Hear about travel to Buffalo, New York as the Amateur Traveler talks to Larissa Milne from changesinlongitude.com about why she fell in love with this significant American city.
Larissa and her husband fell in love with Buffalo on what was supposed to be a side trip from Niagara Falls. This historic city used to be the 8th largest in the nation when it was the terminus for the important Erie Canal. The city grew wealthy and attracted many leading architects to build its downtown and its mansions. Frank Lloyd Wright designed a couple of homes in the area that you can tour. The Art Deco City Hall has a free tour.
The grain elevator was invented in Buffalo and the city’s waterfront is still lined with them. Some have been turned into concert venues and climbing walls, but at least one belongs to General Mills that fills the city with the smell of baking Cheerios.
Buffalo may be well known for wings, but Larissa suggests trying the grilled hot dogs or a beef on a weck sandwich instead. Local restaurants and markets also have many central and eastern European specialties because of the cultural background of the city.
One president, the “know nothing” Millard Fillmore, is from the Buffalo area. Another one, William McKinley, was assassinated there. A third, Theodore Roosevelt, was inaugurated in Buffalo.
Buffalo has an “emerald necklace” of parks designed by landscape architects that include Frederick Law Olmsted who designed New York’s Central Park. You can appreciate the culture of the city in its parks, along its waterfront, in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery or in the beautiful Shea’s Performing Arts Center.
Hear why you should fall in love with Buffalo too.
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Buffalo, New York
Louis Sullivan (architect)
Eero Saarinen (architect)
Henry Hobson Richardson (architect)
Guided Tours of Buffalo
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House Complex
Frederick Law Olmsted
Buffalo on Foot – A Self–Guided Walking Tour of Historic Downtown Buffalo
Your Winter Guide to Buffalo
Buffalo Bisons Baseball
Old Man River Hotdogs
Beef on weck
“We make the donuts at Mazurek’s Bakery in Buffalo”
Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Shea’s Performing Arts Center
The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain
Millard Fillmore House
Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site
Travel to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Episode 462
Chris: Amateur Traveler Episode 507. Today the Amateur Traveler talks about architecture, the Erie Canal, beef on a weck and buffalo wings as we go to Buffalo, New York.
Chris: This episode of Amateur Traveler is sponsored by rover.com, the nation’s largest network of neighborhood pet centers and dog walkers. Go to rover.com/travel and get $20 off your dog’s first booking.
Chris: Welcome to the Amateur Traveler. I’m your host Chris Christensen. We’ll hear more from our sponsor who is rover.com but first, let’s talk about Buffalo. I’d like to welcome back to the show Larissa Milne from changesinlongitude.com who’s come to talk to us about Buffalo, New York. Larissa, welcome to the show.
Larissa: Thanks Chris nice to be back.
Chris: Before people hang up on us because they’re thinking of the line from Chorus Line about the person who is going to commit suicide at Buffalo then they realize that was redundant. You pitched me Buffalo, New York and said you had an amazingly great time there. Why should someone go to Buffalo?
Larissa: It’s a city that will surprise a lot of people. It certainly surprised us. And I think that probably the best thing to do is give you a little bit of background on why it’s a city worth visiting not so much for the sites. We can certainly get into that later but a little bit of the history as to why it even exist where it does and why it’s there. Buffalo is perched on the eastern end of Lake Erie in western New York and when you think of the Great Lakes as they go across the northern part of the United States in the midwest, Buffalo is the easternmost point that ships could navigate their way across the Great Lakes So it was the terminus basically until the early part of the 20th century of any ship navigating it’s way from all the way from Duluth, Minnesota in the far west across the midwest.
Chris: That is if they didn’t wanna go over those big waterfalls near there.
Larissa: Right, exactly, because if you continued you could keep going but then you’d be going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. So the ships would end up in Buffalo so it became a large port. There was iron ore. We think of the song the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald with the iron so there’s iron ore going across the Great Lakes. Also a lot of grain was coming from the northern Midwest Minnesota you think about places in Minnesota, General Mills and Pillsbury are all based out there. A lot of wheat grows there. A lot of grain and iron ore were passing through the Great Lakes ending up in Buffalo they needed somewhere to go and the Erie Canal was constructed to basically get the goods from these ships across the state of New York and down to the New York Harbor so that’s the reason it existed.
