There's an ample contingent that welcomes summer months as a time for laid-back ease, with days and nights best spent with no agenda, no concerns and no care for the constraints that clamp down throughout the region's less idyllic months.
This may sound lazy to some. To others — such as the late English banker, scientist and scholar Sir John Lubbock — it's entirely purposeful. In his culturally significant 1894 book, “The Use of Life,” Lubbock confirmed this, all while unintentionally giving summer's most lackadaisical individuals some philosophical cover.
“Rest is not idleness,” he wrote. “And to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time."
Is Sir John right? Possibly. But when writing those words, did he consider future Buffalonians who'd maniacally squeeze every last second of enjoyment out of our finest (and fleeting) season? Probably not. Our local summers are for stuffing six months of activities into three to four months (dependent on the meteorological behavior of May and September), so it’s essential that we knock off as many activities as we can before Oktoberfest.
To do this, it helps to devise an annual summer to-do list, covering a fleet of activities around the region — and scheduled around the idle moments suggested by the likes of Sir John and others. Relaxation is key, but so is realizing the potential of the Buffalo area’s summer offerings.
Here are some recommendations for the summer season.
Navigate the new Lakeside Bike Park
Need a new bike spot? Head to the once-barren Outer Harbor. Its newly constructed park is free, has bike rentals ($25 for a half day) and hosts inventive tracks for all levels of riders.
While there: Roll down to the renovated Charlie’s Boat Yard for a soft serve ice cream.
Read some chapters at Wilkeson Pointe
Maybe you’ve strolled or biked through the reclaimed waterfront land whose former sole purpose was storage space for the city’s ice boom. But have you found its farthest end, settled on its discarded marble off the water’s edge and leafed through your favorite literature? Make this the year you do.
While there: Bring your two-wheeler, and venture over to Canalside via the Queen City Bike Ferry, set near the end of Fuhrmann Boulevard.
[Related: Walk, Run, Roll in Lauren's Shoes at Wilkeson Pointe]
Turn back the clock at the drive-in
Reminder: The Buffalo area still has two killer drive-ins — Transit in Lockport and Sunset in Middleport. Both have first-run films all summer, but Transit boasts its Retro Tuesday double feature all season long. Pick your favorite through Aug. 27, with July 23’s “Better Off Dead”- “Say Anything” twofer a boon for the John Cusack contingent.
Before going there: Taste the offerings of the New York Beer Project, two blocks away at 6933 S. Transit Road.
Find serenity at Letchworth State Park
Cultural enlightenment is one thing. The awe of nature is another. Enter and hike through the 17-mile-long Letchworth for the latter. Stretched across Wyoming and Livingston counties an hour outside of Buffalo, its daunting gorge, waterfalls and drive of the Genesee River is awesome to behold — and provides a peaceful break from mundane daily distractions.
While there: Turn off your phone — or just leave it in the car.
[Related: 100 Things - Visit Letchworth State Park]
Hit the Hatch for ice cream
You can go anywhere for ice cream. But when scoring scoops of Perry’s from the Hatch at Erie Basin Marina, you can find a seat, gaze inward at the Buffalo waterfront’s ongoing development, or simply get lost in the type of Lake Erie sunset that used to be that same waterfront’s main draw.
While there: Enjoy the across-river view of the restored Buffalo Lighthouse.
[Related: Interview with the Hatch's Molly Koessler]
Explore Main Street’s reborn 500 block
French cuisine at Raclettes, Italian favorites at D’Avolio and Asian street culture at Misuta Chow’s. Ice cream sodas at Jerk’s, fine tobacco at Buffalo Cigars — and a place to sling axes (and sip ales) at Hatchets & Hops. It’s all for the taking on Buffalo’s long-maligned section of Main, so take a summer walk to get familiar.
While there: Grab some draft or to-go beers from new off-block brethren Fattey Beer Co.’s more than 500 selections in stock.
Eat like family at Buffalo’s Italian Heritage Festival
You should hit at least one local festival this summer, and Buffalo’s Italian one might be the most delicious of the season. After a few years of fluctuation from Hertel Avenue and elsewhere, the festival is returning to its downtown roots off Niagara Square where it is set to bring a taste of Italia on July 20 and 21.
While there: Catch the planned fireworks extravaganza, set for 10 p.m. July 20.
Understand Shakespeare (finally) with "Love's Labour's Lost"
You’ve faked it with mainstream lines from “Romeo & Juliet” for long enough. This is the year you can finally “get” Shakespeare, and your breakthrough can be with one of his earliest comedies. Meet the King of Navarre and his lords at the foot of Delaware Park’s Shakespeare Hill from July 25 to Aug. 5 – and remember to BYOB.
Before going: Take a relaxing stroll around nearby Hoyt Lake, and open your mind to the artistic meanderings of the Bard.
Day trip your intellect to the Chautauqua Institution
Summer is a good time to hit the road for some tranquility and cultural enlightenment. Enter the expanse of the longtime literary bastion on NY-394 and you’ll find both. Its season’s schedule is packed with speakers and symphonic arrangements meant to engage the corners of your mind usually distracted by your iPhone.
After going there: Grab a beer at Southern Tier Brewing Co., located a mere 11 miles away at 2072 Stoneman Circle, Lakewood.
Visit 'Convergence' and the Albright-Knox – while you can
After checking enlightenment, serenity and Shakespeare off your to-do list, head to AK to become mesmerized by the 1952 Jackson Pollock painting — and do it while you can. The soon-to-be-renamed Buffalo Albright-Knox-Gundlach Art Museum will close in late 2019 for two years while it undergoes a $155 million expansion.
While there: Marvel at Spanish artist Oriol Vilanova’s “Anything, Everything,” an ambitious postcard-based installation on display through July 21.
Share the steamer platter at River Grill
Taking a boat ride up the Niagara River is a nice trip. But when your cruise includes a stop for a heaping pile of shrimp, crab legs, clams and mussels ($35) from a Tonawanda seasonal destination, it adds an element of seafood delight to the endeavor. Another benefit: River Grill’s slips are free for visiting patrons.
While there: Rock to the nightly slate of live music, scheduled inside the bar (70 Aqua Lane) throughout the summer.
[Related: Throwback look at River Grill in 2014]
Catch some weekend sun at Bennett Beach
It's time for some well-earned idleness at the quasi-hidden Angola beach. Once you find it tucked off Old Lake Shore Road, you can enjoy the lakeside calm, walk atop the sandbars or take a long hike to the rebranded Beach Club at Mickey Rats — and enjoy the day’s rays with a few cocktails.
After going there: Head to nearby Connors for some mandatory summertime hot dogs.
Groove out at the Cobblestone Live Music & Arts Festival
Haven’t been to the weekendlong cacophony across the streets of downtown Buffalo’s Cobblestone District? It’s set for its third edition on Aug. 2 and 3 and is stacked with dynamos like Sloan, Langhorne Slim and Buffalo’s Aqueous. So strap on some comfortable shoes, shuffle downtown and get set for danceable grooves at a growing favorite.
While there: Consider ending your summer at the Borderland Music & Arts Festival, set for Knox Farm in East Aurora on Sept. 21-22.