Romance in Buffalo

Explore Buffalo with your special someone on unexpected dates

The Spectrum

For Kristin Burger, every day of the year can be a cause for the celebration of love.

Burger, who has earned her master's in history and is currently taking language courses at UB to prepare for a Ph.D. in medieval history, and her husband married last May. Rather than celebrating Valentine's Day, they celebrate the days when their conflicting schedules give them a day off. Burger teaches at Niagara University in addition to taking courses at UB, while her husband completes his medical residency.

For those of us with easier access to our love interests, Valentine's Day demands we come up with a brilliant evening for our long-term lovers, newfound crushes or even the soulmates we call our best friends.

The dinner-and-a-movie date has long been worn out, and maybe chocolates and flowers aren't cutting it anymore. Perhaps you're not from Buffalo and haven't yet explored all of the city's gems.

"Places in Buffalo are cheaper than in big cities and they're not in your face," Burger said.

They just take a little bit of effort to find.

Glen Park

Located on Main Street in the Village of Williamsville and only a five-minute drive from North Campus, Glen Park features the cascading Glen Falls and pathways that wind through interconnected ponds.

As you walk down the steep, curving main path in the park, to your right you'll see the rushing waters of the falls. Flanking the banks of the water are multiple benches for contemplating the marvels of water and for snuggling to conserve warmth. Due to the frigid temperatures, the mist from the falls has frozen on the roots of the surrounding trees, creating a unique winter landscape.

Wandering through the paths of the park is prime hand-holding time. You can sit and watch the ducks that call the park home and remind your sweetie that ducks tend to mate for life. Not only will the cold bring you two physically closer as you huddle on the benches, but even a short time sitting in a lovely setting will inspire long gazes as you talk and relax together.

Tifft Nature Preserve

Tifft Nature Preserve is located at 1200 Fuhrmann Blvd., about 25 minutes from North Campus in South Buffalo.

Whether you're overlooking Lake Erie, walking over Berm Pond on the Heritage Boardwalk or wandering under the trees surrounding the trails, you're bound to find romance.

Lauren Makeyenko knows this first-hand.

"My husband proposed to me on [Tifft's] Lisa Pond boardwalk 10 years ago in December," said Makeyenko, Tifft's experience manager and an instructor for Great Lakes Ecology, a social sciences interdisciplinary course at UB.

Although spots are limited for the Valentine's Day Full Moon Stroll, visitors are welcome to explore the Preserve's many trails during daylight hours. Visitors can also rent snowshoes for $5 at the Visitor Center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., according to Makeyenko.

"Involving the outdoors in a date at any time of the year is a great way to unplug and really get to know each other without being self-conscious - you can be walking side by side, holding hands, chatting and observing cool things in nature," Makeyenko said.

If you or your significant other is a wildlife lover, Makeyenko said visitors in the winter are likely to see white-tailed deer, Eastern cottontail rabbits and a variety of birds, such as black-capped chickadees, downy woodpeckers and Northern cardinals.

Burchfield Penney Art Center

On the second Friday of each month, the Burchfield Penney Art Center, at 1300 Elmwood Ave. on the Buffalo State College campus, is free to the public from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Valentine's Day happens to land on the second Friday in February, and if you'd like to stay inside on what will surely be a cold Friday, Burchfield Penny is a great option.

Ordinarily, student admission is $5, according to the Center's website. In addition, the Center's caf?(c) is open until 5 p.m.

The sharing of tastes is an important part of any relationship - imagine decorating a house with someone who insists on Victorian furniture while you know art deco is necessary for any kitchen. Visiting an art museum together not only allows you to explore a side of each other you may not have met yet, but also gives opportunity for intellectual dialogue.

Perhaps you're rolling your eyes just thinking about the inevitable boredom you will experience staring at painting after painting, but the Center is a contemporary art museum, meaning the works on display are often strange and complex enough to draw anyone's attention.

For example, the Center's website describes the current exhibition, Colleen Ludwig's Shiver as, "A three walled room ... Employing 71 valves and 35 infrared sensors, computer controllers turn on and off water based on the location of viewers in the space. Rivulets of water that respond to our presence ... [drip] down walls." That technological feat alone should inspire your lover.

You can also pay homage to a Western New York artistic giant, Charles Burchfield, the namesake of the Center. Burchfield predominately worked with watercolors and frequently painted the natural landscapes of the Buffalo area as well as our iconic grain elevators. Although his paintings are routinely rotated at the Center, his wallpaper and poster designs are particularly fascinating; one poster even advertises a Valentine's Day dance.

Romeo and Juliet's Caff?(c)

With all the adventuring you will be doing on Valentine's Day, you're bound to need some nourishment, and nothing says 'romance' quite like Italian food. The two locations of Romeo and Juliet's Caff?(c), on Hertel Avenue in North Buffalo and Sheridan Drive in Williamsville, fit nicely with trips to Glen Park and the Center.

Roger Lis III, a junior political science major, has been with his girlfriend for almost five years and they enjoy dates at Romeo and Juliet's.

"It is a rather small, intimate restaurant with an Italian ambiance," Lis said. "Plus, the tables are smaller in size so it's perfect for conversation."

Both a restaurant and a bakery, Romeo and Juliet's has an extensive menu for all taste buds. Lis particularly enjoys the margherita pizza and says it's a perfect size for two. In November 2010, Romeo and Juliet's won Buffalo Spree Magazine's "Ultimate Pizza Showdown," a competition between 16 pizzerias in Western New York, according to the caf?(c)'s website.

With an owner and managers who hail from Brindisi, Rome, Milan and Florence, and who have trained in bakeries and restaurants across Italy, you should probably leave the clich?(c) of an Italian dinner date aside and take the cannoli.

Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens

If you haven't been to the Botanical Gardens during the day, I highly recommend doing so. But, if you haven't been to the Botanical Gardens at night, you simply must go.

Valentine's Day weekend is the final weekend of Night Lights at the Gardens, running from Feb. 12-15. On Valentine's Day, the Gardens will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. for Night Lights. From 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Randall and the Late Night Scandals will play outside in front of the Gardens, according to the Gardens' website.

The cost for students is $5. The Gardens, located in South Park in Lackawanna, are only a few minutes from Tifft Nature Preserve and about 20 minutes from North Campus.

Erin Grajek, the director of marketing for the Gardens, believes the Night Lights event is romantic because of the different lighting and music in each house and the beauty of the building itself. She said the dome and tall plants make you feel small and are awe-inspiring, making you want to be closer to the people you love.

"There is a very romantic atmosphere," Grajek said.

The variety of lighting arrangements and music creates an intimate yet grand ambiance as you move through each house. From the play of thousands of tiny lights on the dome ceiling, to the changing colors of the waterfall, to the stunning spotlights set on large cacti, you and your lover will be enthralled and inspired.

Valentine's Day is a day sanctioned for romance and sharing interests. Exploring new things together adds spice to any relationship, and I hope this list provides you with some ideas for adventures together - discovering new sides of Buffalo, yourself and each other.