The world has been beating a path to the Buffalo-Niagara region since shortly after Father Louis Hennepin became the first European to describe the “prodigious cadence of water” that is the mighty Falls in 1678. That early trickle of tourists became a steady stream after the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, and a torrent when the railroad linked western New York State with points east. Today, millions of tourists from around the world continue to come by plane, train and automobile to experience the majesty of Niagara Falls. Increasing numbers of visitors are making the short 20-minute drive to nearby Buffalo, attracted by its reputation as a home to great art, architecture and cultural attractions.
Buffalo lies at the western edge of upstate New York, on Lake Erie, at the start of the Niagara River. The river, which separates the U.S. from Canada, flows over Niagara Falls before emptying into Lake Ontario.
Buffalo was a terminus of the Underground Railroad, an informal series of safe houses for runaway slaves from the American south. After hiding at the Michigan Avenue Baptist Church, the slaves would take a ferry to Fort Erie, on the Canadian side, and to their freedom. To share in this historic experience, a trip to Motherland Connextions in Niagara Falls should be included in your plans. Understand the Underground Railroad by following the footsteps of those brave and hearty souls who took the secret passageways north to Canada.
Several US presidents are connected to Buffalo history. Millard Fillmore took up permanent residence in Buffalo in 1822 before he became president. Grover Cleveland lived in Buffalo from 1854 until 1882, and became mayor of the city. William McKinley was shot at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo September 6th, 1901, and died in Buffalo on the 14th. Theodore Roosevelt was then sworn in on September 14th, 1901 at the Wilcox Mansion (currently a National Historic Site), becoming one of only a few presidents to be sworn in outside of Washington. You can actually visit the actual site of the Theodore Roosevelt Inauguration. It’s located right in town and includes the historic house museum for America’s 26th president.
City officials and residents have worked hard to preserve Buffalo’s historic legacy. From Victorian neighborhoods to Delaware Avenue mansions to impressive works by Fran Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan and H.H. Richardson, Buffalo's buildings are among its greatest charms. You'll find structures of architectural interest downtown, in Allentown, along Delaware Avenue, and in the Lincoln Parkway and Chapin Parkway areas.
Main Street runs north and south beginning downtown, where the street is closed to traffic. At the heart of downtown is Niagara Square, dominated by the art-deco City Hall and the McKinley Monument. Delaware and Elmwood avenues are lined with some of the city's best architecture, restaurants and shops, and run parallel to each other, to the west of Main Street. Allentown, north of downtown, is Buffalo's (much smaller) version of New York City's Greenwich Village. It is centered on Allen Street, which runs west from Main Street. North Buffalo, a vibrant neighborhood of homes, shops and restaurants, is anchored by Hertel Avenue, which also runs west from Main Street. Delaware Park, located in this section of the city, is the most popular of several city parks.
Parks are an important part of the city's heritage. In Buffalo, Frederick Law Olmsted designed the first park system in the U.S., including Delaware Park, the centerpiece of the system and home of the city's zoo. Located in another park designed by Olmsted is the impressive Victorian glass conservatory at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens.
On winter days that are too cold or blustery for outdoor activities, Buffalo offers plenty of indoor entertainment. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery has a wonderful collection of modern art. The nearby Burchfield-Penney Art Center features watercolors by Charles E. Burchfield, as well as handcrafted objects by artisans at the Roycroft Arts and Crafts community based in nearby East Aurora. In addition, Buffalo has several unusual museums and factories devoted to such items as kazoos, carousels, manuscripts and bicycles.
No visit to the area would be complete without a trip to the Falls. Plan a day trip to nearby Niagara Falls, which offers several attractions and tours, in addition to the sheer natural wonder of the place. It’s easy to get a close up view of the falls, either by boat, helicopter, or even a hot air balloon. Whatever the means, it’s an unforgettable, once in a lifetime experience.
For a great relaxing view of the city, be sure to include the Buffalo City Hall Observation Tower in your plans. Located in City Hall, it is an Art Deco masterpiece and offers a spectacular view of both Lake Erie and the city.
For a little family fun, take a side trip to Martin’s Fantasy Island. Located in Grand Island, it’s only about 10 minutes from Buffalo and worth the trip. Guests experience over 100 rides, shows and attractions in a clean, park like setting. Live shows throughout the park include the Wild West Shoot-Out, an old-fashioned Western musical extravaganza, a children's puppet show and a '60s and '70s musical tribute show.
For sports enthusiasts, Buffalo is home to the Buffalo Bills professional football team, the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League, and the Buffalo Bisons of baseball's International League. Seneca Niagara Casino, 20 miles to the north, is the first New York State casino in the area.
When it comes to eating, Buffalo is known for those world-famous Buffalo Chicken Wings. They were invented in a Buffalo bar (The Anchor Bar) in 1964. Buffalo's lesser-known, but equally tasty, food specialty is a sandwich called beef on weck. Weck is short for kimmelweck, a hard roll dusted with caraway seeds and coarse salt. Warm roast beef is heaped on the roll, which is often dipped in the juice of the meat and served with horseradish. From casual to fine dining, there is something for any taste in Buffalo.
Sports, food, gaming, history, family fun, every kind of weather, warm hospitality, and of course, The nearby Falls: Buffalo, the “City of Good Neighbors”, has them all, ready and waiting. Bring your camera for creating the memories of a lifetime.