Lumagination is Buffalo’s Most Instagrammable Location Right Now

The Buffalo Botanical Gardens are somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit and just never made it to. The photos flooding my Instagram feed from Lumagination the last few weeks only added to how much I wanted to go!

During a few weeks each winter, the Botanical Gardens transforms at night into a multicolored light show that seems almost otherworldly. When Briana suggested to a couple of fellow bloggers that we should check it out, I immediately agreed.

We took about a million photos of each other surrounded by twinkle lights, laser beams and illuminated laterns. Each exhibit seemed like it would provide the most Instagrammable backdrop, until we walked through the door into the next room.

Take a peak at some of my favorite shots from the night:

Lumagination 2018 | Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens

Lumagination 2018 | Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens

Lumagination 2018 | Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens

Lumagination 2018 | Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens

Lumagination 2018 | Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens

Quick Trip: 24 Hours in Rochester, NY

How many things can you fit into a single day in Rochester? A lot.

My friend Mary lives in Rochester, and while it’s not far, we’ve spent months trying to find a few days that we were both free. When we found a full 24 hours without work, family obligations or weekend trips we already had scheduled, we jumped into full planning mode.

I picked a few places on my Rochester bucket list (almost all involving either coffee or beer) and Mary put together a perfectly designed itinerary. She also instructed her poor boyfriend not to eat or drink anything we ordered until I was done photographing it.

First up was dessert before dinner at Scratch Bakeshop‘s new location in the Neighborhood of the Arts. Just like the other small businesses in this stretch between University and Atlantic Avenues, Scratch has the cutest decor, high quality products and a friendly vibe. We opted for a mix of desserts, including vegan options, which were amazing!

24 Hours in Rochester, NY | Scratch Bakeshop | Neighborhood of the Arts

24 Hours in Rochester, NY | Scratch Bakeshop | Neighborhood of the Arts

It wasn’t on the original schedule, but Three Heads Brewing is literally across the street from Scratch, so… we stopped in for a flight before dinner.

24 Hours in Rochester, NY | Three Heads Brewing | Neighborhood of the Arts

For dinner, we headed downtown to try Fifth Frame Brewing Co.,a brewery and roastery that opened last fall. Who knew that beer and an egg sandwich would taste so good at 8 pm? Actually the welcoming staff at Fifth Frame know this; “comfort food with unwarranted but welcomed riffs” is what they’re all about. Their Half & Half, an espresso oat stout, was amazing.

24 Hours in Rochester, NY | Fifth Frame Brewing, Co.

After dinner and drinks, we headed to Mary’s to watch dramatic TV shows and get a good night of sleep.

The next morning, we bundled up to venture to Turning Point Park and walk off some of the giant cookie and cake slice we consumed the day before. The boardwalk over the water was so pretty, if wind-whipped. We didn’t make it far, but I’ll definitely be back in warmer weather!

24 Hours in Rochester, NY | Turning Point Park

After our minimal exercise, we needed coffee, so off to Glen Edith Coffee Roaster‘s Park Ave Neighborhood location we went. There were way more people doing homework than I would have expected for a Saturday afternoon, but the cozy, quiet vibe was great. As was the coffee, of course.

24 Hours in Rochester, NY | Glen Edith Coffee Roasters | Park Ave. Neighborhood

24 Hours in Rochester, NY | Glen Edith Coffee Roasters | Park Ave. Neighborhood

Our last stop was the Rochester Public Market, which was surprisingly busy for a cold February Saturday. I can’t imagine how crazy this place gets on nice summer days. There was lots of fresh produce at really good prices and I was impressed with the number of fish and meat vendors as well!

24 Hours in Rochester, NY | Public Market

24 Hours in Rochester, NY | Public Market

24 Hours in Rochester, NY | Public Market

The newer buildings make it obvious that this market is a big piece of Rochester’s plan for the future, and they compliment the shops that hint at the age of the Public Market. It’s been operating in its current location since 1905.

Although my trip was short, I really enjoyed everything we were able to fit in. Thanks for hosting Mary! I’ll be back in warmer weather to try more coffee, more beer, more hikes and other items on my bucket list.

Starting 2018 with a Few Small Changes

Taking time at the beginning of the year to set goals helps me make changes I’ve been meaning to make throughout the previous months. Nothing major, but little changes that I feel make a difference. One year, I started making my bed in the morning. Another, I promised myself I would actually floss my teeth every day.

This year, January was a non-stop whirlwind of weekend trips, blogging about them, job interviews and holidays. Trying to set and maintain goals would not have been fair to myself. February promises to be a bit more relaxed with more time at home, perfect for a positive start to my resolutions for 2018.

1. Blog once a week

My current content calendar includes 1 new blog post a week, so this goal is definitely obtainable. My biggest change will be planning ahead when I know I won’t have time to write during a given week. Having content written and photos edited before I need them is a simple change that will hopefully make my life easier!

