Here's How to Have the Perfect Buffalo Staycation

Summer in Niagara Falls.
offspring-getty-flickr / Getty

No need to spend countless hours in an airport or drop beaucoup bucks on your next vacation when there's plenty to do in your own backyard.

It seems as though everyone is under the impression that in order to enjoy time off from work or school that they have to hit the road, that the only type of vacation is one that's far away. But those looking to pack up and head out may be missing a great opportunity. Western New York is packed with great things to do that don't require significant travel time, a hotel, or even much money. So the next time you start planning a trip out of the area, stop for a minute and consider taking a staycation instead.

Where to Dine

Buffalo is known for its food scene, but that might not be what you had in mind. While a trip to Western New York wouldn't be complete without stopping by a local pub for chicken wings or beef on weck, you're probably looking for some nicer dining options. I mean, let's be honest there are only so many wings you can have in one vacation (probably). Lucky for you though the dining scene in the city is much more than fried dishes and fast food. Throughout the Elmwood Village you'll find a number of great restaurants with impressive breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner courses, as well as music and outdoor seating.

The downtown area and North Buffalo have also seen a few restaurants pop up within the past few years that are definitely worth the visit.

For something a little more casual, Larkin Square in the city's Eastside hosts Food Truck Tuesday, a weekly event throughout the summer months. Roughly 20 trucks come out to sample some of the best known dishes across the city, so it's a great opportunity to try a little of everything if you're pressed for time, or just hungry.

Where to Drink

Lucky for you, Buffalo is a drinking town. We love our pubs, breweries, distilleries, wineries, more or less any place that serves up a good pint or solid spirit. With the city's history so firmly rooted in the production of both beer and spirits, it's apparent that this trend has shaped the identity of the town. Throughout the city you'll find local breweries like Resurgence Brewing Company that take the city's history to heart and serve up options like Sponge Candy Stout--an ode to the famous local candy.

Within the city limits there are close to a dozen micro and nano-breweries, all making locally crafter ales that allude to the city's industrial past.

Western New York and Southern Ontario are also known for their wine production. The tepid summers and cold winters allow for the perfect climate to grow quality grapes that are perfect for wine production. Strung throughout the Great Lakes region just south of Rochester, just over the Peace Bridge in Southern Ontario, or throughout Niagara County to the North, you'll find dozens of vineyards bookending the country roads. You can stop in to these local vendors while you're out on the road, or join a wine tour that provides a shuttle from winery to winery.

It's a safer option and a great option to bring along some of your friends; it's also a popular bachelor and bachelorette party option. 

If you haven't had your fill already with wine and beer, or that sort of stuff isn't for you, there's a growing trend of distillers taking root across the city. In only just the past couple of years a number of local distilleries have started operation, adding to the growing trend of locally based production.

Aside from the tours, breweries, distilleries and wineries, you have a wide selection of actual bars and restaurants that offer a more formal drinking atmosphere. Downtown and Chippewa are geared towards the younger, nightclubbing crowd, while Allentown is more comparable to New York City's East Village--a community that is more bohemian, filled with art galleries and bars with live music.

Where to Fine Arts and Culture

Buffalo itself can be considered a work of art, with the park system that weaves throughout the city having been designed by the same man who designed New York City's Central Park, so you're never far from something beautiful. But if you're looking for something more concrete there are a number of internationally celebrated galleries, and dozens of smaller, independently run spaces with a variety of focuses. The Albright Knox is arguably the most well known gallery in the area with works of art by Jackson Pollack, Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh, to name a few.

Lining Allen, Grant, Main Street and Elmwood Avenue, you'll find a number of smaller spaces that showcase a variety of talents including watercolors, oil-on-canvas, and photography. The CEPA Gallery downtown is another celebrated space in the newly renovated Market Arcade Complex which boasts exhibitions from photographers both near and far. If you're pressed for time, the Market Arcade Complex is a great destination since the space was converted into a number of smaller shops and galleries, allowing visitors to take in plenty at once.

Across the Border

You'd be surprised how quick you can get between Western New York and Southern Ontario just by hopping in your car and popping over either the Peace Bridge or the Rainbow Bridge. In roughly 20 minutes you can make the jump, opening up a whole new world of opportunities for your staycation (and you can even say you traveled to a different country.)

The Peace Bridge is most likely the fastest way to get to Canada from downtown Buffalo as the bridge connects the Lower West Side to Mather Park in Old Fort Erie. Traffic in the summer can be a little rough, but as long as you leave early in the morning to give yourself some time, you can generally beat the traffic. During the warm summer months you could also bike over the bridge to take in the city views from the other side of the Buffalo River.

The Rainbow Bridge is about a 30 minute drive North from the city and connects Niagara Falls, New York with Niagara Falls, Ontario. If the Falls is your final destination this is the better bet since you can take in the views of the Falls from both borders. You could even divide your time, spending the earlier part of the day on one side and the other part across the border.

Special Attractions

You'd be surprised to find out how many people have lived in Buffalo for years, if not their entire life, but have never visited Niagara Falls. While it's a regular stop for elementary school students on field trips, many adults never make the trip--and if they do it's usually because they are showing around a friend who's visiting from out of town. With relaxing cruises, exciting jet boat rides, extensive dining options, plenty of manicured park space, dozens of family-friendly activities and countless stunning viewpoints of the Fall, the area has plenty to do.

So if you've put off a trip to the Falls because it's so close you could go any time, consider finally taking that short drive to check it out. I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

But Niagara Falls isn't the only thing that Western New York has going for it. Kleinhan's Music Hall, Buffalo Bills or Sabres games, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, 

Catch a Game

While you could argue that Buffalo isn't home to any winning teams that doesn't mean that the games aren't still a blast to attend. The pre-gaming for a Bills game is unlike any other, with crowds congregating every game day Sunday in the parking lot as early as 8 a.m., even if it's a later game.

Sabres games are a little more demure since there's no place to pregame, but they are just as fun. If you don't have tickets you could swing by any local bar who will surely have the game on all of their TVs. Across the street from the First Niagara Center, the new (716) Food and Sport offers TVs that stretch floor to ceiling so it's almost like you're right on the ice.

The Buffalo Bisons are the city's only professional minor league baseball team and it's the best place to be on a warm summer day. Tickets are cheap (starting at $10) and you could easily spend all day lounging in the sun.

Getting Around

Buffalo is predominantly a car town but that doesn't mean that riding your bike around or catching the bus isn't an option. While driving is the easiest way to traverse Western New York, there are miles of bikes lanes that can take you through the city, to the Outer Harbor, across the border and into the suburbs making for an incredibly scenic and enjoyable ride.