Although many people underestimate Buffalo, New York, but the Queen City has a lot to offer. I spent a couple of years in Buffalo and I must say that there are a lot of interesting things to do in Buffalo, NY. Buffalo is one of the most architecturally rich cities in the United States. If you’re visiting Buffalo from Niagara Falls, Be sure to take at least a few days to enjoy the stunning architecture, delicious food, and cool neighborhoods of Buffalo.
I’m not really sure why people often skip Buffalo in their itinerary when visiting Niagara Falls, but I hope that this post focusing on unique things to do in Buffalo helps inspire you to visit this culture rich city. Many people don’t realize that the street design well as the park designs were inspired by Paris.
Included in this guide to Buffalo with the best things to do in Buffalo NY
- Where to stay in Buffalo
- How to get around Buffalo
- View Buffalo’s stunning architecture
- Delaware Park
- Martin House
- H.H. Richardson Complex
- Millionaire’s Row
- Buffalo Central Terminal
- Ellicott Square Building
- Forest Lawn Cemetary
- Buffalo City Hall
- Take in History
- McKinley Assassination Plaque
- Elmwood VIllage
- Watch a sports game: hockey or football
- Art museums in Buffalo: Albright-Knox Gallery
- Shea Theatre
- Taste of Buffalo
- Buffalo Botanical Gardens
- Visit Canalside
- Drink Craft Beer
- Eat Wings
- Go out in Allentown
Where to stay in Buffalo
There are three main areas of Buffalo that I recommend staying in. There aren’t that many accommodation options, so book early. If you’re visiting Buffalo to visit the University of Buffalo, I recommend staying in Amherst instead.
I love the Elmwood area, close to Buffalo State, which is full of lovely cafes and restaurants. It’s fairly easy to get around with a car in this area. You can stay in the former Buffalo Asylum, a beautiful building that I discuss below, which is now a lovely boutique hotel just a short walk from Elmwood Village. Alternatively, you can stay in one of the stunning mansions along Millionaire’s Row, which a friend of mine stayed at. She said it was one of the most luxurious experiences of her life!
Note, if you don’t have a car, I strongly recommend staying in the Downtown area of Buffalo has the best connections to the rest of the region, including Niagara Falls. (It’s easy to do a day trip from Buffalo to Niagara Falls.) The Lafayette Hotel is a stunning art deco hotel in the middle of Downtown and the choice of all my local friends. Alternatively, you can stay above the Pearl Street Brewery, one of my favorite restaurants in Buffalo, at Lofts at Pearl in the heart of downtown Buffalo. For those on a budget, there’s one hostel in Buffalo.
Notes on getting around Buffalo
I strongly recommend that you rent a car. If you’re staying close to Downtown or Elmwood Village, you won’t have a problem covering the main sights in Buffalo. There is a bus from the airport to downtown Buffalo and there’s one public transit line that runs down Main St. about six miles that was stopped as a significant portion of Buffalo’s population moved to the surburbs in the post-war period.
View Buffalo’s stunning architecture and parks
Buffalo is full of stunning art deco architecture from Buffalo’s golden age in the early 1900s. In 1876, Frederik Olmstead (the architect of Central Park) said that Buffalo is “the best planned city, as to its streets, public places, and grounds, in the United States, if not in the world.” Even today, Buffalo’s architectural legacy is strong with a diverse portfolio of architectural styles and innovative parks, many of which were designed by Olmstead himself.
One of the loveliest parks in Buffalo is Delaware Park. This stunning park on the list of the National Registry of history places was designed by Frederik Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in the post civil war period.
Although Central Park is far more famous, Delaware park is considered to be one of Olmsted’s gems as he had far more creative control compared to Central Park where he had to meet more conditions. At the time, Olmsted boldly named it The Park, however it was renamed after the nearby Delaware Avenue.
It is considered one of the gems of Buffalo and I love coming here in summer to enjoy the free events that are held here, including Shakespeare in the Park during the summer. My Buffalonian friends love to come with a blanket and some beer to take in culture for the best cost: $0. This is the second largest Shakespeare festival in the United States.
The park is over 350 acres in total and its lakes are some of my favorite features. (If you’re a runner, I recommend staying near Delaware Park to enjoy early morning runs here.)
Darwin D. Martin House
Many people don’t realize that architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed several houses in the Buffalo area, including the Darwin D. Martin House. The most famous of Wright’s work is the Martin House, which was built in 1905. This house was built in the Prairie School style and it’s considered among his best buildings. It’s possible to take a tour of this house!
Fans of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work can also visit Greycliff, which is house that is a 20 minute drive from downtown Buffalo. Over the last century, many of Wright’s ideas for Buffalo has been realized, including a filling station.
H. H. Richardson Complex
One of the most unique buildings in terms of history is the Buffalo State Hospital, which was built in 1870. At the time, mental health advocates thought that it was a great idea to create large, sprawling complexes where those in need of help would be rehabilitated in mass. It’s built in the “Richardsonian Romanesque” style and I thought it was a castle for years.
As the number of patients grew, the attempts to keep the hospital providing good care disappeared and there are many stories you hear about this former asylum next to Buffalo State. (There’s a lot of ghost stories about it in Buffalo!) In the 1970s, the building was largely left abandoned. In 2008, New York State decided to restore this stunning building and now there’s a boutique hotel on the grounds.
Stroll down millionaire’s row
During the golden age of Buffalo, Buffalo boomed–and many very wealthy people settled into this hub of architecture and culture. Originally, Buffalo was a much smaller city, but as the city grew, the wealthy wanted to be far away from the city center. Around the turn of the century, many of Buffalo’s sixty millionaires (at that time) chose to live close to Delaware Avenue. This area is now a historic district, one of the few remaining Millionaire’s Rows from this period remaining in the United States.
