Top 15 Things to Do in Buffalo, New York

Buffalo, New York

Denis Tangney Jr/Getty Images

Buffalo is the second-largest city in New York State and the de facto capital of Western New York. Focused around its three waterfronts, the outdoors is a focus of Queen City. Buffalo’s park system was designed by the same man who gave us Central Park in NYC: Frederick Law Olmsted. It’s also one of the country’s most significant cities for 20th-century architecture, with buildings by the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, Eliel and Eero Saarinen, and H.H. Richardson. You can’t visit Buffalo without experiencing the famous Erie Canal, art scene, tailgating, and winter activities like ice skating and hockey. And of course, it’s home to some iconic New York State foods, including Buffalo wings (here they’re just called wings!) and Beef on Weck. Here are the top things to do in Buffalo.

 

01 of 15

Walk Inside a Frank Lloyd Wright House—or Two

Darwin Martin House

Rhea Anna

Because Buffalo was such a thriving industrial city in the early 20th century, many important architects of the day left their imprint on the city, including the legendary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. After a visit to Oak Park, Illinois, where Wright lived and had designed many homes, Darwin D. Martin, an executive at Buffalo’s Larkin Company, fell in love with Wright’s vision. Martin convinced Larkin’s board of directors to let Wright design their new headquarters. Unfortunately, that building is no longer standing, but Martin also had Wright design his home and a weekend home on Lake Eerie. In all, Wright designed seven structures in Buffalo that still stand, three of which were built posthumously using his designs. The Darwin Martin House and Graycliff on Lake Eerie are both open to visitors via reserved tours. The Wright-designed filling station, which was built in 2014, is part of the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum and a boathouse he designed was built in 2007 on the shores of Black Rock Canal to house the West Side Rowing Club. A mausoleum he designed for Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery at the behest of Martin was realized in 2004 by architect Anthony Puttnam, a Wright apprentice. The final two Wright structures are still private homes in the city—the Walter V. Davidson and William R. Heath Houses.

02 of 15

Walk or Bike Along the Canal

Canalside, Buffalo

Rhea Anna

Address
44 Prime St, Buffalo, NY 14202, USA
Phone +1 716-436-7100

The canal is a central part of Buffalo, especially now that Canalside has been revitalized. Located at the terminus of the Erie Canal in downtown Buffalo, the waterfront hosts concerts, festivals, fitness classes, and children’s programming, and it’s a great place to walk or bike along the 3-mile scenic trail along the water. Need a break? Stop for a snack, ice cream, or beer at the outdoor restaurant Clinton’s Dish in summer or one of the many other restaurants or brewery options at Canalside.

03 of 15

Ogle Amazing Art

Burchfield Penney Art Center

Biff Henrich

Buffalo is blessed with an impressive art scene, including two amazing museums: Burchfield Penney Art Center and Albright-Knox. Burchfield Penney celebrates the work of American artist Charles Burchfield and other artists from Western New York. Albright-Knox honors modern and contemporary art on its two campuses. Albright-Knox Northland is a new project space that opened in January 2020, while the main campus on Elmwood Avenue is closed for renovations until 2022. Past exhibitions have included works by artists like Clyfford Still, Robert Indiana, Henri Matisse, and Takashi Murakami.

04 of 15

Eat Buffalo’s Iconic Foods

Buffalo wings

Rudisill/Getty Images

When a food has the name of the city it was invented in in the name, you probably need to eat if you’re in that city. Buffalo wings, which have become a staple of sports bars across the country, were invented at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo by owner Teressa Bellissimo. The spicy wings are made by deep-frying the wings without coating or breading and then slathering them in a bright orange sauce made from melted butter, hot sauce, and red pepper. And remember: in Buffalo, they’re served with blue cheese, and if you ask for ranch dressing, you’ll definitely be outed as a non-local! Try them at the place they were invented, Anchor Bar or Bar-Bill Tavern, where you can also snag one of Buffalo’s other famous foods: Beef on Weck. Beef on Weck is a sandwich on a bun, called a Weck, which is actually short for Kummelweck, a South German word for a kaiser roll topped with caraway seeds and salt. It’s piled with roast beef slices, a bit of beef au jus on the top bun, and a side of more au jus for dipping and horseradish. Aside from Bar-Bill Tavern, you can also sample it at Schwabl’s or Charlie the Butcher.

Continue to 5 of 15 below.
05 of 15

Explore Historic Grain Elevators in Innovative Ways

Buffalo grain elevators

Miklmar/Getty Images

Address
85 Silo City Row, Buffalo, NY 14203, USA

As an integral part of the Rust Belt, Buffalo has a storied industrial past. In 1906, it was the world’s largest grain port, and now there are few landmarks more iconic than the city’s abandoned grain elevators, six massive tubes that stretch toward the sky on the Buffalo riverfront. Thankfully, the city has managed to repurpose them in some extremely creative and unique ways, and you can now see art inside them, eat and drink in them, zip-line from them, kayak between them, and even climb up them. Now called Silo City, the building has hosted art exhibits, poetry and book readings, theater, and music festivals and performances there since 2012. But whatever you do, make sure to book a tour where you can actually go up the elevators, learn about their and the city’s history, and be rewarded with epic skyline views.

06 of 15

Meander the City’s Six Parks

Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Garden

Drew Brown

In 1868, after designing Manhattan’s Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted was invited to Buffalo with the hope that he would design something similar. Inspired by Buffalo’s radial street design and proximity to Lake Erie, Olmsted suggested creating a “city within a park.” He designed six major parks, seven parkways, and eight landscaped circles throughout the city. Explore Cazenovia, Delaware, Front, Riverside, South, and Martin Luther King, Jr. parks across the city. Within South Park is the Buffalo and Erie Botanical Gardens, which Olmsted also designed, and it’s a must-visit on a sunny day.