At one time, around the turn of the 19th to 20th century, it was the eighth largest city in America. It was a place to be reckoned with. There was a lot of industry there were lions of industry. There was a lot of money so it was at one time, a very large booming city. To put it into context in 1932, a canal opened called the Welland Canal which connected Lake Erie to Lake Ontario basically bypassed the Niagara River and Niagara Falls at that point ships could then start navigating through to Lake Ontario and up to Saint Lawrence Seaway and out to the Atlantic Ocean so all of a sudden Buffalo becomes, what was a thriving important port, it now becomes a kind of a stop maybe on the way not the final terminus. By knowing that background it helps to understand when you hear about Buffalo just like you think about a lot of other Northern industrial cities like Detroit or Cleveland there’s a reason they existed at one time and were great thriving cities and what was considered their heyday. That was Buffalo’s reason for being that it was this terminus of all these great lakes shipping traffic.
Chris: When you mentioned the Erie Canal I went to college at Troy, New York at the other end of that canal. And basically, what we learned was that America really learned engineering building the Erie Canal that when we started that big project back in the 1820s that basically, we didn’t have the knowledge and that had to learn the knowledge to those sort of big projects – a lot of big projects came then afterwards. But then that area also was sort of peaked around that time – peaked a little earlier than Buffalo. So but why there today? We just said that it peaked earlier at it’s…
Larissa: Right it’s a city that’s quote, past it’s prime. But but also in keeping with the context of what we’ve been seeing with cities in the last probably 20 years or so. cities are on the rise again. And Buffalo is part of that Renaissance that there’s a lot of great infrastructure and owns in a city like Buffalo and Buffalo because it was at one time such a very wealthy city, it’s got a lot of great architecture there’s some good arts and cultures in universities scene and what have you and so what has happened is now that there’s kind of this Renaissance where people are going back to the cities, there are things there where people were artisans and individuals were looking to make a difference can kind of infiltrate that infrastructure and repopulate the city. So it has the basis for that. And then on top of all of this, again, I’ll get into some itinerary type stuff in a few minutes but the other thing that we found there which was really astonishing probably more than any site I could name is that we found the strongest sense of civic pride of any city or any destination I’ve ever been to in all of my travels in the world.
Buffalonians, as they call themselves, are absolutely rabidly intent and fanatical about their city. They just love the place. The people that live there love it. Even people that were from there and have moved elsewhere still have very strong ties so there’s something actually very contagious about that when you visit a city. When everybody you meet is just thrilled that you’re there because they can show you what a great place it is. And of course, since it had this identity is being the butt of jokes people are really eager to prove those jokes wrong. So there’s something very, very attractive and infectious about that and that’s kind of what got us there. When we were looking, we were headed north through New York and we were looking for places to stay. Our plan was to go visit Niagara Falls because both of us had visited as children but hadn’t been back since and we thought, “Oh, well. Looks like Buffalo’s along the way. Maybe we can find a place to stay or what have you.” We started researching the city and we said, “It seems like there’s a lot more there, actually.”
Chris: Than just wings.
Larissa: Yeah exactly.
Chris: Wings and the Buffalo domes.
Larissa: Yes, and so we ended up basing ourselves there for over a week and really didn’t spend much time in Niagara Falls at all. It was really an eye-opener, which is why I kept hounding you about doing something about it.
Chris: And I’ll tell our listeners that the moment that Larissa got me is when she told me the whole town smells like Cheerios.
Larissa: There you go, sweet. The way that Chris’ heart is through his stomach.
Chris: Apparently so. There’s a reason that is smells like Cheerios.
Larissa: Yes it is. Well I mentioned the thing about all the grain silos and the grain elevators or what have you. The grain shipping, excuse me. The entire waterfront is really populated or the large portion of the waterfront is populated with these big, tall, cement cylinders which are grain elevators and grain silos and that’s because of all the grains that came across the Great Lakes. And there’s a large General Mills plant there right at the waterfront in Buffalo that manufactures Cheerios. So all them Cheerios on the east of the Mississippi are manufactured at that particular plant and so the whole town smells like Cheerios because they’re cranking them out day in and day out. Of course, as you know, now it’s not sufficient to just have one type of Cheerio. You got to have like there’s like 42 varieties of them now. So there’s lots and lots of them there but that’s what Buffalo smells like so it was kind of a nice little grain connection there.
Chris: Give them what other sites should we see while we’re in Buffalo?
