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On The Water's Edge

The best things to do year-round on Buffalo's Waterfront

You can say that Niagara Falls is an excellent reason to visit the Buffalo area. But to say that it’s the only reason? Well, that’s as shocking as a wave of water aboard the Maid of the Mist. While Niagara Falls gets the bulk of visitor’s attention, locals know that there are plenty of things to “fall for” while you’re in the Buffalo Niagara region. In fact, some of the region’s top attractions can be found 20 miles upstream, along the Buffalo waterfront.

If you had walked along the Buffalo River and the Lake Erie shoreline 20 years ago, you might have thought the heyday of this region had come and gone, never to return. Luckily for Buffalo residents and visitors alike, ingenuity and effort have combined to revitalize the waterfront, making it not only a hub of family-friendly activities, but a totally unique destination characterized by repurposed relics of an industrial past.

Summer
Lovin’

One word: Canalside. This activity-filled park along the restored Western terminus of the Erie Canal is the hub of Buffalo’s redeveloped waterfront, hosting hundreds of special events each summer, from weekly concerts to free yoga classes.

See how many types of floatation devices your kids can spot as you gaze from Canalside’s boardwalk onto the Buffalo River—keep an eye out for the occasional tiki hut bar, stand up paddleboard and the half-bike, half-boat Buffalo Cycleboats. You’ll also spot the World War II era cruiser, destroyer and submarine floating in the river at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park, the largest inland park of its kind. Liberty Hound, located next to the naval park, has an irresistible patio and an even better menu of Buffalo classics like beef on weck and wings.

As you stroll, don’t forget to stop in at the Explore & More - The Ralph C. Wilson, JR. Children’s Museum. This recently opened waterfront museum has four floors of interactive exhibits and play zones to explore.

Get closer to the river in a kayak, available to rent from BFLO Harbor Kayak at Canalside. Crane your neck as you paddle up the river within the manmade concrete canyon of Elevator Alley, one of the world’s largest collection of grain silos (and an excellent photo op to look back on). Learn about those same grain silos on a narrated Buffalo River History Tour. Fun fact: Buffalo was once the largest grain port in the world.

Fun Fact:
Buffalo was once the largest grain port in the world

After years of sitting vacant and underutilized, the GLF grain silos along the river have been creatively repurposed to become Buffalo RiverWorks, an all-in-one entertainment complex with roller hockey and roller derby, a brewery and restaurant, ziplining, rock climbing, events and more. The zipline launches you from the top of 100-foot-tall silos; enjoy the lake breeze and the scent of freshly toasted Cheerios from the General Mills plant next door as you zoom past surroundings unlike those you’ll find anywhere else.

Post-thrills, chill. Buffalo RiverWorks built the first ever fully functioning brewery within an existing grain silo that supplies the entertainment center’s four bars. When the sun’s out, RiverWorks Beer Garden—carved from the ruins of former grain silos—is hard to resist.

Further up the river, Silo City hosts poetry readings, theatrical performances, concerts and a host of other seasonal events within the incredible acoustics of the cavernous silos. And Duende, a bar built in the shadow of the grain silos, is the perfect spot to wet your whistle after a day of exploring.

If seeing Lake Erie is on your family’s to do list, rent bikes and cross the Buffalo River on the Queen City Bike Ferry. You’ll find great walking and biking trails along the shoreline of the Outer Harbor, from the 1833 Buffalo Lighthouse to Buffalo Harbor State Park. When you’re ready to take a load off, you can watch the sunset over Lake Erie from The Pointe beer garden.

Photo Credit: Torn Space Theatre and Mark Duggan

Winter
Whoas!

Winter woes? More like winter whoas! Thousands of locals and visitors spend hours each winter on the waterfront at Ice at Canalside. This 35,000-square-foot ice rink—one of the largest in the Northeast—features skating, curling, and ice bumper cars. But the scene-stealer may be the Ice Bikes of Buffalo—manufactured right in Western New York and featuring a stainless steel frame with blades that allows anyone from 8 to 80 to seamlessly glide and pedal along the ice.

The Ice at Canalside is built upon a historic replica of The Erie Canal, which ended along the Buffalo waterfront upon its completion in 1825. Experience a true past-meets-present moment, riding your Buffalo-made ice bike on a recreated portion of the canal.

If you have at least four people in your group, or if you just happen to make some friends on the ice, you can rent a lane for curling. Rentals include an instructor (just in case you didn’t grow up with a slider in your hand) and all the equipment that you need for a good-natured competition on the ice.

Experience a true
past-meets-present
moment

Check out (716) Food & Sport after you’ve worked up an appetite. This two-story gastropub with dozens of television screens serves stick-to-your-ribs bar food right next to the rink—well deserved even if you spent more time slipping on the ice than gliding.  Or grab a steaming cup of hot cocoa at the Tim Horton’s across the street. The restaurant honors the legacy of Tim Horton as both a Buffalo Sabre and a businessman, and you can take in a slice of Buffalo history while you warm up before heading back out to the rink.

Had enough of the cold? Head inside to the Explore & More The Ralph C. Wilson JR. Children’s Museum. Four floors of interactive exhibits and play zones will give your family plenty of room to stay active indoors. Encourage your kids to learn creatively through imagination and exploration—you might even learn a thing or two about the Buffalo region’s history, geography, culture, agriculture, architecture, athletics, commerce and innovation yourself!

From experiencing the most powerful waterfall in North America to riding an ice bike and launching from the top of a grain silo on a zipline, Buffalo is a place where “seize the day” is a year-round rallying cry.

Find fun on the waterfront