Independent non-profit Hostel Buffalo-Niagara is three stories of hospitality in a prime spot in the heart of downtown’s Theatre District. For a good audio-visual illustration, it’s where the Buffalo MetroRail train comes above ground (or dips under Main Street, if northbound and heading into its tunnel), when the horn blasts a rattling “Here I come!” signal.
Theaters and performance spaces nearby include Town Ballroom (two doors down), Irish Classical Theatre Company, Shea’s Performing Arts Center, and 710 Main Street Theatre. Dozens of locally-owned restaurants of several ethnicities and price points, bars and breweries, and cultural attractions are short distances away: within blocks are Hearth + Press, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, and Big Ditch Brewing Company. The Buffalo Waterfront/Canalside is 1.2 miles away (jump on the MetroRail to Erie Canal Harbor station – no fare while riding above ground!). Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center and CEPA Gallery are also neighbors.
Hostelling – staying at low-cost, communal hostels – is perfect for budget-conscious (prices start at $38/night) travelers, groups, and those who like to hunker down and get to know the locals and fellow travelers. The youth hostel concept got rolling in the early twentieth century and remains a popular way to see the sights, while connecting to like-minded visitors from all over the globe.
Hostel Buffalo Niagara’s onsite manager J.P. Piret
Hostel Buffalo-Niagara, established in 1996, exclaims on their website (hostelbuffalo.com), “We are Niagara Falls & Buffalo’s longest running not-for-profit independent Hostel!” On the hostel booking site hostelworld.com the Buffalo hostel garners a “Superb” rating of 10 via over 1,000 reviews penned by former guests in categories including security, cleanliness, and location.
A guest from last year commented: “Great location! 15-minute walk from Anchor Bar and Gabriel’s Gate (best wings in town IMO). Very helpful staff member on check-in gave me lots of cool ideas of what to see and do in Buffalo. Extremely clean…Free tea coffee and porridge oats are a bonus. Highly recommend.”
Other amenities for guests include free Wi-Fi, free bicycle sharing, laundry room, a movie library and book exchange. There is also bike storage in the building for bikepackers – and the hostel has installed a self-help bike stand in front of their building. Another back room hosts small concerts. Brochures and publications promoting dozens of local attractions and events are on display prominently in the sunny lobby near some comfy chairs: hundreds of posters and flyers from past events in the city wallpaper floor-to-ceiling behind the front desk.
According to the hostel’s onsite manager, J. P. Piret, two-night stays are currently required because of Covid protocols and the extra cleaning performed between guests. Due to Covid precautions, all rooms are currently rented as singles, or to couples; there are no bunk options for those who are not traveling together. Masks are required in all communal spaces.
Notes from Hostel Buffalo-Niagara’s global guests
Everyone entering the hostel is immersed in art: the welcoming building’s vestibule is jauntily painted by creative/illustrator/sign maker/community gardener Nicole Dionne, and the stairwell features more hand-painted walls. Piret also runs the petite storefront gallery on the other side of the building, Box Gallery, scheduled with exhibitions of artwork by local and national artists in all media. Following their shows, artists are asked to donate a piece of art to the hostel: guest rooms, hallways, and other spaces are hung with an array of work from the ever-growing permanent collection. Look for a Peter Fowler painting in a hallway, and a Julian Montague banner in one of the dorm rooms.
“We have our online booking, and have contactless check-in,” says Piret, also sharing that the hostel has accommodates “roughly 6,000 overnight guests per year. When people stay here they get a good impression of Buffalo, it’s almost like a springboard and they find their community through here: they’ll connect with other people at the art openings, the music world, and festivals. We get Europeans, Canadians, Asian, South American visitors as well as families and organized travel groups, and independent travelers: they come to downtown and most times they’re coming to visit Niagara Falls. We get a lot of people who come to town for the New York State bar exam, too. We have also inspired a few people to move to Buffalo after their stays here.”