BUFFALO, NEW YORK
Home to the Buffalo Sabres
Originally, I had absolutely no connection to this city before hockey. As much as I rave about it, people always assume I'm from there. But in truth, Ryan Miller and the Sabres introduced me to this wonderful place. My first visit in 2012 had me head over heels for the city and its people. As I call myself a future Buffalonian, I hope to do it justice on this travel page, and make it a destination all of you will want to visit some day!
VENUES OF HOCKEY INTEREST
First Niagara Center | 1 Seymour H Knox III Plaza, Buffalo, NY
FNC is the beautiful arena home to the Buffalo Sabres.
Before you enter, you should visit Alumni Plaza located on the parking garage side of the arena. With a life size statue of the French Connection at its center, the bridge above it is covered in photos of all the Sabres Greats and its pillars built up with each of the team’s participants own brick.
Once inside, the ground level has the box office and the Sabres Team Store with a bit of Sabres and hockey history in the window displays just outside it. The store is heaven for any Sabres fan, especially if you live 400 miles away and are just visiting. They have a grand number of different kinds of merch that is not sold online and only at the store. There’s also a corner for Buffalo Bandits (NLL) and Rochester Americans (AHL) gear, and even some general NHL gear—I even found a familiar red jersey with an 8 on the back.
As you head up to the second floor, you arrive at the lower bowl seating level. There are plenty of concessions, but what’s unique to it is the Blue Zone seating and bar area. The bar and column tables are lined with vintage goalie leg pads and a typographic wall of their history from its inception to present day, outlining the panels of "Sabres Greats" above it. This is one of my favorite aspects of this arena. The history. It serves as a place that not only experienced nearly half of the team’s seasons, but has them outlined for you to see for yourself.
Like the other arenas in the NHL, you can go down to the glass to watch warmups before returning to your ticketed seat. Excitingly, FNC also holds a similar camera policy to Verizon Center, with detachable lenses allowed as long as they do not obstruct the view of others. It’s a wonder why I love these teams…
Tickets (as of 2014-15): SeatGeek is currently my favorite vendor. You can find seats without hidden fees. Sabres games are much cheaper to attend than Caps games are in DC, but that has a lot to do with team record and city/market location. With the Sabres’ recent struggle and tank missions, ticket prices are a steal in my book. There were plenty just around $10 to $15 in the upper bowl when I looked mid season. I saw lower bowl tickets as low as $40 to $50, which is about the same as the usual StubHub price for Capitals nosebleed seats. That’ll give you some perspective on price differential!
Student Surge (as of 2014-15): The Sabres do have student tickets which are discounted from the regular price. This is something we are lacking here in DC.
Perspective and seating view notes are TBD as it has been three years+ and some renovations since the only game I’ve attended at FNC as a fan.
HARBORCENTER | 100 Washington Street, Buffalo, NY
I have read several times that the original idea of this facility was inspired by Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va. As someone who is very fond of and has spent many hours at KCI, this was really exciting to hear. The first time I went to HARBORCENTER, there was still a bit of construction going on in the off-ice hours. As I took the elevator to the rink floors, I felt like I was sneaking around the unfinished project—even though it was 99.9% finished since teams could already practice in it. Point is, when I first saw the rink and remembered its relation to Kettler, I thought, “Brotherrrrr,” as stated in an old favorite show of mine (nerd alert).
On my second visit to the facility, I attended as a media member for the 2015 NHL Combine. The organization and smooth running of the event out did all the events I’ve attended at Kettler. The “younger brother” has definitely stepped it up. Given, it is a much larger facility, but it offers more access to views for photographers, and plenty of room for the media availabilities with the prospects.
NFTA-METRO | RAIL SERVICE
The metro service in Buffalo is free above ground, but not under. I’ve never traveled underground so I’m not familiar with the costs and procedures, but all the stations above ground cover the length of the downtown area. The free rail takes you along main street from Fountain Plaza Station to Erie Canal Harbor Station, or the Special Events Station.
