The 11 Best Day Trips From Buffalo

Watkins Glen State Park waterfall canyon in Upstate New York
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Buffalo is ideally situated in Western New York on the Canadian border making it a great base for tons of day-long adventures. From the uber-famous sites like Niagara Falls to show-stopping hiking trails in Letchworth State Park and Watkins Glen to historic and charming towns like East Aurora and Lewiston to the oldest sculpture park in the U.S., these day trips from Buffalo offer something for everyone.

01 of 11

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls


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Buffalo is a great jumping-off point to make it to the gushing falls on either the New York or Canadian side (or both in one day!). On the New York side, the state park includes a promenade along the Niagara River, several islands connected by bridges. Start at Goat Island and check out various observation points on the rim of the falls. Take the wooden staircases and paths that bring you to the bottom of the smallest waterfall, Bridal Veil Falls, and be prepared to get wet! For a classic experience, book a ride on the Maid of the Mist boat for an up-close view of the mighty falls. If you go to the Canadian side, about 28 miles away, don’t forget your passport! There are three border crossings and once there you’ll want to experience Horseshoe Falls, the most powerful waterfall in North America and the classic one people think of when you mention Niagara Falls. Have lunch at a chain spot like Tony Roma’s in the kitschy town of Niagara Falls, or head to Niagara-on-the-Lake for a more charming experience, Casa Mia is a lovely Italian restaurant there.

Getting There: To get there by car, drive about 25 minutes north on I-90. Or, take Bus 40A to Niagara Falls and transfer to the 52, then walk about 20 minutes. Be aware that the whole trip by bus will take about two hours.

Travel Tip: There are guided day trips from Buffalo to Niagara Falls that will pick you up at your hotel or the airport. They typically include a boat ride on Maid of the Mist and tours of Cave of Winds, Bridal Veil Falls, Goat Island, Horseshoe Falls, Skylon Tower, and more.

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Rochester

River and skyline of Rochester, New York

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Rochester is a great sister city to Buffalo, offering a variety of attractions, museums, restaurants, and more. If you’re there in spring, smelling and ogling the lilacs at Highland Park Conservatory is a must. Rochester also happens to be an epicenter for women’s rights: Susan B. Anthony lived in Rochester and you can tour her historic home, which is now the National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House. Other museums to visit include the Rochester Museum and Science Center, the acclaimed Strong National Museum of Play, and the fascinating tribute to photography at the George Eastman Museum, thanks to Rochester being the home of Kodak for many years. Have lunch or a snack at the bustling Public Market. To unwind after a full day, head to Living Roots Winery, Rochester’s first urban winery.

Getting There: To get there by car, drive about one hour and 15 minutes east on I-90 E. Or, take an Amtrak train from Depew Station to Rochester on the Empire Line. It takes one hour and 10 minutes.

Travel Tip: Indulge in a Rochester classic: the original garbage plate, which is much tastier than it sounds. Eat it at Nick Tahou Hots, where it was invented.

03 of 11

East Aurora

living room of Roycroft inn with exposed wood beams and warm wooden accents

Courtesy of Roycroft Inn

About 100 years ago this village was the center of the Arts & Crafts movement in the U.S. Today it’s home to the only house built by a U.S. president with his own hands, a classic family-owned five-and-ten store, the 19th-century Roycroft Campus, and a variety of cafes, boutiques, and restaurants. East Aurora has more than enough to see and do for a whole day. Start the day at Elm Street Bakery for breakfast before heading to the Roycroft Campus and its museum and shops to learn all about the Arts & Crafts design movement in America. Feel like a kid again at the massive 90-plus-year-old Vidler’s 5 & 10 and pick up everything from Christmas ornaments year-round to Buffalo wing-flavored soda (really). The village is also home to other stores like the stylish housewares and apparel boutique Nigh Road Farmhouse and the only location of the Fisher-Price Toy Store. Grab an ice cream treat inside an old caboose at the Little Red Caboose ice cream shop and then visit the home of the 13th president, Millard Fillmore, which he built by hand with his family and lived there until 1830. At the time, he was East Aurora’s only lawyer. For dinner, enjoy the fish fry at the old-school Wallenwein Hotel.

Getting There: East Aurora is about a 20-minute drive away via NY-400 S. If you don't have a car, you can get there by coach bus, which leaves from the Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center Greyhound Terminal. It runs three times a day during the week, twice on Saturday, and once on Sunday and it takes about 50 minutes.

