Starting Point: Hertel and Parkside

Lions, crepes and a theatre-oh my! While this may seem like something straight out of Oz, the Hertel and Parkside neighborhood in North Buffalo is a little more down to earth, but not any less exciting. Forget the yellow brick road and venture down Hertel and Parkside avenues for an adventure that offers more than the traditional Italian favorites this neighborhood is known for.

START at the North Park Theatre, which is a single screen movie theater located right on Hertel Avenue. This art-deco designed theatre first opened its doors in 1920, and reached national audiences in 1998 when Vincent Gallo chose to premier his film, Buffalo ’66, which he starred in alongside Christina Ricci. The North Park Theatre unveiled significant renovations earlier this year, adding old-world charm and class to the art of movie-going. The theatre now shows a mix of popular and foreign films.

After catching a movie, you can grab a beer a few doors down with soccer lovers at the World Cup’s unofficial headquarters in Buffalo, Mes Que. Buffalo’s one and only soccer bar draws quite the crowd when a match is on. Be ready for this place to explode with thunderous fans on game day, and prepare to have a ton of fun with European expats and Americans that love their soccer.

Starting your day of exploring early? Grab an artisan coffee drink at Sweetness 7. The popular neighborhood coffee spot is the perfect mix of quaint and quirky. Sweetness 7 prepares a wide variety of coffee drinks, with or without alcohol, and serves up delectable crepes of various sweet and savory combinations, as well as fresh baked goods and a daily quiche. Savor these flavors while playing a board game or 2 at the cafe.

What about those lions we mentioned? Head right across the street from Sweetness 7 to the Buffalo Zoo. It’s home to hundreds of different species of animals ranging from the smallest butterflies all the way up to a towering giraffe and is located across from Buffalo’s beloved Delaware Park on Parkside Avenue. The zoo was founded in 1875 and is undergoing a major construction project right now to create a new home for 2 of the zoo’s most famous residents, young polar bears Luna and Kali.

After a day with the animals, take a short walk down Jewett Parkway and visit one of Buffalo’s Frank Lloyd Wright architectural wonders. Built by Wright for Darwin Martin, an executive at the Larkin Soap Company at the turn of the century, the Darwin Martin House welcomes visitors daily. If you can make the occasional twilight tour, it’s well worth it. These tours showcase the estate during the ambient hours allowing the sunset to cascade across the magnificent architecture the way Wright intended.

You don’t need to travel to the Land of Oz for an exciting adventure. Take a journey down Parkside and Hertel and explore everything that can be found right here. Ruby slippers not required.