Whether you’re living in a downtown loft, chilling in the suburbs, or drove in from out-of-state, the one summertime Buffalo event you absolutely, positively cannot miss IMO is Garden Walk Buffalo. It doesn’t matter if you were born and raised and working in Buffalo, there’s always something new and unexpected to find tucked away in a homegrown garden during the annual Garden Walk.
Did you know our Garden Walk began all the way back in the summer of 1995 with just 29 gardens? Today, Buffalo boasts one of the largest walks of its kind in the country, encompassing nearly five miles and over 400 gardens. I said 400 gardens!
To help you sort through it all and plan your weekend – yes, doing the full two days would probably be best – we’ve compiled the Ultimate Guide to the Garden Walk for 2016. The Guide includes restaurant, café, and bar suggestions for the main neighborhoods (you know us!) and important spots you cannot miss.
Stop and smell all the flowers this weekend!
Garden Walk Buffalo
Date: Saturday and Sunday, July 30 and 31
Time: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Where should I start?
After you finish reading the guide, head over to the Garden Walk Buffalo website and find the PDF map of the Walk.
There are two headquarters for the Walk – this is where you can get maps, use the restrooms, get a bottle of water, and snag some Garden Walk merch. The headquarters are located at the Richmond-Summer Senior Center (the big white building at the corner of Richmond and Summer) and at the Buffalo Seminary at 205 Bidwell Parkway.
I personally start at Richmond-Summer on the West Side because that neighborhood has a huge concentration of some of the most eclectic and popular gardens on the walk.
For anyone not totally familiar with the city – you cannot feasibly walk from one end of the Garden Walk to the other, so choose where you start carefully (the map makes the area look much smaller than it actually is, particularly the Elmwood Village section).
The area surrounding the Richmond-Summer Senior Center will be incredibly busy all weekend long, so either get that out of the way early or start somewhere calmer.
Luckily, if you finish with one neighborhood you can hop on one of the free shuttle buses. The buses will travel continuously through a five-stop loop, as designated by orange circles on the map. Explore Buffalo, a wonderful local tour group, will have guides on one of the shuttles to point out historically or architecturally significant locations on the way.
I want to see the best gardens – where should I go?
Start at the Richmond-Summer Senior Center and then cross Richmond into the Cottage District (a kind of purplish-blue on the map).
The Cottage District is a tiny neighborhood made up of 1850-1900’s brick cottages and eclectic Victorian homes. This District is just about unrivaled in terms of amount and quality of gardens in just a few blocks. You could spend your whole day wandering around Summer (Little Summer), Union, York, and Jersey and you’d have a very good sense of the epitome of what Buffalo gardeners can do in tiny, urban spaces.
I don’t want to travel far, but I want to see a lot – where should I go?
For anyone bringing young children or anyone who experiences difficulty walking long distances, then you’ll want to stick around the West Side (you’ll find this is going to be the theme of the Guide).
The West Side (basically everything on the map except for the Elmwood Village) is very walkable – although large – and has an incredible concentration of gardens.
Some streets with high concentrations of gardens include Johnson Park Green, Little Summer, Ketchum, Prospect, Hudson, and Irving.
The West Side also has a large number of Grassroots Gardens, particularly around West, Pennsylvania, Hudson, and Wadsworth.
Although not every gardener has their garden on the map, many homes and public areas have striking gardens to see from the sidewalk. Make sure to check out the Buffalo Shakespeare Garden at Karpeles Manuscript Museum and Library on the corner of Porter and Jersey; the Butler Mansion on North; Symphony Circle and First Presbyterian; Days Park in Allentown; as well as Irving and Park streets.
Richmond Ave, West Utica, Vermont, and Ashland – all a little more north of the West Side into the Village – all have a good concentration of gardens. I highly recommend making your way through these streets. Richmond boasts majorly impressive homes with some larger gardens to wander through.
What about the Elmwood Village?
I’m personally a bit biased towards the West Side, if you couldn’t tell. I’ve lived in the Fargo Estate Neighborhood for a few years and have spent many hours wandering around. Last year, to try something new, I toured around the Elmwood Village district during the Garden Walk and was not, to be totally honest, impressed with the selection of gardens available to see.
Despite having an incredible number of grand homes, there are far fewer open gardens than on the West Side.
If you’ve been on the walks before and are up for the walk, check out the Village – there are some really great gardens to see and explore.
West Delevan, Ashland, Claremont, and Putnam all have a decent amount of gardens to see.
I’ve found –and feel free to correct me on this – that the Gardens around Elmwood are generally a bit more elegant and tame than the eclectic, goofy, quirky, and seemingly-wild gardens of the West Side.
Where should we go to eat?
Elmwood Village (purple) has a large selection of eateries, bars, and cafes to choose from. No matter where you are on the walks, if you are able to find Richmond, hop one block (parallel) over and you’ll be on Elmwood. Walk in any direction and you’ll be able to find delicious food. I personally love, love, love Saigon Café (Elmwood at W Utica) for Vietnamese and Thai food.
If you’re in the Historic West Village (orange on the map), you’ll find a Spot Coffee at W Chippewa and Delaware (about a block away from Johnson Park.
While you’re by Symphony Circle and the Kleinhans Community (red), stop by Sazon Criollo at 272 Hudson for insanely delicious and inexpensive Puerto Rican food. Sazon Criollo is open from 12:00 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays but is closed on Sundays. If you’re there Sunday and are craving pastelillos pop over to Niagara Café at 525 Niagara St (just 6 blocks from Symphony Circle).
For hungry tummies in the Fargo Estate Neighborhood (brown), you’re going to want to hit up Tipico Coffee at 128 Fargo Ave. This joint only opened this past winter but has become one of the most popular cafes in the city. You can grab a seriously delicious cold brew, pastries, or a sandwich and still see all the beautiful gardens around because of Tipico’s fully-opening, massive windows.
Allentown (light blue) is a haven for anyone on the Walks needing a tasty meal and a cold beer. The food at Allen Street Hardware Café at 245 Allen is ridiculously underrated. Stop by for dinner after the walk (Hardware doesn’t open until 5:00 p.m.) and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the menu and absolutely astounded by the food.
But if you need a meal before dinnertime, Allen St Poutine at 242 Allen has enough carbs, cheese, and gravy to fill you up and get you your second wind.
Like Elmwood, Allen has a wonderful selection of bars, cafes, and restaurants. You can find tacos, Ethiopian and halal, Italian, bistro food, pizza and wings, and Mexican if you walk literally five more blocks. Pick your poison!
While in the Cottage District (purple-blue), make sure to check out one of Buffalo’s absolute newest cafes – BreadHive Bakery and Café at 402 Connecticut St. Although BreadHive has been delighting Buffalo bread-lovers for a few years, the Café opened just a few months ago. Stop by early because it closes at 3:00 p.m. The Café serves up sandwiches and soups named after famous female singers as well as bread, pastries, and cookies. Get those carbs.
The Columbus Park/Prospect Hill (pink) district is home to the delightful Custard Corner at 211 Porter Ave. Head there anytime between 11:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. for ice cream, fried bologna, French fries, hot dogs, hamburgers – you name it. If you’ve got kids in tow, they’ll love Custard Corner.
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