Visiting A Revitalized Buffalo

Whatever impressions you have of Buffalo, erase them right now. Take a squeegee to those thoughts of snow, heavy industry and a one-note culinary scene (chicken wings) and let’s start fresh. Today’s Buffalo is undergoing an extreme makeover (revitalized waterfront, refreshed museums and construction city wide) and is turning into one hell of a funky town, full of foodie hot spots, cooler than cool attractions, museums, zippy outdoor fun and unique spots that will have you saying “Wow!” and planning your next visit. Just once is not nearly enough… You’ll be hooked!

By Design

Buffalo packs in the greatest hits of some of the world’s best architects in one sexy package. Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiasts can spend one entire day hopping to one Wright site to the other. The Darwin D. Martin house is a stunner now that it has been restored so authentically that even a curmudgeon like Wright would have approved. Book a tour and take a gander. Just outside Buffalo, Graycliff Estate, the Martins’ summer home on Lake Erie, is under renovation. In the city, the newest dazzler is a Wright-designed gas station that is part of The Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum. It made its official debut in May 2014. 

Louis Sullivan (the man who helped Wright hone his talent) is well represented by the ornate Guaranty Building, completed in 1896. And the brilliant H.H. Richardson shows off his penchant for all things grand with the towers of the Richardson Olmstead Complex, the former mental asylum. It’s considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the U.S., which earned it a spot on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The lunatics left the asylum long ago and plans are underway to turn it into a hip boutique hotel and a museum devoted to architecture. Sign up for a walking tour or DIY.

Outdoor Pursuits

Oodles of waterfront mean Buffalo offers a diverse mix of aquatic activities. Do a kayak tour of the Buffalo River (available through BFLO Harbor Kayak) that takes you by an impressive mix of towering grain elevators and pristine green areas. Climbers can test their meddle by attempting to shimmy up the grain elevators transformed into Silo City Rocks. Cyclists love the city also for its wealth of biking paths that are part of the Erie Canalway Trail, ranging from challenging to easy peasy. If you prefer lazier enjoyment, snag a ticket to a Buffalo Bills game and experience the art of tailgating before heading into Ralph Wilson Stadium. Or catch the Buffalo Bisons in action. The baseball team is Triple-A affiliates of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Wings, Beer and Bistros

Yes, it’s still true. Buffalo is world famous for its chicken wings. The Anchor Bar’s Teressa Bellissimo created the iconic pub staple as a last-minute meal for some unexpected visitors. The idea stuck and is going strong 50 years later. Fowlers Chocolates even has chocolate wings and drumsticks that pay homage to the quintessential bar food. Like your wings saucy? Like ’em dry? The city is dotted with wing places, like Duff’s Famous Wings, that cover the gamut of options. Want to try them all in one fell swoop? Your best bet is to attend the National Buffalo Wing Festival that happens annually each Labor Day weekend at Coca-Cola Field downtown.

To go along with the wings, nothing goes better than beer. Forget the poofy cocktails and mixologists. Buffalo is first and foremost all about beer and it has a booming craft brew scene to prove it. Seek out the stellar pours offered from Community Beer Works and the Flying Bison Brewing Co. Coles on the Elmwood Strip, a lively hub for restaurants and nightlife, is well stocked with local beers well worth trying.

The beauty of Buffalo cuisine is its ease with offering fare both high and low. If you want fancy, it has fancy. But fancy restaurants here come without the snooty attitude that comes parceled up in urban eateries in other major cities. Seabar on Ellicott Street is a prime example of upscale eating in a sleek dining room without the big city prices to match. Its sushi and eclectic fresh-focused offerings (from seafood tacos, fall-off-the-bone short ribs, chicken and savoury waffles) are top notch. 

Sleep Here

The Hotel Lafayette is a gorgeous historic building circa 1904, paired with equally gorgeous interiors. No flowery wallpaper here or girly furnishings. The design is unabashedly bold, from lobby to suite, dressed in wood and steel, grays and warm, light tones. It’s cool without trying too hard and it’s perfectly located for exploration in every direction, from the Albright-Knox art gallery to the entertainment district anchored by Shea’s Buffalo Theater. There’s even a brewery on site at the Pan-American Grill. Doesn’t get more perfect than that!

For more information, see visitbuffaloniagara.com

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Michele Sponagle

Canadian journalist Michele Sponagle is a prolific creator of lifestyle editorial, from travel to style, from relationships to food trends. She has been there and done that in more than 60 countries — and still counting. She has contributed to most of Canada’s leading media outlets and racked up more than 10 National Magazine Award nominations and one win from the Travel Media Association of Canada for best family feature.

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