Click the maps below to see details:
Canalside | 44 Prime Street, Buffalo, NY
Such an exciting development of downtown Buffalo! Located along the Buffalo River that feeds out to Lake Erie, Canalside is an outdoor concert and festival venue across from FNC. During the summer they offer kayaking, water bikes, and sailing. The winter time brings ice skating, with broomball, pond hockey, and curling leagues also available. There is so much to do and see here, it is definitely one of my favorite locations in town.
716 Food & Sport | HARBORCENTER | 7 Scott Street, Buffalo, NY
My absolute favorite place to eat in Buffalo, 716 is an excellent sports bar with just as friendly staff and deliciously filling food. The waits can be extremely long, especially on game days, but I’ve been lucky to go at odd times and have only had to wait a short while if not at all. I have heard stories of up to two hours of wait time—it’s insanely popular, and for good reason.
With the biggest screen I’ve seen outside a movie theater, 716 has TV’s set up all around the lower and upper levels of the restaurant. It’s thick wooden tables and chairs, clipboard menus, and glass walls and railings give it a classic sports bar feel with a up-town modern touch.
The food is amazing and excellent after a long day. Both times I’ve gone, I’ve ordered the Turkey Sandwich, described as “house-roasted turkey great on fresh baked batard topped with green sage derby cheese, fresh mesclun greens, sliced cucumber and house-made cranberry aioli. Served with fresh mixed berry fruit salad.” It’s perfect.
There are several items on the dessert menu, but as I rarely order dessert, I don’t normally have
opinions on it. But the first time I came here, I had to order the Top Shelf Sundae, “Where
Momma Hides the Cookies!” I didn’t think twice when I saw that quote from Rick
Jeanneret on the menu. Forgive me that I forgot to take a photo,
I wasn’t planning on blogging about any of this at the
time, but I can at least describe it for you.
You’ll need like four people to eat this guy.
There are four mega chocolate chip cookies
topped with four massive scoops of cookies
and cream/cookie dough ice cream, a sugar
cone placed in the center of the scoops,
with all of it drizzled in caramel and hot fudge.
Incredible piece of work.
Click the image of the menu below to see details:
Tim Hortons | HARBORCENTER 1 Scott Street, Buffalo, NY | 3470 Main Street, Buffalo, NY
There are many Tim Hortons in the Buffalo area, but there are two closest to downtown that can be accessed from the street. Main Street’s is great for a quick breakfast stop on the way to something. It's very small so it's best to just order,
pick it up, and go.
HARBORCENTER’s shop is entirely Sabres themed, honoring Tim Horton. There is even a statue of him across the street from the store’s location. When I go, I love to get the Turkey Sausage Egg White on english muffin. I’ve tried their classic honey dipped donut and it is wonderful. The shop at HARBORCENTER also has a Sabres themed donut—I didn’t try it but maybe next time. It makes me wonder if all the teams are starting to do that with partnered up donut shops because the Capitals have one too with Dunkin’ Donuts.
Other goodies I can recall having on my trips to WNY: The mocha is very nice, but it often has a lot of chocolate towards the bottom that can honestly get a bit too sweet for me. Their chocolate chip muffin is also very good with the melted chocolate pieces inside, but they have the top coated with pebbles of sugar and that can make it a bit much.
As my family has lived in Canada, we always joke that Tim Hortons is better there than in America. Though, it’s only in the northern portions of the states, so we do appreciate getting to go when we visit WNY. I tend to order a case of Tim Bits—their wide variety of donut holes—and bring it back to the fam when I come home from my trips up north. Just a fun reminder of our times living north of the border.
Pearl Street Grill & Brewery | 76 Pearl Street, Buffalo, NY
Located off the corner of Pearl St and West Seneca St in Buffalo, the Grill and Brewery will definitely catch your attention with the brewer man attached to the top corner of the building facing the streets. I always thought this was just a bar, but it is an excellent restaurant for everyone. I love the style and atmosphere inside, with wooden tables and booths surrounded by black and white photos, classic brewery ads, old flags, and other vintage collectables hanging from the brick walls. They also have windows showing into the brewery itself, which was really neat to see.
