The state of New York is not as big as other states in the U.S. but despite its limited landmass, New York remains to be one of the most popular states for tourists to visit. Some of the top visited cities in the state include Brooklyn and New York but most people tend to forget that Buffalo is easily a great area to be around as well. Buffalo is the second largest city in the state and it is the largest in the western area of New York. It also serves as the county seat of Erie County and it is also a major gateway for commerce and transportation between the U.S. and Canada, which forms a part of the bi-national Buffalo Niagara Region.
The landmass that we now call a Buffalo, New York was once inhabited by Native American Iroquois tribe and by French Settlers before the 17th century. Buffalo only began to grow during the 19th and 20th centuries. Its growth was mainly caused by immigration and the fact that the city was easily accessible as it was near the Erie Canal, rail transportation systems, and Lake Erie.
At the same time of its growth, Buffalo became a major point for trade and commerce to the midwestern portion of the U.S. Locally, the citizens of Buffalo had a growing economy for the grain, steel, and automobile industries. These helped the city grow well into the 20th century even further. In the 21st century, the city of Buffalo has since shifted its economy on healthcare, research, and higher education as well.
The city of Buffalo is rich in both history and culture. The city’s now-famous urban planning was designed and layout by Joseph Ellicott. If you visit the city, you’ll notice that the structures are a blend of modern and postmodern design and that’s because the city continues to evolve. Moreover, the city’s culture blends Northeastern and Midwestern traditions. Some of its annual festivals include Taste of Buffalo and the Allentown Art Festival. Currently, the city has a thriving and progressive music and arts scene that you should definitely not miss.
We know you’re excited to visit this part of New York that’s rarely on the list of travelers but before anything else, here’s everything you should know about it first.
- 1 How to Get to Buffalo, New York
- 2 Getting Around Buffalo, New York
- 3 Best Time to Visit Buffalo, New York
- 4 Unique Things to Do in Buffalo NY
- 4.1 Spend your summer at the Erie Basin Marina
- 4.2 Travel back in time at The Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum
- 4.3 Explore the Elmwood Village
- 4.4 Cruise the waterways of Buffalo
- 4.5 Go on a pedal tour
- 4.6 Don’t miss the events in Larkin Square
- 4.7 Join the Buffalo Sailing Adventures
- 4.8 Visit the Canalside
- 4.9 See Shakespeare in Delaware Park
- 4.10 Visit the Forest Lawn Cemetery
- 4.11 See smaller versions of the Statue of Liberty
- 4.12 Forget chicken wings and try the hotdogs
- 4.13 Try the sponge candy with a twist
- 4.14 Taste Burmese, Thai, Peruvian, Japanese, and Ethiopian food
How to Get to Buffalo, New York
To get to the city, you can choose to fly to it via the Buffalo Niagara International Airport which is 10 miles east of the city center. From there, you can grab a cab or rent a car to get to your hotel or the city itself. The airport handles flights from various U.S. cities as well as international cities so it is easy to get to Buffalo.
There are also Amtrak Train routes that can get you to the city center via the Niagara Thruway. This is the more convenient option if you live nearby or in the neighboring states as it will be cheaper than flying.
RELATED: New York Travel Guide
Getting Around Buffalo, New York
Since it is a well-developed city, getting around Buffalo, New York is relatively easy. Unless you are planning to explore beyond the city, we recommend not getting around via a rented car. The streets can get very congested especially during the weekdays so you might get stuck in traffic for a long time.
While renting a car is not a great choice, you don’t have to worry too much about getting around the city as public transportation is relatively easy. First off, ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft are readily available in the city. Aside from that, you can easily get taxis off of main streets so getting from one point to the other is easy.
The cheaper option would be to grab a bus or a light rail system organized by the NFTA. These will get you to a huge portion of the urbanized areas in the Erie and Niagara counties, as well as in the major parts of Buffalo, New York. The major bus routes operate every 15-20 minutes a day, and around 30-60 minutes at night.
Best Time to Visit Buffalo, New York
The best time to visit the city would be from June to August as these months will have some key events in the city including the First Friday in Allentown, Taste of Buffalo, Elmwood Festival of the Arts, and the National Buffalo Wing Festival. While these key events will be fun to participate in, keep in mind that these will bring a flock of tourists to the city as well. Aside from the high visitor count, you’ll also have to contend with fully booked hotel and peak prices accommodation.
If you are not fond of high temperatures, you may want to avoid the city from the months of December to February as, at this time of the year, the temperatures are either freezing or below freezing. It will be uncomfortable to visit some attractions including taking a trek at Forest Lawn. However, the hotels will be at their lowest and there will be fewer tourists as well.
Keep in mind that the winter season in Buffalo can get very cold so be sure to pack a lot of thick clothing if you are visiting from November to February. On the bright side, the state of New York is very pretty when covered in snow so the trip will be well worth it despite the cold temperatures.
