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Planning tips for Port of Call: Buffalo

Basil Port of Call Buffalo

"The Buffalo waterfront will be the place to be this Fourth of July," proclaimed Mayor Byron Brown on Wednesday.

The huge attraction this holiday is the Tall Ships.

"It's important for Buffalo. We expect not only large crowds, but a $6 million-$8 million local economic impact, which will solidify jobs on the waterfront and the hospitality and tourism industry and help put Buffalo even more on the national map in terms of a destination," said local Tall Ships organizer Mike Vogel.

Here are some things you need to know before you and an estimated 150,000 others go.

  • A fleet of 12 historic ships from harbors across the United States, Canada, Spain and the South Pacific will be in port in Buffalo. The four-day family friendly celebration of maritime heritage begins July 4 and continues through July 7.
  • The ships will depart Port Colbourne, ON at 11 a.m. July 4 and are expected to arrive in Buffalo's Outer Harbor at 12 p.m. This Parade of Sail will be seen traveling through the South Entrance off Tift Street, along the length of the Outer Harbor, then into berths at Canalside, Central Wharf, Erie Basin and various locations along the Inner Harbor after cannon salutes from Lighthouse Point.
  • Security will be tight, as this is a federally designated Marine Event of National Significance and the first time in Buffalo. There will be a moving safety zone around the ships' arrival. Police and an escort fleet will be keeping spectator vessels 100 yards away from the ships. Once the ships are docked, other vessels will not be allowed within 25 yards of them.
  • The FAA has restricted airspace above the event for safety reasons, so no drones will be allowed except one reserved for the media.
  • Opening ceremonies will be July 4 from 3 p.m.-5 p.m. Departure ceremonies will begin at 4 p.m. on July 7.
  • All exhibits start July 4 at 12 p.m. and continue each day until 7 p.m. Live music and food and beverage will be available each day from 12 p.m.-10 p.m., except on July 7, when the festival concludes at 5 p.m.
  • Tours of the tall ships will be held July 5-6 from 12 p.m.-5 p.m. and until 3 p.m. on July 7. Anyone boarding a ship must go through a security screening first. Handbags and camera bags will be searched and many items - including food and liquids, backpacks and umbrellas - are prohibited.
  • Viewing the ships is free, but a Passport Voucher must be purchased to board and tour any of them. Vouchers are $20 for adults, $10 for children age 11 and under. They can be purchased online and at Wegmans locations. A limited number of VIP Passports are available for $125 and include unlimited tours and preferred parking.
  • Each tall ship has its own limited capacity, so there will not be an unlimited number of boarding passes available.
  • Three excursion ships will be taking passengers on sails along the waterfront. Tickets and more information for each can be found online.
  • Visitors are encouraged to take public transportation to the waterfront. The festival says nearly 14,000 parking spaces have been identified along the Main Street spine of the Metro Rail in downtown Buffalo. Limited paid parking will be available at Waterfront Village. Erie Street and part of Marine Drive will be closed to all but residents, marina slipholders and shuttle buses.
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