Larissa: Well I think that one of things to consider the downtown I mentioned because it was such an important industrial center. The downtown district has been described by many architecture critics as almost like a museum of art deco architecture. There are some really wonderful buildings. Many of the downtown skyscrapers, if you will, probably about the tallest is probably about 35 stories high but many of them were built in the city’s heyday in the early part of the 20th century. So they’ve got this wonderful art deco architectures. So you’ve got all the greats in architecture at the time, Louis Sullivan another named Eero Saarinen. Most people probably know him another guy name H.H. Richardson. These were all anybody who’s into architecture will recognize these names and you can take walking tours around the city and just see some really fantastic buildings and structures and just architectural detailing around a lot of the facades of the buildings. Actually a great place to start no matter what anybody decides to do when they go to Buffalo, a great place to start your visit is to go to City Hall which in it of itself is a very large art deco building. Again, it’s probably about 30 stories tall. They offer free tours everyday at noon but I would direct somebody to the website just in case the times have change since I was last there. And they provide guided tours of the building and of course, and again because it was built at this time they’re just magnificent architectural details. They take you into the city council meeting room just got gorgeous stained glass ceilings and some that were constructed by Tiffany. And again, beautiful bronzes and things like that. And then they actually part of the tour they take you to there’s a cupola on top of the building and they take you to the top floor where you can look out and can see all around. And because it is one of the tallest buildings in probably from miles around you can see quite far in the distance you can see out over Lake Erie, you can see the entire waterfront, which is quite scenic. Now, there’s lots of boats and the marinas and what have you. You can see all of those grain elevators with the Cheerios and what have you. And if it’s a clear day, if you look north about 20 miles away you can see the mist of Niagara Falls coming up, which is a pretty cool thing to see in the distance. That’s one of the things that I would recommend somebody do just at the start of their visit to Buffalo.
Chris: Let’s take a break here and hear from our sponsor rover.com. We love our dogs but sometimes the travel bug calls and we have to leave our best friends behind. Rover.com is destination’s largest network of loving and trustworthy pet sitters and dog walkers. Discover and book the perfect pet care for you, your dog and your budget on rover.com. Browse profiles, read reviews and find someone in your neighborhood who offers pet sitting, dog boarding, dog walking, or doggy day care. Then book and pay all through Rover. It’s that easy with Rover you can relax, your dog is in good hands. Rover offers general background checks and every sitter profile has been individually reviewed and approved. Rover’s got you covered with cute photo updates, premium pet insurance and 24/7 support. Visit rover.com/travel to get $20 off your dog’s first booking. Go ahead find someone who’ll love your dog while you’re away at rover.com/travel. You mentioned architecture and a downtown architecture and even organize that into either a guided or self-guided architecture tour of Buffalo.
Larissa: There are some tours. I think that we did not take one. We kind of had a book and we walked around ourselves. There are some people, I think, that contacts or via tour might have a tour, a walking tour of it. The only one that I’m familiar with because I took it was the tour of city hall, which is free and just run by the city. But yeahm you could either definitely tour so that you can walk around. I think there might even be some that are run by the Urban Land Institute because I think that they’ve had some meetings there because of the city as being such a good example of that type of architecture.
Chris: Where to next?
Larissa: Keeping on the architecture thing because the architects were there, they were building buildings for all these lions of industry. They also were building homes because these rich folks had to live somewhere and so there are some lovely homes to go visit. Anot the least of which there was a young architect who was looking to make his name and was taken commissions left and right in the Buffalo area named Frank Lloyd Wright. So there are several Frank Lloyd Wright homes that can be visited and Frank Lloyd Wright structures that can be seen in and around Buffalo. The largest house, the Graycliff Estate, which is this beautiful estate that’s up along Lake Erie as well as another one called the Martin House Complex and right along the lines of any other Frank Lloyd Wright structures we’ve seen. Lots of horizontal lines and very arts and crafts looking but magnificent. And Graycliff, because it was perched right on Lake Erie kind of up on this bluff it’s just wonderful vista that you can go see so you can tour the homes. You can see the furnishings inside and what have you so really for anybody who’s interested in architecture design I would recommend doing that.
Larissa: Some other things that kind of fall into architecture, urban planning type of things is the fact that the city has a wonderful park system as well. At the same time when they were commissioning all these great buildings, they were commissioning designers to design lots of green space. And they have something that they call the emerald necklace that goes around the city was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted who’s the guy that designed Central Park in New York, along with Calvert Vaux and the city kind of goes out from the north of the downtown area, the residential sections kind of go out like a fan the sort of like the spokes on a wheel. The main roads go out that way and the parks go along the spokes of the wheel so there’s like these really wide boulevards with parks in the middle and then a mile or so there’s this great big ring that goes kind of around the northern quarter of the city and just connect all of these beautiful residential areas by this wonderful green space that rings the city. So there are bike paths and walking trails and just sidewalks and things so if you’re there what I recommend, I’m not a winter person and Buffalo does get kind of chilly in the winter.
Chris: We’re gonna have to talk about that, yes.
Larissa: You will.
Chris: While it does get chilly but also gets a lot of snow, a lot of lake-effect snow in Buffalo.
