Buffalo Rising

I’ve spent some time in Buffalo over the past month and wow. Just wow.

No longer a dead industrial dinosaur, or a place to catch a plane, or the place you go to grab a second opinion on your knee replacement, it’s suddenly awake and alive and you can really see the ways in which that billion dollars has transformed the place. But you can also sense it in the spirit of its residents – and that’s something money just can’t buy.

There’s a contagious pride all over the place with flowers being planted along the sides of the road and houses being painted and new businesses opening everywhere and a waterfront that is now for the people and not just industry.

I’m urging you to take a look – ride the water taxi around or rent a paddle boat along the river downtown. Go see how they’ve turned industrial silos into restaurants and skating rinks, have a beer in one of a dozen new breweries or take in some of the architecture that shows off the city’s mansions and ties to the arts and crafts movement. It’s often unrecognizable – from transformed neighborhoods to a slew of new buildings downtown, to the new and prized Canalside that has given the people back their waterfront.

We need to support the areas in our state that are struggling to survive against the towering skyline of New York City. Buffalo is, after all, our neighbor and they’re hoping you’ll take a second look. It’s no longer the “gritty city” and it’s well worth your time to spend a day there.

Ready to head north? Good. Here’s what you can do when you get there:

Canalside: This downtown waterfront pavilion and park is cranking up for a busy summer. There seem to be nonstop festivals and concerts here along with a children’s beach, boardwalk, boat rentals like kayaks and water bikes, along with community yoga and other exercise classes on the sweeping lawn. There is a naval museum located here with a children’s museum planned for the future. Check out their busy summer schedule at canalsidebuffalo.com. Concert lovers will be impressed, but it’s also a great place to bring the kids or to spend a Saturday with a picnic lunch. They host 1,000 events a year. You can also take a historic tour on a riverboat.

Buffalo RiverWorks: This new complex was most surprising, located in what was once an abandoned industrial area along the Buffalo River and close to downtown. Today, it’s been turned into a premier entertainment, boating, music, and sports complex along the banks of the river. The interior space at this venue holds 5,000 people, along with four bars, waterfront patios, two ice rinks, a roller derby rink, restaurant, concession food area, and a planned brewery, beer garden and hotel. You’ve got to see it to believe it. Check it out at buffaloriverworks.com. It’s rumored a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills will one day be built near here. If that happens, expect an even bigger transformation of this area.

HarborCenter: This new complex connected to Canalside has two hockey rinks, two restaurants, an indoor parking ramp, a pro shop and training centers. It also boasts a new Marriott Hotel and 10,000 feet of retail space.

Larkin Square: Once home to the Larkin Soap Company, this new mixed-use community has a lot to offer the visitor. For one, Food Truck Tuesdays can draw thousands of people who line up for the best street food around. There’s also two breweries and two distilleries, along with retail shops – even a great new restaurant called The Chautauqua Cafe. Visit larkinsquare.com for more information. Be sure to check out the 1930s gas station that’s been turned into a restaurant. Several nights a week, there’s an outdoor open bar, kids playing pickle ball and couples dancing to live music.

Riverfront Renaissance Tour: Take a tour of the waterfront to learn about Buffalo past and present. It’s an interesting tour that relays the history of the Erie Canal and the development of the grain elevator. It’s wonderful to see how the city has memorialized the Erie Canal in the new waterfront development. Visit explorebuffalo.org for tour schedules and tickets.

Elmwood Village: A great place to walk around and shop, eat and drink. It encompasses the unique urban vibe of Buffalo with great coffee shops and cool stores. A fantastic farmers market is held here on the weekends. Check out elmwoodmarket.org.

Craft Beer: With nearly a dozen new breweries and seven brewery tours, beer lovers won’t be disappointed. Check out stepoutbuffalo.com for more information. Resurgence Brewery has a beautiful outdoor beer garden and a fire pit.