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Not Irv Weinstein’s Buffalo any more

By Paul Knowles (First published in Metroland Community Newspapers)

“Irv Weinstein.” Those of a certain age will know that name – the television news anchor who hosted Eyewitness News on Buffalo’s WKBW for 34 years, until 1998. We might even admit that our impression of Buffalo is pretty much based on the crime, mayhem, and tragedies that Irv reported in a style as bold as his sports jackets. (Photo: zip lining at Buffalo RiverWorks)


Frank Lloyd Wright's Martin House and Barton House.

Which is probably why, when I was in Buffalo earlier this month, my hosts were quick to distance themselves from the Irv Weinstein image of their city. They didn’t dis the late and lamented Irv directly, they just said, “Things have changed.”

Have they ever!

When I got the invitation from “Visit Buffalo Niagara”, I admit I was a whole lot skeptical. But the hosts were enthusiastic and persuasive, and I agreed to go. Good decision.

Here are the things I was right about, in Buffalo: None.

Here are the things I was wrong about, in Buffalo: You can guess this answer.

There are a lot of very cool things going on in this city, just across the Peace Bridge from the Queen E. We saw some of them, heard about more, and sampled a few (yep, Buffalo wings. Seemed the right thing to do, since we were at Gabriel’s Gate pub. There is an entire Buffalo Wing Trail, and the brochure was written by out host, Brian Hayden, who admitted it was a tasty gig.)

We skipped the modern art museum because it is closing soon to undergo a huge, two-year expansion, and started our exploration of Buffalo at the Martin House, designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. No murder or mayhem here, but if you are a fan of iconic architecture, this is a must – not only did Wright design the house, with all its unique elements, he also designed the furniture, the fixtures, and did the landscaping – and the people of Buffalo have invested $50 million to restore it to its full and highly impressive glory. Can you really spend an interesting hour in a house? No – you could spend three or four. And more in the beautiful gift shop.

We also spent a lot of time at the waterfront – which not all that long ago was virtually derelict, but now is a happening scene in a variety of ways. There’s the brand-new Explore & More Children’s Museum, which instantly turned eight jaded travel writers into kids, as we played with the exhibits, raced on the short track, built with blocks and played in the Moving Water exhibit – an entirely appropriate exhibit, because the museum sits at the exact end of the old Erie Canal, which linked Lake Erie to the Hudson River and thus, New York.

There is a boardwalk along the canal route and river, with attractions ranging from the Naval and Military Park (enormous warships moored at the docks) to ice cream stands and paddleboat rentals. It’s a popular place.

(Photo: Rick Smith at Silo City)

Not long ago, the waterfront mainly featured empty, looming concrete grain silos – dozens of ‘em. Well, they’re still there, but today, they house pubs, a zip line, ice rinks, climbing walls, display areas (all at Buffalo RiverWorks), and a concert venue, unique performance areas, art installations… and, of course, pubs … at Rick Smith’s Silo City.

A month ago, I would have been very unlikely to choose to visit Buffalo unless lured there by travel colleagues. Now, I can’t wait to go back.