So you want to go to the NWHL All-Star Game. You’ve got your tickets, your jersey, and you check to see where it’ll be. And you realize it’s in Buffalo, New York.
I know, I know. If there’s anyone who KNOWS what people say about this town, it’s me, because I hear them say it every time I mention where I’m from and where I’m living now. “You moved from BROOKLYN… THERE?”
Yeah. I get it. A fraction of the population, ten times the snow, and nothing to do. Right?
Well… not really.
In the six years I’ve lived here (seriously, I can’t believe it’s been that long), I’ve heard Buffalo referred to as “wasteland,” “Southern Canada,” you name it. I’ve also seen it undergo a subtle transformation from the snowy little speed bump you pass on your way to Niagara Falls and Toronto, to a city with somewhat higher aspirations.
That doesn’t mean Buffalo has its issues; there are many, and a lot of them deal with things largely outside the realm of hockey (like jobs, gentrification, etc.). But you don’t care about any of that right now — you just want to know what there is to do before and after the All-Star Game. Well, you’re in luck.
- First of all, there’s plenty of food options. Right inside the HarborCenter building (which is easily accessible from the train station, bus depot, and a short drive down the 33 from the airport), you have (716), the hot spot for pre- and post-game eats and drinks. I’ve been a couple of times, and I’m actually going to have my birthday party there in a couple of weeks. The drinks and atmosphere kind of make up for the food, in my opinion (that isn’t to say the food is bad — it’s just okay). But once you get a load of the giant screen you can check out games on, I think you’ll be sold.
- If (716) isn’t for you, check out Pearl Street Grill and Brewery, located just a short walk down from the arena. This place has excellent food and pretty good beers (the Blue-Eyed Blueberry Blonde and Don Cherry Cherry Wheat are my favorites).
- In fact, there are plenty of brewery options in Buffalo, which prides itself on local products (just look at Beauts captain Emily Pfalzer, a native of nearby Getzville). Big Ditch on East Huron, Resurgence on Niagara Street, and Flying Bison on Seneca Street are all close by. I’ve heard tell Big Ditch has more variety and great food in addition to their beer, while Resurgence and Flying Bison offer cool snacks to pair with your brews. (Resurgence also plays pretty great music — I took my friend Maria there and that night they had R&B and hip hop jams that took me right back to middle school.)
- If you fancy braving the cold and snow for a walk along the water, Canalside is the place to be. Buffalo’s made awesome use of the space during the winter, offering fitness classes and public skating, among other things. Last weekend was Canalside’s Chillabration, featuring live entertainment and food on top of everything else it has to offer. During the summer, there are concerts, boot camp, yoga, Pilates, Zumba, and tons of water activities on the canal. Their Fourth of July celebrations are also lots of fun.
- Walk a bit further down and you’ll find the Naval and Military Park, which features three ships, a museum, and the Liberty Hound, a cool little pub. Right now, the Park is closed to tours until March, but you can still take some pretty sweet photos with the giant ships in the background.
- Finally, Buffalo RiverWorks over on Ganson Street has everything — sports, food and drink — under one roof. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s looking gorgeous. Oh, and did I mention you can also catch roller derby there? Yeah, Buffalo has FREAKIN’ ROLLER DERBY. Get excited.
- If you’d like to explore outside of downtown, there are a couple of great neighborhoods developed around some of Buffalo’s main drags. The Delaware District features some of the beautiful mansions millionaires once lived in; Allentown, the heart of Buffalo’s LGBTQ community, features some cool variety stores and art galleries; and the Elmwood Village has everything from bookstores and boutiques to bars and even a little greenery in the form of Bidwell Park. Also, don’t overlook Grant Street — it features two of my favorite used bookstores, Rust Belt Books and West Side Stories, plus a ton of cool shops owned by a diverse group of entrepreneurs. Buffalo has a growing refugee population, and Westminster Economic Development Initiative (WEDI), Inc., has done a lot to help support them and their businesses.
I realize now that I could go on for quite a bit about the stuff Buffalo has to offer, because believe it or not, it’s quite a bit. This place is small and a little out of the game, but it’s full of pride and willingness to prove itself — kind of like its NWHL team.
Anyway, if you do decide to make a weekend of it, consider checking out the stuff listed above, and don’t be afraid to do a bit of your own digging. And of course, don’t miss puck drop for the All-Star Game at 2 p.m. sharp at HarborCenter.