Unique Things to Do in Buffalo NY
New York is known for the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State, and Times Square. But the city has so many things to offer than you can imagine. Buffalo, New York alone has plenty of things waiting to be discovered. There are even some one-of-a-kind attractions and activities. Just in case you want to give them a try, here are some of the unique things to do in Buffalo NY that we’re sure will make your vacation all the more memorable.
1Spend your summer at the Erie Basin Marina
There are a lot of travel destinations that comes to our mind whenever summer season nears. You might think of Maldives, Florida, Hawaii, or whatnot. But Erie Basin Marina also has a different summer experience to offer. It may not have a beach as what other summer destinations can offer but it has a lot of activities that not just entertain you but will make your travel experience more memorable and trying them out is one of the unique things to do in Buffalo NY that we highly recommend. Here, you can fill your eyes with some of the most picturesque views that New York has to offer. In summer, the place’s garden features various flower collections; it even has an award-winning rose garden that is set against the backdrop of the marinas tranquil water with bobbing yachts and boats. Plus, you have a waterfront observation tower to enjoy and various restaurants line the area.
2Travel back in time at The Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum
The Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum is not your typical history museum but it can take you on a trip down memory lane with the various collections that it houses. Here, you can get to see a lot of vintage cars, including the 1903 Pierce Stanhope. Apart from the gorgeous vintage cars, the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum also houses several transportation memorabilia and other historical artifacts. Plus, it has the replica of the 1927 Buffalo filling station designed by the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
3Explore the Elmwood Village
Exploring the Elmwood Village is also one of the unique things to do in Buffalo NY that you need to try out. This is because you can get to enjoy a lot of things by just visiting this place alone. Sure, New York has a lot to offer but this place alone can let you experience a big portion of it already because, apparently, the village has more than 300 shops, museums, coffee houses, and cafes. From brand stores to specialty shops, it has almost everything. In fact, many consider this as a shopper’s paradise. The best part of it is that the Elmwood Village as a vibrant nightlife. So whether you are looking for some unique activities, more fun, or whatnot, you’ll probably see and experience it in the Elmwood Village. Thus, it is one of the places that you should not miss adding to your travel itinerary if you’re traveling to New York.
4Cruise the waterways of Buffalo
If you’re in New York, never miss cruising its waterways as you can get t see amazing sights. Buffalo River alone has a lot of picturesque views to offer. But what makes such an activity included on this list of unique things to do in Buffalo is that you will not just go on a boat tour and see the sights that the city and the different view that it has to offer but you can also get to fill yourself with more knowledge as you dive deeper into the history of the place with the help of Buffalo River History Tours’ guides as they share their knowledge about the place’s stories, particularly of the Erie Canal. And if you want a more unique experience and/or celebration, you can rent its 48-seater boat called the River Queen for special occasions like birthdays, reunions, and whatnot. The best part is that they also offer full catering facilities on board.
5Go on a pedal tour
Another one of the unique things to do in Buffalo NY is to go on a pedal tour. But we’re not talking about the regular bikes. Rather, we’re talking about a pedal limo; that makes it even more unique. This will take you on a tour of the city where you will not just get to be with your old friends but you can also get to meet new friends too. With this, you can see the city’s several popular tourist attractions, historical buildings, and architectural gems, as well as the top cafes, bars, and restaurants. And, of course, what makes it worth the try is that it isn’t just environmentally friendly but it is also a safe and comfortable way for when you want to visit some of the best bars in Buffalo without having to worry about driving by yourself. The best part of it is that everyone in the family will enjoy it. You can also hire it for private events and other special occasions.
6Don’t miss the events in Larkin Square
Like Elmwood Village, Larkin Square also has a lot of things to offer. But among all of those, seeing the events that it hosts is also one of the unique things to do in Buffalo. Here, you can enjoy live music and other various events. This is also the place where you can find The Filling Station, a former gas station in the 1930s. It is a popular restaurant for locals and tourists alike in the day and in the evening, it hosts events like the KeyBank Live at Larkin Concert and Food Truck Tuesday where nearly 40 food trucks from Rochester and Buffalo flock the Larkin Square offering a wide variety of delicious dishes for you to try out. What’s even better is that there is live music for you to enjoy. Cool beers are available as well. On top of that, you have the whimsical architecture and colorful pieces of furniture in the open space for a great backdrop.
7Join the Buffalo Sailing Adventures
If you want to feel and experience more of the spirit of Buffalo, joining the Buffalo Sailing Adventures is one of the unique things to do in Buffalo NY too. Here, you can get to sail the waterways of the Erie Canal on a beautiful and unique 73-foot schooner sailed and manned by a professional crew. With this, you can enjoy the magnificent sunsets of the city. Have we mentioned that you can also enjoy it with a wine from the Niagara region and cheese and cracker buffet? You can also sample some of the city’s finest craft brews that come with light snacks.
But this activity isn’t just for adults. Kids can also enjoy this tour as there are also fun-filled pirate adventures waiting for them. There are pirate stories, music, and face painting too. And, of course, their experience will not be complete without treasure hunting.
