Something incredible has happened in Buffalo. A resurgence of energy and a city-wide invigoration of its people. From the arts and culture scene to the food scene to the night life and outdoor activities available, Buffalo, New York has become one amazing destination to visit. We were fortunate to be able to spend several days exploring the city with Visit Buffalo Niagara and witnessing this fantastic renaissance that is well underway. It surprised us from the time we got out of our car on that first day, until we left. It is considered a place to catch a cheaper flight or do some cheap shopping for Canadians and a border city, for Americans and Canadians alike, when travelling in either direction. What we’ve discovered though, is that it has something to offer any type of traveller and can satisfy any type of getaway you are looking for… even if it’s just for a weekend! Here’s our guide to Buffalo with what you’ll need to do, see and eat during a visit to the city.
Best Places to Visit in Buffalo
So, if you’ve decided to spend a few nights (or more) in Buffalo, a city that surprised us every step of the way, we’ve put together a guide to show you some of the best the city has to offer visitors and have laid out places to visit in Buffalo from where to eat, what to do and where to stay – even if you’ve only got a short time, or a weekend, to explore!
The video below will give a good overview, but you’ll want to keep reading for more of the amazingness that is Buffalo, NY!
Where to Stay in Buffalo
Truly experiencing Buffalo means delving into its history and that extends to accommodations. If you’re looking to experience something unique, something that allows you to tap into the past while still experiencing comfort and quality, we’ve got the perfect place! Our top recommendation for where to stay in Buffalo is The Mansion on Delaware, a luxury boutique hotel right in downtown Buffalo, that combines the historic architecture visible in the city with luxury and world-class service.
In a great location, the Mansion on Delaware exemplifies the renaissance of Buffalo – this 1800s house has been reborn as a 4 diamond hotel – taking a symbol of the city’s past prosperity and restoring it to create a present day symbol of rebirth.
We were first welcomed by the porticos as we walked up the front steps and through the doorsbut were immediately greeted by the warmth and intimacy of the interior. The staff however, took hospitality and service to another level. Friendly and courteous, our names were quickly learned and we were greeted with the same style of welcome every time we passed the reception desk.
The Butler Staff, available 24 hours, take the comfort and luxury of the accommodation up another notch with personalized service. Looking to make reservations or a booking, order a meal from an outside restaurant to the hotel or require transportation to a nearby spot in the city? The butlers will take care of you no matter the time.
The rooms are spacious and clean with added touches of comfort and thoughtfulness, lik
e welcome cookies and water. Our room boasted tall ceilings and large windows and the bathroom was also quite large. It is a remarkably romantic hotel in Buffalo but it is also a great place for any traveller looking for a luxurious escape in the heart of Buffalo.
Though you’ll want to explore the city, try some of the great restaurants we recommend and find some on your own, the complimentary continental breakfast at The Mansion on Delaware is a pretty perfect way to start your day. Freshly baked pastries, smoked salmon and charcuterie meats and cheese, fruit, cold cereals and more, are available to fuel up before you head out into the city and explore what to do in Buffalo and all the amazing places to visit.
Fun Places to Go in Buffalo
Are there really that many things to do in Buffalo? That was our first question as we crossed the border and entered a city we had previously only driven through. What we quickly learned was that there are a ridiculous amount of places to visit and things to do in Buffalo! Though you may not be able to fit them all in if you’re only visiting the city for a short time, it’s worth it to try and make your way to as may of these fun places to go in Buffalo as you can!
A newer local destination, Riverworks is a giant recreational complex on the waterfront in a repurposed industrial area that holds claim to the largest collection of grain elevators in the world. Approaching from the parking lot provides a deceiving view as once inside, the complex seems to extend unendingly with an ever increasing number of things to do. The patio bar that extends around the waterfront side of the building offers a beautiful view over the river as kayakers pass, some having rented from RiverWorks itself. heading further you’ll find a total of four bars, a restaurant, hockey rinks and a roller derby rink, just to name a few of the things currently built with more planned, including a fully functioning brewery. With an entertainment area to hold concerts and shows as well, it’s not only a fun place to visit, it’s also a great place to eat in Buffalo as you can grab some food and a drink and choose your seating, outside or in.
