by Chris Clemens
I regularly get asked, “where do you find all this stuff to go see, man??” The simple answer is: I do exactly what you’re doing right now–I read! I also occasionally take wrong turns and stumble into things. I peruse Instagram hashtags and location tags. I read books about regional history and lore. And, I touch base with other like-minded folks who love our area and are also out there doing cool things.
A lot of what you read on this site includes me doing research ahead of time. Figuring out when a locale might be available, who I might have to speak with for permission about photos, cost of entry…the list goes on with work that needs to be done for many of my visits. Don’t feel bad for me though, it’s a labor of love.
I do, however, really appreciate when someone else does the hard work and says, “be at this place at this time and you will love it”. That’s precisely why I enjoy all the great (and hard) work done by the folks at Explore Buffalo.
Born just a few years ago, Explore Buffalo is a small non-profit organization dedicated to providing opportunities to see Buffalo through guided tours, special events and partnerships with other local groups dedicated to engaging the public to learn more about the city. You might remember the tour I did awhile back of the decommissioned Silo City in Buffalo–it was with these guys! Or, the tour where I saw inside the historic and ornate St. Joseph’s Cathedral–also with Explore Buffalo! At various price points, you can take tours of all kinds of landmark locations around the city with a docent trained to point out finer details that you may have missed had you just gone on your own. Bus tours, walking tours and even kayak tours are all available to get an upclose look at some of the Queen City’s coolest history.
I decided to give them a shout out here because I’m pretty excited about the new “Explorer Pass” and I just got one! For as low as $25.00, you (and/or your family) can get a year’s worth of access to their basic level tours, entry into their history course (so you have something to in those frigid Western New York winters), discounts on some of the higher level tier tours, and a few other pretty awesome benefits.
A lot of you aren’t from Buffalo I realize, so the annual membership might not be as easy to get your money’s worth as it would be for me living in Rochester. For those of you looking to spend a day in Buffalo once in awhile, you can take advantage of signing up for tours a la carte and often pretty inexpensively.
On their calendar you’ll find a whole bunch of great things to check out. The Fontana Boathouse tour provides access to an esteemed Frank Lloyd Wright design. The Five Presidents of Buffalo explores some important POTUS history in the city. The Masters of American Architecture is a walking tour of outstanding examples of architectural art in the downtown area. And, if you’d like to have some beverages while exploring, they even have a brewery tour where you get to ride a bus instead of driving after all those tastings. I haven’t seen it on their itinerary yet, but you guys should consider this an official request for a bus tour of all the major points of interest in the life of Rick James. C’mon, you know you’d take that tour!
I won’t always give out the prized secrets of how I discover new things to do, but Explore Buffalo really shouldn’t be kept a secret anyway. Everyone I’ve taken tours with and communicated there has been great, and all of the tours I’ve been on have been super fun and informative. I’m headed out soon to tour that Fontana Boathouse, if you’re on the same tour, make sure you say hello!
Chris Clemens is the Founder/Publisher of Exploring Upstate. From his hometown in Rochester, he spends as much time as possible connecting with the history, culture, and places that make Upstate New York a land of discovery. Follow him on Twitter at @cpclemens
April 13, 2016 @ 9:21 am
Don’t we have tour groups here in Rochester as well?
Seems like I remember reading about it in the paper.
I think there should be as many interesting sites here as there are in Buffalo.
And it’s a shorter drive.
April 14, 2016 @ 7:44 pm
Hey Mike! We have a few here in Rochester, but really nothing quite like Explore Buffalo. There is the Landmark Society of Western New York that sometimes does events and tours, and an Instagram meet-up group called Explore Rochester that gets together a few times a year. Then there are some groups that will specific tours like the Friends of Mt Hope Cemetery that give cemetery tours, and a stained glass tour here and there by some church groups. If you find more, feel free to share!
April 13, 2016 @ 10:01 am
I’m always looking for great explorations near Rochester. 🙂 I moved here five years ago from Arkansas so I’m still learning all about beautiful Upstate New York. Thank you for doing the research. My church has a marriage retreat every March. We always have it at Salvatore’s Grand Hotel in Buffalo. My husband and I are always searching for something to do the Monday after the retreat. I will gladly bookmark this information for next year!
April 14, 2016 @ 7:47 pm
Hey Melinda! There’s so many wonderful things to check out and Buffalo has no shortage. Over in the sidebar of this site, you can click on the ‘Niagara Frontier Region’ and that will show you each of the posts from that section of the state, though it encompasses a few counties. If you head up to the American side of Niagara Falls, don’t miss Prophet Isaiah’s Second Coming House–it’s one of my favorites from that area!