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Larkinville: Fresh, Fun, and (Mostly) Free Frolicking

Game afternoon with refreshments is a new summer go-to

As a college student, I’d say two of my favorite words are free and fun. Because of this, Friday afternoon my friends and I went to Larkinville to spend the gorgeous afternoon eating, playing free games, and soaking up some sun.

We started our afternoon off at the Swan Street Diner for milkshakes. Most of my pals ordered salted caramel milkshakes, a few got strawberry, and I had chocolate. My one friend is lactose intolerant, so she opted for some warm, powdered sugar and glazed mini donuts. We all loved the retro look of the diner and decided that we would have to go back at some point for the full breakfast works.

Harry Zemsky, owner of the diner, showed us around the area and informed us that the renovated 1937 eatery had just opened this past October. The diner is open daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. offering all day breakfast and lunch options.

After being properly fueled with our pregame milkshakes, the competitions began. The first competition of our game day was a true gym class favorite: pickleball. The courts are located across from the parking garage of Larkin Square, and free paddles and balls are in baskets near the courts.

If you’ve never played pickleball before, it’s pretty much a combination of tennis, table tennis, and badminton. Teams of two serve and volley over a net using wooden paddles and a dense plastic whiffle ball until one team commits an error. The scoring system is similar to tennis. Based on our former gym class rivalries, my friend group split into a competitive and a less competitive game. The less competitive game may have lacked some of the rule structure and intensity of the competitive game but did not lack in the fun department. Pickleball is a flexible game; it can be played as a sweat-worthy workout or as a way to just get moving with some friends.

Once we finished our pickleball games, and a winning team claimed their bragging rights, we moved on to nano golf. The nano golf course is behind the pickle ball course, at 763 Seneca Street. Nano golf is the same as mini golf, aside from the fact that the downsized holes are significantly more challenging. Each hole is an intricate piece of art, with a unique theme and sponsor. If you’re bad at mini golf, nano golf in Larkinville is still worth a visit to see how amazing and detailed each sculpture-like hole is.

Personally, I do not have great mini golf skills. Usually my friends start counting my strokes 3 putts in when I finally land the ball on the course rather than in any surrounding landscape. For struggling mini-golfers like myself, nano golf may be tough and leave you a bit frustrated. But if you can appreciate the design and art of each hole and keep score fairly for your friends, you can still have a good time on the course.

Nano golf was a quick yet enjoyable stop on our Larkinville games tour, however I would recommend groups of 2-4 to play on each hole. With seven total girls trying to do the same hole, the small space was a little too crowded—somewhere around 3 people would be the perfect amount for smooth games. Once again, golf putters and balls are free and readily available.

Following nano golf, we walked over to the Hydraulic Hearth Restaurant & Brewery to try shuffleboard. No one in my group had ever played shuffleboard, but after figuring out the technique and playing a few games, we understood why it’s such a popular post-retirement sport.

Also, at Hydraulic Hearth, we noticed that there was a cornhole set. This ultimately became the location for the group’s final and most competitive game of the tour. Cornhole is a classic outdoor backyard game where two teams toss beanbags (filled with corn) onto wooden boards to score points. With several softball players in the group and many competitive egos, the intensity of this last game was at an all-time high. Between the trash talking, cheating accusations, profane exclamations and multiple score disputes, cornhole was a fan favorite for the group.

Game day was successful and a unique way to spend an afternoon with friends. As opposed to driving upwards of an hour to a local beach, we drove 15 minutes to Larkinville and had a great time trying new and free activities, while being outside. As college students, our lack of funds often limits our activities; game day at Larkinville was perfect because the only thing we would pay for while being there are refreshments—the games were all free. The day was gorgeous, and the surrounding views of an urban landscape were different, refreshing, and worthwhile.

Aside from Food Truck Tuesday, only one of my friends had been around Larkinville. After testing out the games and taking in the scene, the entire group agreed that game afternoon with refreshments is a new summer go-to.

Written by Claire Wanzer

Claire Wanzer

Claire Wanzer is from Amherst, NY and currently attends Niagara University where she’s pursuing a degree in English and Communication Studies. Claire is also a member of the women’s basketball team at NU and is extremely passionate about sports. She loves animals, hiking, rollerblading, yoga, hanging out with her friends, and especially writing for her personal blog,

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