The street is stunning to walk along and it’s even possible to stay in one of the mansions along Delaware Avenue. One of the houses (Himalayan Institute at 841 Delaware Ave) is now a nonprofit that has yoga classes if you’re curious about the interior. Also, be sure to check out The Clement House. The Wilcox Mansion at 641 Delaware Ave is where President “Teddy” Roosevelt gave his inauguration address. It’s a fun game to debate this one you’d want to live in as you stroll down Delaware Avenue.
Tour the abandoned Buffalo Central Terminal
Buffalo Central Terminal is one of the most beautiful art deco buildings in Buffalo, built in 1929. More than 200 trains per day brought passengers to Buffalo, a major hub for industry, however with the rise of the car and the economic struggles of Buffalo in the post-war period, the building was left abandoned. Today, volunteers are carefully restoring this stunning building back to its art deco glory.
Touring this stunning building is one of the best things to do in Buffalo as it tells both the story of architecture as well as the city itself. The tours aren’t held that frequently, about once a month.
Ellicott Square Building
The Ellicott Square Building is a stunning office building in the Italian Renaissance style in the heart of Buffalo’s downtown. It was the largest office building in the world at the time that it was built (1896) and you can visit during the lunch hour (if you ask politely). The marble and the stairs are absolutely stunning to view. My friend took her wedding photos here!
Forest Lawn Cemetery
Forest Lawn Cemetery is a large cemetery in Buffalo that dates back to 1849. It has beautiful mausoleums and it’s the resting place for President Millard Fillmore. You can take a tour of the cemetery on Sundays.
Buffalo City Hall
One of the most iconic buildings in Buffalo is the Buffalo City Hall. This stunning thirty-two story art deco building is one of the biggest municipal buildings in the Untied States.
Take in history
McKinley Assassination Plaque
In 1901, President McKinley was greeting the public at the Pan-American Exposition when he was shot by Leon Czolgosz. He died eight days later–and then Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in. There is a small plaque in the middle of the median near 35 Fordham Drive.
Explore Elmwood Village
Elmwood Village is one of the most charming neighborhoods in Buffalo. It’s ranked as one of the nicest neighborhoods in America–and you’ll find all you need to find here. There are plenty of lovely cafes as well as bookstores. There are also plenty of charming boutiques to shop at as well as great food.
Watch a Bills game or Sabres Game
Sports are big in Buffalo. If you’re into football, you can attend a Buffalo Bills games. Alternatively, you can watch the Sabres play a hockey game.
Enjoy art and culture at Buffalo’s museums
Burchfield Penney Art Center
Those interested in art will want to visit the Burchfield Penney Art Center. This art center holds the largest collection of Charles E. Burchfield’s arts as well as the work of many artists from Western New York. It’s one of my aunts’ favorite art museums in the United States.
Albright-Knox Art Gallery
The Albright-Knox is a fantastic modern art museum with an ever changing selection of art. I’ve been constantly surprised by the selection of art here. They have free admission on the first Friday of the month as well as $5 free admission for the whole family on the second Sunday of each month.
The Shea Performing Arts Center was opened in 1926 to show silent movies after a year of construction. The theatre was designed to look like the opera houses in Europe. It hosts one of the few theatre organs that is still in operation.
Taste of Buffalo
If you’re visiting Buffalo in July, you must try to make it to the Taste of Buffalo. This annual event is the largest two day food festival. It is the best festival in Buffalo and one of the best things to do in Buffalo in early July. (The 2018 date is July 7th to 9th). Admission is free although you can purchase tickets to buy food. There are over 200 stands at the festival and most of the food stands are from the Buffalo area.
Buffalo Botanical Gardens
As a child, my mom always read me the story of Miss Rumphius and I was enchanted by the conservatory mentioned in the beginning. The Buffalo Botanical Gardens was envisioned by Olmsted as part of South Park. The conservatory is one of the few tri-domed Victorian conservatories in the United States. Inside, you’ll find many stunning tropical plants.
Take in Canalside
Canalside is part of the revitalization of Buffalo. It’s the go-to place for festivals as well as runs in Buffalo. (You can rent an ice bike in winter!)
Celebrate Dingus Day
Buffalo has one of the largest Polish-American communities in the United States and you especially feel it around Easter. Dingus Day is a Polish holiday that falls after Easter. Be sure to bring your water gun!
Food and Drinks in Buffalo
Buffalo has a lot of great food and drinks. There are a lot of local Buffaloian specialties beyond wings (as the locals call them) that you’ll want to eat in Buffalo. I’ve written a complete guide to food in Buffalo and where to find the most iconic foods in Buffalo, but this is a little introduction.
Drink Craft Beer
There’s a number of great breweries in Buffalo, including Thin Man Brewery, Big Dutch Brewing Company, Community Beer Works, Sato Brewpub, and (of course!) Resurgence Brewing Company. Simply, we have a lot of great craft beer in Buffalo. You can head to Colter Bay, Big Ditch, Thin Man Brewery, Sato Brewpub and 716 among others for a great pint of beer.
In Buffalo, Buffalo wings are called wings as it’s just redundant otherwise. The best wings are debated among two places. I recommend that you visit both Duff’s as well as Anchor Bar to decide which one is your favorite. My personal favorite is Duff’s, however my dad prefers Anchor Bar.
Go out in Allentown
Allentown is one of the most lovely districts to visit in Buffalo–and it’s full of fantastic cafes. I’d definitely recommend visiting Founding Fathers for a unique cafe.
Have you been to Buffalo, NY? What was your favorite thing to do in Buffalo?
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