I don’t really talk about where I grew up and called home for 20-something years, and as it becomes more and more popular to people other than me and my immediate friends and family, I’m realizing that needs to end. When, Expedia.com asked me to put together a guide to a city I know and love it was a no-brainer to tell you all about the best things to do in Buffalo, NY.
I’m originally from a small town just outside Rochester, NY. It’s about 7 hours from NYC and 3ish hours from Toronto. I’m going to ease you into this though, and talk about Rochester’s big cousin, Buffalo, first. There are so many things to do in Buffalo besides just the obvious Niagara Falls, this may be lengthy, shocking I know!
In my college years, we used to meet my college friends in Buffalo to bop across the border to Canada to go out for the night as the drinking age was 19 in Canada and it was 21 in NY. Resourceful, I know!
Buffalo is also the home of a few celebs that you may know, Chad Michael Murray grew up in a ‘burb of Buffalo, one of my favorite bands of all time, The Goo Goo Dolls are from Buffalo. The ever infamous movie, Bruce Almighty is actually set in Buffalo!
Buffalo, in my mind, is a lot like Detroit. It’s a city that was rooted in industry for many many many years and when the technology boom happened, they never really shifted gears to keep up. For some reason the Buffalo government started taking a sledgehammer to many of the historic and ethnic neighborhoods, destroying some of the most beautiful neighborhoods and parks in Buffalo, to make room for noisy, clunky highways and other industrial parks.
Much of Buffalo was been barren warehouses for many years which led to increased crime rates and homeless populations. In recent years, however, Buffalo has seen a rebirth of sorts, an awakening! The warehouses are being refurbished and reshaped into trendy apartment complexes or homes for modern businesses like Amazon. And it is being shaped into a mecca for arts, culture, food and more!
Home to some of the fiercest sports fans in the world, Buffalonians don’t let a little snow stop them from cheering on their favorite team. (To get an idea of this look at the recent Buffalo Bills game on December 10th, 2017…. They got 8 inches of snow DURING the game alone. Yet, the stands were full and the fans were out in full force to support their team…. A team that hasn’t even seen the playoffs in years…. But that’s another story!
Have I won you over yet? No?
What if I tell you it is the home of the CHICKEN WING? Anchor Bar, in Buffalo, claims to have invented the chicken wing in it’s non-breaded, hot sauce covered form in 1964 and every Buffalonian out there will vouch for that claim.
Convinced now? Without further adieu, here’s all the info you need to plan your trip to Buffalo, NY.
Where to Stay in Buffalo
As I’ve mentioned, there are a few key areas of Buffalo so it depends on what you’re plans are while you’re in town. Luckily, traffic isn’t a super problem, thanks to the city’s many many highways connecting the city suburbs, so stay where you want to play! Be sure to check out Expedia.com for hotels in Buffalo.
This is a hip and trendy neighborhood with some of the most architecturally significant streets in all of Buffalo. During Buffalo’s time of demolition, Allentown’s residents banded together to ensure that the area’s beautiful streets were preserved. There are cute shops to be grazed, and plenty of food and drink spots.
Lenox Hotel + Suites
Truly a landmark of Allentown, the Lenox Hotel was built in 1896. Perfectly situated in Allentown for exploring, the hotel has all the modern amenities you need to enjoy a stay in Buffalo, like a fireplace 😉 140 North St, Buffalo, NY 14201
The Mansion on Delaware
If you want to travel in style in Buffalo, stay at The Mansion. You’ll feel like royalty at this historic mansion that’s even equipped with butlers! Contemporary amenities will great you, though, so don’t fret, you’ll still have your mini bar! 414 Delaware Ave, Buffalo, NY 14202
Elmwood is Allentown’s bigger sister. Some of the streets surrounding the area aren’t always the safest, but if you stay in the immediate area you shouldn’t have any troubles. Some of my favorite bars are in the Elmwood area but there are also some good connections to the rest of the city here, making it an ideal spot to stay.