Travel Tips: Consider spending the night at the historic Roycroft Inn, which dates back to 1895, and dining in its iconic restaurant.

04 of 11

Letchworth State Park

Wide waterfall going over rocks in Letchworth State Park


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Sometimes called the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Letchworth State Park’s highlight is a deep gorge carved out by the Genesee River. Spend the day at the park and enjoy its 66 miles of hiking trails, dramatic cliffs, three massive waterfalls (one is as high as 600 feet) and the gushing river—the lower rapids of which you can raft or kayak down. Refuel at the Glen Iris Inn, a historic hotel with a restaurant dating back to 1914. Called Caroline’s, the restaurant is open seasonally for lunch and dinner, offering dishes like prime rib, roasted duck, and herb-crusted rack of lamb. For something less formal, try one of their picnics-to-go and find a quiet spot in the park to enjoy it.

Getting There: The only way to get to the park is by car. Drive southeast on I-78 for a little over an hour. There isn't any public transportation available to get there.

Travel Tip: Consider booking a hot air ballon ride over the park for something extra-special.

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05 of 11

Watkins Glen State Park

Gorge waterfall in Watkins Glen State Park

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A bit further afield (it’s 146 miles from Buffalo), but still perfectly doable in a day, Watkins Glen State Park is at the southern end of Seneca Lake. The park features a stunning gorge of eroded limestone and shale, spectacular rock formations, and 19 waterfalls. The two-mile Gorge Trail traverses many of these highlights, including going behind several waterfalls. There are also trails along the upper rim of the gorge, as well as many others. After your hike, head to the town of Watkins Glen for a late lunch at Seneca Harbor Station on the waterfront of Seneca Lake. If you have time, you can board one of their afternoon cruises on the lake. Or, explore the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, dotted with Finger Lakes wineries offering tastings.

Getting There: To get here from Buffalo you have to drive and it takes about two and a 1/2 hours. Drive on I-90 E and then down NY-14 S along Seneca Lake.

Travel Tip: Stop in the cute town of Geneva along the way for a late breakfast or early lunch. Ports Cafe, FLX Table, and Kindred Fare are local favorites.

06 of 11

The Finger Lakes

Area view of a harbor and buildings in the Finger Lakes town, Skaneateles Lake

Matt Champlin / Getty Images

Buffalo is a great jumping-off point to the Finger Lakes Region, which is made up of nine lakes with charming towns, wineries, and walking and biking trails. Many of the lakes have their own wine trails, and there are various historic spots to visit, including Seneca Falls State Park and its Women’s Rights National Historic Park, where the first women’s rights convention was held in 1848; the Sonnenburg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park; and the Granger Homestead and Carriage Museum. You can swim, sail, go on a cruise, or even go kitesurfing or windsurfing on the lakes.

Getting There: The Finger Lakes is a large region so where exactly you decide to go will determine your route, but generally driving is the best option. It's about one and a 1/2 hours on I-90 E to get to Canandaigua the nearest large lake.

Travel Tips: Pick a few highlights surrounding just one lake for a day trip; the various lakes are pretty spread out from one another. Canandaigua, Seneca, and Cayuga Lakes are good options from Buffalo.

07 of 11

Ellicottville

Dina's Restaurant Ellicottville, NY

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Home to ski resorts, golf courses, and adventure sports, Ellicottville is an outdoor adventureland, no matter the season. HoliMont and Holiday Valley offer skiing, snowboarding, and tubing in winter. In summer, Holiday Valley opens an 18-hole golf course and the Sky High Adventure Park, which has zip lines, aerial adventure courses, rock climbing, and a mountain roller coaster. Spruce Lake has swimming and boating and the Nannen Arboretum is home to eight acres of trees, lawns, ponds, trails, and manicured gardens. While you’re in town, indulge in a farm-fresh meal at Dina’s or grab a beer at Ellicottville Brewing Co. or Finnerty’s Taproom.

Getting There: Ellicottville is about an hour's drive south from Buffalo via US-219 S. There is no public transit there.

Travel Tip: Be sure to bring whatever outdoor gear you might need, but there are ski and snowboard rentals in winter.