There is so much to choose from on the menu, I’m already excited to go back and try something else. I had the Spinach Chicken Sandwich with lettuce and tomato and it was fantastic. It was a great filler from a long day of traveling. I highly recommend trying it out for yourself when you visit town.
You can see the full menu by clicking the image of it below:
Prima Pizza Pasta | 396 Pearl Street, Buffalo, NY
Prima Pizza Pasta was the first food establishment I went to in Buffalo, primarily for their local sports pride! They make excellent pizzas made to order or by one of their selections. I’ve never tried their pasta but I’m sure it’s just as good. I’ll add it to the to-do list next time I’m in town. They also offer subs, wings, wraps, calzones, stromboli, salads, and more. Once you order you can go up the steps towards the back to the seating area on the second floor, offering a little higher view of Chippewa St.
Mighty Taco | 2363 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY
Mighty Taco makes tacos, burritos, fajitas, salads, their Roastitos, and more! They are a Buffalo founded fast food chain that is a great option if you need something quick, cheap, and filling. They even have vegetarian and vegan options that are delicious. They were Artvoice’s Best Cheap Eats in their Best of Buffalo of 2012.
Hyatt Regency Buffalo | 2 Fountain Plaza, Buffalo, NY
Hyatt Regency is one of the more expensive hotels in the area—but certainly not the most. It is known to be the NHL Media hotel. They have plenty of accommodations and activities you can read up on here. I choose to stay here based on location. I love to be downtown and be able to walk a mile down Main Street to the hockey venues and Canalside. If you stay here, I would recommend paying for valet parking just so you don’t have to worry about trying to park it downtown. If you get the option, try to get a room on a higher floor. The views are so beautiful, especially on the front side.
Comfort Suites Downtown | 601 Main Street, Buffalo, NY
Comfort Suites is another option that is much cheaper and still a very good choice. It is not as fancy, but it is affordable and it's off of Main Street so the access to the hockey venues is just as easy. They’ll give you a parking ticket to park in the garage just a block down from the hotel. It is slightly more difficult to check in as the entry drive way is not spacious like the Hyatt. It’s downtown so we can’t be too surprised.
Embassy Suites Buffalo | 200 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY
Embassy Suites is just down Huron St from the Hyatt. I’ve never stayed here, but it is the hotel many of the NHL teams stay in. Another potential option in that regard could be the Marriott across the street from HARBORCENTER because during the Combine, many of the prospects stayed there. So do with what you wish with this information!
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
Spend a day walking around downtown and really pay attention to all the architecture—there’s some incredible works of art all around. If you have time, go to Buffalo Tours and hear about the history and stories surrounding this beautiful city.
For festival and special event schedules going on in the Buffalo Niagara region at the time of your visit, check visitbuffaloniagara.com.
Niagara Falls | 24 Buffalo Avenue, Niagara Falls, NY
About an hour from downtown Buffalo, the Falls are a must-see in your visit to the area. Remember to bring your passport! I’ve spent time on both sides of the Falls, and the Canadian side definitely has the best view. If you do intend to cross the border, I would suggest parking on the American side and walking because the line to drive across can take hours. You can go to the observation deck on the American side which is free, but the “Maid of the Mist” is $17 for adults and $9.90 for children (6-12) and free for those 5 and under. You can learn more about the voyage here.
If you venture to either side, there will be a lot of walking, so be prepared. On the Canadian side, they have little shops across the street for merchandise and food. They also have the Skylon Tower Observation Deck which gives you an incredible view of the falls but also the entire region in general. You can even see the Buffalo skyline in the distance.
Need a bit of suburbia or "civilization" outside downtown?
My favorite place to go for a bit of time outside the city is Orchard Park. It’s just nice to be able to go to a Target and pick up anything that may have been forgotten for the trip, or even just snacks for the hotel room. As a Sabres fan, I also love to see the merchandise they offer since I can only get the Capitals versions back home. In the same shopping center, there is a Dick’s Sporting Goods (more gear) and a movie theater, which can be a fun way to spend a night off from hockey. There are plenty of restaurants in the area as well.
Below is a part of my Downtown Buffalo collection. To see it all, go to the "Cities" page under photography or visit flickr.
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