This post will hardly be ground breaking for anyone that lives in the Northtowns, but as someone who lived in the Southtowns all the way through high school, Tonawanda was largely a great unknown to me. Back then, I knew the town (they really call it a city?) was somewhere up around Amherst, but not as far as Niagara Falls. My first experience I remember was a trip to the infamous hot dog stand, Old Man River, with my dad when I was much younger. I think at that time it was because there was a coupon in the Entertainment Book for buy one get one free hot dogs. I don’t remember much about the area from back then – all that really stuck in my head was the big whale on the roof of the place, and the crazy décor inside. Since living in Buffalo, and now Kenmore, I’ve been to the river in Tonawanda a handful of times, but never really stopped to take everything in. So yesterday I took the short drive over there, picked a place to park, and began to explore. Check it out after the jump:
The walking/running/rollerblading/biking trail that runs along the Niagara River stretches from Niawanda Park at the western side of the river, all the way into the City of Tonawanda on the eastern end. The trail itself is paved, and wide enough for two lanes of bikes as well as a lane of runners. The first thing I noticed when I walked up to the trail was that the stretch along the water is definitely a way of life for many people in the area. There were runners getting a workout to blow off some steam after the work day, young couples staring out on the water, sunbathers spread out on the grass, and housewives walking together and gossiping. At this time during the early evening, the area was definitely teeming with life. I’m sure it helped that it was a beautiful, late summer day, with a perfect breeze coming off the river.
People watching has always been a hobby of mine, and the river is a perfect place to do it. Whether it was the creepy guy in the safari hat walking by, the father and son having issues getting their boat into the launch, or the hot shot Jersey Shore wannabes racing their jet skis on the water, there’s plenty to take in if you just decide to camp out on a bench. However, if exercise is your thing, there’s certainly plenty of open path to run or bike on. The eastern end closer to the “city” gets a bit congested, but the further west you go, the more open it becomes. I walked about a half mile down and took a spot on an open bench. I expected to just snap a quick picture and move on, but I found myself mesmerized by the water. Every time I see the boats out there, it makes me wish I had one. The section where the Niagara River runs around Grand Island is a nice cruise to take, and most cities don’t have the luxury of having open water to cruise on that is so easily accessible in such a close proximity to urban areas.
The previously mentioned Old Man River (Buffalo Eats review) sits at the eastern end of the path, with its competitor Mississippi Muds (Buffalo Eats review) only a stone’s throw away on the other side of the boat launch. I know I said this isn’t a food blog, but I can tell you that both places are standard hot dog and burger fare, with a few seafood options, and some ice cream as well. Of course with both places it’s more about the atmosphere of being right on the water. Many people grab their food and cross the street to eat at a picnic table on the river.
I definitely enjoyed my trip to the river, and now that I’m living a bit closer I’ll definitely go back down there to hang out. I’m not much of an exercise nut (…duh), but I will definitely be back in the near future to clear my head after work, or maybe chill out on a bench and read a book. Like I said, it may seem foolish to some that I even wrote an article about this, but for those of you that have never been down up that way, I suggest you take a Saturday and check it out – maybe for a walk and a Sahlen’s dog.