In order to get to the heart of what Buffalo is all about, I had the pleasure of interviewing Professor Barbara Bono, an English Professor at the University at Buffalo that has taught for over 35 years. She knows all there is to know about Shakespeare, and has a passion and enthusiasm for teaching the material that keeps all of her students engaged and entertained.
My interview touched on topics such as what she enjoys most about Buffalo and a bit about reflecting on her time as an educator and what she will miss most. Check out the interview below:
Q: What is your favorite thing about Buffalo?
Professor Bono: The two degrees of separation characteristic of a regional city with a lot of history and connections: if I don’t know someone or about something myself, I can find out easily by asking someone who does.
Q: How long have you taught at UB?
Professor Bono: 35 years.
Q: Wow, that is quite a tenure! When you look and reflect back, what will you miss most about your time here?
Professor Bono: My students
Q: Who inspired you most in college?
Professor Bono: There were a whole lot of people, including my classmate/husband early modern historian of science Jim Bono, to whom next June I’ll be married for 50 years, and our circle of serious student/radical undergraduate friends. But there were many teachers, including the demanding medievalist, Dr. Peggy Amassian, who got me started as an English major, and my still-friend and colleague, then ABD and now Dr. Sara van den Berg, who taught my senior honors seminar mon Shakespeare and modern drama.
Q: Besides teaching, I know you are very involved in the community. What is your favorite community organization that you are a part of?
Professor Bono: The University Heights Tool Library because I love to make things and to garden, and it supplies the know-how and tool to do so. But also because it does so in a share-economy/ community building framework which has allowed me to bridge town/gown and socii/economic divides. And it is led by a charismatic recent UB graduate, BA/MUP Darren Cotton—I love engaged millennials.
I can't thank Professor Bono enough
Like many cities of its size, Buffalo has incredible museums that offer people of all ages fun day trips right in town. I live a few miles from the Buffalo museum of Science, and even though I don't have any kids of my own yet, it is a fun place to visit when my cousin is in town with her kids. Her family has a pass which allows them free visits for up to 5 people all year long (a perk of through her husbands employer), so sometimes I tag along with them to see what new exhibits are going on. On our last visit, we explored a lot of the different rooms with her kids, who span in age from 5-11. For the most part, her kids are too cool to pose with us for pictures, but her 5 year old Lily snapped this photo of Katie and I posing in front of the Megalodon.
One of the coolest parts of the science museum is how interactive it is: There are hundreds of old artifacts that cannot be touched, of course, but there are plenty of rooms like this shopping center which teaches kids how to pick out groceries and cash 'customers' out. The balance between learning and play is evident at the museum, and it truly makes what might be a dry and boring museum experience for kids much more fun.
When I left the Buffalo Museum of Science, I wanted to learn more about its history and did a little research to find out some interesting facts about how the museum 'evolved' (pun intended). Turns out, the Young Mens Association (YMA), which was founded way back in 1836 in the city of Buffalo, was responsible for all cultural activities in the city such as the public library and literature and art. The YMA became owners of numerous artifacts, insects, and plants and they began to save them and display them properly. Over time, it turned into the Buffalo of Museum and Science.
I am truly proud of my city, and talk about Buffalo fondly to literally everyone I meet. The fact that our town has managed to revitalize such incredible old buildings, keep its exquisite architecture, and preserve historical treasures is truly something to be in awe of. As an avid traveler, I am often struck by how much Buffalo has to be proud of: not only do we have new and exciting new builds going up around the city, but we have more old art deco architecture than a lot of other cities can even imagine. The vibrancy I see all around Buffalo is something that is getting better and better each year, and I am proud to call it my adopted city.
One of Buffalo's most beautiful buildings is the botanical gardens, located in Lackawanna, just south of the City of Buffalo. The botanical gardens are worth the visit any time of the year, but are especially endearing during the cold winter months. There is something about being inside a warm building, surrounded by plants, that warms the soul during a Buffalo winter.
