What To Expect On A Fathom Cruise

NOTE: Fathom is no longer in operation though Carnival operated cruises that dock at Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic may still offer impact excursions like the ones we’ve described.

What do you get when you combine a Caribbean cruise with a desire for social impact? Seven days of immersive travel and an opportunity to connect with locals. That is the goal Fathom, a brand under Carnival Corporation, has set out for the cruise line when it started this Spring of 2016, with cruises heading to the Dominican Republic and Cuba.

We were fortunate to be able to cruise on one of the first handful of trips to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic and had an experience quite unlike other cruises, or trips, we’ve had in the past. With the cruises here, the idea was that travellers looking to do more for the destinations they visit can work alongside locals in the community in an attempt to improve the lives and living conditions of the people in the area. Their purpose is not voluntourism, it’s not to work for people, but instead to work with them to build something sustainable and lasting.

Fathom Cruises & Impact Travel

Fathom Cruise Ship Adonia In Dominican

The concept of “impact travel” then, is not to simply volunteer time or donate money, but to leave as much of an impact on the people in the community as they leave on the travellers in return. It is about working with the locals to incrementally build on, improve and grow their resources – as each new set of passengers roll in, their efforts are added to the fold and each group builds on the last. Although it is a cruise, it is also supposed to be travel with a purpose.

A huge part of Fathom is focused on the growth of each individual traveller on board. Not only are there excursions available – or impact activities – in order to contribute to the community but there are also on board activities designed to facilitate personal growth, inspiration and community building with fellow passengers. The activities prepare passengers for their time on the ground with the people of the Dominican and often offer valuable take-home messages and skills.

Fathom Itinerary to Dominican

Fathom Ship Adonia Fathom Cruise

The Fathom journey starts at the port of Miami on a Sunday. For us, it continued on to Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. Setting sail in the afternoon after boarding, it sails until midday on Tuesday, docking at port in the Dominican where it stays until it departs again for Miami. From there, passengers have the rest of the afternoon, the following two whole days and the morning of the sixth day (Friday) docked and able to participate in shore excursions, enjoy the newly built Amber Cove – the port that was built for Carnival’s cruise lines – or venture out into Puerto Plata and discover the city, and island, on their own.

While At Sea on A Fathom Cruise

During those sea days, there are a variety of options for how to spend time on board the ship. The key to getting around and not missing any of the activities or workshops is making sure to check the daily ‘Soundings’. These itineraries for the day are great for finding out what is going on all day and where, whether docked or at sea.

First things first though. You’ll be assigned a cohort number when you board. This separates everyone into groups that you can meet with each morning at a designated time to discuss various topics related to Fathom: the Dominican Republic, reflecting on the Impact Activities completed and next steps for travellers looking to continue making an impact.

The rest of the activities are open, no matter your cohort number, and include free activities like latin dance classes, meditation, trivia and musical entertainment as well as activities with a fee like cocktail classes and wine and paint nights. The on board band has regular appearances providing entertainment throughout the cruise.

The best part for us was that everything is completely optional. Prefer to sunbathe by the pool? Looking to sleep in and make your way to eat when you please? Looking to focus on personal growth or, maybe, develop skills that will help you when you hit the ground with the impact activities? You can pretty much take a look at the itinerary and plan your day the way that suits you and your reasons for booking a Fathom Cruise.

While At Port on A Fathom Cruise

Amber Cove Fathom Cruises

While at port, your schedule is very much still your own. It’s here however that impact activities and shore excursions come into play. Your experience while docked depends on what impact activities you’ve signed up for, what shore excursions you’ve purchased and what exactly you want to get out of your time in the Dominican.

Onboard activities still run throughout the day but passengers are able to leave the boat as they please. There are also a few activities that take place at the port. As long as you have your room key, you’re allowed access on and off the ship. In addition to the impact activities, there are a variety of shore excursions like tours of Puerto Plata, snorkeling, and ziplining.

Amber Cove

The Fathom ship, Adonia, docks at Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic and this complex, built exclusively for Carnival’s passengers, is a destination in itself. Restaurant and bar, a coffee shop, clothing and jewelry shops as well as gift shops and many more still to come, the area is an open space for finding souvenirs and gifts and enjoying food and sun without ever leaving port. Perhaps the most popular part is the pool, a large area to sunbathe or swim, it also has ziplining, watersports and cabanas for a fee.

Here you’ll find a mini getaway, free WiFi, and the first stop in the Dominican before you get a real look into the country and culture.

What is the Fathom Adonia Like?

