Welcome to our first official Step Out Staycation story! We’ve been working on this masterpiece for what seems like our whole lives (which in some weird way is probably true). We’ve scooped for you, drank too much for you, feasted for you (it’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it), and adventured for you, but we’ve not stayed – overnight at a local hotel between doing all of that fun stuff – for you. Until now that is.
By definition AKA #urbandictionary, a staycation is a vacation spent in your home country, town, or even your own bed involving local day trips here and there. We took this idea and in true *SOB fashion* made it our own, ran with it, and obvs killed it.
So here it is, the first of many 2-day WNY Staycation itineraries. Put this bad boy on your calendar ASAP before it’s too late and you’re stuck looking at Snapchat stories of everyone else’s staycations while your FOMO levels go through the roof.
Step Out Staycation #1
Homebase: InnBuffalo Off Elmwood, 619 Lafayette Ave, Buffalo, NY 14222
Good For: Shopping, Eating, Culture, Nightlife
Best Season for this Staycation: All year round
DAY 1 : SATURDAY
We pack up our bags and head for the big city. Luckily we’ve picked a beautiful spring weekend with sunny skies and balmy temps.
9:00 am – Public Espresso @ Hotel Lafayette
By now surely everyone has been to Hotel Lafayette for one reason or another. Public Espresso moved into the lobby about a year ago and they’re serving pastries from Butter Block, BreadHive, and others. Great coffee, real good eats, and a superb space to hang out, people watch, and kick off staycation numero uno.
10:18 am – Barrel + Brine
What true Buffalonian doesn’t love to support local shops and artisans? Barrel + Brine is a twofer. We grabbed some BBQ sauce, traditional and Carolina mustard, Kimchi, Kraut, and pickled green beans, plus some kombucha to go. This ancient fermented Chinese tea is flavored with elderberries and a bit of an acquired taste, but it’s loaded with good bacteria, anti-oxidents etc., so it has to be good for you…right? Their kraut is the best. Pretty much everything is really.
10:42 am- Shop Elmwood
On a beautiful spring Saturday Elmwood Avenue is full of the hustle and bustle that you’re used to seeing in Manhattan…(OK would you believe Brooklyn?). While it may not be big city in some ways, you will find a bunch of unique stuff down here you won’t find at the big box stores. The prices are good, and the people are pleasant – downright WNY friendly. You’ll find plenty of Buffalo stuff (Thin Ice), but a lot of other creative goods as well (C-Designs).
Don’t forget the off Elmwood shops too. One of our favorite corners in Buffalo is Ashland and Lexington where you’ll find something for everyone. My wife loves the Wild Things and Turnstyle Designs shops, and I love the food – Kuni’s, Vera Pizzeria and The Place (now reopened). Something we can both agree on? The Farm Shop. While our extended time away from home prevented us from loading up on groceries at The Farm Shop, we did grab a yogurt (White Cow Dairy) to go. This is the real deal, fresh from the cow – awesome!!! This place is tiny and super good – they’ve got eggs, milk etc. direct from Otto. The do have very limited hours though, so plan around this one. An interesting side note – Actress Rene Russo is a partner in the farm. Check out this great Ted X talk by the owner and fourth-generation farmer Patrick Lango.
12:01 pm- Cole’s
A quick stop for a much needed bite – yogurt can only carry you so far. Cole’s might not have THE best wings in town, but then again they might. The wings are perfectly complimented by a great beer list too. You don’t want to load up too much before hitting the bus tour, but who can resist a good, cold CBW IPA with a plate of wings? It’s practically a rule. As a matter of fact I’m officially declaring that a rule from now on.
1:00 pm – City of Lights Tour with Explore Buffalo
Explore Buffalo is an incredible resource for anyone who wants to get to know Buffalo better – local or visitor. We caught the City of Lights tour, but if it’s not available during your staycation no worries, they have a lot of great tours in many shapes and sizes.