A fun exhibit put on by the botanical gardens is sponsored by National Grid. It is called "Lumagination" and the entire building is illuminated in brilliant colors and lights, highlighting the different rooms of plants. They have people dressed up in lit up suits (a sure fire hit if you have kids), and the exhibit is coupled with music, which makes walking through each room really fun. I went with a couple of friends, and we made sure our phones were charged before we left our apartments so that we could capture the beauty of the gardens with our phones. There are thousands of plants on display throughout. To give you an idea of how expansive and vast the selection of plants there are, there is one single room devoted to cacti. It is an incredible experience to be among so many ornate and varied species of plants, and it is awesome to think of how much work and love go into the daily upkeep of a living and breathing museum.
The botanical gardens also host special events and you can even book your wedding with them! The design of the gardens was in part the work of Olmsted, and the architecture and light throughout the building are worth a trip when you visit town. In the same neighborhood, almost directly across the street from the botanical gardens is Our Lady of Victory Basilica, which is one of the most ornate and expansive churches in the entire country, and definitely worth a walk through as well. For more information on the Buffalo Botanical Gardens, or to buy tickets for an upcoming visit, click the link below:
When I first moved to my west side neighborhood in Buffalo last year, I was instantly taken aback and the vibrancy, the diversity, and the close proximity to so many wonderful restaurants, bars, and architectural landmarks Buffalo is known for. I also find myself defending my choice of neighborhood quite often--when people hear you live on the west side, they instantly assume that it is dangerous, unsightly, and run down. Once they visit me and see how much of a resurgence the area has undergone, they realize that it is one of the most desirable places for a young professional to reside. If you are planning on visiting the Queen City, a stroll through the west side is an absolute must.
Take a stroll down Niagara Street, which has a large Puerto Rican population, and check out the murals that adorn the sides of a number of the buildings there. Once you've done that, pop into one of the many eclectic diners around there, and try some authentic ethnic food. The great part of Niagara Street is that is has sweeping views of downtown Buffalo, and even a trip to Tops Markets will inspire some beautiful photo ops.
Connecticut Street also has a lot of wonderful gems that you won't see anywhere else in Buffalo. The Connecticut Street Armory is an expansive and historic National Guard armory building. Its castle like architecture is alluring enough to make you want to walk by and take it all in.
Connecticut Street is also home to one of my favorite bakery/cafes in all of Buffalo. Breadhive is a great place to pop in and order a breakfast sandwich or salad, which can be enjoyed on their outdoor patio space during the summer months. All of their bread is made on site, which can't be said of too many places anymore. It is a delicious and affordable option for anyone with a craving for a healthy (carb heavy) meal. My favorite sandwich is called "The Britney" (All of their sandwiches are named after pop stars, like Britney Spears and Courtney Love) and is topped with lox, red onion, cucumber, and dill cream cheese.
One of my favorite spots on the West Side is called The Tabernacle at 220 Grant Street. It is a bar/restaurant that hosts a lot of DJs and other artists on weekends, so you can have a fun night with friends and also enjoy some live music and delicious cocktails at the same time. The best part of The Tabernacle is the intricate murals that adorn every single wall inside: each one is by a different local artist, but the individual murals come together and form a cohesive space. It is absolutely beautiful, and worth a few pictures!
The next time you visit Buffalo, consider taking a few hours and walking through the West Side. There are still streets that are a little more rough and tumble, but for the most part it is a neighborhood that is full of interesting people, architecture, and delicious cuisines from all over the world. Just make sure you let me know you are visiting my hood--I'll give you a personal tour!
The pulse of any city is in its unique neighborhoods, and Buffalo (and its surrounding suburbs) are no exception! Elmwood Village is the heart of the City of Buffalo, and is a think tank for artists, young professionals, and families that like to eat, drink, and be merry together. EV is full of bars and restaurants like Forty Thieves (pictured at right), and most of the restaurants have patios where you can enjoy a drink and people watch simultaneously. There are numerous local shops like Everything Elmwood and Thin Ice (full of gifts and jewelry for anyone in your life), a local pet shop (where they usually have a cat or two in the window up for adoption!), and fancy restaurants peppered in throughout.