Fathom Adonia Deck

With a max capacity of around 700 people, Adonia is considered a small ship. This smaller passenger count allows for a more intimate experience where you will have the opportunity to get to know fellow passengers and join smaller groups in impact and onboard activities. The ship’s size also doesn’t lend itself to some of the amenities of the larger cruise ships but, with a focus on community involvement, extras like a casino, are typically not at the forefront of many passengers’ minds.  It also allows for quick embarkment and disembarkment and little by way of lines or crowding while on the ship.


Fathom Adonia has four different types of staterooms or cabins: Inside cabins, outside cabins, balcony cabins and suites.

The inside cabins are, as the name suggests, on the inside of the ship and offer no window or porthole. The outside cabins are similar to the inside ones but all have a window or porthole.

The balcony cabins, which is the style we stayed in, also have full-length sliding glass doors opening to a balcony with chairs and a table. In addition, there is a sofa and table that make a seating area as well as a refrigerator – all of which are not present in the inside or outside cabins.

The suites come with all the amenities of the balcony cabins but also have a whirlpool bath in the bathrooms, a separate lounge area with a mini-stereo, magazine and newspaper service, a fruit bowl, mineral water, flowers and daily canapes.

We found our balcony room to be very spacious and comfortable and enjoyed our time relaxing in the room. Having the balcony was great for watching sunrises and sunsets, stepping out for some fresh air and just resting in between activities.


Fathom Cruise Food

There are several dining options on board. The conservatory is open breakfast, lunch and dinner and also has late-night snacks for those who are feeling a little hungry after a night of enjoying the onboard entertainment. It is buffet style with indoor and outdoor seating.

The Pacific Restaurant, on the other hand, offers a sit-down meal served to your table for all meals (note that some meals are not served here while docked). We found that although there was crossover in the type of food served at the Conservatory and the Pacific Restaurant, the plating at Pacific was so well done we didn’t want to miss eating with our eyes first! It was also a great place to meet new people or meet up with friends you’ve made along the way.

The Lido Grill is located on the pool deck and offers BBQ-style fare like Cuban sandwiches, Dominican-style burgers and jerk chicken. It’s great for an alternative lunch or dinner by the pool.

The last option is the Ocean Grill which had an additional cost and serves Caribbean fare.


Though different then what is offered on larger cruise ships, there is a good amount of onboard entertainment and variety starting with the launch party on the first day. There are activities throughout the day like a lunchtime BBQ and music by the onboard band, scavenger hunts, poolside games and dance classes. Nighttime brings additional dance classes, musical entertainment at a number of the bars and lounges on board, trivia, movies under the stars, a karaoke night and a gameshow with passengers as contestants.

We found something to entertain us whether it was simply sitting and chatting with fellow passengers while listening to live music or joining in on one of the other activities.

Ship & Amenities

Though not as diverse and numerous as larger ships, the Fathom Adonia still has some amenities on board that add to the experience including a fitness room and outdoor track, a spa with massages, facials and acupuncture, a library with board games and computers, a swimming pool, shops and a variety of bars. Unique to Fathom, there are added components that work into the concept of growth, community involvement and travel with an impact like quotes throughout the ship, curiosity boxes spread out in various areas with different finds each day and a photogallery where you can look at pictures taken throughout the journey.

Fathom Impact Activities

Fathom Cacao Cooperative


There are several options for impact activities to participate in and it looks like they are actively assessing these during this first season to perhaps improve on the existing ones or include additional opportunities.

At the writing of this article, there are the following activities:

  • Student English – Assisting in teaching English to young students
  • Community English – Assisting in English learning for adults in the community
  • Creative Arts, Music & Sports (CAMS) – an interactive program for students attending a summer program
  • Water Filtration Production – For an extra fee, this project allows you to create water filtration systems and help deliver them to members of the community in need of clean water
  • Reforestation & Nursery – Assisting in local reforestation efforts (note that some days are more physically demanding than others and you should confirm which you’d prefer before booking)
  • Cacao & Women’s Chocolate Cooperative – Working side-by-side with women in the community at a Cacao facility as well as assisting in the nursery, planting seeds
  • Recycled Paper & Crafts – Working side-by-side with locals in the community to create arts & crafts from locally recycled paper which will later be sold
  • Concrete Floors – For an extra fee, this project allows you to aid in the effort to improve the living conditions of members of the community by pouring concrete floors in their homes. (note that there are tasks at various activity and fitness levels and participants will be assigned accordingly)

We were able to participate in two impact activities while docked in the Dominican Republic (It seemed that 2-3 was the average for most passengers).

