Buffalo is a maritime town, and it’s time to celebrate that.
What shall it be? Lake Erie and its blue horizons, or the Buffalo River and its towering grain elevators? Perhaps the placid, shaded waters of the Erie Canal? Whatever your choice, here is a sampling of options to suit every budget. Riding the waves is cheaper than you might think. For $1, you can hop on the Queen City Bike Ferry; $10 will buy you an hour on a kayak in Tonawanda.
Whatever you decide, sailors take warning: Schedules, in many cases, are unpredictable. Prices may vary. Boats fill up; tours sell out; storms roll in. Before you pack up and go, take time to call for information.
• Home is the sailor. The Spirit of Buffalo is a classic 73-foot topsail schooner. Prices hover at around $32 for adults, more for popular Wednesday evening Wine in the Wind cruises and Tuesday evening Craft Beer cruises. Pirate cruises can be arranged for kids. Call 796-7210 or visit spiritofbuffalo.com.
• The Moondance Catamaran also offers public and private cruises with a bar and informal atmosphere. On a calm night, a ride on the catamaran can be serenely relaxing. On a windy night, rest assured, you’ll sleep well. The boat typically sails several times daily. For public cruises, adult tickets are $23, kids half price. Info: 854-7245, moondancecat.com.
• Buffalo River History Tours take place aboard the River Queen. It has a canopy for sun and rain, and clear window flaps protect you even in downpours. There are daily 90-minute Buffalo River Tours (adults $17, kids $12) and two-hour Silo City Tours (adults $27, kids $17). Fridays and Saturdays bring sunset cocktail cruises. Info: 796-4556, buffaloriverhistorytours.com.
• The Miss Buffalo, which launches from Canalside, offers daily narrated Buffalo Harbor Cruises (adults $16, $11 ages 4 to 11), exploring the historic Black Rock Lock and Canal. Some cruises offer lunch at an additional charge. The oh-so-Buffalo TGIF happy hour cruises and weekend sunset cruises often sell out in advance. Info: 856-6696, buffaloharborcruises.com.
• The Miss Buffalo also plays host to the Historic Buffalo River Tours run by the Industrial Heritage Committee. Tours last two hours and leave from the Miss Buffalo dock at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 15 and 16 and Sept. 5 and 7 (Labor Day). Photographs, video and music round out the tour of the Industrial Heritage Trail and our grain elevators, which the group describes grandly as “monuments to the movements of grain.” Adults $18, kids less. Info: 856-6696.
• Kayak rental places are multiplying downtown. They include Buffalo Harbor Kayak, at Canalside near HarborCenter (info: 288-5309, bfloharborkayak.com) and Elevator Alley Kayak at Mutual Riverfront Park, at the corner of South and Hamburg streets (997-7925, elevatoralleykayak.com).
• This time of year, Ice Bikes of Buffalo turns into Water Bikes of Buffalo, renting boats by the Water@Canalside, the shallow water where the Aud used to be. Single water bikes are $15 an hour; doubles are double. You may take them out on the lake or the Buffalo River. Two-person pedal boats ($10 for 20 minutes) are lower to the water, allowing the rider to sit back. An adorable child’s paddle boat is $5 for 20 minutes. Info: 681-4643, waterbikesofbuffalo.com.
• Buffalo River Canoe and Kayak Outfitters are proud of their signature Buffalo River Urban Trail Tour – they give you a guidebook and a boat, and you paddle from their access point at 900 Harlem Road, West Seneca, to downtown. The one-way tour is $60 for a one-person kayak; $80 for a two-person canoe. You may also take the trip in reverse. Or rent kayaks and canoes by the hour and paddle on your own on the Buffalo River and Cazenovia Creek. Info: 771-2995.
• People ride the Staten Island Ferry for fun, so why not the Queen City Bike Ferry? It operates daily until 8 p.m. between Canalside and the Outer Harbor, starting at noon Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The jaunty craft seats 49 people and can be seen moored outside the Liberty Hound. Speaking of hounds, you can transport your dog, too. Cost is $1 each way. Cash only, exact change required. Info: queencityferry.com.
• That could be you on a rowboat on Hoyt Lake in Delaware Park. Look for them behind the Marcy Casino. The rentals are run by volunteers, and hours are unpredictable, but the boats seem to see action most weekends and some weekdays. Info: 838-1249.