When I first attended college at age 18 in Buffalo, I was immediately drawn to Elmwood Village and the city itself. Even though I was at the dorms at UB North Campus in Amherst, I spent weekends strolling around Elmwood Avenue with friends or family that were visiting. One of the most alluring parts of the Elmwood Village area is that it is so walkable. Near the intersection of Elmwood Avenue And Bidwell, there is green space which is perfect for a summer picnic or just lounging under tree for some shade on a hot summer day, while reading a good book. Speaking of good books, Elmwood and Bidwell have a bookstore called Talking Leaves in the same building as Aroma Cafe, so if you're craving coffee and want to support local businesses instead of getting Starbucks, you're in luck. A few blocks down on Elmwood and Cleveland, is Spot Coffee, which is basically where I spend my Saturday mornings or late weeknight evenings when I need to catch up on schoolwork or want to meet a friend that lives closeby.
Spot Coffee has indoor and outdoor space, and there is a massive mural encompassing the back wall. There's even local artists that sell their work right on site! Theres always something new hanging on the walls that is for purchase. Spot Coffee also have locations in Kenmore, North Buffalo, Williamsville, and downtown---and they all serve delicious homemade soups, sandwiches, woodfire pizzas, and breakfasts. If you only make one stop in the Elmwood Village area, my vote for you would be Spot Coffee, hands down.
Elmwood Village is full of artists, and the murals alone are worth a trip there. The city of Buffalo is full of interesting neighborhoods, and if you spend any length of time in Buffalo, I would recommend spending a chunk of time in EV. The shopping is good and the food is even better. Spend long enough in town, and I am sure you'll strike up a conversation with a local there. It is the City of Good Neighbors, after all.
Delaware Park is another must see attraction in Buffalo. The wonderful thing about the park is how much it offers to Buffalonians (and tourists, alike!) without costing you a dime. Even on a dreary spring day, when it is gloomy outside, I guarantee you can walk into Delaware Park and be revitalized, like a trip to a day spa but without all of the expensive treatments. The only thing you need to do is breathe in some fresh air in the park, and your whole day is made! Delaware Park is also a great way to enjoy the changing seasons around Buffalo without ever leaving town! My photos capture a somewhat bleak spring day (but it was incredibly warm and the park was bustling with all sorts of people and activities!) but I guarantee you can find the beauty of fall, summer, and even winter days at the park.
The start of spring also means the start of baseball and softball leagues in and around the park. I went for a long run on the nearly 2 mile loop around the park and stopped to snap pictures of the action. Feeling like golf is more your speed? Great! There is a golf course! Want to check out some exotic animals? Bring your wallet and head to The Buffalo Zoo--it is also right in the park, and it is truly cool to run or bike through the park and see giraffes poking their heads out to look back at you. There are also basketball courts, soccer fields, and plenty of water fountains and bathroom stations for your convenience.
If you are headed to the park in the summer months, I highly recommend bringing a couple of bucks, a blanket, and a good book and having a picnic in one of the many open sitting areas in and around the park. This stand is called "Ashkers in the Park" and is an offshoot of a restaurant called "Ashkers" in the Elmwood Village. It is located off Meadow Drive, and in the summer months they always provide free lemon infused and cucumber infused flavored waters to sip on as you walk or run by!
One of my favorite parts of Delaware Park is the incredible architecture that is right outside of it. The houses surrounding the park are some of the most enviable and expensive in Buffalo, and lucky for us, they have been preserved and beautifully kept for centuries so we can soak them in as we enter and exit the park.
I truly believe that beauty is found everywhere in Buffalo--even if you have to look a little harder in certain neighborhoods. One thing is for sure--Delaware Park is a wonderful all-season attraction that should not be missed!
