Buffalo is the type of place where you can walk into a local bar along Elmwood in Elmwood Village or Allen St. in Allentown, and the regulars will start giving you a list of their favourite places, restaurants, and things to do. The conversation may include feelings about the Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Bisons or the Buffalo Sabres (their football, baseball and hockey teams, respectively), and they may even invite you to a party they are throwing at their house!
Their moniker, “the city of good neighbours,” seriously holds true here.
Prepare for an unforgettable Buffalo getaway with our guide to the best things to do in Buffalo. Here, we will share some of this city’s incredible history, beautiful hotel options, and all the best places to visit in Buffalo, NY.
History of Buffalo, NY
You may not be surprised to hear that Buffalo, NY, is the home of Buffalo Wings. The sauce associated with these spicy wings was first created at Anchor Bar in 1964, blending Frank’s Red Hot & natural butter with paprika. When visiting Buffalo, Buffalo Wings are called Wings, but to be clear, ask for Buffalo Wings. If you are looking for any other type of wings, like BBQ or sweet & sour, they are called Chicken Wings.
John Dart invented the first machine-powered grain elevator in Buffalo in 1842. This invention, named Dart’s Elevator, was steam-powered and featured buckets moving along a conveyor belt to transfer the grain. The popularity of this invention led to other grain elevators being built in the area, eventually earning Buffalo the title “City of Grain Elevators” as the largest grain shipping port worldwide.
The original Erie Canal stretched approximately 585 km, or 363 miles, from Albany to Buffalo, NY. Built between 1817 and 1825, the waterway provided a direct route from New York City to the Midwest, allowing for impressive growth in immigration, commercial development, and agricultural development.
Thanks to inventor Nikola Tesla, Buffalo was the first city to have electricity. The first long-distance transmission of power was on November 15, 1896. It provided Buffalo with power from Niagara Falls Power Company, allowing for the use of widespread electric streetlights, which earned the city the nickname “City of Light.”
The Statler Hotel was demolished in 1968 and was the first hotel in the United States to feature a private bath in each room. Located on Washington Street, it put Buffalo on the map for luxury travellers.
Toronto to Buffalo, NY: 4 Ways to Travel
If you’re excited about the many Buffalo, NY attractions that we will share below, the first step to consider is how to get there. There are several options for you to choose from depending on your budget and preferred way to travel:
The drive from Toronto to Buffalo is approximately 160 km and will take 1 hour and 40 minutes. But this doesn’t account for the time needed to cross the Canada-US border.
From Toronto, take the Gardiner Expressway West. Continue on this road which will change names several times, including Queen Elizabeth Way, On-403 W, and back to Queen Elizabeth Way. This will bring you to the Peace Bridge, where you will cross the border into the United States, specifically Buffalo, NY.
Taking the bus is great if you prefer a more cost-effective travel option. You can travel from Toronto’s Union Station Bus Terminal to Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center with Greyhound for as low as $37 USD.
A flight to Buffalo will run higher in price than most of the other options on the list, but it is also the quickest option for those who want to get to their destination as soon as possible.
The length of your flight and flight time will vary depending on the airline chosen, but most average around 4-5 hours. This includes travelling from Toronto Pearson Airport to Buffalo Niagara International Airport with a single stop.
One of the most relaxing and scenic options to travel to Buffalo, NY, would be to travel by train. Catch the VIA Rail from Toronto Union Station. You will make a connection at the Canada-US Border, where you will board a train operated by Amtrak for the rest of the trip to the Buffalo Exchange St. Train Station.
A round-trip ticket from Toronto to Buffalo with VIA Rail/Amtrak costs approximately $195 CAD for a single adult passenger.
Alternatively, if you prefer to drive to Niagara Falls, ON, you can catch the Amtrak there and travel to Buffalo, Exchange St. Train Station. A round-trip ticket for a single person travelling in coach is approximately $41 USD.
Hotels in Buffalo, NY
When selecting your accommodations, there are many great options to consider. The hotels in Buffalo, NY, provide another incredible opportunity to take in the history and beautiful architecture of the city. Here are three beautiful and welcoming hotels. No matter your choice, you won’t be disappointed.
