by Leah Mueller

Spirit of BuffaloThe Spirit of Buffalo is a new attraction at the Erie Canal Harbor. They are a pleasant and eye-catching addition to Erie Basin Marina and the overall harbor. I’ll begin with an insider tip about parking; there is a stone lot adjacent to the harbor on the East side; you can park here and cut your walk down considerably. The ship, the cruise and the crew were all very enjoyable. My kids got to steer the ship, raise the sail and pick a surprise from the pirate’s treasure chest.

It is a two hour sail on Lake Erie with beautiful views of the city! They offer morning, afternoon and sunset cruises. The ship holds about 45 people and is 73 feet in length. The crew was very friendly and I noticed they spent time visiting with all the guests on board this full excursion. They do private charters, birthday parties and pirate themes along with the public sail.

You’ve only got a couple weeks left to take advantage of this vessel and then it will go into storage for the winter. Relax and allow yourself to go back in time on this coastal sailing ship.

Don’t wait until next year, enjoy the autumn colors and get out on the lake one more time; I’m so glad we did!

PS. Save time to stroll along the waterfront and treat yourself to some ice cream at The Hatch!

For more information visit www.spiritofbuffalo.com

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ErieBasinMarinaGardens

By Doug Sitler

If you are ever looking for a relaxing and free evening outdoors, I suggest you mosey on down to the Erie Basin Marina and their beautiful gardens and riverfront walkway. Strolling through the Erie Basin Marina Gardens on Buffalo’s downtown waterfront is a magnificent feast for the eyes.

There is plenty of free parking at the Erie Basin Marina and the adjacent Erie Canal Harbor. The gardens accompany a pleasant .5 mile waterfront walkway from the historical Erie Canal Harbor, past the Buffalo & Erie County Naval Park and into the Erie Basin Marina, at which point you can continue onward to the observation lighthouse at the far end of the marina. As you stroll through the gardens, your eyes shift from the beauty and variety of the plants, to the waters and boats of Lake Erie and the Buffalo River, and onward to downtown Buffalo’s skyline mixed with classic architecture and contemporary design. It is certainly an area that’s like none other in Buffalo.

The gardens are not only beautiful, but educational as well. On a recent walk through the gardens, I talked to two wonderful caretakers of the grounds. They brought to my attention that the Erie Basin Marina Gardens are a “test” garden for floral and seed companies. Companies test their products to see if they will grow in the Northeast climate. Much like a fashion show, the gardens are sort of a sneak preview of many of the new flowers and plants you see in stores in 2010 and 2011.

The beauty of the Erie Basin Marina Gardens and the surrounding landscapes is simply intoxicating. It is a beautiful place that could only happen in Buffalo, NY.

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by Doug Sitler

BirdIslandPierEver since I attended college here in Buffalo during the early 1990’s, I have made a walk on the Bird Island Pier one of my regular outdoor jaunts. From the time that I first caught site of the pier while driving down the I-190, the ribbon-like walkway residing in the middle of the Niagara River captured my imagination.

The pier is actually a four-foot wide walkway sitting on top of a stone break wall that separates the smooth Black Rock Channel from the swift-moving Niagara River. It is a wonderful place to exercise, experience a wide variety of nature, watch crews from the West Side Rowing Club prepare for their next regatta, and take in panoramic views of the City of Buffalo, Frank Lloyd Wright Rowing Boathouse, the Peace Bridge, and Canada.

To find the Bird Island Pier, you must go to Broderick Park at the foot of West Ferry Street, which in itself is a very distinct location. Broderick Park was one of the last stops on the Underground Railroad, with escaping slaves using this location to ferry over to Canada and freedom.

At the tip of the park is the pier, which stretches out over 1.2 miles to an observation platform where Lake Erie enters the Niagara River. One of my favorite locations is almost .5 miles out when you walk directly under the Peace Bridge for an up-close look at the massive steel span. A little further down the pier you are greeted with wonderful view of the Frank Lloyd Wright Rowing Boathouse.

Once you reach the end of the pier, you have magnificent 360-degree views of Buffalo that include, Downtown, the city’s break wall system, Lake Erie, the Niagara River, Fort Erie, Ontario and so much more. Enjoy the walk back to the parking lot, as there’s always something for your eyes to discover. Although the pier does not have a website, this site has some great photos of what you can expect…take a look.

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by Doug Sitler

sunsetSunsets…there are not many natural delights that capture the imagination as much as the setting sun.

On Saturday night, a friend and I went down to the NFTA Boat Harbor (free admission) for a relaxing evening on Buffalo’s waterfront and to hopefully catch the spectacular sight of the sun going down over Canada. Before trekking down to the water’s edge, we had to make a quick stop at Wegman’s to pick up some delicious sushi for our little evening adventure.

Upon our arrival at the harbor, we found numerous clean benches and picnic tables waiting for us to sit, enjoy our meal, and watch daylight slowly fade away. We chose a spot on the shoreline trail that offered vast views of Buffalo, Lake Erie and the Canadian shoreline. To the right of us were boats entering and exiting the NFTA Boat Harbor – to the left were amazing grain elevators and the Steel Winds windmills that proudly stand on the Lake Erie shore. Even the Miss Buffalo passed in front of us, filled with what sounded like quite a party happening onboard.

Over the past five years there have been dramatic additions to Buffalo’s waterfront bike and pedestrian trails. A bike path runs 2.5 miles along Fuhrman Boulevard/Route 5 – with a spanking brand new spur trail added in the summer of 2008. The trails have definitely caught the attention of locals and visitors, judging by the amount of people out walking the paths this past weekend.

Getting back to why we were down there…and then it happened…at 8:40 p.m., a tiny sliver of the sun could be seen slowly lowering itself over the horizon…in the blink of an eye, the sun had set. Do yourself a favor by getting down to Buffalo’s waterfront this summer. You’ll be glad you did.

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