Larissa: It does, it does get snow and that’s one of those things that Buffalonians they just deal with it just like any other place where somebody’s at a ski resort or whatever. They just cloud the roads and they get right on moving.
Chris: You can get probably three feet of snow in Buffalo and be in better shape than one inch of snow in Washington D.C because they’re used to it.
Larissa: Exactly and they just kind of live that way and they deal with it and one of the things that’s interesting I’ve notice this about other places in the country is they’ll tell you that they don’t get as much snow as Syracuse, which is, what like a 100 miles, a 150 miles east of the city. And apparently, that’s true. Apparently, Syracuse gets more snow for whatever lake effect that comes down from Lake Ontario where it is but it’s just an interesting kind of reference but they don’t get as much as Syracuse. Because I ran into a similar kind of analogy when we’re in Seattle and I notice the people from Seattle when you talk about the rain they say that they don’t get as much rain as Chicago gets. So I guess people kind of know that but there’s no doubt that they get a lot of snow but they deal with it. I have not spent time there in the winter but I do know that they have a lot of winter activities surrounding the lake and winter carnivals and what have you. But I would suggest going to their website. Actually one of the things that I would say is the Visit Buffalo Niagara website is one of the better destination websites that I’ve seen. In fact, it was probably that website that got us to first visit because it was just so well done and they really cover a lot of the attractions in the city.
Chris: As long as you referring to that website, I actually want to go back to one of the things we asked about earlier is there is on the website and I imagined in paper form that you can pick up from them, a Buffalo on foot that does do a self-guided walking tour of historic downtown Buffalo and answer to my previous question.
Chris: It’s actually wonderful. I’ve been looking at here online but it’s a wonderful guide so definitely recommend that. And one thing I want to say about lake-effect snow, just so we can put this in the context, I have a roommate in college and grew up nearby in Buffalo in Jamestown, New York so we’re still talking about near the lake and they routinely plow the snow up to the telephone wires in the wintertimes so we’re talking about a fair amount of snow in that kind of area even if it’s less than Syracuse.
Larissa: I know and for those of us that don’t come from snowy areas it’s a huge amount. They will say though what’s interesting is actually the city proper gets less snow than for some reason than the town’s that are maybe about 20 minutes further south. For example, they might get six inches the town’s immediately south of them because of the way the winds and the currents go or something will get 20 inches. I don’t quite understand the meteorological reasoning for that but that’s something again they’re quick to point out.
Chris: There’s a guide to Buffalo in winter if you want find out also on the visitbuffaloniagara.com a website.
Larissa: That’s just kind of a couple of quick snapshots of things to do within the city. The other thing the city does have is wonderful old world kind of mindset because of the timing. There is a baseball stadium, there’s a AAA team that’s got a stadium, the Buffalo Bisons that’s right on the lake, which is a nice thing to do. Now the old stadium, the stadium that’s there was built maybe about 15 or 20 years ago. The old original stadium was one of those really neat, old baseball stadiums with the poles and things kind of look like something like Fenway Park or what have you and anybody who has ever seen the movie, The Natural would recognize it that’s the stadium. That was used in The Natural when that was filmed and unfortunately that got taken down but still within the stadium is the Buffalo Bison’s Hall of Fame and you can take a tour anybody who’s a sports buff and a baseball fan would like touring that. A small museum is basically once you just get into the stadium and just go where there’s no extra admission. My husband ,who’s a baseball fan, recognized all sorts of names of people that have passed through at one time or another. Anybody who’s a baseball fan I think it probably would be a fun thing to do to just go to the Bison’s stadium and watch a minor league game. On a beautiful summer evening as the sun is setting and you’re looking out over Lake Erie and watching this ball game it’s really nice thing to do. Going back to the riverfront and the Visit Buffalo Niagara website, one of the things that city has really embraced is taking advantage of it’s position on Lake Erie at the juncture of the Erie Canal and the Buffalo River so there’s a lot of water frontage in Buffalo. And the city has really taken advantage of it. Now there are marinas. There’s a lot of urban development that’s gone up with their mixed used shops and restaurants and that sort of thing. And the other thing that they’ve done, which is kind of clever I think is and they’ve got all of these grain silos and grain elevators that have populated the waterfront for a hundred years or so. These things are really rock solid, they’re very very thick concrete structures that are 80 or 100 feet tall and they just realized that trying to knock them down, it just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make financial sense it’s just crazy so rather than just ignore them they just kind of embraced them as being part of their waterfront. They now hold lots of festivals and functions in and around these grain silos. They have concerts in them. They’ve turned some of them into climbing walls. So there’s a lot of neat stuff that goes on surrounding these grain silos. And again, every spring and summer into the fall the weather’s nicer always festival of all different kinds taking place at the waterfront. So I would suggest for anybody who’s planning on going again check that website because you’ll get the latest and greatest as to what’s going on and be able to really enjoy the waterfront there.
