers Market in Downtown Dallas

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Dallas Farmers Market in Downtown Dallas

I took the short walk to the farmers’ market for lunch between a stint at our exhibitor booth and tearing it down at the end of the conference. After a smooth cold brew on nitro and delicious banh mi, I wandered through the vendors and a few acoustic musicians under a perfect blue sky.

6. Ruibal’s Plants of Texas

Just across the street from the farmers’ market is the incredibly well-stocked and staffed Ruibal’s. The rows of pumpkins, mums and perennials were both a gardener’s and blogger’s dream. There were plenty of both wandering through the rows of flowers here, taking photos of their fall outfits and planning their fall porches.

It was strange to see so many people just starting to get excited about fall, when the season was coming to a close at home. Thinking about picking out pumpkins in 80° weather was also pretty weird.

7. Deep Ellum Brewing Co.

I wanted to see the murals painted on buildings throughout the Deep Ellum neighborhood, but a quick internet search had me thinking I shouldn’t head there alone. So, I convinced the rest of the team to explore this historic neighborhood, which was once an industrial hotbed, and home to early jazz and blues musicians.

Deep Ellum Blues mural in Deep Ellum, Dallas

We made our way to Deep Ellum Brewing Co. on Bird scooters, which was way more fun than I thought it would be. After arriving in style, I had an amazing Oak Cliff Coffee Ale and really good nachos (nachos are not complicated, but some bars really mess them up) on the patio, along with a cat on a leash dressed for Halloween. 😻

Deep Ellum Brewing Co. in Deep Ellum, Dallas

Deep Ellum Brewing Co. in Deep Ellum, Dallas

8. Dot’s Hop House

100 beers on draft, giant Jenga and a huge chandelier for no apparent reason? Yes please. I lost at Jenga, as per usual, but I had fun doing it. The expansive outdoor space filled with costume-clad groups was a people-watching paradise.

9. Braindead Brewing

Our last stop was at Braindead Brewing, which had a huge list of beers on tap. Good Morning Dave, a grapefruit saison, was a good way to end the night.

Braindead Brewing in Deep Ellum, Dallas

Fall in Dallas feels like June in Buffalo, with patios seating, doors open and people spilling onto the streets after months indoors. Braindead was no exception and we took a seat at a table between the bar and the doors, enjoying the breeze.

Tamales and Tequila for Day of the Dead

Medina is getting cooler by the day, from the annual Farm to Table Dinner to the renovations and other goings on at Mustang City. One of my favorite Medina staples is the annual Day of the Dead celebration at Mariachi de Oro. Over the last few years, the restaurant brought traditional Oaxacan food, drink and music, along with a marigold-topped ofrenda, to a small crowd gathered at the restaurant. This year, Mariachi de Oro recruited the help of multiple other Medina businesses to bring the celebration to the entire town.

The party started with crafts, snacks and stories at Main Street businesses. Cody and I weren’t able to make it to Medina for this part of the celebration. We arrived on Main Street late enough to find a parking spot but still in time for hot tamales. A party tent protected the second half of the festivities from the rain. We walked into the tent and were immediately greeted by a lively celebration.

The tent housed a huge ofrenda, community alter, sand painting by artist Antonio Cruz Zavaleta, delicious food and dance-worthy mariachi music. As per usual, the tamales lived up to our incredibly high expectations. To be honest, they were one of the biggest reasons we drove an hour in the pouring rain to celebrate Día de los Muertos.

Mariachi Band Zelaya at Day of the Dead, Medina, NY

Sand Painting at Day of the Dead, Medina, NY

After taking in mariachi band Zelaya and colorful, swirling skirts of dancing family members, we headed to Shirt Factory Cafe to sample their Day of the Dead menu. I’m not a huge tequila fan, but I am up for almost anything in the name of a cultural experience. My cucumber-tequila concoction and a flight of 123 Organic Tequila gave me a new appreciation for the liquor.

Day of the Dead at Shirt Factory Cafe

medina-ny-day-of-the-dead-2018-2-min

We ended our night out with huge slices of pizza at Avanti, which is definitely not Mexican but is incredibly Medinian.

Celebrating the First Day of Fall in NOTL

When I have a free autumn Saturday and a desire to gaze at acres of vineyards, I usually head to the Finger Lakes. Sucking the juice out of concord grapes while picking bunches for jelly with my grandpa will forever be one of my favorite things about fall. Because Penn Yan holds such a special place in my heart, and I don’t really like wine that much anyway, I always forget about how close Niagara-on-the-Lake’s beautiful wineries are.