As an aside, if you happen to be driving by, or in the area, and you smell something delicious and sweet… it may just be the General Mills factory that’s there… is it Cheerios or Lucky Charms? You be the judge!
One of our favourite areas to spend some time in Buffalo is Canalside. The city has recently breathed new life into this area by creating a destination for locals and tourists alike to enjoy themselves, during any season of the year, and to congregate at a spot in the city that has huge historical importance. Buffalo’s height of industrial and economic times was due to its location and particularly, the junction of Lake Erie, the Niagara River and the Erie Canal where Canalside sits. Here you’ll find numerous Adirondack chairs to relax on by the water while activities like yoga, markets and concerts (in the summer) and skating, curling and ice biking (in the winter) take place around the area. There’s great parking options nearby and, if you happen to be around when it’s dark, a light show on the grain elevators across the way. It’s a great place to enjoy the activities of the day, rent kayaks and water bikes or ice bikes, charter a fishing boat, take a harbour cruise or explore America’s largest inland Naval park all in one spot.
If you’re hungry or need some refreshments, there are stands right on the canalside or a short walk across the way will get you to the popular 716 Food & Sport, a 2-story sports bar and restaurant with multiple television screens to watch the day’s games or a giant 30+ foot tall screen to capture the major event.
Every city needs a gathering space and one of the primary public areas, and also one of the best places to visit, in Buffalo is Larkin Square. When thinking of the convergence of past and present in the city, this is definitely one area that comes to mind. Formerly the site of the Larkin Soap Company warehouses, a thriving business in Buffalo’s heyday, the area now boasts a public square with regular, free events for the public. Things like Food Truck Tuesdays area huge draw as dozens of trucks and music satisfy the large crowds that gather. Live at Larkin on Wednesdays pulls in local musicians and bands as they perform on the stage in the centre of the square. A few food trucks are also present for this event and parking is free in the area!
If you’re heading to Food Truck Tuesdays, we’d highly recommend Lloyd or Whole Hog Truck! We’ve also heard great things about Amy’s Truck though we’ve yet to try it! You can see our video of trying Lloyd Food Truck below!
Added to these regular summer features, are a host of other events and local establishments that are popping up all around such as Hydraulic Hearth, a restaurant and craft brewery right across the street from the square with great food and beverage options and a great spot to enjoy the activity from a short distance away.
This area promises to only grow as a top spot in the city with regular establishments and activities popping up all around. There’s even a free outdoor mini-golf course right next to Larkin Square that has remained un-vandalized and regularly used by the public and Larkin Square goers. Test your skills out here because it definitely isn’t an easy course!
Elevator Alley Kayak Tour
Imagine grain elevators towering around you as you glide through the water in a kayak. Rowing your way down the Buffalo River through Elevator Alley as the silos around you provide a view that is the industrial equivalent to the limestone formations that are often seen in tropical climates. Elevator Alley Kayak Tour also provides some incredible commentary on the area and its history as you move from the grain elevators towards the Riverfront and Canalside and out further. We had one amazing time learning a great deal about the history and nature of the area and just enjoying being outside on the water. Though you can rent kayaks and other water equipment from them without taking a tour, we loved the added touch of having a guide and the fact that it started in the quiet and peaceful area of Elevator Alley rather than right in the centre of Canalside was an added bonus for us!
Allentown (Allen Street)
If you’re looking for a unique, hip and artistic place to experience Buffalo, Allentown is it. With street art, out of this world restaurants, a music scene and interesting finds (like a man who blows bubbles out of his window at the corner of a busy intersection – yes he exists!) it is a place for foodies, art lovers and history buffs alike. Walk through the area and discover street art or simply take in the historic and colourful houses that line the streets. Stop in for some live music of any kind, though blues and jazz are popular genres of this area, after grabbing a bite to eat at one of the numerous restaurants that will probably blow your mind – especially if you’re craving a burger and head into Allen Burger Venture!
Allentown is also only a hop, skip and a jump away from Mansion on Delaware, our previously recommended hotel for your stay in Buffalo. Close to so many amazing spots (and with a butler service to take you to the further destinations) you’ll be sure to really get a chance to experience Allentown while staying there!
