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Buffalo, New York - Canalside Continues to Evolve

© by George Bailey

It was in July of last year that I wrote about the revitalization of Buffalo's waterfront, just a 10-minute drive from the Peace Bridge. The area had been transformed into an exciting place filled with hundreds of free events and activities. New life had returned to this once barren and blighted district. I'd heard development at Canalside was still continuing and that the area evolving into a year-round destination, so Ellen and I returned to where we had so much fun in the summer. We spent a weekend in the heart of downtown Buffalo right on the waterfront and discovered Canalside had put on its winter coat and the place was abuzz with wintertime activities.

The Ice at Canalside
A 35,000 square foot outdoor rink (It's twice the size of Rockefeller Center's) called The Ice at Canalside at 44 Prime Street has been built on a piece of land where the historic 1825 Erie Canal once was found; the rink is a replica of the canal. Before we put on our skates I ran into Chris Catanzaro, Assistant Project Manager for the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation who told me, "So far about 45,000 people have used the rink since it opened on December 18th. It's been a real success despite the cold winter weather. You can even learn to curl here and there's a one-of-a-kind ice bike rental".

The final day of operation will depend on weather conditions so readers are advised to check their website. Admission prices are, 13 and over $5.00, 6 to 12 years $3.00 and under 5 free. Skate rentals are $3.00.

After we unlaced our skates we headed to a nearby Tim Horton's for a coffee. This "Timmies" opened a few months ago. It was no ordinary coffee shop. Inside the building there's a museum honouring the famous Canadian hockey player who wore the # 2 jersey for 124 games as defenseman for the Buffalo Sabres.

Harbor Center
Harbor Center, built at a cost of 170 million dollars, was just under construction when we visited last summer. It features a two-story sports bar, (716) Food and Sport, that has over 70 flat-screen televisions and a mammoth 38 foot screen. Whenever the Buffalo Sabres, score there are red lights around the bar that go wild. Food prices are reasonable.

Atop the bar sits two NHL-sized ice rinks that host college and amateur hockey tournaments. When we were there the place was a hive of activity. There are also plans to open a new 200 room Marriott Hotel later this year above the rinks. HarbourCenter also has an indoor paid parking facility that can accommodate 750 vehicles.

River Works
Here's another place where Buffalo embraces the winter on the waterfront. We took a drive up the Buffalo River to a collection of old industrial buildings and grain elevators that have been transformed into a series of ice rinks, a restaurant, bar, brewery, and event space. We were amazed when we entered one of the buildings to stumble upon hundreds of players attending the International Labatt Blue Buffalo Pond Hockey Tournament.

We like to stay at the Courtyard by Marriott at 129 Main Street, only a five-minute walk from Canalside. Right outside our hotel is Buffalo's Light Rail transportation system where we picked up
 
a free above ground 10 minute train ride to Lafayette Square. The train operates from 6 am until midnight. At the square check out some of Buffalo's historic art deco turn of the 20th century buildings. One such building is the 32 story City Hall built between 1929 and 1931.

For a touch of class try the Bourbon and Butter inside one of the most majestic buildings in Buffalo, the Hotel@ the Lafayette. The sophisticated and relaxed atmosphere had us feeling like we had transported ourselves to a different place and time. The dinner with wine put us back about $80.00, but worth every penny.


Buffalo historic City Hall   New 716 Food and Sport Bar     Buffalo Lightrail Transportation System    One of the two NHL-sized ice rinks inside HarborCenter    Tim Hortons Baker, Carmen Johnson shows us one of her donuts baked in the new Canalside



Courtyard by Marriott is where the Bailey's prefer to stay when visiting Buffalo



Canalside From the Air



Project aims to transform old silos


Photo Credits
George Bailey
 


George Bailey contributes to Sun Media's 43 paid-circulation newspapers across Canada as well as numerous magazines. George has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, Canada AM, The Discovery Channel, and Live with Regis and Cathy Lee. He has published five books on Niagara Falls.
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