The Cacao & Women’s Chocolate Cooperative

This activity was an interesting look into an effort by local women to create productive and sustainable employment for women in the local communities. Here, cacao beans are sorted, cleaned, and chocolate bars and goods are moulded and made. Working with local cacao farmers, they are able to create products to be sold across the country and some of their products are also exported though they are looking to the future when more of their goods can be sold internationally.

During the first part of our visit, we worked in small groups switching between workstations to work in the different aspects involved cacao processing – we sorted the cacao beans looking for bad ones to remove, we sorted cacao nibs from shells, we helped pour chocolate moulds and package chocolate bars. We worked with each other and the ladies of the cacao cooperative and learned a lot about the business of cacao processing and chocolate production.

The second part of our visit involved working in the nursery. Here we helped mix soil, create plastic bag potters for the seeds and put them in the nursery where seeds were added. It was a bit more physically demanding for those that really wanted to get in there and help but it was a rewarding experience.

CAMS – Creative Arts, Music & Sports

Perhaps our favourite part of the cruise was the CAMS impact activity. Here we went to a summer program for students and participated with one of the classrooms. We gave a mini-english lesson, sang songs, made crafts and played baseball. We were split into smaller groups which allowed us to bond with the kids and really interact on an individual level. Though our group of children didn’t speak much english, it was incredibly moving to connect to them through communication other than the English or Spanish languages – smiles, high fives, nods and laughter – though they did seem eager to learn English as we spoke with them.

It was a wonderful day and when one of the kids in our group kept asking us a question in Spanish that we couldn’t understand, we finally called over one of the facilitators and asked her to translate. The question? “When are you coming back?” It was heartbreaking and heartwarming at once especially when her little face fell as the organizer explained that we wouldn’t be coming back again.

We left feeling like we had made a connection to the Dominican Republic that was deeper than beaches and cuisine but feeling like we needed to do more.

Does Fathom Actually Help People?

Fathom Impact Activities

This is the big question and what has made Fathom a bit of a controversial endeavour. It is one of the reasons we wanted to go on a Fathom cruise – to see if we could really make a difference. Our answer? We believe so. It’s not so black and white but then, what volunteer activity is? There is always a fine line between helping and hurting, aiding and injuring, but what we found with Fathom is that it seems like their every intention is to be a leading force in making a difference in the lives of the locals in the Dominican Republic.

Their partnership with local organizations like Entrena and IDDI allows them a deeper understanding of what is needed on the ground and the many ways they can provide assistance through their passengers. They work closely with both groups to maximize impact for locals and passengers alike. They also employ a team on the ground to be present at the activities and assess their effectiveness. It seems as though they are committed to improving, not only the lives of locals, but also the impact activities themselves as it is only the first season of cruises.

The partnership with IDDI and Entrena also ensure that they are integrating Fathom activities into an already established system. They are not trying to determine needs based on what they believe should be done, but instead  are making available resources to many programs or projects already established.

Our Response To Criticisms

It is with this in mind that we assessed two of the main criticisms that we’ve heard about Fathom while we were on board.

Criticism 1: It is too short a time to actually make any impact. In fact, you are only hurting some individuals, like the children, when you leave. This is a criticism we heard before we went but what we realized is that the effect is additive. Each day a new group of travellers build on what was established the day before. The children learning English may only learn a word a day, or a week, but over time it develops into a larger vocabulary. All of the activities are actually contributing to improving the English of locals as they are regularly interacting with travellers. Perhaps this is the most important role those on a Fathom cruise play. We didn’t realize the import of English to the people of the Dominican Republic. During our CAMS activity, the facilitator, a local, shared with us how learning English changed her life and prospects. Since tourism is such a large industry on the island, the highest paying jobs are given to those who can speak English and thus interact with tourists. Without English, options are limited.

Criticism 2: With activities where you’re helping with production of an item, travellers will only be slowing down and hindering the process. We’ll be honest, there were times where we felt we were doing exactly this. With the cacao cooperative, it wasn’t until we were planting seeds that we felt we were actually contributing. The rest of the time it felt like we were making limited progress. What we realized though, is that part of the process was for us to learn about their efforts. Though we weren’t contributing as fast as the ladies would be able to themselves, we were working in a separate area from the main workspace and our contribution, though small, was still something. Again, it is an additive effect.

Our Own Criticisms

Amber Cove Dominican Republic

We should first reiterate that Fathom is in its infancy. Having just started in Spring of 2016, there is much room for growth and improvement and it seems as though they are active in adjusting and bettering each aspect of the cruise and the impact activities as they go. With that in mind, we did have a few thoughts of our own about our experience.

