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James E. Brennan


Buffalo Magazine: Travel

William Lyon Mackenzie, Toronto’s first mayor, was a humbug when it came to Christmas. The Scottish-born newspaper editor and politician would dock his employees a day’s pay for taking the holiday off. Hogmanay, a Scottish New Year’s Eve feast, was his celebration of choice, complete with bagpipes, shortbread, haggis and whisky. Boy, have things changed since 1834—nowad…

Buffalo Magazine: Style

When cabinetmaker John Thiesen gets his hands on a piece of wood, he lets the lumber tell its own story. “If I’m building a Mission-style vanity or turning a burl bowl on the lathe, I let the wood talk to me,” explained the master craftsman. His process depends on whom he’s working for. “I let the creative process flow when I’m doing design work for myself and all…

Buffalo Magazine: Travel

The bows, ribbons, scissors and brightly colored paper sit on a little bedroom table waiting for the First Lady to continue wrapping her Christmas presents. It’s a sentimental peek into the holiday preparations of Eleanor Roosevelt at Springwood, the lifelong home of Franklin D. Roosevelt in Hyde Park, about 5½ hours from Buffalo. FDR’s Georgian Colonial-style house is …

Buffalo Magazine: Travel

If you love food — eating it, cooking it and tasting it, right where it’s grown — a trip to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York, may be your perfect getaway. “The CIA is the Harvard of cooking schools,” explained Kenneth Jones, a student chef from East Aurora. It’s also a gastronomical mecca for people who love to dine and an outlet for hom…

Buffalo Magazine

Slowly and quietly, the monks of the Abbey of the Genesee walk to shiny wooden choir stalls for daily prayer. Some are younger, while many are older with an average age of about 65. Some require canes and walkers and almost all wear long white robes with black scapulars draped over their shoulders. The monks belong to the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, c…

Buffalo Magazine: Travel

Vacation minutes are precious, especially when you’re seeking a salubrious escape from cold, gray skies and the unpleasantries of polar vortices. Travelers don’t want to waste any time on exhausting airport layovers, chasing lost luggage, rushing to catch connecting flights or missing them altogether when bad weather cripples a stopover city. To save time and avoid some…

Buffalo Magazine: Travel

Just 222 steps from Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, the world’s largest Christmas store, is the Silent Night Chapel, where nothing is for sale. Away from the hurly-burly of holiday commerce, the peaceful chapel in Frankenmuth, Mich., is a replica of the original church in Oberndorf, Austria, where “Silent Night” was composed in 1818. The lyrics to “Silent Night” are pos…

Buffalo Magazine: Travel

Many visitors have a story about a bear encounter during a national park vacation. In my family’s travels, we’ve had a couple of them. Our first bear sighting came during a hike in Yosemite National Park in California. My son was in charge of making lunch, so he spread a walloping gob of peanut butter on our PB&Js. I stuffed them in my backpack and we set out across…

Buffalo Magazine: Travel

The gracious ladies standing watch on The Battery of Charleston harbor are a tough breed. For more than 300 hundred years, many of these stately mansions have withstood hurricanes, torrential rains, earthquakes, tidal flooding, fires and wars. From White Point Gardens on East Battery Street, townsfolk watched the first Confederate shots of the Civil War fired on nearby For…

Buffalo Magazine: Travel

A massive blizzard blasts the East Coast, blanketing airports, train stations, bus depots and highways with two feet of snow. Thousands are stranded as planes, trains and buses are halted by shelter-in-place orders. Weary passengers queue in long lines at ticket counters. Airline call centers are constantly busy and travel sites are jammed with anxious inquiries. Folks …

Buffalo Magazine: Travel

When the last dancer has stepped off the floor at Vinyl Night Club and the final pint has been poured at J.D. Oxford’s Pub, Rochester millennials look for the ultimate late night food. And what fills the bill — and their stomachs — is a local culinary specialty: the “garbage plate.” But these piled-high plates are not just for hungry 20-somethings; they’re just as popul…

Buffalo Magazine: Travel

There may be no better bargain than travel to Washington, D.C.  Filled with museums, galleries and memorials – most of which are free – it’s an accessible and educational getaway, especially for enthusiasts of American history, art and science. And at a 7- to 8-hour drive from Buffalo (or a flight of less than an hour), getting there is easy and affordable. While the te…

Buffalo Magazine: Travel

On a snowless evening, the Spirit of Christmas Past rustles in the stillness of a restored village green. It flickers in the candlelight filtering through wavy glass windows in historic homes. It glistens in the elegant crystal chandeliers and polished brass fixtures of the Governor’s Palace. This is Christmas in Colonial Williamsburg. Today, the one-time capital of …

Buffalo Magazine: Travel

One of American literature’s most beloved tales of RV travel is John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley: In Search of America. In this 1960 travelogue, the Nobel Prize-winning author and his poodle, Charley, take a road trip in a truck camper around the United States that included a stop in Niagara Falls. In one chapter, he describes neighbors looking over his RV: “I s…

Buffalo Magazine: Travel

What better reason for a road trip then to satisfy your sweet tooth? The crisp crunch of a fresh-picked apple, the allure of pancakes smothered in maple syrup or the taste of a strawberry dipped in melted chocolate — these are the mouth-watering mile markers along the Finger Lakes Sweet Treat Trail. Meandering through Cayuga County, the trail is a self-guided tour th…