Elmwood Village Inn
This is a charming bed and breakfast right in the heart of Elmwood Village. It has a Queen Anne style and a delicious breakfast in the mornings just for you! 893 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo, NY 14222
InnBuffalo Off Elmwood
5-Star amenities and a luxurious decor adorn the inside of this beautiful Inn in the heart of Elmwood. A great breakfast is waiting for you in the morning before you set off to explore the area’s many shops and restaurants. 619 Lafayette Ave, Buffalo, NY 14222
Chippewa isn’t just a famous street in a Big & Rich Song, it’s the clubbing/party mecca of Buffalo. I’ve heard quite a few of the most popular haunts have closed in recent years but there are still plenty of spots blaring music until the wee hours of the morning. (Bars are open until 4am in Buffalo, prepare yourself.) If you’re in Buffalo to see some of the sights, this may be the best option as major hotels will be nestled here and there are easy connections to the other areas of the city. Plus – my favorite bar in all of Buffalo, Buffalo Proper is a hop skip and a jump from Chippewa.
This historic building spent decades as a halfway house and apartment building. It was recently purchased and restored as a beautiful, boutique hotel. An Art Deco lobby and delicious restaurant will make you feel at home right in the heart of downtown Buffalo. 391 Washington St, Buffalo, NY 14203
Hostel Buffalo Niagara
If you’re on a budget, this is the perfect option! This hostel was actually voted the best hostel in America by Hostelling International and it lives up to its reputation. A spacious kitchen, plenty of public spaces and comfortable, clean rooms and bathrooms make this a great option. The location is the icing on the cake, it’s located only blocks away from Chippewa street and some of the best bars and restaurants in Buffalo! 667 Main St, Buffalo, NY 14203
If you’re in town for a football game or some shopping, this may be the better option! Williamsville has every big box store in America and the Galleria Mall, one of the biggest malls in Upstate, NY. Orchard Park is home to the Buffalo Bill’s stadium so best to stay there if you’re going for the game to avoid the traffic! If you’re heading here for shopping or a game, there are plenty of chain hotels in the area, choose your favorite!
Things To Do in Buffalo
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House Complex
Yes, believe it or not, there’s a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Buffalo! The home was constructed in 1905 and was one of the few Wright projects with an almost unlimited budget. This resulted in the property being extremely luxurious and massive. Definitely worth a visit!
Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Albright-Knox Art Gallery has found it’s home in the building built in 1905 for the Pan American Expo where President McKinley was assassinated. It is now home to renowned works of art from Degas, Picasso and more! Due to Buffalo’s rapidly growing art’s scene, the temporary installations and exhibits are extremely creative and well worth a visit.
Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site
Fun fact, the Ansley-Wilcox house is the site of Teddy Roosevelt’s emergency inauguration and Buffalo is the site of President McKinley’s assassination. If you’re a history buff, this is a must stop!
Buffalo City Hall
To take in some of the classic Buffalo architecture, venture to the City Hall. Both inside and out are packed with beautiful architectural details from the ‘30s. It’s worth it to time your visit with the free noon tour to see the mayor’s office, the council chamber, and the open-air observation deck.
Conveniently located in central Buffalo, it’s home to shops, restaurants, beautiful architecture and historic buildings. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery, a few other galleries and notable churches adorn the streets around this area. Spend some time moseying in and out of the shops and taking in the beautiful streets in the area. With plenty to eat and drink in the area as well, scroll down to get recommendations for the area!
An ironic newer, hot spot in Buffalo is one of the oldest areas in the city. Allentown is a historic area rich in history and architecture. It’s where the hipsters of the city have flocked to. You’ll find awesome used book stores, trendy restaurants and bars, and even a few breweries.
Obviously, this is the biggest draw for the Buffalo region. The falls are spectacular and I’m not going to argue against seeing them. I have to admit, they are a bit more beautiful from the Canadian side, so mosey across the bridge to a glimpse from that direction. Remember: you need a passport now to cross over to Canada!
There are harbor cruises if you’d like to experience the falls from the water. Harbor cruises are available at the top of the falls near the Erie Canal harbor or the Maid of the Mist which goes almost underneath the falls and ensures you get to experience the falls first hand by getting you soaking wet!
One of my favorite ways to experience the falls is to hike around the Three Sisters Islands. These islands are above the falls and provide a great peaceful walk with awesome, unique views of the falls!
