Downtown Buffalo has undergone a radical transformation in recent years. On the north end, Ellicott Street has seen the development of a host of new restaurants, breweries and distilleries. On the south end, new hotels, eateries, shops and entertainment options are popping up along Buffalo’s waterfront at Canalside. All this excitement is against the backdrop of downtown’s historical landmarks and architectural wonders.
Where Buffalo Began
Where Buffalo Began
Downtown is the epicenter of Buffalo’s emergence as the city where all the cool kids hang out. Developers are re-claiming vacant turn-of-the-century buildings and lots and turning them into unique business ventures that are drawing visitors far and near. The positive energy is infectious. When you’re here, you don’t just bear witness to Buffalo’s Renaissance. You take part in it.
Where you’re staying:
While you’re in downtown Buffalo you’re staying at the Hotel @ The Lafayette. Renovated to historic preservation standards, (they flew in master craftsmen from Russia) the Lafayette is old school chic. With an attached restaurant, prohibition era speakeasy turned bakery and a fireplace in your room you don’t have to leave if you don’t want to. But you will. Here’s why:
Where you’re eating:
Winter: A hearty season calls for a hearty meal. If burgers are your thing head to Marble & Rye for their signature M+R burger and specialty cocktail.
Summer: The Liberty Hound. Grab a seat on the patio (if you can) and order up some fish tacos. Enjoy the sights and sounds of Canalside in the shade of the USS Sullivans, part of the largest inland Naval Park in the United States.
Where you’re drinking:
You mean besides the Liberty Hound? When the sun’s not out head to Buffalo Proper for a drink mixed by Jon Karel, one of the most skilled barmen in Buffalo. You know that hotel you’re staying in? It’s home to Lafayette Brewing Company, a pretty killer bar in its own right. Make sure you finish the night with a brew or two here before you head off to bed.
Where you’re shopping:
Remember when Spike Lee wore a red Yankees baseball cap and changed the hat game forever? So do we. That hat was made right here in Buffalo at the New Era Cap Company. Stop into their world headquarters on Delaware Avenue and pick up unique headwear you won’t find in the mall.
What you’re doing:
Summer: Summers in Buffalo are all about the water. Explore the Buffalo River and the blossoming Canalside development in a kayak or stand-up paddle board provided by BFLO Harbor Kayak, or cycle on the water with a rental from Water Bikes of Buffalo. At night take a cruise around the harbor on the Moondance catamaran or Miss Buffalo. If views from land are more your style, make your way up to the top of City Hall for a breathtaking view of the city and some serious selfie scenery.
Winter: One word: Curling. In case you haven’t noticed, Canalside is the place to be regardless of the season. During the winter months have a curling session on the replicated, frozen Erie Canal on Buffalo’s waterfront, the Ice @ Canalside. Before you leave, make sure you do some ice skating and rent an ice bike for a few laps. And if you need to skate more, Rotary Rink at Fountain Plaza has free admission.
Throughout the days of winter, I often find myself wandering through the most beautiful buildings in downtown Buffalo. Buffalo’s architecture is stunning from the outside, but the exteriors only scratch the surface of the detail and hard work poured into these signature buildings. They are hallmarks of the city’s golden era near the turn of the 20th century, and a testament to the spirit of preservation and restoration weaving its way through Buffalo’s rebirth today.
Here are seven downtown buildings to step inside on your next visit here. (See Shea’s Performing Arts Center through a guided tour, and numerous downtown buildings on tours offered by Explore Buffalo and Buffalo Tours.)
The interior of Shea’s Performing Arts Center (646 Main) has been beautifully restored (Cascio photo)
The 13th floor common council chambers in Buffalo City Hall (65 Niagara Square) feature a magnificent stained glass ceiling.
Modeled after London’s Burlington Arcade, the Market Arcade (617 Main St.) features shops & the new Expo food hall (Matt Digati Photo).
Originally Buffalo’s main post office, the Erie Community College City Campus (121 Ellicott St.) features a massive atrium.
Portions of The Natural were filmed in the stunning interior of the Ellicott Square Building (295 Main)
The Buffalo Savings Bank building’s interior features the zodiac signs against a golden background (545 Main St.; Fran Dyche pic)
The beautifully restored Hotel at the Lafayette features a column-lined lobby.