Chris: What surprised you about Buffalo?
Larissa: The thing that probably surprised me the most I would say was the fact that the people were so incredibly hometown proud. But I would say the other thing that surprised me was from a standpoint of food, when we joked about the wings before. Everybody knows chicken wings well we were there we never even got around to having chicken wings because we were so busy trying all kinds of other interesting foods that we tried while we were there.
Chris: And just for our listeners who may not be from the United States they may not be familiar with Buffalo wings. They’re fairly well-known in the US here just over the last, I don’t know, 15 years I would say they’ve gone coast to coast but they’re basically a very spicy chicken wing, called Buffalo wings not made from Buffalo obviously, since Buffalo have no wings and we have no Buffalo. And then they’re served with quite often a blue cheese dressing or something like that or a ranch dressing but I do enjoy Buffalo wings but what did you have instead?
Larissa: We had Hot dogs, real gourmet. I happen to really love hot dogs but I love a grilled hot dog. A hot dog that’s made on a charcoal grill. And in Buffalo, that’s how hot dogs are prepared. They are not made on a griddle, they’re not made in a frying pan, they’re not boiled or steamed. Virtually everywhere that sells hot dogs has a charcoal grill, not a gas grill. It’s a grill that uses Kingsford or even better hardwood charcoal to make their hot dog. Oftentimes, they’re like footlong hot dogs. They’re kind of works of art and they’re kind of a point of pride in Buffalo and it’s interesting that the Buffalo wing kind of concept to sort of transcended bars, snacks all across America but for some reason the hot dogs aren’t as well-known. Once I discovered that I became kind of manic about trying as many hot dogs as I possibly could.
Chris: Was there one place you thought had the best hot dogs in Buffalo?
Larissa: The place that we liked the best was a hot dog place up along the old river called Old Man River. Just a Hot dog stand you can sit down but it’s not particularly fancy. They make the french fries from scratch. They cut the fresh potatoes right there and then they’re grilling up these footlong hot dogs over hardwood charcoal flames and we thought that was the best that we had had. There’s a mini chain, if you will, in Buffalo called Ted’s which most people associate with us as the hometown favorite of Hot dogs. I thought they were good but I liked this Old Man River better.
Chris: Were there other things we should try while were there besides the hot dogs, the wings and the Cheerios?
Larissa: Yeah hot dogs, wings, Cheerios. The other thing that you’ll see which is very popular there is a sandwich called Beef on weck and what that is a roast beef that served on a weck roll, which is a roll that is of German origin. It’s kind of a cross between a pretzel and a hard roll. It’s a roll that’s got a round hard roll that’s got salt, course salt on top of it as well as caraway seeds and I think one or two other types of seeds. And it’s a very traditional German style roll and that’s a popular sandwich that served in Buffalo, the beef on weck.
Chris: Apparently coming from the German roll kummelweck which I didn’t know that in Germany but…
Larissa: That’s what it comes from I forgotten that term but that’s a very popular thing. And then what you will see gathered around town is what of eastern European foods because of the mills and what have you that populated Buffalo. At that time, there was a lot of immigration from Eastern Europe so there are a lot of Polish, not so much restaurants but markets and bakeries, well not so many bakeries anymore. There’s really only one but some other Czech, eastern European type of food so you can go restaurants and find or market and find things like pierogies and babkas and stuff like that so that’s a popular thing to see. We actually, when we were there, we visited a bakery at one time there were many, many Polish bakeries scattered throughout Buffalo and sort of thing that every neighborhood had their own just like in certain neighborhoods in New York there’s an Italian bakery that bakes Italian bread. In Buffalo there were Polish bakeries and they would bake things like Babka and for those again that don’t know what it is a Babka is kind of a sweet bread often baked with cinnamon or fruit and people typically eat it with coffee or they might have it with dessert but it’s not really a cake it’s kind of across between a cake and a bread and it’s very popular in Eastern European foods. In fact probably most Eastern European countries have some version of a Babka or a plocheck is another word for it but those are very popular in Buffalo and as is rye bread, which is also a very popular Polish type of bread. At one time, as I mentioned, there were bakeries scattered all over. And little by little, they kind of closed as people moved out of town or retired or what have you and there’s a neighborhood that’s down near the river that was an old working class neighborhood, kind of a Polish/Irish ethnic neighborhood that had fallen on hard times and actually now kind of detrifying in the last 10 years because this particular area called the Old First Ward is a adjacent to the waterfronts so now there are a lot of speculators coming in and buying up these vacant storefronts and what have you. But there’s a bakery that I absolutely had to go visit while I was there because the name of it is called Mazurek’s Bakery and that won’t mean anything to anybody except for people in my family because that happens to be my maiden name and which is an unusual Polish name and I know bear no relation but the fact that there was a bakery that was the same name as me man, I had to go there. We actually got to go and visit and spend some time with the folks there and learned quite a bit about the bakery and it was been taken over by a couple of young guys who bought it and are looking to speculate in the area and grow the business again and it’s kind of great to see a whole new generation of people determined to carry on that tradition and they make this fabulous rye bread everyday that comes out of this 90-year old brick oven. It just really neat old stuff and so anybody who’s visiting and likes to see that kind of old ethnic who likes old ethnic eateries I would suggest maybe trying to look for Mazurek’s Bakery in the First Ward and they also make really good jelly doughnuts so anybody who likes a good jelly doughnut I would suggest that they stop by.