Tour with Explore Buffalo
Explore Buffalo happens to provide a ton of tours – from bus tours to kayak tours (like Elevator Alley Kayak) to walking tours. For us, a walking tour was what we headed to them for! Taking an architecture tour of downtown Buffalo gave us a fascinating insight into the development of the city, not only through its buildings, but through it’s economic transitions and across the various periods of time. Our guide was impressively knowledgeable and it was fantastic to be able to explore the downtown core by foot, learning about buildings we normally would be overlooking and passing by, none the wiser as to their significance and importance to the city and its history.
It really is an amazing way to learn about, and see, the city and with tours like “Allentown Mob Tour” you can really have some fun with Buffalo and its past!
What To Do In Buffalo
If you’re looking to add some art & culture into your visit, the following are the places in the city that will offer that and more. Since nothing in Buffalo comes without a healthy dose of history, you’re bound to find it in abundance at all of these places as well! If you’ve only got a short time to hit up some arts and culture spots, these are definitely the places you’ll want to look into and some of the top attractions in Buffalo!
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House Complex
If you’re a fan of architecture, the Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House Complex will blow you away. If you’re not, the effect will probably be the same! A residential complex, built for Darwin D. Martin, of the Larkin Company (yep, the same one we mentioned before when discussing Larkin Square). Martin loved the architecture and vision of Frank Lloyd Wright and had commissioned him to build one of the warehouses for the company (though it is no longer standing). As a friendship developed during this project, and Martin’s love of Wright’s architectural philosophy grew, the idea for a complex for Martin and his family formed. What started as Martin’s desire for a compound for his entire family, became an architectural masterpiece far beyond the current architectural practices of the day.
The complex has since been abandoned, partially destroyed, inhabited, sold, repurchased and, now, undergoing reconstruction and restoration.
If you’re looking for a fascinating glimpse into architectural genius and into two individuals who are very much a part of Buffalo’s history, this is definitely a stop to make when exploring the city.
Richardson Olmsted Complex
Perhaps one of the most fascinating buildings we’ve ever seen, and definitely a must-visit in Buffalo, the Richardson Olmsted Complex is another piece of Buffalo’s past that is being repurposed for present day uses in a very different way. It was originally the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane and was a massive complex created by two popular architects. The 140-year old building is a National Historic Landmark and is a pretty impressive sight with its Gothic towers and expansive size.
Renovations are now underway in a significant part of the main building to transform it into a boutique hotel with an adjoining architecture centre for the public.
We were able to take one of the tours given through the building to see the progress and changes being made and witnessing the construction of what is to be a modern accommodation within the stunning, Gothic exterior is quite fascinating. It is definitely a unique experience and it will be incredible to see the end result as an abandoned complex is turned into an economically sustainable feature of the city.
Albright-Knox Art Gallery
The Albright-Knox Art Gallery is not only a great place to take in modern and contemporary art, it is also another important component to Buffalo’s history as it is one of the oldest public arts institutions in the United States. With permanent installations and changing exhibitions, you can glimpse collections and works from artists around the world as well as those who are local.
A stop in the AK Cafe is definitely a good idea if you’re getting hungry. Meals from here are as inspired as the artwork throughout the rest of the building.
Burchfield Penney Art Center
If you’re looking for local Buffalo art, Burchfield Penney Art Center is the place to go. Dedicated to not only the works of Charles E. Burchfield, the art centre showcases the work of artists from Western New York. Exhibitions change but the theme of the artists displayed is always the same and will often give you a glimpse into the nature, geography and history of Buffalo itself.
Where to Eat in Buffalo
Buffalo is a foodie wonderland. Seriously. There is an almost overwhelming amount of options for types of cuisine and establishments that offer amazing food. Here are our choices of top restaurants in Buffalo, whether you’ve got loads of time to explore or are only there for a few days!
Lloyd Taco Truck
We mentioned Food Truck Tuesdays at Larkin Square and we said that Lloyd Taco Truck is one to head to when you are there. What we didn’t say is that Lloyd Taco Truck can be found throughout the week at various spots around the city. We also didn’t say that it is one of the best food trucks we’ve found.
While our favourite is the Tricked Out Nachos, we were fairly blown away by their entire menu (because we pretty much tried it all) including their Mexican street corn, tacos and burritos. In fact, we love Lloyd so much, we make sure to stop in the city and find one of their trucks whenever we pass through.