When I first moved to Buffalo, I knew I wanted to live as close as possible to the Elmwood Village, and I landed on the west side with this historic landmark so close to me, it might as well be in my backyard. I truly lucked out: Hotel Henry (as it is called now) is considered one of Buffalo's most historic and beautiful buildings with an extremely interesting past. Built 145 years ago, it sits on Forest Avenue and reopened in 2017 as a hotel and conference center, preserving the gorgeous architecture and details that make the building so hauntingly beautiful. Speaking of "haunting"--Hotel Henry was abandoned for years and was once a psychiatric hospital. It is truly remarkable what it has turned into, and I am constantly in awe of it as I drive by or go for runs past it.
If you are planning to stay in Buffalo for a couple nights or even an extended stay, Hotel Henry is a great option if you don't want to be at a cookie cutter hotel close to the airport. You will have incredible photo opportunities no matter the season (I snapped this once in the fall, with foliage all around) and you will have stayed in an historic building, with a storied past! I live so close, I am not sure I will ever need to stay over (and I may be too chicken to do so with its haunted history), but I take as many opportunities as I can to just walk around the vast outdoor campus. It truly never gets old.
That's my brother Geoff and I taking a walk around over the summer. He lives in NYC now with his wife, but has a deep appreciation for Buffalo like me, and it was his idea to take a walk around when they were visiting me. Like me, he went to UB for undergrad and still keeps up on all of the new and exciting things going on around the city. It was a lot of fun to take them to Hotel Henry, and the next time they visit we plan on popping inside for a drink and a bite to eat at one of their restaurants. I hope that you are inspired to explore Hotel Henry the next time you are visiting Buffalo, and be sure to reach out when you do so I can meet you there!
There is no better way to enjoy the first signs of Spring in Buffalo than spending an afternoon at The Broadway Market. The market is open all year long, with 40 vendors ready to sell you everything you need for a good Polish celebration. I go there every year in the weeks leading up to Easter with my parents and grandparents and it is a great way for me to celebrate my Polish roots and enjoy family time simultaneously. The market is located at 999 Broadway in the historic Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood. I only live a few miles away from the market, so I try to go back during the "off season" to pick up pierogies and fresh Polish sausage straight from the source. There are even vendors with fresh fruits and veggies, and a few that have nothing but house plants, so there is something for everyone at the market.
If you have a sweet tooth, stop by one of the many booths that offer Polish baked goods like Chrusciki (cookies that are dusted with powdered sugar and are often called "angel-wings"), Platzek bread (basically a Polish coffeecake), and sugar cookies decorated for the Easter season.
My favorite tradition at The Broadway Market is picking out a painted wooden egg to add to my collection. My parents buy me a new egg each year to remember our visit together, and I love them so much I keep them in a dish on my coffee table all year long. This year, I picked out a hot pink egg with beautiful blue and white flowers.
One of the "cutest" purchases you can make at the market is the Butter Lamb. This decorative lamb is made out of--you guessed it--butter. It is a staple at the Easter table for my family, and a fun way to not feel so bad about eating so much butter with dinner.
For me, the best gift The Broadway Market has given me over the years is time spent with my parents and grandparents. That's my mom Liz, grandma Dora, and grandfather Robert (my dad was in line for fresh Polish sausage when this photo was taken). I'll always have a special place in my heart for the market and the memories I have spending time there over Easter with my family. Whether or not you're Polish like me, I highly recommend taking time to explore The Broadway Market, and I hope that you leave there with many fun memories and at belly full of pierogies.
