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Best of WNY: Eye Candy Part I

Image by Nancy J. Parisi

Best spot for wedding photos
Japanese Garden
The steps of the Albright-Knox are all very well, but those daring to be different should consider this almost shockingly beautiful spot. Whether you choose to face the neoclassic façade of the Historical Society or placid Hoyt Lake, your mise en scene will be spectacular.


Most beautiful city neighborhood
We can still imagine horses and carriages traversing these wide, gracious parkways where Olmsted’s plan is still visible and one of his finest parks is in view. Large, elegant houses (most dating turn-of the-last-century and slightly after) line the streets, but their dog-walking owners and the kids playing in the park provide a pleasing counterpoint to this area’s stately formality.


Best place to take visitors with kids
Buffalo Zoo
Under the careful guidance of President/CEO Donna Fernandes, the Buffalo Zoo has undergone a complete transformation. In 2008 the opening of the rainforest exhibit (a South American inspired display featuring hundreds of creatures and a two-story waterfall) marked the completion of Phase One of the Zoo’s Master Plan for complete reinvention. Last summer visitors experienced the new Heritage Farm, an exhibit focused on educating visitors about the Erie Canal, farming, and conservation. Once a crumbling eyesore, the Buffalo Zoo is now a destination where magical environs and exotic animals enchant and delight children and adults alike. 300 Parkside Ave., 837-3900


Most beautiful small town to visit in WNY
While Buffalo continues taking baby steps toward a user-friendly waterfront, we recommend a quick jaunt due north to see how one smaller community has been getting it right for decades. If you’re in the mood for a (thoroughly enjoyable) mob scene, hit the Level Regatta the weekend of July 23 and 24. But all you really need is a nice afternoon and a couple of hours to check out gasp-inducing views of sailboats and sunsets, visit quaint shops, explore appealingly dark taverns and restaurants, and see history brought to life at Old Fort Niagara. Don't forget your camera.


Best place to enjoy winter in WNY
Holiday Valley/Ellicottville
For over fifty years, this killer combination has been a magnet for those who want to celebrate winter—and snow—rather than whine about it. Between the dynamic slopes of HV (with new and innovative amenities added each year) and the quaint shops and pubs of E’ville, a dynamic winter weekend can easily stretch into a week. www.holidayvalley.com, www.ellicottvilleny.com


Best spot to see wild flora and fauna
Audubon preserves
It’s very simple. A park is for use and recreation. A preserve is meant to preserve. That’s why the six area Audubon sites—designed expressly for this purpose—are by far the best choice for exciting bird and plant spotting. Just don’t leave any wrappers or bottles behind, and don't take anything out—except great memories and prize-winning photos. www.buffaloaudubon.org


Most beautiful park
Whirlpool State Park
Both the rim trail and the somewhat more difficult lower trail are insanely scenic ways to see the Niagara Gorge—but for different reasons. From the top you see the majestic big picture. From the lower trail, you are up close and personal with the rapids, so close and so scarily impressive that it’s hard to believe such proximity is even allowed.


Best sight you won’t see anywhere else
Niagara Falls from the Maid of the Mist
If you haven’t braved the raging waters of the Niagara River from the deck of the Mighty Maid, you haven’t lived. The sheer power of the Falls will leave you breathless as water rushes at you from 180 feet above. We should warn you that this experience is not for those hoping to stay dry. Be sure to grab a waterproof lens and an iconic blue poncho before jumping aboard.



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