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I was born and raised in Buffalo, and I'm sharing the best things to do, see, and eat in the city.
Tourists should visit Canalside, Martin House, Niagara Falls, and Nietzsche's.
They should eat at Paula's Donuts, Duff's Famous Wings, and Mississippi Mudds.
Although the city has become famous for its wing sauce, Buffalo has a lot more to offer than that.
Dubbed the City of Good Neighbors, it offers a wide array of both summer and winter activities, plus an impressive selection of cuisine inspired from around the world.
I, a born and raised Buffalonian, have compiled a list of must-visit hotels, sites, and eateries from across the city.
Things to know before you go
COVID-19 PROTOCOL: As of June 2021, New York State has lifted its COVID-19 travel advisory, but both domestic and international travelers must continue to follow CDC travel requirements. As of July 2021, the Canadian border is closed to all visitors (with the exception of those crossing for essential purposes).
WEATHER: The weather can change quickly in Buffalo, so pack and dress in layers. This is particularly smart if you know you'll be hanging near the chilly (but pleasant) breezes on the waterfront. Summers are warm, but winters can be severe, with feet of snow and real-feel temperatures often dropping well below zero degrees Fahrenheit.
CURRENCY: The area uses US dollars, and many businesses accept credit cards. If you visit Canada while you're in town, consider picking up some Canadian cash. Most banks offer this type of exchange, but there are also currency-exchange services around town and in the Buffalo airport.
WALKABILITY: Buffalo has multiple bus lines and a small subway system that operates from the University of Buffalo campus to downtown, but it's not a walkable city. Though there are taxis and ride-hail services, renting a car is likely your best option.
Where to stay
The InnBuffalo is housed in a restored Victorian mansion
The InnBuffalo is a refurbished mansion located in the heart of Elmwood Village, a vibrant neighborhood full of restaurants, coffee shops, and local retailers.
Rates are about $170 to $200 a night, but they vary depending on the time of year.
Tip: This is a small, cozy spot that fills up fast, so be sure to book as early as possible. Additionally, this option is best for solo travelers or couples, as the max capacity for each suite is two people.
The Curtiss Hotel is upscale and ornate
Chic and stylish, the Curtiss Hotel is a five-star boutique with high-tech amenities such as digital room-control pads.
Prices range from $259 to $609 a night, but they're worth it if you want a memorable option for a special occasion or romantic getaway.
Tip: Even if you're not a hotel guest, the Curtiss has a rooftop lounge and bar with incredible views of downtown Buffalo that's open year-round.
The Hotel at the Lafayette is historic and beautifully designed
Head downtown for the historic Hotel at the Lafayette, designed by Louise Blanchard Bethune, the first professional female architect in the US.
With over 57 rooms starting in the $100s a night, the hotel has options for couples and families.
Tip: Grab a latte from the coffee shop on the ground floor or stop for a bite at the Lafayette Brewing Company and Pan American Dining Room.
Things to do and see
Canalside offers outdoor fun and cool breezes
Located on the shore of Lake Erie at the foot of downtown Buffalo, Canalside has some of the best waterside activities in the city.
Visitors can ride bikes, rent kayaks, take a tour of the famous USS Little Rock (a former US Navy combat ship), or just soak up the views on the lawn.
In the summer, the Canalside concert series usually hosts a variety of both big names and local bands.
Tip: Parking can sometimes be tough on busy days. Instead of driving in, leave your car farther uptown, hop on the metro rail, and exit at the Erie Canal Harbor station.
See Frank Lloyd Wright's elaborate, turn-of-the-century Martin House
Built between 1903 and 1905, the house features beautiful woodwork and stained glass.
Tours are offered Wednesday through Saturday, and on Thursdays, the garden is open to the public. Book your tours in advance to ensure placement.
Tip: Nearby Delaware Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York City's Central Park.
Architecture tours are a great way to see downtown
Buffalo is full of stunning architectural sights to see, and there are local guides who can show you all the best places.
See the art-deco details on City Hall, the towering grain elevators at Silo City, or the mansions around town - a reminder of Buffalo's glorious Gilded Age.
Tip: Wear comfortable shoes for the tours as they mostly consist of walking. For those interested in "haunted history," there are also ghost walking tours.
The theater district makes for a memorable night out
You don't have to go to New York City to catch some of the finest live-theater performances in the state.
Tip: The theater district itself is on Main Street, but there are also plenty of walkable preshow dining options on Tupper, Pearl, and Allen streets.
