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Food. Landmarks. Pride. Experience the Buffalo Renaissance

by Roger Porter

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday June 1, 2022
Originally published on May 31, 2022

Food. Landmarks. Pride. Experience the Buffalo Renaissance

Take a stroll down Hertel Avenue, a bustling street of local vendors and shopkeepers, adorned with vibrant murals that scale the walls and stretch to the sky. The brilliant bursts of color and curated artistry mesmerize, a veritable "street gallery" that rivals some of the world's finest art collections. Then pop over to the corner of Michigan and Ferry to meander through "The Freedom Wall" where you'll find dozens of portraits of activists who dedicated their lives to the fight for human rights. But you would be remiss to think you're in San Francisco, New York or even Berlin — no, these murals are home to Buffalo, the western New York spot in the midst of cultural, artistic and culinary revitalization.

In fact, the city of Buffalo, firmly positioned on the shores of Lake Erie and a stone's throw from its beloved neighbor Niagara Falls, has seen its resurgent efforts pay off with a revamped waterfront, expansive outdoor public areas, and burgeoning neighborhoods crackling with inspired eateries, pubs and boutiques.

As such, the Buffalo renaissance continues to attract artists and musicians from every stretch of the country and an increasingly growing LGBTQ+ community that is at once welcoming and thriving. LGBTQ+ visitors come for the upcoming Pride Week - a "Homecoming" of events to celebrate queers and their allies of every stripe - and stay to discover architectural wonders, street art and museums, mouth-watering bites, playful outdoor activities, and so much more.

You may have heard of Buffalo Wings, but the good news is Buffalo's culinary scene far surpasses wings and takes flight in new and surprising ways. Still, the Buffalo Wing Trail, a 14 pub crash course in flavorful styles and secret recipes earns its moniker as "America's Tastiest Drive." The pub crawl includes a stop at the Anchor Bar, the 1964 birthplace of Buffalo Wings. Vegans aren't left out of the wing craze - check out Sunshine Vegan Eats for wings and other healthy eats that are sure to nip those hunger cravings in the bud. There's even a Pride Bar Crawl with lots of perks and goodies to celebrate Pride Month in June. And for adventurous flavor seekers, munch on a 'beef on weck,' a regional favorite made of thinly sliced roast beef, horseradish and dill on a kummelweck roll, dipped in jus. The scrumptious sandwich was invented by a German immigrant in the 1800s and a must try at Schwabl's restaurant, a staple of traditional Buffalo fare.

The food scene doesn't stop there. In fact, "no city - except maybe New Orleans - has as many regional specialities as Buffalo," declares renowned food critic Michael Stern. To that end, there's no shortage of breweries and distilleries, food trucks and farmers' markets, wineries and coffee shops to try this summer. And if you want a taste of the familiar, bagel snobs will be happy to hear Buffalo is having its bagel moment. It's true: fresh, homemade bagels - oft hard to come by outside of the biggest cities - are popping up in shops across the city. Dress them up the way you like or order simple yet yummy and hit the pavement to explore more street art and LGBTQ-owned businesses in the neighborhoods.

A trip to Buffalo isn't complete without visiting the architectural wonders that have left a lasting impression on the design world. Don't believe Buffalo is world-renowned for its architecture? The city of good neighbors is home to seven of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright's masterworks and Buffalo serves as a living bastion of his legacy. When Wright was commissioned nearly a century ago by local business executive Darwin Martin to design a home for his family, little did the men know they would forge a life-long friendship and catapult Wright's career to 'star-chitect' level.

Wright delivered on his design commission with the Martin House Complex, perhaps the finest example of his Prairie period collection. The sprawling one-and-a-half-acre lot is complete with conservatory, carriage house and gardener's cottage. Today, visitors can tour the property and marvel at the hundreds of art glass windows that complement the exquisite architecture. If you're in the mood for design with a breezy feel, go for a quick trip to Wright's Graycliff. Constructed atop a cliff from locally sourced limestone and red-stained cedar roofs, you'll take in stunning views of Lake Erie and neighboring Canada as you explore the wide-open spaces resplendent with natural light. Design aficionados and newbies alike can gawk at Wright's organic architecture style: a removal of barriers for blending of interiors and exteriors.

A trip to Buffalo isn't complete without visiting the architectural wonders that have left a lasting impression on the design world. Don't believe Buffalo is world-renowned for its architecture? The city of good neighbors is home to seven of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright's masterworks and Buffalo serves as a living bastion of his legacy. When Wright was commissioned nearly a century ago by local business executive Darwin Martin to design a home for his family, little did the men know they would forge a life-long friendship and catapult Wright's career to 'star-chitect' level.

Wright delivered on his design commission with the Martin House Complex, perhaps the finest example of his Prairie period collection. The sprawling one-and-a-half-acre lot is complete with conservatory, carriage house and gardener's cottage. Today, visitors can tour the property and marvel at the hundreds of art glass windows that complement the exquisite architecture. If you're in the mood for design with a breezy feel, go for a quick trip to Wright's Graycliff. Constructed atop a cliff from locally sourced limestone and red-stained cedar roofs, you'll take in stunning views of Lake Erie and neighboring Canada as you explore the wide-open spaces resplendent with natural light. Design aficionados and newbies alike can gawk at Wright's organic architecture style: a removal of barriers for blending of interiors and exteriors.

For a real treat, visit to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Public Art page where you'll find information about the Public Art Initiative, including mural, painting, performance and sculpture artworks throughout the city; there's an interactive map to guide you. Art lovers can also get lost in the Burchfield Penney Art Center, a bright and airy space featuring artists from the Buffalo Niagara region.

Shakespeare said it best when he wrote "all the world's a stage" and LGBTQ+ visitors have plenty of performance space to explore both in the theater and out and about in the city. Shea's Performing Arts Center. Dubbed "The Wonder Theatre" when completed in 1926, the theater showcases world-class entertainment, including touring Broadway shows and comedy acts. And speaking of Shakespeare, the "Bard is back in town" in 2022, says the Shakespeare in Delaware Park website. This wondrous outdoor theater experience is free to the public. Pull up a shchair or throw down a blanket for the second oldest Shakespeare company that attracts thousands of visitors each season from all over the area.

When you're ready to get moving again, rent a bike, paddle board or kayak at Canalside - the jewel in the Queen City crown - and explore miles of bike trails and lakefront parks. In recent years, a $300 million investment has revamped the historic wharf, harbors, inland Naval Park, Erie Basin Marina and lighthouse. The waterfront hosts more than a thousand events each year. Be sure to ascend the observation tower where on a clear day you can see mist rising from nearby Niagara Falls.

That's right — Niagara Falls is a 30-minute drive away where you can explore this magnificent wonder of the world. Take another quick trip to nearby East Aurora, the birthplace of the American Arts & Crafts Movement. This quaint town east of Buffalo is a picturesque reminder of the movie "It's A Wonderful Life" where you'll discover shops and boutiques, and the Roycroft Inn and Campus, a National Historic Landmark.

Buffalo is an essential destination for LGBTQ+ travelers. The city is one-of-a-kind with offerings that will make it a memorable experience. "When you come to Buffalo," says Aaron Ott, curator of Public Art for the Albright-Knox, "you'll see world class artists next to local artists in a way you cannot and will not see anywhere in the nation." One-of-a-kind, indeed.