2. Edit a video

I never want to be a vlogger and I don’t particularly enjoy watching long vlogs, but I do like a good challenge and learning new skills. I took a bunch of video footage at Allegany State Park during a camping trip with friends last fall. We had warm, sunny weather and the raw video is really pretty. Compiling a short video of the trip is definitely on my long term to do list.

3. Post an Instagram story once a day

Sharing snippets of the everyday makes a difference in the number of followers I have. Other people have also noticed that regular behind the scenes updates help keep new followers around. I also don’t feel as pressured to post picture-perfect images to my feed on a regular basis when I’m active on Stories.

4. Take social media breaks

This is probably going to be the most difficult item on this list for me, but I want to take 1 day a month to completely ignore what’s happening on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Social media isn’t all bad, but it does affect my ability to focus and my outlook on any given day.

5. Eat well

I won’t be dieting anytime soon, but keeping a balanced diet is always a goal. My eating habits the last few months, between moving out of my parents’ house, the holidays and travel, are not impressive. More vegetables, less dessert.

3 Independent Bookstores in Buffalo Everyone Should Visit

If you happened to read my post on spending a morning in Hamburg, you met Julia. She’s a social media strategizing, vlogging, yoga-ing ball of energy. Earlier this fall, we met to collaborate again, this time checking out a few independent book stores around the city.

We decided on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of November, which did limit our bookstore selection some. Notably, Second Reader Book Shop doesn’t have Sunday hours.

After a few days of research and emails back and forth, we settled on Westside Stories Used Books, Rust Belt Books and Talking Leaves Books. All are located pretty close to each other, and we even walked to Rust Belt Books from Westside Stories.

Westside Stories Used Books

205 Grant Street
Our first stop was Westside Stories, which is conveniently located right across the street from Sweetness 7 Cafe. I can tell you from experience that a London Fog goes really well with sifting through used books.

This was probably my favorite out of the 3 shops we visited. The sunny exterior (thanks to a recent face lift by Casey William Milbrand) greets guests, along with a reading statue and well-worn rocking horse.

Independent_Bookstores_Buffalo_Westside_Stories_1

Independent Books Stores | Buffalo, NY | Used Books

The piles of books inside look overwhelming, but they’re very well organized. I saw everything from gilded covers on classics to health and wellness guides to a very comprehensive collection of books on Buffalo’s history. I found a copy of The Amateur Emigrant by Robert Louis Stevenson, which I am very excited to read.

Independent Books Stores | Buffalo, NY | Used Books

Rust Belt Books

415 Grant Street
You can walk from Westside Stories to Rust Belt Books, and the weather was nice enough to make the walk pretty enjoyable. This shop is home to a fat cat who loved on us while we browsed. If you love history, you’ll enjoy spending some time poking around the shelves here, as well as library card catalog drawers repurposed to hold knick knacks collected over the last 7 decades.

Independent_Bookstores_Buffalo_Rust_Belt_Books_1

Independent Books Stores | Buffalo, NY | Used Books

Rust Belt Books is home to a large room, which holds performances, readings and Tuesday morning meditation (you can find more details on this on the website, linked above). I’ve never found a place in Buffalo that felt more like Ithaca than this shop. I took home a (mostly) vegetarian cook book that has already proven delicious.

Independent Books Stores | Buffalo, NY | Used Books

Independent Books Stores | Buffalo, NY | Used Books

Talking Leaves Books

951 Elmwood Avenue
Our last stop was Talking Leaves, which is the only new book store on this list. If you’re looking for the latest release or local gifts, this one is for you. It’s also on Elmwood, so it’s convenient to stop after brunch or some shopping. This was obvious from the number of people browsing on the Sunday afternoon we visited.

Here, I bought a guide to upstate NY road trips, which I paired with a NYS Parks pass for my parents’ Christmas gift.

Independent Books Stores | Buffalo, NY | Used Books

To hear more about our cozy day of bookstore hopping, check out Julia’s vlog!

Making the Most of Winter in Lockport

If you follow me (or Step Out Buffalo) on Instagram, you know that I took over the Step Out Buffalo Instagram and Snapchat accounts for a few hours last week to show off some of my favorite places in Lockport. The sun was shining and temperatures were just above freezing, so it was a great day to feature the best ways to make the most of a winter afternoon!

If you didn’t follow along or want more details on one of the places I visited, keep reading:

After showing off the flight of 5 locks (the reason for Lockport’s name) in downtown Lockport, I stopped in to Steamworks Coffee to fuel up for my adventures. I’m a regular at Steamworks because it’s a great space to write blog posts and work on freelance assignments. The coffee is delicious, the space is so welcoming and there are plenty of outlets!