For one, it did seem odd to head back to the comforts of the ship after interacting with locals in less than luxurious conditions. We boarded the ship again and headed to our balcony room before we went on to dinner with our waiters serving us a three-course meal before we enjoyed entertainment and dancing at night, It was quite a contrast… but perhaps that’s not a bad thing. Perhaps it’s good to be smacked in the face with the disparity that exists between the countries and classes. It may just make us a little more aware of just how lucky we are and motivate us to make more of an impact in the lives of others.

The second thing we took note of is the fact that, although we were on a small ship, we were contributing to the negative environmental impact on the area. Cruise ships, and Carnival in particular, aren’t known for positive contributions to the environment by way of the waste produced and dumped. It becomes a trade-off. A movement to help the locals and to change the thoughts and lives of travellers in exchange for that detrimental impact.

Lastly, we realized that for this to be a positive thing for the Dominican Republic and the people of Puerto Plata it needs to be lasting and sustainable. Fathom needs to be in it for the long haul and committed to seeing this through. Jobs have been created, hopes have been lifted and changes on the ground are being made – all of which depend on the sustainability of the projects and a continuation of Fathom itself. We felt positive about this happening when we read that the President (and person who came up with the idea) of Fathom, Tara Russell, has an extensive portfolio working with global brands and companies and taking on international initiatives and social enterprises. A look at her past and present projects is comforting and we hope it translates into a lasting and beneficial change in the Dominican Republic.

Final Thoughts on FathomFathom Docked at Port Dominican

What we noticed the most was the change in the passengers themselves. After the first day of impact activities there seemed to be a widespread warmth that was created. People seemed more relaxed and at ease with each other, there was a sense of camaraderie and a willingness to connect. That in essence seems to be what Fathom is all about: connection and collaboration. It’s about building something with others, connecting to those on the ship and in the Dominican, making an impact – however large or small – and opening yourself up to being impacted as well. Impacted by every smile from a local as you work beside them, every new connection made with a fellow traveller and every moment of realization that a difference can be made when people work together.


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A Guide To Buffalo, NY – A City To Fall In Love With

Something incredible has happened in Buffalo. A resurgence of energy and a city-wide invigoration of its people. From the arts and culture scene to the food scene to the night life and outdoor activities available, Buffalo, New York has become one amazing destination to visit. We were fortunate to be able to spend several days exploring the city with Visit Buffalo Niagara and witnessing this fantastic renaissance that is well underway. It surprised us from the time we got out of our car on that first day, until we left. It is considered a place to catch a cheaper flight or do some cheap shopping for Canadians and a border city, for Americans and Canadians alike, when travelling in either direction. What we’ve discovered though, is that it has something to offer any type of traveller and can satisfy any type of getaway you are looking for… even if it’s just for a weekend! Here’s our guide to Buffalo with what you’ll need to do, see and eat during a visit to the city.

Best Places to Visit in Buffalo

So, if you’ve decided to spend a few nights (or more) in Buffalo, a city that surprised us every step of the way, we’ve put together a guide to show you some of the best the city has to offer visitors and have laid out places to visit in Buffalo from where to eat, what to do and where to stay – even if you’ve only got a short time, or a weekend, to explore!

The video below will give a good overview, but you’ll want to keep reading for more of the amazingness that is Buffalo, NY!

Where to Stay in Buffalo

Truly experiencing Buffalo means delving into its history and that extends to accommodations. If you’re looking to experience something unique, something that allows you to tap into the past while still experiencing comfort and quality, we’ve got the perfect place! Our top recommendation for where to stay in Buffalo is The Mansion on Delaware, a luxury boutique hotel right in downtown Buffalo, that combines the historic architecture visible in the city with luxury and world-class service.

In a great location, the Mansion on Delaware exemplifies the renaissance of Buffalo – this 1800s house has been reborn as a 4 diamond hotel – taking a symbol of the city’s past prosperity and restoring it to create a present day symbol of rebirth.

Where to stay in Buffalo New York Mansion on Delaware

We were first welcomed by the porticos as we walked up the front steps and through the doorsbut were immediately greeted by the warmth and intimacy of the interior. The staff however, took hospitality and service to another level. Friendly and courteous, our names were quickly learned and we were greeted with the same style of welcome every time we passed the reception desk.


The Butler Staff, available 24 hours, take the comfort and luxury of the accommodation up another notch with personalized service. Looking to make reservations or a booking, order a meal from an outside restaurant to the hotel or require transportation to a nearby spot in the city? The butlers will take care of you no matter the time.

Mansion on Delaware room where to stay in buffalo ny

The rooms are spacious and clean with added touches of comfort and thoughtfulness, lik
e welcome cookies and water. Our room boasted tall ceilings and large windows and the bathroom was also quite large. It is a remarkably romantic hotel in Buffalo but it is also a great place for any traveller looking for a luxurious escape in the heart of Buffalo.

