7 Reasons to Visit Buffalo on Your Niagara Falls Trip

Every year, roughly eight million visitors make their way to the U.S.-Canadian border to witness the powerful and magnificent Niagara Falls. Many of these travelers come in and out without considering what exists beyond the falls. For those who find Niagara Falls’ tourist shops lacking authenticity and culture, nearby Buffalo is chock-full of museums, restaurants, and nightlife options that are far too often overlooked. Buffalo is a mere 25-minute drive south of Niagara Falls, making it a convenient base for visiting the falls. And while Niagara Falls is certainly worth the trip, here are seven reasons why you should consider lingering in Buffalo after your Maid of the Mist voyage. 

1. The Impressive Architecture

Jeff Stevens/Flickr

Buffalo challenges Rust Belt stereotypes, swapping crumbling infrastructure with striking buildings created by some of the greatest American architectural minds, such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Frederick Law Olmsted. Starting downtown, the 32-story Buffalo City Hall stands out for its size and Art Deco style. Another downtown gem is the Hotel @ The Lafayette, which was designed by America’s first professional female architect, Louise Blanchard Bethune. 

To get a glimpse inside some of Buffalo’s finest architecture, head to Richardson Olmsted Campus, which offers historical tours May through September. Here, the one-time mental asylum, which is preserved as a historical landmark, has been revitalized as the Hotel Henry Urban Resort and the upcoming Lipsey Architecture Center. Tours are also held at Frank Lloyd Wright’s multi-structure Martin House complex in the charming Parkside neighborhood. (Tip: Make a reservation in advance.) The geometric design is distinguished as one of Wright’s best Prairie Houses. Other works of Wright include the Graycliff estate on the shores of Lake Erie and the Wright Filling Station -- a posthumous creation that can be viewed at Buffalo’s Pierce-Arrow Museum.

2. The Waterfront

Adam Moss/Flickr

Buffalo is situated at the confluence of Lake Erie, the Niagara River, and the Erie Canal. The city has managed to repurpose sections of its industrial waterfront to create public spaces that offer year-round activities. The Canalside area is the heart of the refurbished waterfront. The space hosts over 1,000 annual events, including outdoor yoga, concerts, and craft fairs in the summer. In the winter, Ice at Canalside, a 35,000-square-foot rink, is the perfect spot to enjoy skating, curling, and hockey. The summer concert series kicks off June 7 and runs every Thursday until late August. Meanwhile, the weekends are full of festivals, including the Buffalo Niagara Blues Festival and Buffalo Pints & Pierogi Fest. 

Other highlights include RiverWorks, a multi-use space with a brewery, rock climbing, and more. It’s also known for its massive grain elevators painted to resemble a six-pack of beer. In the summer, the inner harbor and canals are teeming with kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and water bikes that can be rented on-site. Bigger boats are on display at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park (a World War II-era destroyer, cruiser, and submarine are open to public viewing).

3. The Progressive Community

Photo courtesy of Kevin Brouillard

A number of grassroots movements are alive and well in Buffalo. Though many of these initiatives aren’t visitor-oriented, they add to an atmosphere that is welcoming of diversity in all its forms. One such organization that offers community events and programs is the Massachusetts Avenue Project. It partnered with GObike Buffalo to organize a series of local farm bike tours, dubbed Tour de Farms. Last year’s ride visited several community gardens and farms operated by the Massachusetts Avenue Project, as well as a number of privately operated urban farms. The 2018 event has yet to be scheduled, but will likely occur in mid-September. 

4. The Thriving Brewery Culture

Invest Buffalo Niagara/Flickr

Roughly a dozen craft breweries call Buffalo home -- and that number is growing. These breweries have played a big part in the city’s revival, as they participate in numerous events, offer tastings, and provide welcoming spaces for locals and visitors alike. Flying Bison Brewing Company was Buffalo’s first craft brewery and a pioneer of the local craft beer movement. Their brewery is located on Larkin Square, and features a bar and organized tours. Other notable spots include the previously mentioned RiverWorks, as well as Big Ditch, Community Beer Works, and Resurgence. The latter serves a wide array of rotating brews in its indoor/outdoor beer garden, including locally inspired flavors like the Imperial Sponge Candy Stout.

5. The Flourishing Local Art Galleries and Museums

Jay Galvin/Flickr

Visitors will quickly get a sense of Buffalo’s rich history by the array of museums on offer. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery boasts a world-class collection with alternating exhibitions. A more intimate experience can be had with local artists on the first Friday of each month with Allentown’s gallery walk, also known as “First Fridays.” The monthly event sees galleries, boutiques, and restaurants open their doors to the public for a night of live music, art exhibitions, and community bonding. More local work can be viewed at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, which is the only museum dedicated to exhibiting work exclusively made by Western New York artists. Beyond the art offerings, the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum exhibits unique vehicles, like a 1902 electric carriage, as well as an impractical, yet lavish, gas station designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. 

6. The Underrated Food Scene

There is much more to the Buffalo food scene than Buffalo wings, though we will get to that later. One of the fastest-growing trends here is the food truck scene, which can be most easily accessed on Food Truck Tuesdays in Larkin Square. Larkin Square has emerged from its days as a soap company warehouse district, providing much needed public gathering and event space. Visitors and locals flock here on Tuesdays for the weekly event that features over 25 food trucks, multiple breweries, and live music. Heading uptown, the most exciting culinary happenings can be found on Hertel Avenue. Hertel has historically been a mainstay for traditional Italian cuisine, but has recently experienced a flood of ethnic and hip eateries. CRAVing is one of the pioneers for bringing the local food movement to the city, using meat and produce from local farms. Another recent arrival is Lloyd Taco Factory, which originated as one of Buffalo’s first successful food trucks. You can’t go wrong on Hertel, with dozens of neighboring restaurants, including Romeo & Juliets for pastries and Kostas for home-style Greek food.

7. And (Of Course) the Buffalo Wings!

JasonParis/Flickr

While in Buffalo, you should drop the “Buffalo” and just call them wings. This flavorful food does in fact originate from Buffalo, specifically from Anchor Bar in 1964. The credit goes to Teressa Bellissimo, owner of Anchor Bar, who made the ingenious choice of frying a batch of chicken wings, and then tossing them in hot sauce. Wings are served with carrot and celery sticks as well as blue cheese dressing, so don’t you dare ask for Ranch! Though Anchor Bar prepares a variety of wing flavors today, the medium wings are the closest you’ll get to the original batch. Making the pilgrimage to Anchor Bar is a must if you only have time for one stop, but the Buffalo Wing Trail includes 11 other top-notch wing joints in and around Buffalo that offer their own take on Bellissimo’s creation. Wing fanatics should consider visiting during the Buffalo Wing Festival to sample some of the best local and national varieties. 

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