Chris: Excellent. How about getting in touch with culture in Buffalo?
Larissa: Again because of the vast amount of money that was there, there’s some really interesting cultural things to visit. At the High Brow end, there were wonderful art gallery there called the Albright-Knox Art Gallery which is on the northern side of the city and has really a fantastic collection of all different types of art but largely contemporate 21st century art they have some wonderful examples and in fact they have a massive, massive Jackson Pollock painting called Convergence which is one of those things that anybody who’s ever seen it photographs or images of Jackson Pollock which just kind of looks like paint splattered on a screen. Once you see it in person. it’s just so massive and it’s one of those jaw-dropping experiences. And because of the way it’s cited in the in the museum, it’s on this wall you can walk right up to it. You probably could touch it, you probably don’t want to, you probably get in trouble but you can get that close to it. It’s a really interesting experience to be able to walk up to something that’s 12 feet wide by 8 feet tall and look at it up close and see how thickly the paint was put on and then step back and try and get these varying perspectives. And the museum houses a lot of other rotating exhibits and some really good top quality art and so I would suggest anybody who’s interested in that type of thing certainly make a stop at the Albright-Knox Gallery. It’s located right around the ring of that emerald necklace that I was talking about so it’s a nice opportunity to get into around some parkland and one of the nicer residential neighborhoods so that works out really well. Kind of keeping with the arts and crafts theme and the arts and crafts movement in general, we talked about Frank Lloyd Wright but arts and crafts were quite popular in northwestern New York around the early part of 20th century and there’s a town called Aurora, New York which is probably about 15 or 20 minutes east of the downtown area. It’s just a nice kind of a small, suburban town but it’s got a very nice little downtown and kind of a cute little main street but it also houses something called the Roycroft movement there. And it’s an art studio movement that was also part of this arts and crafts movement and it’s still in existence and people who are interested you can see. Y can tour studios. People can actually take classes there in ceramics and also decorative arts. It’s really pretty interesting for anybody that likes that type of thing, just a really eye-opening experience and kind of helps put a lot of the furnishings and architecture into perspective when you see all the decorative arts that was accompanying that. That’s a pretty cool thing and then moving forward a little bit in the music kind of area of things. One of the areas of town – there’s a neighborhood kind of on the northern end of the downtown that sort of a funky, bohemian kind of district and one of Buffalo’s favorite daughters has spent a lot of time developing a presence there. Ani DiFranco is from Buffalo and she still has her record label and company there, Righteous Babe Records, which is housed and she’s got a production facility and a theater or a performance if you will,l in an old church that’s on the northern side of town. So that kind of gives you a little bit of that edgy more contemporary vibe so for people that are looking for something a little bit more 21st century kind of culture. You certainly have it with Ani DiFranco and Righteous Babe Records there. And so there are concerts and lots of activities there. that’s a great environment there in the neighborhood that’s adjacent to is something called Elmwood Village. That’s what I was alluding to and that’s the kind of neighborhood that in a place like San Francisco it would be Haight-Ashbury or something funky like that. Now in a town like San Francisco or in Greenwich Village in New York, it would be much larger because they’re just bigger cities. But in Buffalo, Elmwood Village is the place where you have the independent bookstores, the funky record shops, the brew pubs and restaurants that are sort of independent and edgy that kind of place so that’s a great place to go and get a little bit of the funky edgier flavor of Buffalo.
Chris: Excellent. We were talking about music and I noticed as I was cruising the Buffalo site the other thing that caught my eye was one of their grand old theaters –the Shea’s Performing Arts Center one of those classic, beautiful grand theater sort of style performance venues. I still love to see when cities have kept those or restored those to their former glory.