Though you’ll want to explore the city, try some of the great restaurants we recommend and find some on your own, the complimentary continental breakfast at The Mansion on Delaware is a pretty perfect way to start your day. Freshly baked pastries, smoked salmon and charcuterie meats and cheese, fruit, cold cereals and more, are available to fuel up before you head out into the city and explore what to do in Buffalo and all the amazing places to visit.

Fun Places to Go in Buffalo

Are there really that many things to do in Buffalo? That was our first question as we crossed the border and entered a city we had previously only driven through. What we quickly learned was that there are a ridiculous amount of places to visit and things to do in Buffalo! Though you may not be able to fit them all in if you’re only visiting the city for a short time, it’s worth it to try and make your way to as may of these fun places to go in Buffalo as you can!


Grain Elevators in Buffalo NY Riverworks

A newer local destination, Riverworks is a giant recreational complex on the waterfront in a repurposed industrial area that holds claim to the largest collection of grain elevators in the world. Approaching from the parking lot provides a deceiving view as once inside, the complex seems to extend unendingly with an ever increasing number of things to do. The patio bar that extends around the waterfront side of the building offers a beautiful view over the river as kayakers pass, some having rented from RiverWorks itself. heading further you’ll find a total of four bars, a restaurant, hockey rinks and a roller derby rink, just to name a few of the things currently built with more planned, including a fully functioning brewery. With an entertainment area to hold concerts and shows as well, it’s not only a fun place to visit, it’s also a great place to eat in Buffalo as you can grab some food and a drink and choose your seating, outside or in.

As an aside, if you happen to be driving by, or in the area, and you smell something delicious and sweet… it may just be the General Mills factory that’s there… is it Cheerios or Lucky Charms? You be the judge!


fun places to visit in Buffalo Canalside

One of our favourite areas to spend some time in Buffalo is Canalside. The city has recently breathed new life into this area by creating a destination for locals and tourists alike to enjoy themselves, during any season of the year, and to congregate at a spot in the city that has huge historical importance. Buffalo’s height of industrial and economic times was due to its location and particularly, the junction of Lake Erie, the Niagara River and the Erie Canal where Canalside sits. Here you’ll find numerous Adirondack chairs to relax on by the water while activities like yoga, markets and concerts (in the summer) and skating, curling and ice biking (in the winter) take place around the area. There’s great parking options nearby and, if you happen to be around when it’s dark, a light show on the grain elevators across the way. It’s a great place to enjoy the activities of the day, rent kayaks and water bikes or ice bikes, charter a fishing boat, take a harbour cruise or explore America’s largest inland Naval park all in one spot.

If you’re hungry or need some refreshments, there are stands right on the canalside or a short walk across the way will get you to the popular 716 Food & Sport, a 2-story sports bar and restaurant with multiple television screens to watch the day’s games or a giant 30+ foot tall screen to capture the major event.

Larkin Square

Every city needs a gathering space and one of the primary public areas, and also one of the best places to visit, in Buffalo is Larkin Square. When thinking of the convergence of past and present in the city, this is definitely one area that comes to mind. Formerly the site of the Larkin Soap Company warehouses, a thriving business in Buffalo’s heyday, the area now boasts a public square with regular, free events for the public. Things like Food Truck Tuesdays area huge draw as dozens of trucks and music satisfy the large crowds that gather. Live at Larkin on Wednesdays pulls in local musicians and bands as they perform on the stage in the centre of the square. A few food trucks are also present for this event and parking is free in the area!

If you’re heading to Food Truck Tuesdays, we’d highly recommend Lloyd or Whole Hog Truck! We’ve also heard great things about Amy’s Truck though we’ve yet to try it! You can see our video of trying Lloyd Food Truck below!

Added to these regular summer features, are a host of other events and local establishments that are popping up all around such as Hydraulic Hearth, a restaurant and craft brewery right across the street from the square with great food and beverage options and a great spot to enjoy the activity from a short distance away.

This area promises to only grow as a top spot in the city with regular establishments and activities popping up all around. There’s even a free outdoor mini-golf course right next to Larkin Square that has remained un-vandalized and regularly used by the public and Larkin Square goers. Test your skills out here because it definitely isn’t an easy course!