Winter in Lockport, NY | Step Out Buffalo Takeover

Next up was Julie Muscato Gifts, the cutest shop filled with a card and gift for every occasion. I could have easily bought one of everything…

Because this girl can only go 5 minutes without getting hungry, I stopped at Scripts Cafe for a tea and scone. I can highly recommend the London Fog scone; it was the perfect afternoon pick-me-up before heading to my next stop. I should also mention that the decor in here is amazing, as it was assembled by the aforementioned Julie Muscato.

On the way to the Lockport Nature Trail, I made a small pit stop to snap a picture of the frozen canal and hazy late-afternoon sun, which is the very first photo of this post. Lockport was sure looking pretty for my winter afternoon adventure.

At the Nature Trail, my favorite part is definitely the little waterfall, and it didn’t disappoint. The majority of the water was frozen, but you could hear the creek rushing below the ice thanks to warmer temperatures earlier in the day.

Making_the_Most_of_Winter_Lockport_1

Last, but certainly not least, was Tattered Tulip. Everything is so darn cute, and there is a set of throw pillows that I’m trying very hard not to think about… Anyway, this was the perfect spot to finish up my afternoon.

The order I visited each stop in worked out perfectly, but I highly recommend spending more time than I did exploring Lockport. I had a great time showing Buffalo around Lockport, and hope that if you watched my Stories you enjoyed them too!

7 Reasons to Visit Salem in the Dead of Winter

Despite some wacky winter weather, Cody and I visited Paige this past weekend in her new apartment in Salem, Massachusetts. We were greeted by 2 feet of fresh snow and single-digit temperatures, but that didn’t stop from us seeing the sites. The 3 of us bundled up (we’re talking long underwear and scarves up to our eyes) to explore the best parts of Salem.

7 Reasons to Visit Salem in the Dead of Winter

For anyone else crazy enough to visit this coastal city in the dead of winter, we highly recommend these 7 stops:

1. Fish Tacos at Howling Wolf

After a very long drive on Friday, we headed straight for tacos at Howling Wolf Taqueria. The place was packed and we waited a little bit for a table. Once we were seated our server was great and I don’t think I’ve ever had tacos delivered from the kitchen as fast as these were.

2. Snow Covered Graves

Salem is synonymous with witches, and no matter your belief on the subject, you can’t deny the history of this town. The Burying Point, the oldest burying ground in the city, looked extra picturesque covered in a thick blanket of snow.

7 Reasons to Visit Salem in the Dead of Winter | The Burying Point

3. Oak + Moss’ Sunny Shop

I found Oak + Moss on Instagram while researching things to do in Salem. Their shop lived up my expectations, with gorgeous natural pieces and nautical accents. I wanted so badly to buy a lot more than I did.

7 Reasons to Visit Salem in the Dead of Winter | Oak + Moss

4. Fresh Bread at A&J King

After battling the cold and wind on Saturday morning, we were ready for lunch and a warm drink. The salad sandwich, chai tea latte and hammered copper tables at A&J King Artisan Bakers were just what we needed. The shop was busy, filled with people looking to get out of the house after days of snow and cold.

7 Reasons to Visit Salem in the Dead of Winter | A&J King

5. Frozen Harbor Views

Sure, the is harbor probably more enjoyable when it’s not frozen solid. But there’s something pretty cool about both waves and boats freezing into place.

6. Craft Beer at Gulu Gulu Cafe

We finished off Saturday with a few drinks at Gulu Gulu Cafe, which was a further walk than other Salem bars from Paige’s apartment. The huge selection of draught beers and live music made the walk completely worth it. Plus, it meant that we saw the trees that lined the streets downtown lit up at night.

7 Reasons to Visit Salem in the Dead of Winter | Gulu Gulu Cafe

7. Streets Filled Christmas Decor

Even though Christmas was a few weeks ago, both businesses and the beautiful old homes of Salem are still decked out in their holiday best. The lights, bows, wreaths throughout the town are dusted with snow, giving them an extra festive look.

Things_to_do_in_Salem_MA_Winter_3

Pre-Holiday Pizza at Hearth + Press

Making new friends is not my strong suit. Even as a kid, I’d wait for someone else to invite me over to play at their house instead of asking them. I never took the Myers-Briggs test because I know exactly what it’s going to say. I’m happy to spend Friday nights in and am perfectly content to explore new places solo.

This particular trait makes networking, both personally and professionally, one of the more exhausting tasks I’ve attempted since moving home. Because of this, I’m grateful for extroverts who take it upon themselves to follow up after I’ve awkwardly inserted myself into a group at an event.

Thanks to the initiative of other, braver, individuals, I recently found myself at dinner after work during the week before Christmas with a few fellow bloggers. We checked out Hearth + Press on Main Street downtown. Getting to know each other over thin crust pizza and drinks were just what we all needed to combat the stress of the holidays.

Hearth + Press | Buffalo, NY Pizza

Hearth + Press | Buffalo, NY Pizza

And if you’re looking for a new restaurant to try, we all recommend Hearth + Press. It’s a tad pricey (for us 20-somethings, at any rate), but the stone hearth pizza was fresh and crispy!