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 artisan markets to free yoga classes.
The newest additions to Canalside’s menu of family fun options include the Buffalo Heritage Carousel. This vintage carousel has found a new home on the Buffalo waterfront after being lovingly restored by a team of volunteer artisans. The intricately carved carousel creatures adorned with dazzling primary colors make this a wonder-filled experience for kids. The other new arrival in the neighborhood is the Longshed at Canalside. The scent of wood shavings and sawdust fills the air here as a group of boatbuilders and community volunteers work on a replica of the Seneca Chief, a 73-foot long Erie Canal packet boat. Stop in and see the work in progress.
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 ships 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.
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 everything from a Ferris wheel to roller hockey and roller derby, a brewery and restaurant, ziplining, rock climbing, a ropes course, concerts 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, many of them within the incredible acoustics of the cavernous silos. And Duende, a bar and restaurant 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 Wilkeson Pointe beer garden.