The City of Lights Tour according to Explore Buffalo is an experience through the eyes of Lauren Belfer’s historical novel, City of Light which is set in Buffalo at the dawn of the twentieth century. “At the end of the nineteenth century, Buffalo was a major American city in the forefront of technological progress. It was a busy inland port and a railroad hub with heavy industry and state-of-the-art electricity – all of which brought great wealth to the city. These economic and technological developments culminated in 1901 when Buffalo hosted a spectacular world’s fair: the Pan-American Exposition.”
Needless to say, we loved it and learned all about Buffalo at the turn of the 19th century from our tour guide. The tour starts at Buffalo Seminary (Macaulay School for Girls in the book), from there we did drive-by stops at the Buffalo History Museum, The Richardson Olmsted Complex (soon to be Hotel Henry), the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Museum, Francis Folsom Cleveland’s original home; walk throughs at ECC City (which was the old Post Office), Ellicott Square Building, and toured the Twentieth Century Club, one of the first clubs for women in the United States, and plenty more. You NEED to tour Buffalo and lucky for you Step Out Buffalo has all the good tour options listed.
4:10 pm – Black Squirrel Distillery
Black Squirrel Distillery is a local distiller with a cute little store/tasting room at 1595 Elmwood Ave. just south of Amherst, located on the site of what was once a prohibition speakeasy. Look hard for the black squirrel logo on the small yellow building. We stopped in for a free sample of their three different offerings.
Black Squirrel’s signature craft spirit is an aged Maple Spirit that is made from dark New York State maple syrup fermented, distilled in copper pot stills, and then aged in oak barrels. We liked it so much we bought a bottle ~ $30+. This is a really nice cross between a rum and a bourbon.
They also offer tastings of their own invention Mapleshine™, a clear liquor better suited for mixing, kinda like a sweet vodka; and their newest product Ardilla Negra Maple Coffee Liqueur – a blend of Grade A maple syrup, full-bodied cold brew coffee, and aged Caribbean rum. Both great! We were in a bit of a rush, but if you have some time the guys at Black Squirrel will be happy to make you a cocktail using their product (~$8) and they have plenty of bottles on hand for purchase. They are open Saturdays (9-5 ish?). If you can’t make it during their weekly Saturday retail hours, you can contact them to schedule a private tasting (716) 249-1122.
4:34 pm – Sportsmen’s Tavern
I can’t think of a better way to spend a couple hours on a Saturday (or any other) afternoon than to grab a few beers and listen to live music at Sportsmen’s Tavern. They have a great set up with the stage in the corner on the first floor with some tables, a bar, and dance floor. Upstairs is open to the stage, plus a large flat screen focused on the band and stadium seating to give everyone a good view. The second floor is impeccably accentuated with it’s own bar and outdoor patio. When the weather is nice people are just enjoyin’. We managed a few bites of chicken fingers and fries which were curiously awesome. Sportsmen’s has live music almost daily including regular lunch events. Don’t skip this one.
5:35 pm – InnBuffalo Off Elmwood
We finally landed at our overnight accommodations. Of course you don’t have to stay away from home on a staycation, but it sure makes it feel special. A stay at InnBuffalo Off Elmwood makes it super special. I can’t begin to describe what a great spot this is. I challenge you to find better in any big city vacation site anywhere. Really. It’s so great we decided to dedicate an entire article to our visit.
A stay at InnBuffalo is like wrapping A Night at the Museum around a stay at your favorite, rich relatives’ mansion. Upon entering we were greeted by Joe Lettieri, who owns the Inn along with his wife Ellen. We were given a tour of the spectacular premises and shown to our room. I don’t want to be too repetitive here (READ THE ARTICLE), but the entire experience is fantastic – from hello to good-bye. When you’re done reading I’d suggest you book a room.
8:00 pm – Dinner at Raclettes
Through the miracle of creative writing it might seem like we eat and drink constantly. Do the math and you’ll see that it is only partially true. We caught dinner (diner in French) at Raclettes, a hip new French bistro at the corner of Main and East Huron. The place was a buzz with conversation and plenty of happy diners (English). They opened in early March and have been busy ever since. In addition to the restaurant’s name, Racellete is also a method of dining whereby one grills their food at the table. We opted for the more traditional side of the menu. Bread and cheese fondue and a St. Germaine Tartine for apps, Coq Au Vin and a grande pot of Paris style moules – oh là là! Read about our dinner at Raclettes here. We plan to return soon to test out our ability to grill at the table without making fools of ourselves/burning the place down.