Now & Then
In order to understand how far back my love for Buffalo goes, I'd like to flashback and share with you just how long I've wanted to live in this city full time. Growing up in a small town called Batavia (literally smack dab in the middle of Buffalo and Rochester), I always knew I wanted to live in a bigger city, but also find that balance where I could still be close to friends and family that settled close to my hometown. (If I am being *totally* honest, I wanted to go to move to NYC after high school and study journalism at NYU, but I digress). I always gravitated to Buffalo more than Rochester (the sports teams helped, as did the incredible architecture around town). I made the "leap" and moved to Buffalo for college at 19 after a year and a half at a community college in Batavia, but my lack of direction with a major the first time around made me leave university (and Buffalo) with my tail between my legs for my hometown again. I tried two more school programs, and even switched universities, but my indecision was costing my parents a lot of money (sorry, mom and dad!) --so I decided to move back in with them and work until I figured out my path. After many years of working jobs in Genesee and Wyoming counties, mostly miserable because I wasn't doing what I wanted career-wise, I landed a gig back in Buffalo, but continued to commute from Batavia. After crashing on friends couches in Buffalo for far too long when I didn't want to drive back and forth after a long work day, I hopped on Craigslist and searched for apartments in my desired neighborhood in town. I landed on the west side, close enough to Elmwood Village and downtown, but far enough away from astronomical rent prices. After I lived here a few months, I decided to take the leap and apply to school one more time, and finish my BA in English once and for all. I knew that it would be really hard, as I would be a 30-something undergraduate back on campus, but I figured if I had finally sorted out an apartment and was living here anyway, I'd give it a shot. Flash forward to today, and I'm seven weeks away from commencement. Walking across that stage, degree in hand, will be incredibly bittersweet, and I am thankful for all of the bumps along the way that ultimately lead me right where I always wanted to be: in Buffalo.
Top 5: Places to See In Buffalo
If you know me at all, you know that I love to make lists. There is something oddly satisfying about making a list (of any sort) and crossing things off of it. Grocery lists, and "To-Do" Lists aside, a great way to prepare for a trip to a new city (or a fun way to explore your own) is to make a list. "Top 10" lists are great, but David Letterman exhausted them and sometimes 10 things may seem too daunting. For a fun weekend in Buffalo, visit these 5 landmarks around town and fill your Instagram and Facebook feed with beautiful landmarks:
1. CITY HALL, 65 Niagara Sq. Buffalo, NY
Buffalo City Hall is one of the most Instagram-worthy spots in the entire city. Sure, its the municipal government building, but it's exquisite Art Deco architecture and intricate design are not to be missed. Built in 1931, it is everything grand and gorgeous that you would expect from that time period, and it stands today as a landmark downtown. City Hall also has a marvelous observation deck, where you can see sweeping views of the city from the 28th floor:
2. DARWIN MARTIN HOUSE, 125 JEWETT PKWY, BUFFALO
The Darwin D. Martin House was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built between 1903 and 1905. It is well renowned enough to have been visited by The Rolling Stones on their last tour stop in Buffalo, and showcases the varying and historic architecture you see all around Buffalo. Take a tour and learn about the history of the house and Wright himself. You will not be disappointed:
3. ALBRIGHT-KNOX ART GALLERY, 1285 ELMWOOD AVENUE, BUFFALO
Albright-Knox is a vibrant art museum right in the heart of Elmwood Village, also known as Buffalo's "art district" and is smack dab in the middle of my neighborhood. Albright-Knox has beautiful exhibits all year round, and it is worth the trip to explore Hoyt Lake directly behind the museum and walk further into the Elmwood Village and walk around the shops and restaurants there. The museum even offers "Free Friday" admission. More info on the museum can be found in the link below: https://www.albrightknox.org/
4. Canalside, 44 Prime Street Buffalo NY 14202
Canalside is at the heart of the downtown revitalization. It is located in the downtown corridor, and offers free concerts, beautiful scenic walks on the water, fun restaurants and shops, and is close to KeyBank Center (where the Sabres play). During the winter months, there is a skating rink that is a fun outdoor activity for people of all ages and skill levels:
5. Delaware Park, Meadow Drive Buffalo
Delaware Park-Front System is an historic park system located in Northern and Western Parts of Erie County. The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead in the late 1800's, and the park is close to Albright-Knox art gallery (#3 on the list). The park has wonderful tree lined walking/biking loops and trails, tennis courts, Hoyt Lake, and also is home to The Buffalo Zoo. The park also has a golf course, so there are a ton of options depending on the weather and what you like to do. Take a short walk or drive around the park and see some of the oldest and most beautiful homes in all of Buffalo: Lincoln Parkway directly behind Hoyt Lake has some of my favorites.