• At Gateway Harbor in Tonawanda, Waterbike and Boat Adventures rents single kayaks for $10 an hour, tandems for $15. Hydrobikes, which the company says may be ridden by anyone 7 to 97, also are $10 an hour. And here’s an idea: “Don’t want to exercise,” the company writes on its website. “Maybe one of our electric boats could accommodate you, your family and friends or the gang from work. Bring along food, drinks and your favorite music. You will enjoy the quiet, no gas fumes and the ease of operation.” Electric boats are $40 to $55 an hour. There also are stand-up paddle boards. Info: 316-3905, waterbikeadventures.com.
• Paths, Peaks & Paddles (1000 Ellicott Creek Road, Tonawanda) rents canoes ($17.50 an hour), kayaks ($22.50) and other watercraft to explore Ellicott Creek or the Erie Canal. “For a day’s adventure we have a recommended route/loop trip of 5 miles up and around the large island on Ellicott Creek which will bring you right back to our dock,” the store’s website proclaims. “Not enough distance for you! You can paddle from our dock all the way to Florida without ever getting out of your boat, and never going out to the ocean and staying inland the whole way.” Wow, how much would that cost? PP&P, which bills itself as “The Candy Store For Outdoor People,” also offers a range of other goodies, kayak instruction and guided canoe trips. Info: 213-0350, pathspeakspaddles.com.
• The legendary Maid of the Mist operates daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on a shorter schedule into the fall. The trip is 20 minutes, and boats leave the docks of Niagara Falls, N.Y., every 15 minutes. Tickets are $17 adults, $9.90 children. Info: 284-8897, maidofthemist.com.
• Whirlpool Jet Boat tours are a wild ride, whirling you around the green waters of the whirlpool. They leave from Niagara Falls, Ont., and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., and also may be boarded at 115 S. Water St., Lewiston. Adults $61, children $51. Book online at whirlpooljet.com.
• The paddle-wheel boat the Niagara Belle offers weekend dinner cruises: Fridays from Niagara Falls, Ont., and Saturdays from Lewiston’s Water Street Landing (115 S. Water St.). Adults are $69.95, children $49.95. Occasional Wednesday sightseeing cruises are less, and so are wine-tasting cruises and some other cruises from the Canadian departure points. Info: (888) 438-4444, niagarasunsetcruises.com.
• The Niagara Wonder and Niagara Thunder are twin catamarans operated by Hornblower Niagara Cruises in Niagara Falls, Ont. They each seat 700 and feature dry areas for people who don’t like to get misty. Drinks and snacks are for sale. 30-minute “Voyage to the Falls” tours ($19.95 for adults) depart every 15 minutes. There also are 40-minute nighttime illumination cruises, with bar, for $35. Info and tickets: niagaracruises.com.
• The narrated Lockport Locks and Erie Canal Cruises explore the Erie Canal and the historic locks that give Lockport its name. Cruises are several times daily and about two hours long. Adults $17.50, children $9. Reservations suggested. Info: 433-6155, lockportlocks.com.
• Lockport Cave and Underground Boat Ride (5 Gooding St., Lockport, next to the Pine Street bridge overlooking the Erie Canal and Lockport locks) navigates terrain so dramatic and exotic that it was used as a setting in the TV movie “Sharknado 2: The Second One.” The website promises: “Visitors are awestruck as they take a ride that has been described as both ‘peaceful and eerie’ as the boat glides through the lifeless water, illuminated only by small, sporadically placed electric lights.” Adults $13, kids $7.50. Info: 438-0174, lockportcave.com.
• There are only five operating authentic passenger sternwheel steamboats in North America, and lucky us, we have one. The Chautauqua Belle sails several times daily on Lake Chautauqua, boarding in Mayville and at the Chautauqua Institution. It offers narrated cruises, picnic cruises, cocktail cruises and pirate cruises for the kids. Rates vary. Info: 269-2355, 269belle.com.
• The Summer Wind operates out of Lucille Ball Park in Celoron. It offers sightseeing cruises, buffet cruises and cruises to special events at the Chautauqua Institution. Prices vary; adult prices tend toward $16 to $25, with food and drink extra. Info: 763-7447, summerwind.com.
Story topics: Buffalo Harbor Cruises/ Buffalo Harbor Kayak/ Buffalo River History Tours/ Elevator Alley Kayak/ Maid of the Mist/ Moondance Catamaran/ Paths/ Peaks and Paddles/ Queen City Bike Ferry/ Water Bikes of Buffalo/ Whirlpool Jet Boat