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According to bloggers: Favorite hidden gems in WNY

A hidden gem could be anything.

When you think of Frank Lloyd Wright in Buffalo, what comes to mind? The most likely answers are the Darwin Martin House and Graycliff Estate. But a local blogger recommends a lesser-known, posthumously-built landmark designed by the architect.

Another blogger suggests a boutique hotel above a meadery and a cocktail bar for a staycation in a quaint village an hour outside of the city.

And one blogger's hidden gem is a nature preserve in Depew that welcomes hikers all-year-round, enticing families  into fresh air with snowshoe and cross-country ski rentals.

As a part of our "According to Bloggers" series, we've asked local bloggers and Instagrammers about their favorites. Where can you find Buffalo's best brunch? An activity that doesn't include food and cocktails? Best photo spots?

When we asked local bloggers about their favorite "hidden gems" in the area, the answers largely fell into two categories: food and attractions. If you're looking for off-the-radar restaurants, here's the food.

But everyone's always looking for something to do other than eating and drinking.

Reinstein Woods

Recommended by: Tom Przybylak, blogger at local food and dining site Buffalo Eats.

"The Reinstein Nature Preserve off Como Park in Cheektowaga is right near our house. It's open year round, and has eco-tours, fall and winter festivals, and some family-friendly hiking trails," Przybylak said.

Whoever says parks aren't for winter has never slid on a pair of snowshoes and trekked through the snow on a rare sunny day. At Reinstein Woods, you can roam the peaceful slice of nature in your own hiking boots, or rent a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis to glide on three and a half miles of trails. (Check the conditions before you go. The woods need to be covered in around six inches before they allow rentals.)

Reinstein hosts various walks, tours and events throughout the year. On Feb. 9, the Friends of Reinstein Woods holds its annual Winter Wonderland festival. At the festival, you can try cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing and go on a winter survival hike with a park ranger. It's a family-friendly event, with animals and crafts for children. Information on other events can be found here.

Buffalo's Outer Harbor

Recommended by: Caralyn Mirand Koch, plus model and content creator.

"Okay - maybe this isn't that hidden but it's such a beautiful, quiet break from the hustle and bustle of Canalside. My husband proposed to me on a picnic over there, so it will always have a special place in my heart!" Koch said.

Canalside gets a lot of attention, but ever since the Outer Harbor started hosting more of Buffalo's well-known festivals, such as the Italian Festival and Jack Craft Fair, it's increasingly been on Buffalonians' radars.

[Related: Smiles at Italian Festival 2018 | Smiles at Jack Craft Fair 2017]

But aside from festivals, the sprawling lakeside park is home to nature trails, free yoga classes, a quiet beach and public art. Plus, you can rent kayak or paddle-board rentals over the summer. And, as Koch can attest, it's a romantic picnic spot right on the water.

Also at the Outer Harbor, you'll find another ideal picnic and hiking spot. The Tifft Nature Preserve boasts wide trails through the woods and winding boardwalks, where you'll see birds such as chickadees and cardinals as well as passing deer, all within view of Buffalo's skyline.

Fontana Boathouse

Recommended by: Katharine Phillips, travel blogger and photographer at The Roaming Buffalo.

"Most people are aware that Frank Lloyd Wright has had an influence on the city with the Barton House and Graycliff Manor, but another one of his designs that I feel gets less attention is the Fontana Boathouse. The design was completed in 2007 and I was fortunate to be rowing for my high school at the time and had the pleasure of rowing in and out of that boathouse," Phillips said.

According to Wright's Boathouse, when Wright originally designed the structure in 1905, the blueprint never came to fruition. In 2000, the Darwin Martin House restoration group rediscovered the plans and gathered money to build the design in Buffalo. Several years later, the Fontana Boat House stands proudly on Lake Erie, welcoming rowers and tour groups each summer.

Explore Buffalo, a local tour group, takes visitors inside Frank Lloyd Wright's lakeside creation. The tours are seasonal and will resume in April. They're often on Thursday afternoons and Saturday mornings and cost $10 per person or $5 for students.

Favorite spots for a staycation

Hart House Hotel

Recommended by: Scott Robinson and Alix Gilman, bloggers at In a DC Minute and owners of The Shirt Factory in Medina.

"If not food, the location that caught us most off-guard a couple years ago was the Hart House Hotel. It was the first time we said, 'I can't believe this is in Medina.'" Scott and Alix said.

Boutique hotel experiences are a height of luxury. Like flying first-class or drinking exclusively Starbucks coffee, a nice hotel stay is lusted after, but assumed to be financially out of range. In an off-the-beaten-path staycation in Medina, spend roughly the same amount on an artsy hotel room above a coffee shop, meadery and cocktail bar, a minute away from the Erie Canal, as you would on a Holiday Inn near the airport.

The Mansion on Delaware Avenue opens their patio, usually reserved for guests, up to the public a few times every summer for a cocktail event. (Sharon Cantillon/News file photo)

Mansion on Delaware

Recommended by: Lindsay Robson, blogger at Nickel City Pretty and founder of the Buffalo Blogging Network.

"I recently stayed at the Mansion and I could not believe just how beautiful it was on the inside. I attended one of their Cocktails on the Lawn events this summer and it was so much fun dining outside with friends while listening to music being played by a band stationed on the roof. An experience that I can't wait to do again!" Robson said.

Spending the night at Delaware Avenue's mammoth brick mansion is a lot more on-the-nose with boutique hotel financial expectations, but every summer the hotel welcomes visitors to its manicured garden and patio for an evening of cocktails, live music played on the roof and food. Since we only get so many nice days a year, drinking cocktails on a patio while music reigns from above seems like a good way to spend one.

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