444 Forest Avenue (enter at Rockwell Road)
Located on over 40 acres of beautiful historic green space, The Richardson Hotel is a sight when visiting Buffalo. The building initially operated as part of the Richardson Olmstead Campus and served as the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane in 1880. The property’s grounds were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, best known for designing Central Park in New York City.
The property was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986. Since then, the hotel has focused on balancing historical restoration and modern amenities, resulting in a unique and intriguing hotel experience.
391 Washington St
Originally opening its doors in 1904 under the name The Lafayette Hotel, this hotel was described in the national press as “one of the most perfectly appointed and magnificent hotels in the century.” It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. More than 100 years later, after several renovations and additions, the hotel continues to welcome guests in style.
In addition to some of the largest guest suites in the city, the hotel also offers a restaurant, gift shop, game room, fitness center, salon, and over 13,500 square feet of event space.
210 Franklin Street
Originally built in 1912-1913 for office use, the first tenants of the Harlow C. Curtiss Building included the Kittinger Furniture Company, paramedical companies, and lawyers. Over the years, various companies have owned and occupied it, including a wholesale jewellery company, an office supply and furnishings dealer, and even the Workmen’s Compensation Board. The building sat unoccupied from the early 1990s until it was purchased and renovated into the Curtiss Hotel in 2017.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008, the Curtiss Hotel is now home to a 68-room luxury boutique hotel. It also features an upscale restaurant with year-round patio seating, an all-weather Urban Hot Springs experience, and the Harlow Spa.
Best Places to Eat and Drink in Buffalo
We can’t talk about fun things to do in Buffalo without mentioning the incredible restaurants you should visit. If you’re a foodie, you’re in luck. The culinary scene in Buffalo is vibrant and thriving, with many amazing options to satisfy every palate. Here are a few renowned establishments and hidden gems for you to consider:
5E Huron Street
If you are looking for a contemporary fusion of classic brasserie with modern flavours, the Streetlight Brasserie may be worth adding to your itinerary. They have a fun, upscale menu that adapts throughout the year to highlight seasonal ingredients in a unique and delicious way. There is something for everyone, with menu options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and a wide assortment of craft beers, wines, and creative specialty cocktails.
Located in The Richardson Hotel Buffalo, Café Calvert is the perfect stop for tea and coffee lovers. In addition to specialty coffee and tea blends, they offer freshly made bread, bagels, scones, and other pastries. We stopped for a coffee and a light breakfast, but if you don’t have time to stop, you can still get your morning caffeine fix with their walk-up outdoor order window.
229 Lexington Avenue
With a delicious menu, seasonal cocktails, and a healthy dose of Buffalo history, The Place is a great place to stop for those seeking the local neighbourhood experience. This is one of the oldest taverns in Buffalo. The building was constructed in the late 1870s, but “The Place” as it stands today dates back to the 1940s.
145 Allen St
We already talked about the history of the Buffalo Wing, but where should you go to enjoy these iconic wings? This staple restaurant in historic Allentown is known as “The Gate” or “Gabe’s” by the locals. You’ll have your choice of a wide variety of chicken wing flavours, including their well-known (and loved) Buffalo Wings. The wings at Gabriel’s gate are always consistent and delicious, plus it’s on the Buffalo Wing Trail.
537 Main Street
One of the things that set this restaurant apart is the impressive gin list with options from all over the world, including selections from France, German, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and South Africa. Graylynn combines a classic menu with a modern and contemporary ambiance for a unique experience. While their main focus is their dinner selection, they also have brunch options.
1084 Elmwood Avenue
When selecting a breakfast spot, finding a location specializing in premium and exotic coffees is always a win! The café is located just blocks away from their roasting operations, providing them with fresh coffee selections for even those with the most refined taste. They are currently building a full tasting room that will allow them to extend their love of coffee by hosting events and offering classes.
199 Lincoln Parkway
We enjoyed a delicious brunch at The Terrace. It is an upscale restaurant with a menu that will offer an elevated dining experience for any taste or dietary preference. The patio provides a stunning view of the city, including the Buffalo History Museum, Albright Knox Art Gallery, Delaware Park, and Hoyt Lake. If you are lucky enough to stop by on a Sunday, they are best known for their Sunday Jazz Brunch.
