Around Town: Buffalo culture edition

Embracing Buffalo’s staple attractions


For the past year and a half I’ve perused calendar listings, reviews, flyers and websites looking for the most interesting ways for you to spend your weeks in the Queen City.

From jazz clubs, to tour companies, to poetry readings and vintage cinema, I’ve gotten to know the beat, you could say, of the city pretty well.

But now I’ve graduated, and no longer work for The Spectrum.

I’m a post-graduate English student living on the lower West Side, waiting for job interviews and drinking a lot of coffee at tiny tables outside cafés.

Basically, living the life.

But for those of you just getting to UB, or returning for another year, getting to know Buffalo’s major cultural staples will make your time at UB less stressful, more engaging, and a hell of a lot more fun.

It just wouldn’t feel right for me not to inform you about Buffalo’s consistently pleasant and enticing cultural attractions as you enter another school year or are just getting to know Buffalo for the first time.

So, onwards and upwards! Here’s the places you can’t miss here in the Queen City.

Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1285 Elmwood Ave.

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery (AK) has been a Buffalo mainstay since it was founded by The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy way back in December 1862. That’s nearly 40 years prior to Buffalo’s famed 1901 Pan-American Exposition, most of which the events for took place surrounding the grounds of the Gallery, including at the building currently housing The Buffalo History Museum and the only standing building built for the Exposition left in Buffalo.

Today, the AK houses a seriously impressive collection of modern, contemporary and avant-garde artwork from Picasso’s Harlequin, to the early Cubist masterwork Danseuse au Café (my personal favorite on display) by Jean Metzinger, to a Frida and a Dalí, to Pollock’s brand of Abstract Expressionism, to Hiroshi Sugimoto’s portrait of Emperor Hirohito.

The second floor is home to temporary collections. Currently on display is Screenplay, a massive selection of video installations ranging from Claymation, to anime, to video games.

And it’s cheap. Mad cheap for students, in fact.

A student membership is normally just $25, and on First Fridays – when the Gallery is open until 10 p.m. and the first floor is free admission – you get a 10 percent discount on opening a membership, bringing the cost to just $20. Daily admission is $8, so if you go three times it’s paid off.

Plus, you get 10 percent off in the café (adorable seating areas, and I’m obsessed with the daily quiches and Caesar salad), 10 percent in the gift shop (hello, decorations!), and 10 percent at some places in the Elmwood Village (a like, 5-10 minute walk down the street from the Gallery) including Caffe Aroma (right next door to local favorite, Talking Leaves Bookstore). Plus, free admission to some New York State museums, including the Burchfield Penney Art Center located directly across the street from the AK. And if you’re from the city or Long Island, you get reciprocal admission to the New York Historical Society and the Staten Island Museum.

Pretty much worth it.

Burchfield Penney Art Center, 1300 Elmwood Ave.

A touch more contemporary than the AK, the collection at the Burchfield Penney Art Center (BPAC) runs the gamut from the late 19th century to the present day. The BPAC has the world’s largest collection of work from gallery namesake, Charles E. Burchfield, an acclaimed American watercolorist. Much of the rest of the collection is from artists who are also connected to Western New York and its landscape.

The building’s interior itself is gorgeous with expansive white walls and infinitely high ceilings, allowing the artwork to breathe on the walls.

Student admissions are $8, so be sure to consider a membership at the AK (the BPAC does not offer student membership discounts). The Center is free the second Friday of each month.

The main temporary exhibit currently running is The Likeness of Being: Portraits by Philip Burke. The exhibit ends Sept. 13, so make sure you get there quickly! The portraits are “part caricature, part abstract expressionism,” according to the BPAC’s website. You can check out Burke’s colorful take on Bono, Bush and Joey Ramone.

What’s more, if you make the short 20-minute drive to West Seneca, a suburb of Buffalo, you can meander through the unaffected and unarranged natural setting of Burchfield Park, where Burchfield frequented. He would sit and sketch and paint the surrounding natural landscape of wildflowers, bees, butterflies and the gentle creek running through the grounds. You can check out what inspired Burchfield and maybe paint your own lovely watercolor. Or, simply sit and take in the park’s beauty and its serene atmosphere.

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Kleinhans Music Hall, 3 Symphony Circle

For only $29, you get admission to every single M&T Bank Classic Series concerts for an entire year. That’s more than 15 different programs. Performances are primarily on the weekends, so you can take a night or an afternoon off from schoolwork and stress and watch a world-class orchestra in one of Buffalo’s finest buildings, surrounded by one of the best walking neighborhoods in the city. If you just want to attend an individual concert, however, tickets are still only $10 with a student I.D. I’d say that’s a pretty solid deal.

As you stroll the streets around Kleinhans, you’ll bump into Allentown – home to the most adorable, quirky and elegant homes in the city and some of Buffalo’s best bars, cafés and shops – the gardens at Symphony Circle, or you can walk down Richmond to see some seriously beautiful Buffalo houses and gardens.

Some of the programs on the docket for this year’s Classic Series is Beethoven’s Eroica, Jake Shimabukuro in “Ukulele Wizard,” Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto and Carl St. Clair conducting “Porgy, Bess and Brahms.”

Buffalo Museum of Science, 1020 Humboldt Pkwy

Buffalo’s Natural History Society was formed in 1861 by the Young Men’s Association (who themselves dated back to 1836). They called the Society the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences. The group moved into the current Museum in 1929 as the Buffalo Museum of Science.

The Museum has undergone some serious renovations since 2010, overhauling many of its diorama exhibits into science studios – interactive, modern and playful spaces. You can also check out relatively short films in the National Geographic 3D Cinema.

Student tickets are $8 and membership is just $25 a year. Members get 10 percent off in the Curiosity Shop and Tifft Stores (Tifft Nature Preserve is a lovely place for a nature walk near Buffalo’s First Ward and Lackawanna just off the 190-S), free or reduced admission to tons of other science museums worldwide including New York City’s Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and the National Museum of Mathematics, the Long Island Science Center, Ithaca’s Museum of the Earth at the Paleontological Research Institution and the Rochester Museum & Science Center.

The Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Buffalo History Museum, One Museum Court (off Nottingham Terrace)

Want to get to know Buffalo’s history?

Then The Buffalo History Museum is the place you need to be. The Museum was founded in 1862 – dang, the 1860’s were a good couple of years for Buffalo’s cultural scene – and has amassed a collection of more than 100,000 artifacts, 200,000 photographs and 20,000 books.

With Delaware Park’s Hoyt Lake and the beautifully Zen Japanese Gardens behind the building, and some of Buffalo’s wealthiest homes across from it, The Buffalo History Museum is located in one of Buffalo’s most idyllic locations.

A student ticket is just $5 (no student membership discounts). The Museum is closed Mondays, but is open until 8 p.m. Wednesday and until 5 p.m. on the weekends. If you are a lucky dog and don’t have classes on Friday, the Museum has free admission the third Friday of each month, closing at 5 p.m.

I hope I’ve helped you figure out how to spend some time while you’re here in the Queen City. With a few weeks until the Fall semester starts, be sure to get out of your dorm or apartment and explore your new home.

Best of luck this semester – I don’t envy you at all.

Emma Janicki is a former Spectrum managing editor and can be reached at