About a year ago, I published a post about Summer in Buffalo. And the other day, I got to thinking that everything is changed now. We live in a whole new world and I was thinking that post would probably be useless and outdated today.
Last summer the world seemed so full of promise! We all seemed so innocent before Covid-19. But now, with social distancing and stress levels through the roof for a lot of people, who would want to read a post about summer in Buffalo now?
In the spirit of nostalgia, I decided to take a look back and re-read it. And guess what? It applies, just as much now as it did a year ago. Possibly even more so! I have to admit, I was pretty surprised! So, I’ve decided to write it again including updates for social distancing, because we can still enjoy our Buffalo summers. There are still lots of choices for things to do and places to go! All the choices will help with stress relief, and who among us couldn’t use a little stress relief right about now?!
Our Great Location
I know it’s the kind of thing that we, as Buffalonians, rarely think about but take a moment right now to think about where we live.
Buffalo is located at the convergence of three great bodies of water. Lake Erie, the Buffalo River, and the Niagara River. Now I could go into a long story about Buffalo’s history and how these three affected the city and its growth, and normally I would. But today I’m going in a completely different direction.
You see, I have long believed that when human beings are near bodies of water, it helps to calm our souls. Whether it’s in a boat on a lake, sitting at the edge of a pond in an Adirondack chair reading a book, laying on a beach, or biking a river path, being near the water just seems to make us feel better. It’s one of the ultimate stress relievers in my book.
Lake Erie has traditionally been my go-to place whenever things get tough. Being near the lake calms me and helps me to think things through.
And it’s not just me. It’s been widely studied and accepted for quite some time now that being out in nature reduces stress, which induces a whole host of health benefits, but only recently have these studies included ‘blue’ spaces. Most of the studies are taking place in the UK and are showing that people who live near water are generally healthier than those who don’t. And it doesn’t have to be water in nature. The studies have progressed to man-made water features such as fountains and the like. All have produced good health benefits.*
So living here in Buffalo is good for our health. That is, if we take advantage of our water resources.
So how can we take advantage of these benefits while social distancing? To put it simply, it’s easy. All we need to do is get out there. If you’re worried about too many people in one place, no worries. Pick a place where there are fewer people. And there are places where there aren’t throngs of people, making social distancing easy.
Where to Go?
There are so many things we can enjoy for free (or close to it) on Buffalo’s waterfront. The most obvious are Canalside, Erie Basin Marina, and the Outer Harbor. All free and located right in the heart of downtown. All you have to do is go there and walk, bike, or just sit and relax. Watch the sunset. Did you know that Buffalo is one of the very few inland cities in the country that enjoys sunsets over water? So many people west of Buffalo would love to see a sunset over a lake whenever they feel like it! We’re spoiled by our amazing sunsets!
How many of you reading this right now have never been to Erie Basin Marina for a sunset? If you haven’t, you need to put it on your list of things to do this summer! If you’re worried about social distancing, try to avoid weekends. Plenty of room. Bring a chair, relax, and watch the day gently slip away. You’ll be glad you did.
To the North…
There are of course, other less obvious places with great waterfront benefits as well.
North of the city there’s Isleview Park/Niawanda Park in Tonawanda. These two have gotten quite busy during Covid-19 as well. But there’s plenty of room to spread out, we just have to be willing to roll with it and adjust.
The two parks are connected and both are awesome for picnics and fabulous views of the Niagara River and Grand Island. Did you know that Grand Island is the largest island on a river in the world? It is!
There is also a bike path that begins in Isleview that travels the Niagara River past the Peace Bridge and moves right into Canalside and beyond the city to the Outer Harbor! This trail is over 21 miles long and has several parking spots along the way. Pick one and cover as much ground as you like. You don’t have to bike, you can walk it too. And just about the whole time, you’ll enjoy the amazing river or lake views. All the while, relieving stress and reaping those health benefits we talked about.
In the City…
There are several parks to enjoy on the waterfront as well. In the city are Front Park, Riverside Park, Broderick Park, and Riverfest Park. All are free and all are great spots for picnics, walks, bike rides, etc. Soon there will also be Ralph Wilson Jr. Centennial Park where LaSalle Park used to be. Can’t wait to see it when it’s complete! The initial designs look amazing!
To the South…
Travel just south of the city, and there are a series of absolutely stunning beaches! If you aren’t from Buffalo, you’ve got to be thinking, “Beaches? In Buffalo?” Yes. Beaches in Buffalo. Gorgeous ones too! Gallagher Beach, Woodlawn Beach, Hamburg Beach, Wendt Beach Park, and Bennett Beach are all fantastic choices.
I went to Hamburg Beach the other day. It’s run by the Town of Hamburg, and parking was $10 for non-residents of Hamburg (free for residents). There are lifeguards on duty, paddleboard and kayak rentals, and a sweet little snack bar too. The view alone (not to mention the stress reduction) is well worth the price of parking if you’re not a resident.
Pack a lunch and make a day of it at any one of these beaches. If you have kids, they’ll love you for it! If you don’t, you’ll love you for it!
Also, there are other places near water not on Buffalos’ waterfront. How about Delaware Park’s Hoyt Lake? There’s plenty of room for social distancing there. Or the Japanese Garden behind the Buffalo History Museum? Very, very peaceful spot.
If you work or live downtown and are looking for the calming influence of water but maybe don’t have time to get to the waterfront, head over to Fountain Plaza on Main Street for a little relaxation. Or to the fountain sculpture in front of One M & T Plaza. Both are very easily accessible and remember that man-made water features work just as well to reduce stress and will give you the same health benefits that lakes or rivers will.
My Impressions for Summer, 2020
These are just a few ideas to get you out and taking full advantage of the area we live in, so rich in natural ‘blue’ spaces, and the summer sun. Walk, run, bike, hike, rollerblade, longboard, paddleboard, kayak. Whatever makes you happy and gets you out near or on the water is a good thing. We owe it to ourselves. Especially now, when self-care is so important. Whether you are recovering from the virus, trying to avoid getting it, or have developed antibodies, taking great care of ourselves is one of the things that has hit home for a lot of us during this crisis.
I’d also like to add, that as a person who is always out and about and always has been, I’ve been noticing how Buffalonians have stepped up in the past few months. This summer, I see so many more people out doing their thing in the city, on the waterfront, at our parks, etc. than I ever have before. Parents are taking more time with their kids, and kids with their parents (it goes both ways). People are out in nature like never before, and this makes for a happier, healthier city!
No matter who you are, the Buffalo River, Lake Erie, and the Niagara River are easily accessible to all of us. Get out and enjoy the stress relief and the health benefits your city is offering you! Summer, 2020 is still full of promise! But our priorities are different and in a lot of ways, better than they were before Covid-19! We got this Buffalo!
I wish all of you good health and peace this summer.