73 Hamburg Street
The second location on our list to also be included on the Buffalo Wing Trail, Gene McCarthy’s, offers a selection of pub-style favourites, including fish and chips, smoked pulled pork sandwiches, street tacos, and chicken wings. It is in a part of town called First Ward or Old First Ward, which is predominantly Irish, hence the Irish name. In addition to offering great food, it is also the site of Old First Ward Brewing Company, one of 50+ local breweries.
85 Silo City Row
A great spot to enjoy dinner, drinks and live jazz music, Duende embodies the soul of Buffalo. It is located in Silo City, a new area where they are repurposing old unused grain silos to bring new life and opportunities. The menu includes various delicious options, including smoked brisket sliders, mini beef wellingtons, candied pork belly, and a selection of smoked chicken wing flavours.
44 Brayton Street
The Five Points Bakery has made a commitment to supporting local farms, offering food made from locally sourced wheat, honey, milk, eggs, and other goods. Their menu features an assortment of dressed-up toast plates and jams, spreads, and other tasty options. It’s a great place to start your day with a fresh breakfast before heading out to explore the many Buffalo attractions.
This all-day coffee bar is perfect for breakfast sandwiches with freshly roasted coffee. If you are in the area later in the day, they also have light meal options for lunch and a limited wine and beer menu. For those that fall in love with their coffee options, they also sell coffee beans for you to enjoy at home.
Breezy Burrito is the place to go when you just want a delicious taco! Their menu boasts an array of delicious signature entrees such as chimichangas, quesadillas, enchiladas, and their award-winning dry rub wings that are sure to make your mouth water.
They also offer a wide selection of appetizers like chips and salsa, cheese dip, jalapeño poppers, and potato skins. If you’re looking for something lighter, they have a variety of salads and wraps.
Best Places to Grab a Drink in Buffalo, NY
Among the things to do in Buffalo is the opportunity to check out the incredible local breweries. Big Ditch Brewing, Resurgence Brewing Company and Community Beer Works were the original breweries that started the microbrewery movement in Buffalo. Today, there are over 50 local breweries to explore between Buffalo and Niagara.
We found many great places to stop for a beer or cocktail and relax with friends, including the new friends you’ll meet in the welcoming and friendly city.
211 South Park Avenue
One of our favourite bars in Buffalo, Ballyhoo, is a great place to grab a beer or enjoy one of their signature Jam Session cocktails. If you stop in, my friend Drew from Visit Buffalo Niagara advises getting the ice cream sandwich – You won’t be disappointed! As you relax and enjoy your drinks, you will likely catch a whiff of the Cheerios scent from the General Mills factory across the street.
5 Genesee Street
This dog-friendly brewery features a bottle shop and tap room. In addition to their wide selection of craft beers, they also offer wine, cider, seltzer, sodas, and non-alcoholic drinks. For beer enthusiasts that intend on visiting regularly, they offer a Mug Club with many great benefits, including a chance to taste rare and exclusive beers, a free mug fill on your birthday, and discounted pricing.
55 E. Huron Street
When the Erie Canal was first presented, it was jokingly called “Clinton’s Big Ditch.” Recognizing that this piece of history forever changed Buffalo, this brewery pays tribute to its roots with its name. Since opening in 2014, Big Ditch Brewing has grown to be Buffalo’s largest brewery. In their taproom, you can choose from an assortment of popular beers or live on the edge by tasting one of the limited-time experimental brews.
55 Chicago St
The culture and environment at Resurgence Brewing Company is one of fun and community. They encourage visitors to “experience beer” in their taproom and beer garden. If you’re interested in learning about the history of the brewery, the brewing process, and the equipment they use, book a spot in their weekly Saturday Brewery Tours.
520 Seventh St
Community Beer Works offers a fun, community-focused atmosphere with events like Karaoke and live music performances on the calendar. While the brewery dates to 2012, the current taproom and production facility opened in 2018. This location includes the tasting room, a full restaurant, and both front and back patios. They are committed to the community, donating a portion of their profits to local charities and organizations.