10:10 pm – Live Music Dinosaur BBQ
The Dinosaur on Franklin is one of the many great spots in the city to catch live music, and the kitchen stays open until midnight on both Friday and Saturday in case you’re hungry. No, we didn’t eat which is a near impossibility with the aroma of good BBQ in the air. This place can fit a good crowd, has plenty of seating and live music most weekends. The band plays in the corner on a small stand so it’s a good program. They have an el grande full bar and an excellent craft beer selection.
12:00 am (ish) – Off to Bed #nojudgementzone
DAY 2 : SUNDAY
Sure we slept in a little bit. We’re on staycation for crying out loud. Mostly we just enjoyed the accommodations and spent a long time in our oh-so-awesome shower.
9:30 am – Breakfast
In truth we hadn’t planned on it, but InnBuffalo serves up breakfast as well as a great night’s sleep. Breakfast is at 9:30 (at least when we stayed) which means that guests come to the dining room at pretty much the same time and sit down for breakfast together. I have to say this was one of my favorite details. Two guest families were from Toronto and one couple was from Albany. We chatted about what brought them to town, their impressions of the city, where they lived etc. Loved it.
10:45 am – Good Byes
Sadly, our time at InnBuffalo was over. Sure, we plan to revisit, but it was still hard to leave. Next time I’ll plan a few hours to hang on the front porch. We bid a fond farewell to our new best friends from breakfast. A big thanks to the Lettieri family who we hope to see a lot more of soon.
10:58 am – Albright Knox
Often forgotten by locals the Albright Knox Art Gallery is one of the great cultural treasures Buffalo has to offer. The Greek revival structure that is now known as the Albright Art Gallery was dedicated in 1905. The governing body of the gallery, the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, goes back to 1862 and is among the country’s oldest public arts institutions. A perfect way to spend a Sunday morning working off a few calories in time for brunch. The gallery is open from 10AM-5PM, except M&T First Fridays 10AM-10PM. Adult admission is $12. They also have a lot of special events and tours to help add to your cultural intake, and their very own place to dine which we haven’t tried…yet. Check more detailed information on the Albright Knox Art Gallery collection.
12:26 pm – Hoyt Lake
After the gallery we crossed the street and took in the sunshine. Not to sound too happy and go lucky, but nothing feels better than a beautiful sunny day in early spring in Buffalo – even after an easy winter. We strolled along the lake past Marcy Casino where Buffalonians young and old were soaking up the sun – almost as if they’d spent months in hibernation. 🙂
1:00 pm – Brunch @ Providence Social
There is NOT a rule that a you can’t have breakfast and brunch. We had a reservation at The Providence Social which is highly recommended. Walk in might be doable, more so in the summer when the patio is open – or maybe the opposite is true. They have a boat load of options for brunch and $1 mimosas. We also sampled a Bloody Caesar – nice! Beyond the bargain cocktails Providence Social is the perfect balance of charming, relaxing, and egdy for brunch. Read the full Eat, Drink, Chill – Brunch @ Providence Social post.
2:07 pm – A few notes @ Left Bank
After brunch we wandered over to The Left Bank to catch a few beats of the some friends/relatives who were the Jazz duo for brunch (next on our list). Every Sunday Walt Sepicki plays during brunch time. This day he happened to be playing with the renowned Ray Chamberlin. A great idea from Left Bank and a perfect opportunity to fill your Sunday with music and good eats.
2:32 pm – Cruise Buffalo
The streets in this part of town are filled with beautiful homes, glorious churches, magnificent parkways and and really cool traffic circles (I love the efficiency). We spent over an hour driving around and occasionally getting out and strolling. Take a long walk or a drive, but do yourself a favor and explore the neighborhoods.
3:59 pm – Back to Reality
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