Tourism Niagara Canada invited the Buffalo Bloggers to take in a few of Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries on what turned out to be a beautiful first day of fall. I hadn’t been to NOTL since a very fun long weekend there when I was in elementary school. (My parents were very early adopters of the staycation trend.) The picture-perfect vineyards, fun tastings and adorable Queen Street are a blogger’s paradise.

Blue skies over Konzelmann Estate Winery

Wine tasting at Konzelmann Estate Winery

Our first stop was the beautiful Konzelmann Estate Winery, which greeted us with panoramic views of the Toronto skyline over their vineyards. I learned a lot about wine on our tour of the facility, from growing and harvesting to fermenting and aging. Our guide grew up on a vineyard and you could tell he loves sharing everything he knows about wine and winemaking.

I don’t particularly like wine, but I really enjoyed all the wines Konzelmann offered to us, even bringing a bottle of the Peachwine home.

Next was Small Talk Vineyards. Our first impression was how Instagramable this cute winery is. Arches covered in flowers and grapevines, brightly colored doors, and funny speech bubbles in adorable typography guided us toward the door.

Here, we tried two wines, neither of which I loved. However, this winery is also home to Shiny Apple Cider. Their cider varieties all start with the same base and are mixed with different flavors, for some really tasty results. The Bootleg Cider, a combination of hard apple cider and whiskey, was delicious. As they describe it, “It’s like apple pie and vanilla ice cream had a delicious alcoholic baby that they raised to be a respectable member of cider society…”

Grapevine covered arches at Small Talk Vineyards

Shiny Bootleg Cider at Shiny Apple Cider

Our group chatted under the beautiful blue sky on the pretty patio before heading to dinner at Bistro Six-One for pasta and pizza. We headed back over the border full of wine, spaghetti and sunshine, with a whole lot of pictures for our Instagram grids.

My Favorite Sunday Funday this Summer

Everyone has a different idea of the perfect summertime Sunday Funday. For some, it’s a wine tour, or an hours-long brunch, or enough time and energy to deep clean the kitchen. While I love all of those things, they aren’t my idea of the perfect Sunday.

This summer, my favorite Sunday caught me by surprise. Everything about it was last minute, which made it that much more special.

AHTC’s Summer Sizzler

Getting up at 5:30 am probably isn’t most people’s idea of a good time, but I’m willing to wake up just about any time of day for horses. I just never outgrew the horse-crazy phase. On this particular Sunday, I arrived at a (super duper casual) horse show at 6:30 am with zero expectations.

I rode possibly the sweetest, prettiest paint, Trent, who I’ve come to love but didn’t really know all that well a few months ago. The weather was perfect, my parents stopped by to see us ride and our performance wasn’t too shabby either. It also doesn’t hurt that Trent receives a compliment about how cute he is approximately once every three minutes. I know they’re not talking about me, but positive energy is positive energy.

Trent at AHTC's Summer Sizzler

Buffalo Brewing Company

After the show, I headed home way earlier than I thought I would. Cody and I couldn’t let the rest of what had turned into a beautiful day get away from us. We’re slowly getting to every brewery in Buffalo and decided to check another off the list. This time, we opted for Buffalo Brewing Company.

Beer garden at Buffalo Brewing Company

1842 Vienna Lager at Buffalo Brewing Company

Their small tasting room and shaded outdoor space offered a lovely breeze that kept us comfortable. We ordered inside before claiming a spot in two of the beer garden’s Adirondack chairs. The tap room was out of the 1856 Cran-Raz Wheat, so I went with a pint of the 1842 Vienna Lager. Cody chose a couple of the brewery’s IPAs, as per usual. All were good! I loved how each beer’s name commemorated an event in Buffalo’s history, reminding me of how LyonSmith incorporates English history into their beers’ names.

Outer Harbor

Until this particular Sunday Funday, I had never been to the Outer Harbor. Terrible, I know. After a couple of beers, we hopped on the Skyway for a nice pre-dinner bike ride on the Wellness Trail. Because of construction, the trail is currently a little short, but there are plenty of ways to bike around the peninsula.

Bike ride on the Outer Harbor Wellness Trail

Wind sculpture at Wilkeson Pointe

The fresh air, the unexpected nature of the day and dinner on the grill when we got home made this, hands down, one of my favorite days this summer. It wasn’t super special, but it included so many of the things I love about Buffalo and life, all wrapped up under a cloudless blue sky.