08 of 11

Toronto, Canada

Kayakers in a large body of water with the Toronto skyline in the background

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A less than two-hour drive away from Buffalo is the bustling Canadian city of Toronto, making it an attractive choice for a fun-filled day trip. Once you cross the border (bring your passport or NEXUS card!), you can explore any one of Toronto’s dozens of museums (try the Royal Ontario Museum, the Bata Shoe Museum, and the Aga Khan), stroll through High Park, explore the galleries and shops of the West Queen West and Bloor-Yorkville neighborhoods, wander the historic cobblestoned streets of the Distillery District, and eat your way through St. Lawrence Market.

Getting There: It takes about one hour and 45 minutes hours by car to get to Toronto, but factor in time for crossing the border. You'll take I-90 N to Queen Elizabeth Way. To get there by public transit you'll first need to get to Niagara Falls (see above) and then cross the border by going over Peace Bridge on foot, and then walk to the Niagara Falls Bus Terminal. From there, you'll take the number 12 to Burlington GO station and transfer to the Lakeshore West line train. The whole thing takes about five hours. The VIA Rail also goes from Buffalo into Toronto Union Station and takes a little over four hours. Finally, you can take a direct bus from Fort Erie, Ontario, just over the border with Buffalo, to Toronto on MegaBus or Greyhound, which takes about two hours.

Travel Tip: Toronto is a big city so you'll want to focus on one or two neighborhoods to explore on a day trip.

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09 of 11

Lewiston Village

Sign on a residential street in Lewiston, NY

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A quaint village that’s just one square mile within the town of Lewiston, the village of Lewiston is about 25 minutes north of Buffalo, near Niagara Falls. A historic home called Tryon’s Folly (now a private residence) with secret cellars was one of the last stops on the Underground Railroad before slaves escaped by boat across the Niagara River to Canada. Today, visitors can enjoy live concerts at Artpark, attend festivals (like Peach Fest, Smelt Fest, Jazz Fest, and more) in the summer, take a ride on Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours through the Niagara River’s Class Five rapids, see the Freedom Crossing Monument on the riverbank, and go on a historical food tour.

Getting There: If you're driving, you'll head north on I-90 for about 30 minutes to get to Lewiston. You can also take the 40A bus toward Niagara Falls and switch to the 50 B to Lewiston, which takes a little less than two hours.

Travel Tip: Although the village is tiny, Lewiston has more than 30 restaurants, including longtime favorites the Village Bake Shoppe, DiCamillo Bakery, and the waterfront Silo restaurant, which was featured on the Food Network’s "Man vs. Food."

10 of 11

Griffis Sculpture Park and Essex Art Center

Metal sculptures at the Rohr Hill Road section of Griffis Sculpture Park

Antepenultimate / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

This sculpture garden about an hour’s drive from Buffalo is the oldest one in the country. It displays the work of World War II veteran Larry Griffis, Jr., who later in life left his home in Buffalo to move to Rome and study bronze casting. The Griffis Sculpture Park began in the early 1960s with a gift from Larry’s mother of 125 acres of farmland in Ashford Hollow. Today, the sculpture park has more than 250 sculptures spread across more than 400 acres of land scattered with hiking trails. The Essex Street Arts Center, formerly an ice factory, has been instrumental in helping emerging artists, including the likes of Cindy Sherman and Robert Longo, and is host to several studios and exhibition spaces.

Getting There: To get there by car, you'll drive about 50 minutes south on US-219 to the town of East Otto, where the sculpture park is located. There is no public transportation to get there.

Travel Tip: After you explore the sculpture park, get tacos from Mitch's General Store down the road.

11 of 11

Eternal Flame Falls at Chestnut Ridge Park

Eternal Flame Falls in Chestnut Ridge Park


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This forever-burning flame under a picturesque waterfall is actually a natural gas leak, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful. Once inside Chestnut Ridge Park, signs will guide you toward Shale Creek and the Eternal Flame, but eventually the signs peter out after about 40 minutes. At that point, you’ll come to a fork and you want to go left, following the creek bed. About 8 minutes later you’ll see a small grotto at the end of the creek where some falls are, and that’s where the flame will be. It does occasionally get extinguished so bring a lighter along to reignite just in case.

Getting There: By car you'll drive south on 1-90 to US-219 for about 25 minutes. To get to the proper trailhead to find the Eternal Flame, head about 1.5 miles south of the official entrance on Route 277 and follow signs. If you enter at the main entrance you'll be walking for quite a while before you find it.

Travel Tip: After you see the flame, spend the rest of the day exploring Chestnut Ridge Park’s 1,151 acres—bring a picnic to enjoy while you’re there.

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