This is a massive, gorgeous park in the Northeast part of Buffalo that was actually designed by infamous landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted. It’s home to the Buffalo Zoo, a botanical garden, forests, meadows, lakes and so much more. This is the perfect place for a picnic in the summer months!
This is going to sound weird, because, yes, it is a cemetery, but it’s beautiful!! People love going for walks or having picnics in Forest Lawn. President Fillmore is actually buried here, and you’ll learn even more by taking a walking tour or trolley tour of the cemetery.
OpenAirBuffalo Bus Tours
I never thought there was quite enough in Buffalo to warrant a bus tour, but the city has some sprawl to it and this is quite possibly the most unique bus tour you’ll ever experience. The owners of OpenAirBuffalo Bus Tours chopped the top half of a bus off so that there’s plenty of sightseeing space! As far as I know, they are only doing the tours in the summer months due to temperature constraints!
Buffalo Pedal Tours
If you’ve got a group or you want to make some new friends, Buffalo Pedal Tours are a super fun night out! Many use them to do bar crawls in the evenings, but they do actually do sightseeing and food and drink tours during the daylight hours as well! You’ve probably seen them in other cities, but they are 10+ seater “bicycles” where everyone pedals but only one person steers aka the DD.
Rust Belt Books
Rust Belt Books is one of Buffalo’s oldest used book stores. It’s more than just a bookstore though, you can find weekly poetry readings, other small community events and super rare first editions at times!
Shakespeare in the Park
In the summer months, Delaware Park, like I said, is the place to be, especially if you like Shakespeare! A massive stage is erected in the park and shows are often put on Tuesday through Sunday each week! Pack a picnic and some blankets and enjoy a free show! Taste of Buffalo — The country’s largest two-day food festival, Taste of Buffalo brings over 50 restaurants and seven wineries to downtown for a weekend of delicious, decadent delight.
The Lake Erie waterfront where the Erie Canal meets the lake used to be one of the most dilapidated parts of Buffalo. Thanks to resurgence, the area has been transformed into a blossoming arts district. During the summer months, there are concerts held at Canalside, and they get some big names at times! I saw Foster the People there a few years ago! In the winter, there’s ice skating and other cold-weather festivals.
National Buffalo Wing Festival
The crowning jewel of events in Buffalo: The Chicken Wing Festival. It’s typically held over Labor Day weekend in the Fall. It’s held on Coca-Cola Field at 275 Washington St. and is loads of fun! Obviously there are tons of chicken wings, eating competitions, hot sauce competitions and so much more. It’s well worth a trip!
Where to Eat in Buffalo
Anchor Bar is the infamous home to the chicken wing, how can you not stop here? Stick with the classic Buffalo or if you HAVE to mix it up, I like mixing Garlic Parmesan and Buffalo. Trust me, I know things. There are a few locations around Buffalo so just find the one closest to you and go.
Don’t tell Anchor Bar, but I actually like Duff’s wings better….. EEEKS! Duff’s is a little less of a restaurant-style that Anchor Bar is and a bit more of a greasy pizza joint, except sub wings for pizza. Again, tons of locations, try them both and let me know!
Left Bank is a modern Bistro in an urban setting, traditional pasta-heavy dishes will leave you stuffed to the brim. Live music can be found some nights, and the setting is perfect for catching up with friends and family.
If you love yourself a good diner, Amy’s Place will blow your mind! A Lebanese/American, cash-only diner has a home-cooked, comfy interior with kitschy mugs, and food that will blow you away. I love eating at this place for breakfast because they do veggie and vegan-friendly fare which is perfect for my sensitive tummy. Open 7 am to 9 pm, 7 days a week, find a time and go.
Elm Street Bakery
Just go Elm Street Bakery website. You’ll understand why this is one of my favorite places in all of Buffalo even though it’s a bit outside of Buffalo, it’s well worth the drive.
I’m not sure which is more visited or more well-known in Buffalo: Anchor Bar or Jim’s Steakout. Jim’s Steakout is where you get a Buffalo Chicken Finger sub or Philly Cheesesteak at 3 am. I know people go here during daylight, I haven’t ever walked through those doors with sunlight but it’s a great late-night spot that’s for sure! TONS of locations all around Buffalo.