Larissa: I think that what you’ll see in the coming years is as the more that cities kind of stay in the forefront of people kind of looking to move back and historic preservation more and more because Buffalo is virtually a museum. Some of these early 20th century buildings that they’re going to continue to renovate and restore and continue to use these things, which is a great boom to anybody in the area when you’re going to it to see things there.
Chris: I’ve just been recently reading or listening to I guess, the audiobook of Bryson’s latest book on England it’s a follow up to the book that he did 20 years ago. It’s The Road to Little Dribbling which is an odd name but he’s an author but it’s interesting because he’s been talking about a lot of the British cities and how they’ve diminished since he wrote about them 20 years ago and I agree with you that so many cities in the US if you compare them to what they were 20 years ago, they’re so much better now than they were then. It just seems like urban and the US is heading in the different direction at least in many cities. Many of the cities that I’m familiar with including where I live San Jose, you just didn’t go down there 20 years ago.
Larissa: You’re in a much more suburban mindset, I think, 20 years ago. Now, when young people finish college they want to live in a city and that’s what they’re doing. And so you see that in a place like Buffalo and because it has the infrastructure that can support it, it’s an easy place to do that. Costs of living is relatively inexpensive. You can get some great apartments in neat old buildings and that sort of thing so that all kind of feeds on itself and then you got this lively culture that’s there so it’s a great, great opportunity to do that.
Chris: We talked about times of year Buffalo might be a little easier to get around in the summertime. It sounded like that’s what you were recommending. They certainly have winters there and as long as your prepared for it can be interesting time but is there a particular day where festival or something that you would recommend being in Buffalo?
Larissa: I actually don’t have a recommendation along those lines. I think that they’re just so many things that go on there that depending on what you’re interested in. you can find it over the course of the summer. I just think that there’s constantly something that’s going on whether it’s music related or food related. They’re maybe some things that are feature in the website but I haven’t looked at it in the last couple of days. Now I’m thinking the Montreal Jazz Festival or something like that.
Chris: Any particular locals you met who really come to your mind as the most memorable?
Larissa: That’s an interesting question. I would have loved to met Ani DiFranco but I didn’t meet her. I think some of these young people that were working that were starting these businesses or moving back into these areas. The fellow that had just purchased Mazurek’s Bakery, which was a family bakery for 80 years or so and the fellow was going retire and I don’t think he thought there was any kind of a value in his business. Yet this young guy Ty Reynolds said, “I really want to make a go of this because I love Buffalo and I want to make it happen.” Really a lot of young people like that were really kind of behind that. That was kind of the mindset. Some of these restaurant owners and things I met I actually don’t remember their names on top of my head but they were very, very bullish on their town and that was really… Again, when you’re looking at a young person who’s somebody who’s 25 years old, who’s just saying, “This is where I’m staying. I grew up here, I went to college here and I’m going to make my life here.” Across the board, that’s what I saw and that’s what to me, made it a memorable place to be.
Chris: Any warning you would give before some goes to Buffalo you should know and we talked about snow.
Larissa: Not really. I think that unless there are particularly into winter events they probably would enjoy it more from May through maybe September, October. And it is a northern industrial city so it’s not going to be picture postcard pretty in every neighborhood and there are some very industrial kind of neighborhoods and there’s some gritty sections. But I wouldn’t say it’s not a safe place. I didn’t feel like it was anything dangerous or anything like that so I don’t think you really need to worry that way. There is a bridge right in Buffalo that takes you right across the river to Canada so you probably need to be prepared to have your passport because you’re pretty close there. You don’t want to get on the wrong ramp if you don’t have your passport with you. That could be a little complicated but I think other than that there’s not really any big cautions, I would say. I don’t think you’ll commit any faux pas. I think with one exception I think that you really don’t want to order Buffalo chicken wings even chicken wings. They just called them wings it’s one of those things every local area as you know I’m from Philadelphia there’s certain etiquette when it goes with cheese steak. Same thing with the wings from, what I understand it, they just call them wings. That’s something to keep in mind.
Chris: So it’s like the old joke what do they call Chinese food in China?
Larissa: They call it food, exactly.
Chris: So we mentioned Niagara Falls certainly most of us are forgetting that close are going to do a day trip out at Niagara Falls also while we’re there. Are there any other day trips that you would recommend in the area?