Elevator Alley Kayak Tour

Fun things to do in BUffalo Elevator Alley Kayak Tour

Imagine grain elevators towering around you as you glide through the water in a kayak. Rowing your way down the Buffalo River through Elevator Alley as the silos around you provide a view that is the industrial equivalent to the limestone formations that are often seen in tropical climates. Elevator Alley Kayak Tour also provides some incredible commentary on the area and its history as you move from the grain elevators towards the Riverfront and Canalside and out further. We had one amazing time learning a great deal about the history and nature of the area and just enjoying being outside on the water. Though you can rent kayaks and other water equipment from them without taking a tour, we loved the added touch of having a guide and the fact that it started in the quiet and peaceful area of Elevator Alley rather than right in the centre of Canalside was an added bonus for us!

Allentown (Allen Street)

what to do in BUffalo NY Allentown

If you’re looking for a unique, hip and artistic place to experience Buffalo, Allentown is it. With street art, out of this world restaurants, a music scene and interesting finds (like a man who blows bubbles out of his window at the corner of a busy intersection – yes he exists!) it is a place for foodies, art lovers and history buffs alike. Walk through the area and discover street art or simply take in the historic and colourful houses that line the streets. Stop in for some live music of any kind, though blues and jazz are popular genres of this area, after grabbing a bite to eat at one of the numerous restaurants that will probably blow your mind – especially if you’re craving a burger and head into Allen Burger Venture!

Allentown is also only a hop, skip and a jump away from Mansion on Delaware, our previously recommended hotel for your stay in Buffalo. Close to so many amazing spots (and with a butler service to take you to the further destinations) you’ll be sure to really get a chance to experience Allentown while staying there!

Tour with Explore Buffalo

Explore Buffalo Walking Tours What to do in Buffalo

Explore Buffalo happens to provide a ton of tours – from bus tours to kayak tours (like Elevator Alley Kayak) to walking tours. For us, a walking tour was what we headed to them for! Taking an architecture tour of downtown Buffalo gave us a fascinating insight into the development of the city, not only through its buildings, but through it’s economic transitions and across the various periods of time. Our guide was impressively knowledgeable and it was fantastic to be able to explore the downtown core by foot, learning about buildings we normally would be overlooking and passing by, none the wiser as to their significance and importance to the city and its history.

It really is an amazing way to learn about, and see, the city and with tours like “Allentown Mob Tour” you can really have some fun with Buffalo and its past!

What To Do In Buffalo

If you’re looking to add some art & culture into your visit, the following are the places in the city that will offer that and more. Since nothing in Buffalo comes without a healthy dose of history, you’re bound to find it in abundance at all of these places as well! If you’ve only got a short time to hit up some arts and culture spots, these are definitely the places you’ll want to look into and some of the top attractions in Buffalo!

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House Complex

What to do in Buffalo Frank Lloyd Wright's Martin House

If you’re a fan of architecture, the Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House Complex will blow you away. If you’re not, the effect will probably be the same! A residential complex, built for Darwin D. Martin, of the Larkin Company (yep, the same one we mentioned before when discussing Larkin Square). Martin loved the architecture and vision of Frank Lloyd Wright and had commissioned him to build one of the warehouses for the company (though it is no longer standing). As a friendship developed during this project, and Martin’s love of Wright’s architectural philosophy grew, the idea for a complex for Martin and his family formed. What started as Martin’s desire for a compound for his entire family, became an architectural masterpiece far beyond the current architectural practices of the day.

The complex has since been abandoned, partially destroyed, inhabited, sold, repurchased and, now, undergoing reconstruction and restoration.

If you’re looking for a fascinating glimpse into architectural genius and into two individuals who are very much a part of Buffalo’s history, this is definitely a stop to make when exploring the city.

Richardson Olmsted Complex

Best places to visit in Buffalo RIchardson Olmsted Complex

Perhaps one of the most fascinating buildings we’ve ever seen, and definitely a must-visit in Buffalo, the Richardson Olmsted Complex is another piece of Buffalo’s past that is being repurposed for present day uses in a very different way. It was originally the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane and was a massive complex created by two popular architects. The 140-year old building is a National Historic Landmark and is a pretty impressive sight with its Gothic towers and expansive size.

Renovations are now underway in a significant part of the main building to transform it into a boutique hotel with an adjoining architecture centre for the public.

We were able to take one of the tours given through the building to see the progress and changes being made and witnessing the construction of what is to be a modern accommodation within the stunning, Gothic exterior is quite fascinating. It is definitely a unique experience and it will be incredible to see the end result as an abandoned complex is turned into an economically sustainable feature of the city.

Albright-Knox Art Gallery

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery is not only a great place to take in modern and contemporary art, it is also another important component to Buffalo’s history as it is one of the oldest public arts institutions in the United States. With permanent installations and changing exhibitions, you can glimpse collections and works from artists around the world as well as those who are local.

A stop in the AK Cafe is definitely a good idea if you’re getting hungry. Meals from here are as inspired as the artwork throughout the rest of the building.