Something that is just so Western NY, at least for me, is Tex-Mex. And this is a super hot and trendy spot in Allentown with outdoor seating for those rare beautiful days in the summer months. Open for lunch and dinner and the infamous brunch on the weekends, it’s a must-eat!
A perfect example of NY’s farm-to-table restaurant-style, this hot spot was nominated for a James Beard award earlier this year! It’s close by Allentown, so you don’t have to go far out of your way for good food.
This is a Buffalo staple. This is that spot where if you want to go to eat and don’t know where to go, you end up at Mother’s. It becomes a great late-night bar spot as well in the evenings, open til 4 am! It serves up good classic favorites in a dim-lit building that actually resembles a barn!
If you’re hip to the organic, locally sourced scene (which we should all make efforts to do more), this is the spot for you! Grab a quick toast for breakfast or get beautiful handmade breads, flours, or other goods.
Located in a red brick house on the corner of a tree-lined street in lovely Allentown, Betty’s has become more and more popular as the years go by. This bohemian beauty serves up a delicious brunch, lunch is delicious, and dinner is even more delicious. Serving up American comfort food like meatloaf, the menu won’t shock you but the flavors will!
On Wednesday’s throughout the summer this is a great place to go for some cheap street eats! Food trucks from around Western NY gather in a former soap factory. Live music perfectly sets the scene for a fun, unique night out.
Would it be a food guide written by me if I didn’t mention a market? This market was actually modeled after Chelsea market in NYC. Mexican, sushi, sandwiches and of course, chicken wings adorn the stalls of this delicious market open from 10 am to 9 pm daily except Sundays.
The Swannie House
If you want to step back in time, The Swannie House, a Buffalo staple, is your best bet. It always reminds me of stepping into a well preserved, quaint pub in the back alleys of London. Classic Buffalo/American staples like chicken fingers, wings, burgers, and even fish fry grace the menu of this charmer.
Where to Drink in Buffalo
Buffalo is full of good breweries, but this is one of my favorites. It has a few different levels and is conveniently located near most of the major event centers in downtown Buffalo. The food is decent and the drinks are even better!
The atmosphere of Big Ditch is great, and the crowd even better. A good mix of working professionals and hipsters, this is a great place to stop for some good bar food and freshly brewed drafts.
This is an eating and drinking stop that suits all palates. Try a Beef on Wick, a Buffalo specialty that locals rarely eat with thin-sliced roast beef on a kimmelweck roll! Lol Seriously, I lived in this region for years and years and had never heard of it until recently. The restaurant turns into a happening bar at night that’s a perfect stop on a Elmwood Village bar crawl. I really don’t think a stop to Buffalo is complete without a visit to Cole’s.
Allen Street Hardware
Nestled in the hip and trendy Allentown neighborhood, Allen Street Hardware was a, you guessed it, the hardware store for almost a century. It’s a yummy restaurant during the day and transforms into a happening bar scene at night. Live music is often heard here and dancing is definitely had!
If you’re looking for something a bit more laid back and chill, this may be your spot! It’s a bit more bohemian and alternative, but still a great night out and they even have vinyl Mondays playing throwback classics all night long!
This is my favorite craft cocktail, farm to table spot. I’m here to speak of their bar. The bartenders have lively personalities and mad skills with alcohol. It’s more like a drink and a show when you sit down at this bar. Conveniently located just a couple blocks away from Chippewa, it’s the adult version of the drinking scene in Buffalo.
- Buffalo has an international airport with connections to much of the USA and parts of Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean.
- It’s a little under 3 hours from Toronto and there’s a Megabus connecting the two for under $10.
- It’s about an 8-hour drive or Amtrak train ride from NYC (around $50).
- The city is still reasonably affordable with most hotels under $100 a night when booked in advance, and average meals running around $20-$40.
- Public transportation is not very advanced within Buffalo if you’re choosing where to stay, pick somewhere central if you won’t have a car or make sure you have access to a car. Uber is newly instated in Buffalo, so it’s slightly easier and cheaper to get around than using a taxi.
- If you’re coming in the winter months (between October and April) make sure to bring heavy winter boots, coats, gloves, etc. and remember to be flexible with travel plans. Flights are often disrupted due to weather, and driving may be treacherous if lake effect snow hits!