by Ed Healy

ErieCanalHarborBuffalo’s Erie Canal Harbor has become, in less than a year’s time, a must see attraction on the city’s waterfront. Located on Marine Drive next to the Buffalo Naval Park, this re-creation of the original terminus of the Erie Canal is a great place to simply stroll along the broad and beautiful boardwalk, bask in the sun, while away an hour, or explore Buffalo’s industrial and maritime heritage by bike or kayak. Buffalo Harbor Kayak is now open for business and has bikes and boats available to rent by the hour or half day.

Erie Canal Harbor is also an impressive and well-thought-out heritage tourism attraction. Multiple signs, installations and interpretive exhibits tell the story of the Erie Canal and its critical role in the expansion of the United States as the “Gateway to the West.”

History buffs will be fascinated by the stories of DeWitt Clinton, the New York State Governor who dreamed the impossible and made it happen, silencing the critics who derisively referred to the Canal as “Clinton’s Big Ditch” and “Clinton’s Folly”; William G. Fargo, the Buffalo Mayor who invented the shipping industry and founded Wells Fargo and later American Express; Fingy Conners, the saloon keeper who ruled Buffalo’s docks and grew so rich he bought the Courier Newspaper; and William Wells Brown, the abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor who is considered the first African American novelist. These and other flamboyant characters made history here and their stories form a truly compelling slice of America’s heritage.

Erie Canal Harbor has also quickly assumed its place as a communal gathering spot. The great lawn that runs parallel to the boardwalk is a perfect spot to roll out a blanket and catch a concert or fireworks display. This summer’s highlights include a celebration of the Boundary Waters Treaty on Friday, June 12, that will feature a boat parade and art installations; the annual Fourth of July celebration; and Buffalo Place Rocks the Harbor on June 26-27, July 18-19, August 1-2, and Sept. 4-5. Featured performers in this summer’s concert series include the Robert Cray Band, the Black Crowes, Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers, Gov’t Mule, the Wallflowers and Great Big Sea. A complete list of concerts and performers can be found here.

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