Buffalo’s renaissance hit warp speed in 2015. The frequency and scale of new attractions, restaurants and hotels this year impressed and delighted even the most skeptical locals and visitors.
This rebirth has given Buffalo a self-confidence it hasn’t had in decades and fundamentally changed the way visitors experience the city on any given night or weekend. Here are nine ways the rebirth of Buffalo amazed us in 2015:
1. Ice biking, curling and remote controlled sailboats are becoming favorite pastimes. The Ice at Canalside, one of the country’s largest outdoor skating rinks, has grown into an essential part of the Buffalo experience over the past year. The Ice bikes of Buffalo garnered media attention as far away as Peru, and by summer, the rink turned into a giant pool where families guided remote control miniature sailboats through the cool Lake Erie breeze. This new addition considerably expanded the size of Buffalo’s waterfront, while the new Courtyard by Marriott Canalside and Marriott HarborCenter allow visitors to stay overnight there.
2. The Outer Harbor is now Buffalo’s oyster.
Buffalo’s lakefront has never been so accessible to visitors. The Queen City Bike Ferry’s debut in May at Canalside made visiting the miles of bike trails and parks along the Lake Erie shoreline easy at only $1 each way (with newly available bike rentals at Canalside to complete the experience). And the new playground at Buffalo Harbor State Park could surely vie for the title of Western New York’s best.
3. The Buffalo Riverfront is an Entertainment Hotspot
Until recently, it was unheard of for anyone to say “Hey, let’s go down to Ganson Street and hang out by the Buffalo River.” Now, thousands are doing just that thanks to RiverWorks, an entertainment complex featuring a bar, restaurant, concert venue, roller derby track and hockey and curling rinks that has transformed this historically industrial property. Large open windows facing the river provide unparalleled views of the city skyline – and Cheerios aromas from the adjacent General Mills plant each summer.
4. Grain Elevators are now Works of Art. Buffalo’s largest public art installation, a nightly light show on the Connecting Terminal Grain elevator covering the length of four football fields, debuted in November and is already a fixture on aerial skyline photos. The city’s venerable Albright-Knox Art Gallery also continued its public art collaboration with Erie County, giving us works like Silent Poets at Canalside. A huge mural now greets visitors in the Cobblestone District, while Larkin Square patrons play miniature golf at the “Links at Larkin” on display during the summer.
5. A distillery boom is underway. The brewery openings that came to a foamy head in 2014 continued this year with the openings of Big Ditch downtown and 42 North Brewing in East Aurora. A new generation of distilleries is joining them too, with Lockhouse, Niagara Distilling, Black Squirrel and Tommyrotter all opening new facilities in 2015.
6. Ellicott Street is transforming into a restaurant row.
Over a half-dozen restaurants now call a small stretch of Ellicott Street downtown and its immediate vicinity home. Just this year, Big Ditch Brewing Co., Toutant and Deep South Taco opened on Ellicott, with Marble + Rye just around the corner on Genesee Street. These join popular favorites Tappo, Seabar and nearby Oshun as some of downtown’s hottest restaurants.
7. Shopping is back downtown.
A new generation of boutique retailers is reviving shopping downtown and can be found throughout the city center, from the Market Arcade building in the Theater District to the Shops at HarborCenter along the waterfront.
8. Food trucks are Becoming Restaurants.
Lloyd made waves as Buffalo’s first food truck back in 2010; now its new restaurant on Hertel Avenue is receiving similar fanfare. In addition, the owners of the Black Market Food Truck opened Marble & Rye last summer. These openings show the evolution of Buffalo’s food truck scene from its infancy in 2010 to its thriving state today, where trucks are becoming precursors to owning a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
9. Boutique Hotels are blossoming.
In just a few short months since opening, Inn Buffalo rose to become the number one ranked hotel on TripAdvisor. The restored 19th century home on Lafayette Avenue is the latest boutique hotel to open, (following the Mansion on Delaware, Foundry Suites, Lofts on Pearl and Hotel @ The Lafayette) as developers take advantage of the city’s historic architecture to create unique lodging experiences. This boutique hotel trend will only gain momentum next year, with the Curtiss Hotel downtown and the Hotel Henry in the Richardson Olmsted Complex slated to open.