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6 ways to learn more about Buffalo this summer

Learning a little something about our region’s past is a great way to understand why living (or visiting) here is so awesome. You’re a local? Don’t wait for company. Take yourself on a tour.

Family fun

Bring your family to tour Darwin D. Martin’s Parkside neighborhood home designed by architecture titan Frank Lloyd Wright. New this summer are special tours created just for families.

“The once-a-month family tours from May to September will engage all members of the family, with vocabulary and content geared to the kids,” said Gina Neureuther, director of Education and Programs.

Cruise through time

The 47-seat Open Air Autobus operated by The Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture and Culture is back for its eleventh season. For the full experience, take the Whirlwind Tour. In 90 minutes you’ll drive by “all the must-see landmarks in Buffalo,” said Tim Tielman, the organization’s founder and director. “It’s the whole Buffalo experience with an emphasis on culture and history.”

The tour starts in the Elmwood Village, winds around a few Frederick Law Olmsted-designed parkways, then goes on to Kleinhans Music Hall, Canalside and the commercial slip of the Erie Canal, City Hall, the Theatre District, and up Delaware Avenue to view glorious mansions from yesteryear.

Time-strapped? New this year is the Picture Perfect Buffalo tour, a 60-minute tour with a focus on the residential architecture of the Delaware Park and Parkside areas.

Paddle and float

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Explore Buffalo, an affiliate of the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo, offers a docent-led kayak tour of the Buffalo River that informs participants about its industrial past and evolving future.

“It’s a great mix,” said Brad Hahn, Explore Buffalo executive director. “It’s incredible to see the number of people on the waterfront.” Tours give you a first-hand look at the new parks, living spaces and attractions of Canalside.

Explore Buffalo partners with Elevator Alley Kayak Rental. Each participant paddles his/her own kayak while the docent leads the tour to points of significance. With no more than 12 kayaks per tour, there’s plenty of opportunity for good conversation, too.

If kayaking isn’t for you, the Industrial Heritage Committee offers The Historic Buffalo River Cruise, the granddaddy of all Buffalo River tours, four times per year from the Miss Buffalo. This will be Jerry Malloy and Lorraine Pierro’s 32nd season sharing the microphone on this ride past the Great Northern grain silo, General Mills (smell the Cheerios), and under the Ganson Street lift bridge. Note: if you miss this cruise, there are additional cruises daily; see website for details.

Sneaker up for a stroll

Want to learn about Buffalo’s seamier side while getting a little exercise? Explore Buffalo’s Allentown Mob Tour is a two-hour walk around a historic neighborhood with an illustrious past. You’ll learn about a prominent 1970s hair salon owner who got tangled up in the wrong business, and about the long reign of a local organized crime boss.

Or, if you really want to get some steps in, sign up for the Vertical Tour of Silo City where you’ll climb 270 stairs to the top of a grain elevator. Hahn says there are landings for respite, but it’s not the tour for those afraid of heights. You can also stick to the ground level to roam the first floor of these behemoths.

“You get a sense of the incredible scale of these buildings, and also the massive business this was for Buffalo’s economy. We wouldn’t have the city we have now if it weren’t for these buildings,” Hahn said.

If scaling heights isn’t for you, a leisurely walk around the Waterfront Memories and More Heritage Center at Mutual Riverfront Park in the Old First Ward is in order. Photos and memorabilia from the neighborhood tell the story of this historical part of the city. Volunteers staff the charming building Tuesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Follow the steps of greatness

Want to experience a slice of life of 13th U.S. President Millard Fillmore? Presented by Forest Lawn Cemetery and the Aurora Historical Society, the President’s (first) wife Abigail is your tour guide on this trolley ride that begins at the Margaret Wendt Education Center at Forest Lawn and visits his grave site, then takes a ride out to East Aurora for lunch at The Roycroft Inn (with a meal inspired by one Fillmore might have enjoyed in office). You’ll also see other significant sites in East Aurora and Buffalo.

Nibble through time

Buffalo Bites Food Tours combine food-tasting and architectural eye candy with two distinct routes: 2.2 miles through the Elmwood Village and 1.7 miles through East Aurora. Both feature the places, people, and menu items that give our region its unique flavor.

Founder Laura Reed, whose official title is CEO — “Chief Eating Officer” – says these neighborhood explorations elicit the same response from locals and travelers: “The food was great, but I never knew Buffalo was like this.”

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