Buffalo’s revival is full of attractions for adventurers

Do you want to travel but worries about COVID-19 prevent you from jumping on a plane? A road trip to Buffalo may be just the ticket to satisfy your wanderlust this summer.

And the good news is that as of April this year, expensive pre-entry PCR tests (which were previously required within 72 hours of returning to Canada) are no longer necessary for fully vaccinated travelers returning home.

My friend and I recently traveled to the City of Good Neighbors to catch one of his favorite comedians, Hasan Minhaj, on his sold-out political satire show, ‘The King’s Jester,’ at the iconic Kleinhans Music Hall. . It was the first time either of us had been in a large venue in over two years. Despite the intense subject matter dealing with racism, terrorism, and being Indian and Muslim in America, there was plenty of laughter, barely drowned out by our mandatory masks.

Stunned with the endorphins kicked in by Minhaj’s comedy magic, we didn’t want the night to end. Someone mentioned Club Marcella after hours and we walked in not knowing what to expect. It turned out to be a hip-hop gay bar, considered one of the best nightspots in downtown Buffalo.

As a heterosexual couple at least two decades older than most people there, we felt remarkably comfortable and even stayed for the midnight drag show, a parade of flamboyant and loud queens that lip sync. And when I say crowd, I mean it. There were around 200 people, most without masks, crowded into the bar. It wasn’t until we left in the wee hours that we considered how reckless we had been in placing ourselves in the middle of what could have been a superspreader event. Our penchant for fun and adventure got the better of us.

For decades, Hamiltonians in search of adventure have moved to the other side, whether for shopping pleasure, major sporting events or cultural excursions to the Albright Knox Gallery (currently closed as it is undergoing a $180 million renovation expansion project that will add 30,000 square feet of exhibition space for its world-class collection of modern and contemporary art) and the Martin House complex designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (who recently completed a $50 million restoration), one of the greatest achievements of the famous architect’s career.

Buffalo is the closest and furthest place to Hamilton. Today it looks vastly different than it did just a decade ago, thanks in part to a massive $300 million redevelopment of its waterfront. What was once a rundown and desolate industrial area along Lake Erie is now a hub of activity, at the center of which is Canalside, which hosts about 1,000 events a year, most free or low-cost, from concerts and craft markets to yoga. in the park, programming for children, water bike, stand-up paddle board and kayak. (Hamilton city leaders could learn a thing or two from Buffalo about how to make our own waterfront more attractive and active.)

The area is also home to one of the world’s largest collections of now-abandoned monumental grain elevators, first built in the early 1900s during Buffalo’s heyday as a grain port and milling center. These have been creatively reused in RiverWorks, an entertainment complex with roller derby and hockey, a brewery and restaurant, rock climbing and a unique zipline experience that starts from the top of one of the silos.

A 105-foot-tall red, white, and blue Ferris wheel near the Labatt Blue-painted silos is scheduled to open this summer at RiverWorks. It’s just one of the attractions that makes this area such a family-friendly place, the largest of which is the nearby Explore & More Children’s Museum, a $29 million, 43,000-square-foot space that opened its doors. doors in 2019 with four floors of kid-friendly fun.

Last summer, the waterfront also hosted the Buffalo Heritage Carousel, a century-old ride of hand-carved wooden animals first made at the Herschell-Spellman Carousel factory in western New York. before languishing for decades in out-of-state storage.

A group of local volunteer artisans brought the period menagerie home and painstakingly restored it to its original glory. The Carousel is the perfect mix of old and new – an antique Wurlitzer organ plays computer-powered music rolls and Telsa solar panels keep it running smoothly in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way. It operates Friday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. All rides are only $1.

The carousel is not the only attraction that has been restored in the city. Buffalo is brimming with revival, including a number of buildings that have been repurposed as boutique hotels, including The Mansion on Delaware Avenue, The Layfayette Hotel, and The Curtiss Hotel.

We spent a few nights at InnBuffalo, a 10,000 square foot Victorian mansion in the heart of Elmwood Village with nine luxurious suites. Silk damask walls, stained glass windows, hand-painted ceilings and antique light fixtures have been lovingly restored by owners Joe and Ellen Lettieri, who are proud to tell you that their inn has been visited by many Presidents over the years. of the last century, from Grover Cleveland, who was photographed playing billiards in the billiard room, to John Kennedy who would have enjoyed the Victorian “needle jet” shower, which is still operational and used to be in our after. (Considered a 19th-century luxury, the shower directs jets of water around the torso and was once promoted as a “liver shower” for men, meant to provide a stimulating massage of internal organs.) I took a pass, but my guy friend enjoyed the prickly experience.

Inn Buffalo is a Victorian mansion with nine luxurious suites.

Joe and Ellen are superb hosts, true Buffalo ambassadors who treat every guest like a longtime friend, whether it’s serving a delicious homemade breakfast with fresh scones, inviting you for a drink at the end of evening on the large porch or offering advice on what to see and where to eat. They embody all that is good in the City of the Good Neighbor.

The famous
Anne Bokma is an author, freelance journalist and writing coach in Hamilton. annebokma.com