Think you know Buffalo? Think again. New York State’s second-largest city is a hop, skip and a jump across the Ontario border and it’s filled with incredible restaurants, exceptional art and innovative public spaces waiting to be discovered – and it’s all just a two-hour drive from Toronto.
Set at the confluence of the Niagara River, Lake Erie and the Buffalo River, Buffalo’s absorbing culture and architecture stems from its history as a bustling port in the early 1900s. It’s therefore fitting that, over one hundred years later, the waterfront has been a focal point for the revitalization of the Queen City.
Today, Buffalo’s Canalside is a lively outdoor activity area that hosts over 1,000 events each year, from concerts to maker markets. On the other side of the Buffalo River, you’ll find another example of the city’s ability to turn the old into new: RiverWorks. Constructed around the remains of former grain silos, RiverWorks is a massive entertainment complex that includes a roller derby track, ice rinks, rock climbing and much more.
New at RiverWorks for 2018 is a 110-foot-high zip line course, which offers sky-high views of Lake Erie and the city. After zipping between silos, hit the patio of the Ward restaurant and sample a brew from RiverWorks Brewing Co., the world’s only operational brewery housed inside a grain silo, while savouring more serene water views. Or enjoy some drinks right out on the water with Buffalo Tiki Tours, which offer fun-filled excursions around Buffalo’s Inner Harbor on floating, Hawaiian-style tiki huts.
But the waterfront isn’t the only place where you’ll discover Buffalo’s talent for transformation. Northeast of the waterfront is Hotel Henry, a hotel set in a Henry Hobson Richardson-designed, 19th-century building that once served as the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane. South of Hotel Henry is Resurgence Brewing Co., a microbrewery set in a former boat engine factory. Be sure to try their Sponge Candy Stout, which is made with clippings of the city’s beloved Watson’s Sponge Candy.
While Buffalo certainly knows how to revamp its historic buildings into modern cultural hubs, it’s also a master of preserving them. The city’s turn-of-the-century prosperity lead to the construction of grand buildings and parks, making it an exciting destination for architecture buffs. Renowned architects like Frank Lloyd Wright made lasting contributions to the Buffalo cityscape, while the city’s park system was conceptualized by Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York City’s Central Park.
Whether it’s your first visit to Buffalo or your hundredth, there’s always something new to explore in this ever-evolving city.