Burchfield Penney Art Center

If you’re looking for local Buffalo art, Burchfield Penney Art Center is the place to go. Dedicated to not only the works of Charles E. Burchfield, the art centre showcases the work of artists from Western New York. Exhibitions change but the theme of the artists displayed is always the same and will often give you a glimpse into the nature, geography and history of Buffalo itself.

Where to Eat in Buffalo

Buffalo is a foodie wonderland. Seriously. There is an almost overwhelming amount of options for types of cuisine and establishments that offer amazing food. Here are our choices of top restaurants in Buffalo, whether you’ve got loads of time to explore or are only there for a few days!

Lloyd Taco Truck

Lloyd Taco Truck Buffalo NY Where to eat

We mentioned Food Truck Tuesdays at Larkin Square and we said that Lloyd Taco Truck is one to head to when you are there. What we didn’t say is that Lloyd Taco Truck can be found throughout the week at various spots around the city. We also didn’t say that it is one of the best food trucks we’ve found.

While our favourite is the Tricked Out Nachos, we were fairly blown away by their entire menu (because we pretty much tried it all) including their Mexican street corn, tacos and burritos. In fact, we love Lloyd so much, we make sure to stop in the city and find one of their trucks whenever we pass through.


A key clue that you’ve entered a foodie paradise is that they have at least one amazing sushi restaurant. SeaBar was our first meal in Buffalo and tipped us off from the start that we had entered a culinary city we weren’t expecting.

In the summertime, SeaBar restaurant offers outdoor seating but whether you’re sitting inside or out, the atmosphere is both casual yet chic. The menu, is anything but casual. There are some serious appetizers and entrees to go along with the sushi and sashimi options and when you get to the rolls, you know you’ve hit the jackpot, especially with their brilliant take on a Beef on Weck (a sandwich native to Buffalo that was new to us but something you can’t leave without trying!).

The fish is fresh, melt-in-your-mouth and the cuts are perfect. The rolls, a tasty combination of flavours in the absolute right proportions: from their original rolls like the beef on Weck to the more standard American rolls like the Spider Roll. We even chose the crab mango roll as our dessert because, well, why not?

Allen Burger Venture

Allen Burger Venture where to eat in BUffalo NY

Burgers. Another test of a true foodie destination. From just one visit to one burger joint – Allen Burger Venture – Buffalo far surpassed our expectations. It was so good, it is in the running for the best burger we’ve had… anywhere.

Perhaps it’s that their beef is grass-fed Angus, hormone and antibiotic free from verified humane and sustainable ranches. Perhaps it’s the side of hand-cut fries that are cooked perfectly. Or perhaps it is the unbelievable condiment options on their beef (and alternative, such as chicken, tuna, veggie, etc) burgers like caramelized onions, applewood bacon and cheddar or cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and their Triple D sauce (like Big Mac sauce!). Whatever it is, from the very first bite, we knew we had found a burger joint amongst burger joints.

Gabriel’s Gate

Here is where things get a little controversial. You’ll probably want to consult a local expert… though EVERY local you meet will consider themselves one on this issue. Buffalo wings. Or, as they call them in Buffalo: wings.

We were told of about a half-dozen different restaurants, from different ‘local experts’, that were supposedly THE place to get wings in the city. We didn’t try them all. We do plan to one day though. Until then, we can only offer our suggestions on the places we did try them and our first spot was Gabriel’s Gate. One of the local favourites, this lodge-style pub in Allentown offers some pretty good wings, if we say so ourselves, and can be ordered with increasingly spicy sauce options. The way to order them, most locals told us, is medium BBQ sauce with (and this is the most important thing) blue cheese dressing NOT ranch as is the default in most places.

Gene McCarthy’s

Beef on Weck. A sandwich we had never heard of before our first visit to Buffalo. It is said that the beef on Weck was created in Buffalo using a kummelweck (in German, it means caraway roll) which is a bun baked with caraway and salt on top that was also said to have originated in Buffalo. The roll was then used to create the beef on weck by creating a sandwich of thinly sliced roast beef and horseradish.

If it sounds delicious it’s because it is and when we tried our first one at Gene McCarthy’s before our Elevator Alley Kayak Tour, we were hooked. This is definitely a place we’ll return to, to get our beef on weck fix and their wings were pretty darn good too!

An Irish pub with a cozy feel, it’s own beers and live music events, it’s another local favourite that is really a must visit no matter how long you have in the city!

Food Trucks!

