As a passionate architecture lover, I am always on the lookout for great destinations that feature historic architecture. With a home base in Toronto, I didn’t have to look far: Buffalo, New York – located right on the other side of the Niagara River, had been beckoning me to explore it for a long time now. I knew that Buffalo travel would allow me to explore great treasures of different kinds. So on September 20 I embarked on a 4-day exploration of the Queen City, starting with the Cobblestone District, an entertainment district with historical roots close to the First Niagara hockey arena. After our arrival we stopped in for lunch at Lagerhaus 95, a German-inspired gastro pub inside a renovated historic warehouse.
After the Cobblestone District it was on to Canalside, Buffalo’s waterfront area on the historic Erie Canal which has undergone a $295 redevelopment initiative over the last few years. What had been a rather desolate, run-down and seedy area not long ago has been turned into one of Buffalo’s true redevelopment successes. All set in the historic ambience of the Erie Canal’s western terminus, there is now a large lawn with colourful Muskoka (or Adirondack) chairs, several cool restaurants, departure points for all sorts of boat tours, kayak / canoe / paddleboard rentals, and about 750 special events throughout the year. Today, tourists from all over the world and local couples and families with children have repopulated the area and enjoy a pleasant waterfront experience.
Buffalo’s waterfront has undergone a huge renaissance in recent years. An investment of $295 million also helped restore the Commercial Slip, a part of the western terminus of the Erie Canal that was actually buried and had to be re-excavated. There is even an archeological site here that shows the ruins of the Steamboat Hotel and Lloyd Street, all testimonies to the bustling economic activity in Buffalo in the 1800s. Located adjacent to the Commercial Slip, the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park features a variety of vessels and aircraft including the USS Little Rock, the USS The Sullivans and the USS Croaker, a submarine, all of which can be explored through tours.
From the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park I walked northwestwards along the Erie Canal to where it flows into Lake Erie. The Gardens at the Erie Basin Marina are spectacular and feature a huge selection of annuals and roses. The Hatch Restaurant provides waterfront dining, and tucked in behind is an ice cream store where I picked up a huge cone of Perry’s ice cream. I sat down at one of the picnic tables and admired the boat traffic passing by the mouth of the Erie Canal, set against the backdrop of the Buffalo Lighthouse, an iconic landmark since 1818. A series of large wooden sculptures depicts iconic people, structures and symbols of Buffalo.
Continuing my explorations of the newly revitalized Canalside district in Buffalo, I went on the “Inside Silo City” Riverboat and Walking Tour. Buffalo was the largest grain port in the world and is the place where the grain elevator was invented. Under the expert guidance of Captain Ric Hilliman from Buffalo River History Tours we embarked on a 90 minute tour of the Erie Canal that would provide an amazing overview of Buffalo’s history. In this informative tour we got a close-up look at some of the iconic silos that have lined the canal for 100 or more years.
As part of the “Inside Silo City” riverboat and walking tour we embarked at the Perot Malting Plant and Grain Elevators and Captain Ric took us inside some of these behemoths. We saw the malting ovens and the gigantic hoppers that held the grain and got a chance to gaze inside some grain elevators that are over 100 feet high.
After our initial explorations it was now time to check into our hotel, the Comfort Suites Buffalo and get ready for our next Buffalo travel experience – dinner at the Pearl Street Grill & Brewery – one of Buffalo’s most popular restaurants.