Welcome back to all the Buffalo natives returning home next week for Thanksgiving! This four-day stretch has historically been the perfect opportunity to reunite with friends at your tried-and-true favorite Buffalo spots. Expats feast on wings at Duff’s and Gabriel’s Gate, split pitchers of Labatt Blue at Founding Fathers and Cole’s and line up at Ted’s for a charcoal broiled hot dog.
All of those spots are still essential, Buffalo nation. But there’s also so much more to discover these days, as the city has dramatically transformed in recent years – restoring its architecture, revitalizing its waterfront and adding a host of new hotels, restaurants, craft breweries and distilleries. Here are 9 spots to include in your travels next week that will bring you up to speed on the New Buffalo:
1. Restored Architecture
One of the country’s most outstanding collections of turn-of-the 20th century architecture is being renewed and restored. One prominent example is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House, which is a must-visit if you haven’t been in a year or two. The first floor of the main house is nearing the end of its restoration, the latest milestone in this over 15-year, $50 million project. You can also tour Wright’s Graycliff Estate and his posthumously designed boathouse, gas station and mausoleum.
2. Ice @ Canalside
The Ice @ Canalside, one of America’s largest outdoor public skating rinks, transformed Buffalo’s waterfront upon its opening two years ago. Weather permitting, the ice will return on Nov. 25. Those who don’t skate should rent an Ice Bike of Buffalo, believed to be the only ones of their kind available for public rental in North America.
3. Public Art
Buffalo has always been a great art town, with stalwarts like the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Burchfield Penney Art Center anchoring the scene. Now, that creative vibe is weaving its way through the city’s streets and onto its buildings. Make sure to check out the new “Greetings from Buffalo” mural on the side of the Washington Market (461 Ellicott St.); “Noodle in the Northern Lights,” the massive, colorful mural straddling Tupper Street between Main and Pearl and the “72 Jewett” mural, found along an old industrial warehouse on Jewett Parkway.
4. Grain Elevator Illumination
Speaking of public art, the nightly illumination of the Connecting Terminal grain elevator (dusk to 11 p.m.) began one year ago directly across from Canalside. It’s part of a larger re-purposing of the city’s industrial architecture that’s gaining national attention.
A roller derby rink, bar, restaurant, concert venue and ice skating rinks, all in one space? It must be RiverWorks, which has taken Buffalo by storm along the Buffalo River since its opening last year; it has reinvigorated a long vacant industrial waterfront property.
The $200 million HarborCenter complex has been a game changer on Buffalo’s waterfront. Browse through the shops at HarborCenter, dine at (716) Food & Sport or the signature Tim Horton’s honoring the chain’s founder, stay at the 200-room Marriott Hotel and cheer on the Buffalo Beauts Women’s Professional Hockey Team or the Canisius College Golden Griffins on their new home ice.
7. New Restaurants
The boom in new restaurants that has gained momentum over the last couple of years has showed no signs of slowing in 2016. A few of the new highlights include Expo Market, which brings several local restauranteurs under one roof in the heart of the city’s theater district; Ru’s Pierogi, offering over half-dozen pierogi varieties from chicken wing to pulled pork and potato ricotta; and Lait Cru Brasserie, with its French-inspired breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Horsefeathers building on Buffalo’s Lower West Side
8. New Breweries and Distilleries
Five years ago, there were only a couple of breweries and no distilleries within the city limits. Now there are over a dozen, including 2016 additions Thin Man Brewing in the heart of the Elmwood Village, Buffalo Brewing Co. in Larkinville and Lakeward Spirits in the city’s Old First Ward.
9. New Hotels
The new hotel boom that brought us the Marriott HarborCenter, Courtyard by Marriott and Hilton Garden Inn downtown in recent years continued in 2016 with the opening of Buffalo’s first Westin at the intersection of Delaware and Chippewa. And that momentum will continue in the coming months, with the high-end Curtiss Hotel downtown and Hotel Henry in the Richardson Olmsted Complex slated to open.