Larkin Square things to do in Buffalo NY

You don’t have to wait for Food Truck Tuesdays in the summer to hit up a food truck in Buffalo. There are a large number of them in the downtown and surrounding areas and a simple search for the trucks and where they are will have you finding some unique culinary options. It’s a way to get out into the streets of the city, explore new areas or simply find yourself dining in an area you already know and enjoy!

Hydraulic Hearth 

Whether something is going on at Larkin Square or not, Hydraulic Hearth is a restaurant worth checking out. Delicious brick-oven pizzas, a unique variety of craft beers and a unique art installation in an old phone booth inside the restaurant make for a great dining experience.

With free parking and a warm atmosphere, it’s a great place to go any day of the week for some drinks or a meal. There are also several weekly and monthly events that pop up like Gospel brunches with live music and an all-you-can-eat buffet.

So Much Buffalo To See, So Little Time

Really and truly, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all you can do, see and enjoy in Buffalo. We were able to tap into a city of incredible depths, fascinating history, inspiring revitalization and unforgettable food and we’re definitely not finished. If you get a chance to visit you not only won’t be disappointed, you’ll probably be like us… planning your next trip to Buffalo!


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Visit Finland: Ways to Disconnect From WiFi & Connect With Nature

By Dave Brett of Travel Dave UK

When it comes to the Nordics, normally ‘affordable’ is not a word you would associate with this unique area of the world.

However, Finland is the most affordable destination within this region that still packs a mighty punch for your hard earned buck.

Did you know that Finland has a national law called okamiehenoikeus (The Everyman’s right), which states that you’re free to camp anywhere on public land in Finland for free?

Finland Hammock

Simply pack a tent and a sleeping bag and you’re free to roam! Of course, this will limit you to travelling during the Summer months as Winter conditions in Finland can be harsh.

This is what first attracted me to visiting Finland. I’ve always been a big fan of the great outdoors and Finland has so much to offer in terms of huge contrasts between the seasons.

It’s not that difficult to reach the outdoors in Finland. The country is covered by thousands of lakes, millions of trees and endless amounts of archipelago islands.

finland views

It can be harsh in the winter reaching extreme minus temperatures, but the summer can offer so many hiking trail opportunities that are not to be missed.

Along many hiking trails you can find free public cabins to sleep in for the night, some ask for a small cleaning fee donation, but never too much.

finland cabins

The best part of Finland is the true beauty of Finnish nature and you can visit many national parks that offer free hiking trails.

One great national park worth exploring, and only a short drive away from Finland’s capital Helsinki, is the Nuuksio National Park located close to Espoo, Finland’s second biggest city.

If you fancy something a little bit different, head into Finland’s bear country, Ruka, Kuusamo. Located close to the border of Lapland, it offers stunning Finnish lakes and hiking trails such as Oulanka National Park, which will take your breath away.

You can also go off hiking in Finland’s Lapland region. One great trail is in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park where you can find a wonderful selection of cabins to choose from and enjoy life without electricity while really connecting with nature. The autumn time is truly stunning here when winter is coming and the colours start to change.

finland trails

Another incredible hiking trail to explore is the coastal paths close to Turku such as the Finnish Archipelago trail that offers free hiking or cycling trails around Finland’s thousands of small islands, all connected with local ferry boats.

Finland doesn’t have to be expensive if you plan on enjoying the stunning Finnish nature in the summertime.

Don’t let the winter put you off either! If you fancy something a little different, Finland is magical across all four seasons as you can really notice a drastic change in climate here.

For a true winter adventure, head to the Koli National Park located in Northern Finnish Karelia. Here you can look over incredible winter snow plains, grab a snowmobile and go on safari over the frozen lakes and even try your luck at a spot of ice fishing.

finland lakes

And of course, most important, be sure to see if a local will adopt you for one evening and invite you to try a local Finnish sauna experience!

Finland has a sauna per every 5 residence, it’s simply a way of life in Finland and Finns couldn’t live without going to the sauna at least once a week. The sauna has many Finnish traditions and that’s why it’s best to be adopted by a Finn who will happily run you through the whole relaxing ritual and make the experience more worthwhile.

finland free camping

Finland doesn’t have to be expensive when it offers incredible camping and beautiful nature all for free. No matter what the season, this country truly has it all when it comes to nature.

If you’re looking for an adventure, something unique and different like a relaxing nature experience, Finland is a dream destination which will offer a unique trip and allow you to reconnect and relax with nature.


Travel Dave UK profileABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dave Brett shares his travel stories and digital nomad lifestyle on Travel Dave UK while offering travel tips and suggestions for anyone travelling. His goal is to travel to every country and, as of the writing of this article, has managed to hit 86 of 196! You can also find him, along with his adventures and advice, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

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