A key clue that you’ve entered a foodie paradise is that they have at least one amazing sushi restaurant. SeaBar was our first meal in Buffalo and tipped us off from the start that we had entered a culinary city we weren’t expecting.
In the summertime, SeaBar restaurant offers outdoor seating but whether you’re sitting inside or out, the atmosphere is both casual yet chic. The menu, is anything but casual. There are some serious appetizers and entrees to go along with the sushi and sashimi options and when you get to the rolls, you know you’ve hit the jackpot, especially with their brilliant take on a Beef on Weck (a sandwich native to Buffalo that was new to us but something you can’t leave without trying!).
The fish is fresh, melt-in-your-mouth and the cuts are perfect. The rolls, a tasty combination of flavours in the absolute right proportions: from their original rolls like the beef on Weck to the more standard American rolls like the Spider Roll. We even chose the crab mango roll as our dessert because, well, why not?
Allen Burger Venture
Burgers. Another test of a true foodie destination. From just one visit to one burger joint – Allen Burger Venture – Buffalo far surpassed our expectations. It was so good, it is in the running for the best burger we’ve had… anywhere.
Perhaps it’s that their beef is grass-fed Angus, hormone and antibiotic free from verified humane and sustainable ranches. Perhaps it’s the side of hand-cut fries that are cooked perfectly. Or perhaps it is the unbelievable condiment options on their beef (and alternative, such as chicken, tuna, veggie, etc) burgers like caramelized onions, applewood bacon and cheddar or cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and their Triple D sauce (like Big Mac sauce!). Whatever it is, from the very first bite, we knew we had found a burger joint amongst burger joints.
Here is where things get a little controversial. You’ll probably want to consult a local expert… though EVERY local you meet will consider themselves one on this issue. Buffalo wings. Or, as they call them in Buffalo: wings.
We were told of about a half-dozen different restaurants, from different ‘local experts’, that were supposedly THE place to get wings in the city. We didn’t try them all. We do plan to one day though. Until then, we can only offer our suggestions on the places we did try them and our first spot was Gabriel’s Gate. One of the local favourites, this lodge-style pub in Allentown offers some pretty good wings, if we say so ourselves, and can be ordered with increasingly spicy sauce options. The way to order them, most locals told us, is medium BBQ sauce with (and this is the most important thing) blue cheese dressing NOT ranch as is the default in most places.
Beef on Weck. A sandwich we had never heard of before our first visit to Buffalo. It is said that the beef on Weck was created in Buffalo using a kummelweck (in German, it means caraway roll) which is a bun baked with caraway and salt on top that was also said to have originated in Buffalo. The roll was then used to create the beef on weck by creating a sandwich of thinly sliced roast beef and horseradish.
If it sounds delicious it’s because it is and when we tried our first one at Gene McCarthy’s before our Elevator Alley Kayak Tour, we were hooked. This is definitely a place we’ll return to, to get our beef on weck fix and their wings were pretty darn good too!
An Irish pub with a cozy feel, it’s own beers and live music events, it’s another local favourite that is really a must visit no matter how long you have in the city!
You don’t have to wait for Food Truck Tuesdays in the summer to hit up a food truck in Buffalo. There are a large number of them in the downtown and surrounding areas and a simple search for the trucks and where they are will have you finding some unique culinary options. It’s a way to get out into the streets of the city, explore new areas or simply find yourself dining in an area you already know and enjoy!
Whether something is going on at Larkin Square or not, Hydraulic Hearth is a restaurant worth checking out. Delicious brick-oven pizzas, a unique variety of craft beers and a unique art installation in an old phone booth inside the restaurant make for a great dining experience.
With free parking and a warm atmosphere, it’s a great place to go any day of the week for some drinks or a meal. There are also several weekly and monthly events that pop up like Gospel brunches with live music and an all-you-can-eat buffet.
So Much Buffalo To See, So Little Time
Really and truly, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all you can do, see and enjoy in Buffalo. We were able to tap into a city of incredible depths, fascinating history, inspiring revitalization and unforgettable food and we’re definitely not finished. If you get a chance to visit you not only won’t be disappointed, you’ll probably be like us… planning your next trip to Buffalo!
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