The Ice at Canalside is heating up this holiday season. Last year, after a number of requests came from skaters who had no place to get out of the cold (close to the rink), the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) decided that it was time to create some heating stations.
One of the larger shelters is the 30 feet by 50 feet Canalside Winter Pavilion, which features a drink kiosk called Bubbles & Brews by Spectra Beverage (beer, wine and Pepsi products). There’s also a Just Fries kiosk with topped and loaded fries, and a Harborside Mercantile station that serves up waffles, popcorn, pizza, and coffee.
Guests to the pavilion can stand around bistro tables and socialize. There’s even a retail section offering up Buffalove and Canalside merchandise.
Soon the beer and wine license will be extended to the patio outside of the pavilion. And in January there will be Open Mic Nights, Buffalo Trivia and karaoke offered on a weekly basis.
Just down the way from the Winter Pavilion sits a couple of other small tents where the Ice Bikes of Buffalo and Friends of the Buffalo Story store their wares. Next to that is a new 16 feet by 80 feet structured warming tent, where skaters can get warm. It’s also the perfect place to put on and take off skates. Parents can see their kids skating from the clear sided viewing wall. The tent has benches, cubbies and rental lockers.
Other added amenities, new to Canalside this year, are extended matted areas for skaters to walk, and 20 additional skate aide walkers, which are already proving to be very popular with newby skaters. There is a small café kiosk called Bryce’s Winter Café that serves coffee, hot chocolate, hot pretzels and roasted nuts Thursdays through Sundays in November (every day starting in December).
Other additions to the skating this year are the theme nights (Wild West, Superhero and Disco), Weekend Magic Shows in November and December from Nick Presents Magic, Snow Soccer with Soccer Shots on select Sundays and Lake Effect Fitness, a 10 week outdoor aerobic based fitness series on Saturdays and Sundays starting in January. The popular BlueCross BlueShield Suit Skates for professionals is taking place again this year between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Thursdays. First Niagara is joining in on the fun, by offering First Fridays where the first 200 skaters get free admission.
The programming continues on and off the ice, with activities that include co-ed Broomball Leagues by Healthy Buffalo on Monday night; Pond Hockey and competitive Broomball Leagues by Game On! on Tuesday through Thursday nights; curling leagues Monday through Thursday nights; Skating Lessons by Skate Great on Friday nights and Saturday mornings; SABAH Hockey clinic on Thursdays; History tours with Joel Dombrowski of Buffalo History Tours; and Buffalo City Carriage horse rides on the weekends.
No matter what you’re looking for, when it comes to winter fun, Canalside is offering it. The entire area looks like a magical winter wonderland, with sparking lights draped across all of the bridges. Plus, there is holiday music piped throughout the place. The zamboni keeps the ice smooth, making for a flawless skating experience. There’s plenty of seating, along with outdoor radiant heat stations, and food trucks serving up all sorts of delicious fare. And when you’re standing on any one of the bridges, you can see the projection show at the Outer Harbor. The ECHDC has even installed a set of original Memorial Auditorium seats to pay tribute to the former building and the history of the Sabres.
All in all, visitors to The Ice @ Canalside will find themselves in a much comfortable situation this year, compared to last year. There’s a lot more to see and do, and there are plenty of places to step inside and warm the toes. There are also a number of restaurants to hit up in the area when the day is done.
Be sure to attend the 5th Annual Holiday Celebration and Tree Lighting on Friday, December 4, 2015 from 5pm to 8pm – details on Facebook.