Scenario: Mother Nature isn’t cooperating with your big summertime plans today. A gray, rainy day is washing away hopes for time on a beach, picnic in the park or a sunny hike. What are you do? Plenty.
Here are ideas for salvaging a summer day when outdoor plans need to turn inward. With a wealth of local attractions and places in which to wander, bask and learn, your day of fun will be (re)covered.
Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens
Located on the edge of Olmsted-designed South Park, the Botanical Gardens offers an extensive collection of flora underneath its distinctive trio of Victorian glass domes and in various greenhouses (Houses 1-12) arranged by types of plants. Attractions include the Aquatic Garden (House 2), which features a large koi pond and several spots to sit and take in the views. The Asian Rainforest (House 3) has a tall waterfall feature and a small Japanese tea house. Arcangel Gallery, near the accessible entryway, presents work by local artists. The gift shop sells live plants grown in the Botanical Garden growing house, and several practical and decorative garden items. If the weather does clear, walk around the outdoor gardens on the grounds: the Native Garden, Healing Garden and Peace Garden.
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Info: 2655 South Park Ave. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Tickets are $14 for adults, $12.50 for seniors and students and $7.50 for ages 3-12. Kids 2 and younger are admitted free. Maps are available at the admissions desk at the front entrance and downloadable from its website, where you can preview the vibrant and peaceful sights ahead. There is an accessible entrance behind the main building, beyond the adjacent parking lot to the right of the building.
The Buffalo Museum of Science
A rainy-day trek through Buffalo Museum of Science begins in the lobby as Stanley watches over all human activity. Who’s Stanley? Stanley is the bony resident Albertosaurus, a carnivore related to Tyrannosaurus rex who terrorized other living things in western North America. He’s an appropriate harbinger for the traveling exhibit “Antarctic Dinosaurs,” extended through Sept. 4. Among the “Antarctic Dinosaurs” displays, expect to see the 25-foot-long, three-toed Cryolophosaurus, who roamed about 200 million years ago when Antarctica was part of a super-continent called Gondwana that was teeming with dinosaurs. Visitors will be able to touch real fossils found in Antarctica, the coldest place on earth, and engage in other hands-on activities. Be sure to duck into multi-sensory SensERIE, the museum’s new and immersive STEM-focused space located on the first floor where the gift shop used to be.
Info: 1020 Humboldt Parkway. General museum admission is $16 for adults, $13 for seniors, students, military and ages 2-17. Admission to “Antarctic Dinosaurs” is $24 for adults, $21 for seniors, students, military and ages 2-17; it is via timed ticket and includes admission to all museum exhibits. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Sunday.
The Buffalo Transportation/Pierce-Arrow Museum
One of the region’s most unusual attractions, this museum is a wonderful place to wander while simultaneously learning a lot of things. The museum showcases engaging displays of artifacts, vintage promotional materials and advertising objets d’art, alongside dozens of vintage and historical cars, carriages and bicycles. Inside its second hall, a three-story, soaring space filled with natural light, is a full-scale Frank Lloyd Wright-designed gas station among yet more mint-condition automobiles and artifacts. The filling station, designed in 1928 but not built in the architect’s lifetime, was intended for the corner of Michigan Avenue and Cherry Street. It is a copper-roofed marvel, tricked out with a ladies’ lounge, fireplace and vertical gas pumps. Other prominent features include several Pierce-Arrow cars: the company built luxury cars in Buffalo from 1901-1938.
Info: 263 Michigan Ave. Entrance is on Seneca Street; parking is free in the museum lot. Visit between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Admission is $15 for adults, $7 for children 12 and younger.
Niagara University’s Castellani is a local art treasure. Its website lists current exhibitions from its incredible permanent collection, as well as other shows of art by regional artists. The impressive Castellani collection includes Native American beadwork pieces, imagery of nearby Niagara Falls through the ages, work by de Kooning, Milton Avery, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Picasso and many others.
Info: The Castellani Museum is on the Niagara University campus in Niagara Falls. It is open 1 to 7 p.m. Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays through Sundays. Admission is free.
The spacious downtown branch of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library system has multiple exhibits and activities. The fantastic “B is for Book” exhibit of children’s literature on the second floor has books and items from 1896 (the year Buffalo’s first public library opened) to today. There are several spots through this exhibit and the library to sit a spell to test drive a new book or recording (in the Media Room) pulled from displays or shelves. There also are historical items in the Grosvenor and Mark Twain rooms. Check online for free workshops, movies and talks during the day.
Info: 1 Lafayette Square. Open daily except Sunday. There are two entrances to the library, which is open Monday through Saturday: Washington Street, across from Lafayette Square (with the giant monument), and the Ellicott Street entrance, under the library building between Clinton and William streets.
Celebrating its third birthday this year, this “museum of play” is among the attractions in the downtown Canalside area. It has 43,000 square feet of educational fun for kids and their handlers. Everything here is hands-on, and the seven play zones include an immersive car wash experience and the Community Treehouse. Weather permitting, the rooftop terrace has amazing views of the city, Lake Erie and Canalside. Lunch and snacks are available at the ground floor Low Bridge Café, with a basic menu of kid-pleasing handheld items and views of the Erie Canal Terminus. Even on rainy days, Free Play Fridays continue on the lawn from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays through August.
Info: 130 Main St. Admission is $11 and may be purchased online. It is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Located in the Parkside neighborhood and near Buffalo Zoo, this Frank Lloyd Wright-designed residence built in a prairie style features multiple structures on the estate. Wright is a famed 20th century American architect, and Darwin Martin was an executive for Buffalo-based Larkin Company – a soap and mail-order company described by a Martin House docent recently as “That era’s Amazon.” The Martin House is a National Historic Landmark.
Info: 125 Jewett Parkway. Reservations are required for booking tours, which can be done online. While you can do a self-guided tour on select Thursday evenings, there are multiple guided tours offered. The two-hour-long “Martin House Plus” tour, led by a docent, includes the home, the pergola, the conservatory, the Gardener’s Cottage, Barton House and the carriage house. Prices are $45 for adults, $41 for seniors, and $25 for students. Another tour, just over one hour, includes the residence, pergola, conservatory and the carriage house; $22/$20/$10.