Travel-lovers, road-trippers, and adventure-seekers rejoice: there’s a new hostel in Western New York!
This past summer, Bunkhaus Hostel officially opened its doors for business in Medina, NY, ready to welcome travelers from all over with open arms. A sister business of the popular Hart House Hotel, Bunkhaus is the latest addition to the handful of hostels that can be found in the Buffalo-Niagara region. With its close proximity to the Erie Canal Bike Trail and Medina’s historic downtown (both are within walking distance!), the hostel joins the ranks of the extraordinary local businesses that give Medina its undeniable small-town charm.
“There really aren’t too many hostels in New York state,” says Medina native Andrew Meier, owner of Bunkhaus Hostel, “there’s certainly other types of accommodations that cater to budget travelers, but no one else has really got into the hostel business model.”
But Wait…What Even is a Hostel?
Though hostels have definitely changed and become more accepted over time, they’re still typically the least understood of all travel accommodation options. Hostels are very similar to hotels, with the main difference being that they emphasize shared living spaces and a more social travel experience. Since the primary draw of hostels is their price point (which is typically cheaper than traditional hotel rooms or Airbnbs), they’re a super affordable option for students, solo travelers, or anyone looking to stretch their travel budget a little further while on vacation. Save that hard-earned cash for something more fun…like your bar tab, for example. 😉
With that focus on communal living, hostels also lend themselves to be much less isolating than private accommodations, especially if you’re traveling by yourself. The casual hangout areas, communal kitchens, and overall welcoming vibes that hostels offer are optimal for making friends with other travelers from all over the world. You never know who you might end up exploring the city or grabbing a beer with!
Revitalizing a Building With an Interesting Past
Bunkhaus Hostel is situated at 511 West Ave, right around the corner from Medina’s historic Robert H. Newell Building (which sat empty just a decade ago, but is now home to the Hart House Hotel, Shirt Factory Cafe, 810 Meadworks, and a local law firm). Originally built in the 1880s, it’s an old-fashioned, two-story house whose original function was, surprisingly enough, a dentist’s office. The first floor had 5 examining rooms and a reception area, while two separate apartment units occupied the top floor. The thing is- the 1,500 square-foot space had been more or less lying empty for upwards of five (ish) years.
Seems like the perfect blank canvas for a hostel, right? Meier seemed to think so.
“I certainly didn’t graduate from [law] school saying ‘I’m going to open a hostel,’” Meier laughs, “it’s just been the circumstances as they’ve had it.”
It might seem random, but with an increase in foot traffic from the town’s recent (and continued) resurgence, along with the growing popularity of the Erie Canal Bike Trail among both local and visiting bicyclists, a hostel is actually exactly what Medina needs right now.
“If you’re starting out a bike trek in Buffalo heading East, your natural stops would be the main cities like Rochester, Syracuse, or Utica,” Meier explains, “but it’s too far to go in one day from Buffalo to Rochester. So, if you split up the trip into two days, it will land you right in Medina. It’s a sweet spot, definitely.”
Visiting the Hostel
Ready to try out hostel life for yourself? Regardless of whatever brings you out to Medina, here’s the lo-down on what you can expect at Bunkhaus Hostel:
- As of right now, there are two rooms in the hostel that are fully completed, with three more in various stages of completion- so spots fill up quickly, especially on the weekends!
- All of the hostel’s rooms are private (for single or double occupancy), and come with a bunk bed (2 bunks per room), a sink, a clothing storage unit, and a lounge chair.
- The bunks themselves are special, too- they were custom-designed specifically to be highly functional for small-space living. No space goes to waste, and they feature integrated storage that’s optimal for bicycles- great for visitors passing through via the Erie Canal Bike Trail!
- Additional amenities include: A common living area to hang out in, a communal kitchenette to easily prepare meals and store food in, a bathroom (shared with other guests), free WiFi & parking, and a self-serve breakfast.
- Easy self check-in & out – perfect if you’re getting in late, leaving early, or just aren’t sure what time you’ll be where you want to be (we all know how hectic traveling can be).
- An on-premises host to help you feel right at home, offer good conversation, provide local recommendations, and help you get acclimated with all that Medina has to offer.
- A one-of-a-kind experience in a Euro-inspired hostel right on the Erie Canal!
If you’re late to the party and haven’t had a chance to explore Medina yet, consider this your chance. Small towns aren’t always the most popular road trip destinations, but all of the cool stuff happening in Medina lately is almost impossible to ignore.
“So far the response has been extremely positive,” Meier says confidently, “and now we’re just figuring out what works and what doesn’t.”