Buffalo Sailing Adventures is for couples too. If you want a unique and romantic date, you can hop aboard and enjoy the romantic ambiance as the sun sets as you enjoy your dinner at the Pearl Street Grill too.
8Visit the Canalside
Canalside also has a number of activities waiting for you. And what makes visiting it as one of the unique things to do in Buffalo NY is that it has no shortage of activities regardless of the season. Here, you have plenty of lovely open areas to enjoy for when you want to relax and just appreciate the beauty of the city. You can also go paddle and pedal boating. If you want more physical activity, this place is also great for cycling, yoga classes, as well as boxing and martial art classes. For a more unique experience, you can try out the horse and carriage rides that it offers. If you’re feeling a bit braver, you can join haunted history walks too. If you want to party, there are several Canal pubs dotting the area plus some places to eat and drink. During winter, this place is also a great spot for ice skating and more. But to summarize it all, it’s just like the Elmwood Village and the Larkin Square but it has more activities to offer for people of all ages that also makes it unique.
9See Shakespeare in Delaware Park
You might read it wrong but you won’t get to see the famous poet, his clone, look-alike, or whatnot. But you can get to see his works given life by pros. This is because, apparently, Shakespeare in Delaware Park is a professional theater company that focuses on performing, you guessed it right, William Shakespeare’s works. And so if you love the English poet and his works or if you’re just curious, seeing them live is one of the unique things to do in Buffalo NY. What’s even better is that you can get to enjoy their high-quality theater performances for free in Delaware Park. You can also be one of them or have a deeper understanding of Shakespeare and his phenomenal works by signing up on the range of educational programs and summer camps that they offer. And they are all for free.
10Visit the Forest Lawn Cemetery
You might probably wonder what’s a cemetery doing in this list but hear us out first. Sure, visiting the cemetery is one of the unique things to do in Buffalo NY and other places but what’s in it that makes it worth visiting aside from graves and gravestones, you say? Apparently, this is one of the most scenic cemeteries that you will ever get to see. In fact, many people, both locals and tourists, who have been here say that it feels more like a park than what it supposedly should be. It might even be more visually stunning than the parks you’ve seen as the Forest Lawn Cemetery as gorgeous water features, walking paths, and lush mature trees that makes the ambiance even more relaxing. This place also serves as the final resting site of many famous people including Rick James, Ely S. Parker, Charles Cary Rumsey, and Lawrence Dale Bell, to name a few.
11See smaller versions of the Statue of Liberty
Buffalo is a few hours away from where the Statue of Liberty is exactly located and if you’re in Buffalo, it might be a bit impossible to see the famous statue. But there is a way to get a glimpse of it – well its mini versions, at least, and that is in downtown Buffalo and it is one of the unique things to do in Buffalo. Here, you can get to see it sitting on top of a neoclassical office tower built in 1925. It’s not made by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi (the maker of the original Statue of Liberty), though; but it is one of the works of Alfred Bossom. Still, it is a sight to behold. And don’t worry if you’re trying to find it as it is not that hard to spot. It is 23 stories tall owned by the Main Place Liberty Group and it is a standout among the rest of the building nearby.
12Forget chicken wings and try the hotdogs
We can never imagine chicken wings without the word Buffalo as it is one of the famous food in the city. However, ditch it and try the city’s chargrilled hotdogs in the city as it is equally delicious too. In case you’re wondering where to exactly go, head to the Old Man River as it is the restaurant’s specialty. The place also offers other delicious dishes like hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, fresh clams and mussels, and more and they are all good. But what makes this place all the more worth talking about is that you can enjoy every bite of your food as you take in the beautiful views of the Niagara River.
13Try the sponge candy with a twist
Sponge candy is one of Buffalo’s local delicacies that are worth trying too, although its name is quite a misnomer. For starters, it is made with sugar boiled until it gets all foamy. Then it hardens to a crispy crunch as it cools, hence the name, then coated in creamy chocolate. But trying it is more fun with a twist. One of the unique things to do in Buffalo is to try it in a scoop at Perry’s Ice Cream. One of the flavors you can try is their caramel ice cream with sponge candy-flavored swirls and sponge candy pieces. It’s definitely worth the sugar rush.
14Taste Burmese, Thai, Peruvian, Japanese, and Ethiopian food
Yes, you read it right. In Buffalo, you can get a taste of Thai, Burmese, Japanese, Peruvian, and Ethiopian food without having to leave the country. This is because the city participates in a United Nations program wherein they resettle refugees to the United States and thanks to this, a lot of people didn’t just get a new home but they also got to share their culture through the foods they sell in the West Side Bazaar, a program that assists entrepreneurial efforts. And trying them out is one of the unique things to do in Buffalo because you won’t just get to experience a bit of their culture without spending a lot on your plane ticket but they are delicious too. Some of them also sell condiments. Koop’s Kitchen, for instance, sells one of the best barbecue sauce you can find.