07 of 15

Tailgate

Buffalo Bills tailgating

Joe Cascio

Buffalo is known for its rabid sports fans, and tailgating is definitely a city pastime on game days. Whether it’s a Bills’ football game or a Sabres’ hockey game, get ready for lots of wings, subs from Wegmans, and Labatt Blue. Wear the home team’s gear, and you’ll be welcomed with open arms.

08 of 15

Glide on Ice

Ice bikes in Buffalo

KC Kratt

Buffalo gets really cold in winter and receives some of the most snow in the country. But instead of hibernating indoors all winter, Buffalonians still go outside. What do they do? It turns out they’ve come up with some pretty novel things to do on all the ice. Sure, there’s ice skating at Canalside, but have you ever heard of ice biking? And how about ice bumper cars? Not to mention curling and ice hockey. All are favorite pastimes in Buffalo and worth experiencing if you’re there in winter.

Continue to 9 of 15 below.
09 of 15

Experience a 19th-Century Guild

Roycroft Inn

Rhea Anna

Address
31 S Grove St, East Aurora, NY 14052, USA
Phone +1 716-655-0261

Located just a short drive away in neighboring East Aurora, the Roycroft Campus is the best-preserved complex of buildings remaining in the country of the “guilds” that evolved as centers of craftsmanship and philosophy during the late 19th century. The campus, established in 1897, was designated as a National Historic Landmark district in 1986. Today, nine of the original 14 structures are still open, including the Inn, the Chapel, the Print Shop, the Furniture Shop, and the Copper Shop, where visitors can learn the styles and techniques of the original Roycroft artisans, an offshoot of the Arts & Crafts movement. The Campus has various shops selling Arts & Crafts style wares made there, a museum, restaurant, and several artist studios. It also offers a variety of classes, exhibitions, events, and tours.

10 of 15

Listen to Jazz

Colored Musician Club Buffalo

Onion Studio

Address
145 Broadway, Buffalo, NY 14203-1629, USA
Phone +1 716-855-9383

While Buffalo might not be your first thought when it comes to music, it’s the home of the Colored Musicians Club, the only remaining African American club of its kind in the U.S. Originally formed in 1918 as a social club for Black musicians to hang out in after their gigs and moved to a permanent home in 1935, complete with rehearsal and performance spaces. Jazz giants including Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis all played there. In 1999, it was designated a historical preservation site, and in 2018 it became a National Historic Site. Currently, the Club promotes historical research and the preservation of jazz in Buffalo. Today, it continues to operate as a music venue and a jazz history museum.

11 of 15

See Buildings by Legendary Architects

Guaranty Building


demerzel21/Getty Images

While many people know about Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buffalo buildings, he’s not the only famous architect to have left his mark on Queen City. Observe the early origins of skyscraper design at Louis Sullivan’s Guaranty Building, gaze at H.H. Richardson’s landmarked Romanesque Richardson Olmsted Campus, and be amazed at the curves of Eliel and Eero Saarinen’s Kleinhans Music Hall. The iconic red brick and white terra cotta façade of the Hotel @ Lafayette was designed by Louise Blanchard Bethune, the first professional female architect in the U.S. Check them out on your own or go on a walking or open-air bus tour.

12 of 15

Drink Wine or Beer on a Boat

Spirit of Buffalo

Drew Brown

Address
44 Prime St, Buffalo, NY 14202, USA
Phone +1 716-796-7210

Why set sail without some booze? Thanks to the Spirit of Buffalo sailboat tours on the Buffalo River, you don’t have to. The Wine in the Wind tour features wines from the surrounding Niagara region and worldwide, but if you’re more of a beer drinker, the Craft Brew Sail pours craft beers from Buffalo. If the kids are in tow, book the Pirate Sail, featuring face painting, a treasure hunt, music, and more.

Continue to 13 of 15 below.
13 of 15

Experience Other Cultures at West Side Bazaar

West Side Bazaar Buffalo

Brendan Bannon

Address
25 Grant St, Buffalo, NY 14213, USA
Phone +1 716-783-8489

Buffalo’s food scene is so much more than just wings, and the indoor West Side Bazaar proves it. The sprawling market features stalls from immigrants, and you’ll find cuisine from Thailand, Burma, Mexico, Japan, and Ethiopia, to name a few. And while the food vendors are the reason to visit, there are also retail vendors selling things like clothing, jewelry, skincare, crafts, and more from as far as Iraq and India. 

14 of 15

Shop in Elmwood Village

Elmwood Village

Benedek/Getty Images

This charming neighborhood north of downtown is a little bit like the Brooklyn of Buffalo, with stylish shops selling design-forward clothing, accessories, and homewares. Check out , Half & Half, Anna Grace, and Renew Bath + Body to put a dent in your wallet. When you need to refuel, head to Inizio for Italian fare or Forty Thieves Kitchen & Bar for pub fare and craft cocktails.

15 of 15

Get On the Water

Kayaking Wilkeson Pointe Buffalo Outer Harbor
Hsa Htaw / 500px / Getty Images

In case you haven’t gathered, the western terminus of the Erie Canal is an integral part of Buffalo, plus there’s the Buffalo River and Lake Erie, creating plenty of waterways in the city. In summer, you can rent a kayak, paddleboard, pedal boat, or water bike at Canalside to explore the water on your own. From there, take the Queen City Bike Ferry to Outer Harbor and the Lake Erie waterfront, where you can rent a kayak at Wilkeson Pointe or get out on a sailboat. At Buffalo River, there’s a historic river cruise as well as kayaks for rent.

Was this page helpful?
Back to List

Top 15 Things to Do in Buffalo, New York