320 Pearl Street
Are you more of a whiskey drinker? If so, Lucky Day is a stop that you need to add to your list. With over 500 options on their whiskey list, there will surely be new and exciting varieties for you to explore. The saloon atmosphere inside the bar will take you back in time. Pay careful attention to the artwork and décor, as many paintings include a hidden joke that only the sharpest eye will catch.
Things to Do in Buffalo, NY
With so many fun things to do in Buffalo, this weekend getaway was jam-packed. From exploring the architecture and history of the city to enjoying the annual Queen City Jazz Festival, we enjoyed every minute of our time there. But before you pack your bags and hit the road, let’s take a moment to highlight some of the best things to do in Buffalo…
Visit the Buffalo Naval & Military Park
With a mission to “Honor, Educate, Inspire, and Preserve,” the Buffalo Naval & Military Park is a fascinating place for anyone interested in the nation’s military history and is suitable for the whole family. It is open seasonally from late March to November. Take a self-guided tour of several decommissioned naval vessels, including USS The Sullivans (DD-537), USS Little Rock, USS Croaker (Submarine, SSK-246), and the museum. Reserve your tickets online for faster admission on the day of your visit.
Go Shopping at the Elmwood Village Farmers Market
Located on Bidwell Parkway at Elmwood Avenue, the Elmwood Village Farmers Market is the place to find a wide selection of local vendors selling fresh produce, fruits, baked goods, and more. The market runs every Saturday from May 7th to the end of November and is open from 8 AM to 1 PM. While there, we tried the pop-tarts from Butter Block. They have a location in town and a pop-up shop at the market. If you have an opportunity to try them, they are delicious!
Explore the Gardens During Garden Walk Buffalo
This is a fun option if you are searching for free things to do in Buffalo, NY. Garden Walk Buffalo is a self-guided tour with more than 300 gardeners around the city, making it the largest garden tour in the US. To participate, just pick up a free map guiding you to all the creative public and private gardens.
A few of our favourite gardens included:
Greg and Judy Gima, 60 Argyle Park, Buffalo, NY
Gordon Ballard, 604 Bird Avenue, Buffalo, NY
Jim Charlier, 215 Lancaster Avenue
James Locke and Annab Irey, 75 Lancaster Avenue
The homes of Little Summer Street, Buffalo, NY
In addition to its impressive size, the garden tour offers a look at the quirky “Buffalo style” of gardening. Rather than landscaping, “by the book,” Buffalo gardeners embrace their unique personality when bringing their garden spaces to life. They play with colours, shapes, and spaces to ensure that no two gardens are alike.
This gardening style can be traced back to rough economic times in the city. Finances were tight, and residents didn’t have the funds to spend on the aesthetic appearance of their homes and other buildings. Instead, they discovered they could tap into their creativity and use gardening to beautify their space on a budget.
Spend Time in Beautiful Delaware Park
Covering 350 acres, Delaware Park is the largest of the original parks in Buffalo. It features walking paths, a quarry garden, unique structures like the Spire Head House, and beautiful Hoyt Lake. You can explore the area on foot or by water with rowboat and FLOATmingo paddle boat rentals or by booking a gondola tour of Hoyt Lake and the Japanese Gardens.
Take In the History of the Colored Musicians Club and the Queen City Jazz Festival
The Colored Musicians Club & Jazz Museum is an important cultural and historical landmark. It is the only continuously running all-Black-owned music venue in the United States. The museum is dedicated to preserving the history of African-American Music in Buffalo and around the world. The museum is currently undergoing a $2.95 million renovation and expansion that includes improvements to the handicap accessibility in the building and a new flexible rehearsal and event space.
Queen City Jazz Festival
One of the most popular events hosted by the Colored Musicians Club & Jazz Museum is the Queen City Jazz Festival. Held yearly on the last weekend in July, the festival is free and open daily to the public from 1 PM to 8 PM. This is an opportunity for the whole family to enjoy live music and celebrate the art and history of jazz.
