Yes, Buffalo is cold. There. We got that out of the way.
No, but for real, bundle up. Anywhere you go before or after the All-Star festivities, you’re liable to encounter mid-to-high teens for the high and wind chills in the single digits in lovely Amherst, New York, so if that’s not something you’re used to I suggest investing in a good winter coat this weekend. (At least we’re not getting the nor’easter the East Coast is set to endure... wow, imagine, Buffalo missing a snowstorm!)
Still, there’s plenty to appreciate about the Queen City, whether making your way downtown or sticking close to Northtown Center, the host of the PHF All-Star Game for 2022. Here are some of the highlights when it comes to activities, eats, sights, and more. Some of these are around the rink, and some are further out, but don’t worry: if you can drive, you can get anywhere you need to in 30 minutes or less.
Historic Allentown and the Elmwood Village
It may be a bit of a drive from Amherst, but if you can make it down to Allen St, you’ll see some of the most vibrant and ecletic culture in the city proper. This is the heart of the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly where it intersects with Elmwood Avenue (where the Pride parade is held... or was before the global panini ruined everything). Head up Elmwood to find a healthy stretch of bars, boutiques, and restaurants with cuisines of nearly every kind — and if you do go, stop at Talking Leaves on Elmwood and Bidwell and get lost in the stacks for a moment.
One thing Buffalo has managed to make happen is the trendy, low-key coffeehouse. There’s one in practically every neighborhood, whether you want to go indie (Caffe Aroma on Elmwood, Public Espresso + Coffee House downtown, Tea Leaf on Maple Rd in Amherst) or chain (Spot Coffee on Main St in Williamsville, Delaware Ave in Kenmore and in downtown Buffalo, and more locations). You can take a cup to go or sit and stay a while, and each of these places has its own delicious menu and bakery items. And of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Daily Planet on Hertel Ave in North Buffalo, one of my personal favorites (and the former employer of Beauts captain Corinne Buie).
Yes, I know it sounds weird, but trust me — there is some truly beautiful architecture in downtown Buffalo, and City Hall is no exception. Located in the heart of Niagara Square, there is a distinct Indigenous influence on its design both inside and outside. If you manage to come on a weekday, you might be able to score a free tour; otherwise, head right up to the observatory at the top to get a truly beautiful view of the city and Lake Erie.
Breakfast, Brunch, and Dinner
Of course you gotta eat, right? Well, food is something the 716 does well, and no matter where you’re at, you don’t have to rely on the familiar. There are a ton of scrumptious locally-owned eateries, from Break ‘n’ Eggs on Sweet Home Rd to Sophia’s on Military, The Original Pancake House on Niagara Falls Boulevard, Campfire Grill on Walden Ave (warning: be prepared for a wait if you don’t call in advance), or the dueling Greek diners Olympic and Royal just across from each other on Sheridan and Military. Some are just early-bird spots, while others have full menus to savor all day.
And that’s just for breakfast — we haven’t even gotten to the Buffalo staple of pizza and wings yet. Mister Pizza, Franco’s, Bocce Club, Imperial, Lovejoy, and of course, La Nova Pizzeria — wherever you end up, you can find delicious pies. At least, if you like sweet sauce and spicy cup pepperoni. (I myself prefer the New York-style slices at Joe’s on Amherst Street in Black Rock, but I’m a pizza snob.) And yes, each has its own take on the famous wings.
If you just want to focus on the chicken, check out Nine-Eleven Tavern, Elmo’s (this one’s just down the street from Northtown Center on Millersport Highway!), or if you’re willing to take a bit of a drive, you can find the best wings in the greater WNY area at Bar Bill Tavern in East Aurora. (Trust me... they’re worth the trip.) Those looking for the more well-known spots can check out Duff’s on Sheridan, the closest of its five locations to the rink. This might sound dismissive, but skip Anchor Bar — while they are the original home of the chicken wing, you can find evolved renditions throughout the city and suburbs.
Breweries and gastropubs have also become common, with plenty of local brews to choose from. Check out New York Beer Project on Transit Rd in Lockport, Big Ditch Brewing Company in downtown Buffalo on East Huron St, or one of two on Main Street in Williamsville — Britesmith Brewing, located in an actual 1800s smithy, or Buffalo Brewpub, named the oldest in New York state.
The Great Outdoors
If you want to brave the cold, there is plenty to do there as well. Western New York is home to plenty of beautiful parks, including Delaware Park in the heart of the city and Chestnut Ridge in Orchard Park (full of trails for those of you adventurous enough). Just south of the city is Tifft Nature Preserve, where you can see some beautiful wildlife. Niagara Falls is a short drive north and absolutely breathtaking in the middle of winter.
In the city proper, the waterfront is a must. Buffalo houses the largest inland naval park in the country in the Erie County Naval and Military Park, and you can wave to Canada from the observation tower at the Erie Basin Marina. Canalside has ice skating, curling, and other winter activities, all a stone’s throw from KeyBank Center (home of the Buffalo Sabres). A few minutes south and you’ll find Silo City, home of the historic grain elevators. Also there is the site of the Beauts’ outdoor game next month, Riverworks, with its own brewery, axe throwing, open skating, and even a ropes course.
Honestly, if I went further I’d be prepping you for a full season in Buffalo, but rest assured that there’s plenty to do, eat, drink, and see this weekend. If you partake, let me know where you go... and who knows? You might just see me there.