Larissa: Well that city the rural that I mentioned which isn’t really all that far I think you can spend a day in that little town that’s a really cute little downtown. President Millard Fillmore was from there so his home was there and there’s this really neat downtown with an old movie theater just kind of cool to walk around and this incredible general store I think it’s called Vidler’s, which is this five and dime that everybody should have because it takes up about seven storefronts and kind of ambles on this organic growth kind of way that there’s just anything to be had can be gotten in this little general store. So that’s a really neat day trip to take. Some of the Frank Lloyd Wright sites like Graycliff, which is out by the lake and there’s some other architectural homes that you can see along the lake south of town, which is a really nice drive to take. You can take this lake front road that is on this bluff that overlooks the lake and from time to time you can’t always see the lake from there but there are parks along the way and marinas. You can go down about 20 miles outside of town and just kind of look back and see the city skyline and the distance and it’s pretty gorgeous. You’re in this marina with all these boats and it’s just very, very pretty. So if you know anybody who’s ever spending time in any of the Great Lakes knows how pretty that can be north of Chicago or along Lake Michigan anywhere something like that so I would recommend doing that, which is also a nice thing to do but there’s one thing I realized we’ve been talking about a few things there’s a major historic event that just somehow we got talking, somehow glossed over and I think I should mention it because it’s something that’s unique to Buffalo, which involves the Teddy Roosevelt inaugural site. Buffalo is toasting the Pan American exhibition in 1901 and it was there that president William McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist and so Teddy Roosevelt had to get sworn in as president while in the city of Buffalo and so the home where he was inaugurated has been preserved as a national historic site and it’s called the Teddy Roosevelt inaugural site and it’s a great site to go visit. You can walk around. You can see where the inauguration happened. Considering what inaugurations are where they’re usually on the capital steps in this thousands of people around this was just done in an office in his home and that’s a pretty cool site. Anybodywho’s interested in American history and politics and certainly politics. American politics is very much in the news right now. To see that and think about that that’s a pretty interesting site to see so I would definitely recommend someone going to see that if they’re interested in history.
Chris: Excellent. You mentioned Millard Fillmore being the last also of the presidents we have that was neither a republican nor a democrat – the last of the Whig party. Also at the anti-immigration party of which we called the bedtime the Know-Nothing party but maybe we should bring that back but that’s a whole other story. Anything else we should know before we get a Buffalo before we get to last four questions?
Larissa: Yes, that you should go I think it really surprise you and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Chris: Excellent. One thing we makes you laugh and say only in Buffalo?
Larissa: The fact that everybody loves their city so much. They’re just so crazy about their hometown and everybody just stays there forever because they think it’s the best place in the world.
Chris: You’re standing in the prettiest spot in Buffalo. Where are you standing on? What are you looking at?
Larissa: It would probably be the park right outside the Albright-Knox gallery that’s part of that Frederick Law Olmstead park looking at that gallery.
Chris: Excellent and finish this thought. You really know you’re in Buffalo when…
Larissa: You close your eyes and smell Cheerios.
Chris: There we go. For those of us west in the Mississippi, where are Cheerios coming from?
Larissa: Shame on me. I don’t know the answer to that.
Chris: Someone has to write me and tell me where my Cheerios are coming from.
Larissa: My guess would be in Minneapolis where General Mills is based.
Chris: Could be, okay. I’ll be heading there and May have to look it up.
Larissa: In fact, I think I’ll see you there so I that would be nice.
Chris: Lastly if you have to summarize Buffalo, New York in just three words, what three words would you use?
Larissa: Better than you’d expect or better than expected.
Chris: There we go. Now we got done the three words.
Larissa: Made me a wordsmith there, didn’t you, Chris?
Chris: Excellent and are guest again has been Larissa Milne and Larissa where can people read about your travels?
Larissa: They can read about our travels at our blog, Changes in Longitude, which is changesinlongitude.co. And we also have a weekly travel column in the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, which is also online at philly.com so they can find us there as well.
Chris: If you enjoyed listening to Larissa, you can listen to Larissa and Michael, her husband, talking about Philadelphia earlier I think sometime last year on this program having written the book on Philadelphia tourism. Larissa thanks so much for coming back and telling us about your love for Buffalo, New York.
Larissa: Thanks Chris and thank you for listening to me and letting me speak about it. I know that you kind of smirked when I first suggested it.
Chris: There was some smirkage, I will admit.
Larissa: Hopefully I’ve converted you and you go take a visit.
Chris: Excellent, thanks so much.
Larissa: Bye bye.
Chris: This is been a longer episode and I have to pack and get ready to go down to Carmel with my wife. We’re going down and experiencing one of the hotels down there. I’ll be writing about it on the blog. So with that, we’re going to end this episode of the Amateur Traveler. If you have any questions send an email to host at amateurtraveler.com or better yet leave a comment on this episode at amateurtraveler.com. You can also follow me on Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram as chris2x and as always, thanks so much for listening.
Transcription sponsored by JayWay Travel, specialists in Central & Eastern Europe custom tours.