Enjoy the Unique Architecture of the City
Learn about the fascinating history of Buffalo by discovering some of the architecturally significant buildings around the city. Architecture tours are available for those interested in a guided tour, or you can explore the city to take in the sites on your own. Examples of buildings we recommend viewing include:
Hotel at the Lafayette, Trademark Collection by Wyndham: This building was designed by Louise Blanchard Bethune, the first official female architect in the United States.
Guaranty Building & Interpretive Center: This early skyscraper, built between 1895-1896, features a complete terra cotta exterior giving it a breathtaking appearance.
Buffalo City Hall: Built and dedicated in the early 1930s, the historic city hall building sits on a ground area of 71,700 square feet. Experts credit the style of the building for inspiring the style and design of the city that followed.
Connecticut Street Armory: This large castle-like building was built in 1899 out of Medina sandstone. It was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.
Tour the Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House
Designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, this breathtaking example of nature-inspired architecture is a sight to behold. The house was built between 1902 and 1905 for businessman Darwin D. Martin and his family. The Martin House was restored in 1992 and converted into a public historic house museum, allowing visitors to view its beautiful design elements, including art glass, light fixtures, and Wright-designed furniture. Tours cost $25 USD for adults and $10 USD for students and last 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Visit the Buffalo History Museum
For those interested in fully immersing themselves in the city’s history, the Buffalo History Museum is a must-visit location. The museum is open daily (except Mondays and Tuesdays) with pay-what-you-wish admission, but the recommended admission is $10 USD per person. Exhibits to explore include:
Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Gallery Icons: The Makers and Moments of Buffalo Sports
WNY Business Hall of Fame
Continuum: A History of Erie County
The John R. Oishei Native American Gallery
The museum also offers a research library exclusively by appointment and at a cost of $10 per visit.
Dabble in the Arts by Visiting the Buffalo AKG Art Museum & Burchfield Penney Art Center
Art lovers can choose from two incredible locations to visit in the city (or take in both). The Buffalo AKG Art Museum is one of the oldest public art museums in the United States. It was founded in 1862 as the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy and continues adding to its remarkable collection. Tickets cost $18 USD for adults and $10 USD for Youth. Children 5 and under are free.
The Burchfield Penney Art Center was launched in 1966 and is dedicated to the work of renowned painter Charles E. Burchfield and the region’s talented artists and art. In addition to displaying its collection of works in the building, the museum hosts events like a monthly open studio where visitors are invited to explore their artistic side by experimenting with new themes and art materials. Tickets cost $10 USD for adults and $8 USD for students. Children 10 and under are free.
We were lucky to get a sneak peak of the new addition to the Buffalo AKG Art Museum!
Embrace the Performing Arts at Shea’s Performing Arts Center and the Buffalo Theatre District
Located on Main Street, the Buffalo Theatre District is home to a collection of live theatres and movie theatres dedicated to celebrating and showcasing the performing arts. Shea’s Performing Arts Center comprises three theatres: Shea’s Smith Theatre, Shea’s 710 Theatre and Shea’s Buffalo Theatre. Each of these locations focuses on a subset of the theatre world. For example, Shea’s Buffalo Theatre is dedicated to the historical creativity of stage vaudeville shows and has hosted many famous performers, including Frank Sinatra, the Marx Brothers, Bob Hope, and George Burns.
Set Sail on the Spirit of Buffalo
Sorry kids, this one is only for the grown-ups! One of the fun activities for adults in Buffalo, NY, that we discovered is the Nightcap Sail aboard the Spirit of Buffalo. Held daily at 8:30 PM, this 1.5-hour sail will allow you to enjoy the spectacular view of the evening skies on Lake Erie with a nightcap beverage in your hand. Tickets are only $37 USD, making it both an affordable and enjoyable way to end the day.
Enjoy a Fun-Filled Weekend in Buffalo, NY
Whether you are a history buff, a jazz lover, or a craft beer enthusiast, Buffalo has many incredible things to do, making it a great weekend road trip destination. With numerous seasonal events and activities to enjoy, there is no “right time” to visit the city. Regardless of when you go, the welcoming atmosphere and friendly local community will leave you with a smile on your face.
A big shout out to Drew Brown from Buffalo Niagara for the unbelievable hospitality and making us fall in love with his incredible city. Also, we can’t promise that we’ll be keeping Bullafo a secret.