Your Trip to Buffalo: The Complete Guide

Buffalo, New York

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Buffalo is the second-largest city in New York State by population, and a diverse city in Western New York State that has so much to offer travelers, from iconic 20th-century architecture to a thriving waterfront to heart-pumping activities, as well as a diverse food and drink scene. And while summer is ideal for enjoying the city’s parks and rivers, winter sees locals ice-skating and playing ice sports like hockey and curling.

The Erie Canal, Buffalo River, and Lake Erie are the three bodies of water around the city and their waterfronts are highlights of the Queen City.

Buffalo has a diverse lineup of neighborhoods worth checking out, like charming Elmwood Village, bustling downtown, artsy Allentown, hip Hertel Avenue, diverse Five Points, and Michigan and Jefferson Avenues, the crossroads of African American heritage in Queen City. Buffalo is an exciting city to explore, especially if you’re an art lover, foodie, or sports enthusiast. And, of course, it’s the gateway to Niagara Falls, one of the U.S.’s premier attractions.

You can’t visit Buffalo without experiencing the famous Erie Canal and its iconic grain elevators, the city's art and design scene, tailgating at hockey and football games, and winter activities like ice skating and hockey.

Planning Your Trip

Best Time to Visit: Buffalo has something to offer year-round, but it’s important to be aware that it gets very cold in winter, with snow a guarantee. In fact, the city has receives record-setting snowfalls on several occasions. Buffalonians don’t bat an eye, though, indulging in ice-skating, sledding, curling, and other winter sports—including inventive activities like ice bicycles and ice bumper cars. Even Niagara Falls is a sight worth seeing in winter. Spring and fall are excellent times to visit, with fewer visitors than summer and pleasant weather perfect for exploring the city and Niagara Falls without the crowds. Summer is high season in Buffalo, and the riverfronts come alive with live music, fitness classes, and festivals. Museums, parks, restaurants, and other attractions are more crowded, and Niagara Falls will be packed. Hotel, car rental, and flight prices will be at their peak during the summer months. Early September brings the National Buffalo Wing Festival.

Language: English.

Currency: U.S. dollars.

Getting Around: It’s best to get around by car in Buffalo, whether it’s your own or a taxi, Uber, or Lyft. There is a small public transportation system, though, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, which runs one train line that runs from the University of Buffalo to the First Niagara Center, where the Buffalo Sabres hockey team plays. The NFTA also runs an extensive number of buses on dozens of routes, and you can use the same tickets on both. Check schedules carefully for run times.

Travel Tip: While using Buffalo as a base for a visit to Niagara Falls is a fine reason to visit the city, Buffalo has a lot to offer in its own right. Consider adding an extra day to your trip to explore the Queen City fully.

Things to Do

Buffalo is bursting with activities all year long. From top-notch museums to stunning parks and busy waterfronts, there are plenty of activities for kids and families, while couples and friend groups can also find plenty of things to do. Art and architecture fans, foodies, sports enthusiasts, and nature lovers will all be happy here. Don’t miss these activities:

  • Ice-skate: Winter visitors will be rewarded with a truly local experience as Canalside and the riverfront become a winter wonderland, complete with ice-skating, curling, and ice-bicycling on the lit-up canal. Rotary Rink and Buffalo Riverworks are other outdoor skating options downtown.
  • Ogle the architecture: Buffalo is home to multiple Frank Lloyd Wright homes and buildings, including the famous Darwin Martin House that you can tour, as well as Louis Sullivan’s Guaranty Building, H.H. Richardson’s landmarked Romanesque Richardson Olmsted Campus, Eliel and Eero Saarinen’s Kleinhans Music Hall, and Louise Blanchard Bethune’s Hotel at Lafayette.
  • Get on the water: The western terminus of the Erie Canal is an integral part of Buffalo, plus the Buffalo River and Lake Erie complete the waterfront trifecta. In summer, you can rent a kayak, paddleboard, pedal boat, or water bike. At Buffalo River, there’s a historic river cruise and boozy sailboat cruises to climb aboard, plus a pirate-themed one great for kids.

Explore more attractions with our full-length articles on the best things to do in Buffalo and the best day trips from Buffalo.

What to Eat and Drink

Everyone knows Buffalo wings were invented in Buffalo—and any visitor must eat them at the source (just called “wings” here) at Anchor Bar, where they were invented. But there are several other local foods to eat in Buffalo too: Be sure also to try Beef on Weck (at Schwabl’s or Charlie the Butcher), sponge candy from Fowler's Chocolates or Watson's Chocolates, chicken finger subs from Jim's SteakOut, and Buffalo-style pizza, a hybrid of deep dish and New York-style with charred pepperoni cups (try it at Carbone's Pizzeria or Lovejoy Pizzeria). There are also more upscale, farm-to-table spots like Billy Club and Roost worth checking out.

Buffalo has a solid craft beer scene with more than 35 breweries in the area, including Flying Bison Brewing Company, Community Beer Works, Hamburg Brewing Company, Resurgence Brewing Company, Big Ditch Brewing, and 42 North Brewing. There are also several distilleries like Lakeward Spirits, Lockhouse Distillery, and Black Squirrel Distillery.

Explore our article on the best chicken wing spots in Buffalo.

Where to Stay

Buffalo has various options for accommodations. All the budget and midrange chain hotels are represented, and there are a few historic independent hotels worth checking out, including The Mansion on Delaware Avenue; Curtiss Hotel, an Ascend Hotel Collection Member; Reikart House, Buffalo, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel; and Hotel at the Lafayette a Trademark Collection Hotel. There’s also a wide selection of affordable Airbnbs, including apartments, townhouses, cottages, and houses. Downtown, Elmwood Village, and Allentown are good neighborhoods to use as a base.

Getting There

There are several ways to get to Buffalo: flying, by train, bus, or driving. The Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Buffalo is 9.4 miles from downtown Buffalo and 25 miles to Niagara Falls. Amtrak trains run to Buffalo from various cities, including New York City and Toronto; there are two stations in the city, Depew Station and Buffalo Exchange Street. Buses are the cheapest option, with Greyhound and Megabus running to the city, but they often take the longest time. And of course, driving is always an option.

Money Saving Tips

  • Buffalo has six stunning parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted that are all free to explore, plus a 3-mile scenic trail by the canal to walk, run, or bike along.
  • Several museums and attractions have certain days or times that are "pay what you wish" or are sometimes free, like the Buffalo History Museum, the Buffalo Arts Studio, and the UB Anderson Gallery.
  • Visit during the spring, fall, or especially winter to save on airfare, hotels, and Airbnbs.
Article Sources
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  1. World Population Review. "Cities in New York by Population (2021)."

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