Experience the power of Niagara Falls
It may seem touristy, but Niagara Falls is truly worth the trip.
Though closed for the moment because of pandemic restrictions, you can even usually walk across the footbridge to Canada (if you have your passport) to view the falls from the other side.
Most people visit in the summer for a refreshing mist from the roaring waters, but if you find yourself in Buffalo in the colder months, certain portions of the falls will sometimes freeze, creating a magical frozen view.
Tip: As a natural wonder, this spot can get packed. Try to get there earlier in the day to avoid bigger crowds.
Sports fans will love catching a Sabres hockey game
You might hear locals joke that Buffalonians are honorary Canadians thanks to our close relationship with our northern neighbors, and that definitely includes a passion for hockey.
Tip: Similar to Canalside, it's often easier to hitch a ride on the metro rail instead of looking for parking downtown.
Nietzsche's is a prime spot for local music
For local music and a relaxed atmosphere, Nietzsche's is a hip dive joint located in Allentown, boasting live performances every night of the week.
It features all kinds of music, from small jam bands to professional jazz musicians. Buffalo's music scene really comes alive here.
The mural on the side of the building rightly puts it in the famous philosopher's own words: "Without music, life would be a mistake."
Tip: For a preshow dinner, there are plenty of options directly on Allen Street or around the corner on Elmwood Avenue.
Where to eat and drink
La Divina has the most authentic tacos in town
This simple, counter-service restaurant serves up tacos in double-upped tortillas for just a couple of bucks apiece.
La Divina also has quesadillas and desserts such as flan and churros, as well as a selection of authentic sodas and drinks to wash it all down.
Tip: Weekend lunchtimes here can fill up fast, so don't be surprised if you're greeted with a line. Luckily, it typically moves swiftly.
Paula's Donuts has a wide range of doughnuts and pastries
At Paula's Donuts, you'll find a sweet treat in more flavors than you even thought possible.
It has the regulars - chocolate, honey dip, jelly-filled - but the really exciting sweets are the specialty doughnuts: red velvet, cannoli, maple bacon, and more.
Tip: Keep an eye on the specials board. It often has deals such as a free doughnut with the purchase of a dozen, or a free doughnut if you buy a beverage.
Head to Spot Coffee for your morning joe or afternoon lunch
For a good cup of coffee from a locally owned company, Spot Coffee has your fix.
With a wide selection of espresso, iced drinks, smoothies, and lunch options, it's good for pretty much any time of day. Plus, you can pick up bags of coffee to take home.
Tip: There are multiple locations, so look up which one you're closest to.
Caffé Aroma offers coffee by day and cocktails by night
Located on Elmwood Avenue - a bustling street with dozens of retail shops, restaurants, and local bars - Caffé Aroma provides both morning coffee and evening cocktails.
At night, it also usually features local craft brews alongside light bites and pastries.
Tip: The café itself is relatively small, so consider taking your coffee to go and heading across the street to sit in Bidwell Parkway.
Mississippi Mudds has the perfect warm-weather menu and view
Few things scream summer more than a hot dog with the works and an ice-cream cone from a local waterfront shack.
Mississippi Mudds is a fantastic warm-weather spot for dogs, burgers, fries, specialty sandwiches, and dozens of ice-cream options. Grab a seat at the restaurant or carry your delights across the street for a picnic overlooking the Niagara River.
Tip: If you're feeling especially ravenous, opt for the foot-long hot dog instead of the regular.
Explore more of Buffalo's extensive culinary scene at the West Side Bazaar
Buffalo is well-known for its wide array of international-inspired food options.
At the West Side Bazaar, you'll find food inspired by a number of cultures, including Burmese, Thai, Ethiopian, and Japanese.
Tip: Even if you're not hungry, the bazaar is home to various local retailers selling traditional clothes, jewelry, and other items from expat artists hailing from Rwanda, India, Iraq, and more.
For wings, Duff's is an iconic dive
It wouldn't really be a trip to Buffalo without an order of wings.
There's plenty of debate over what restaurant developed the first Buffalo wings, but one thing is certain, the menu at Duff's has it all.
From mild to hot to something called "death sauce," you'll get the full wing experience.
Tip: To soothe your flaming mouth, order a Loganberry, a dark red, non-carbonated beverage beloved by both Buffalonians and Canucks.
Betty's boasts an impressive breakfast and brunch menu for all diet options
It offers tons of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options as well, so there's something for everyone.
Tip: This is a popular weekend brunch spot, so maybe aim for a weekday morning when it may be less crowded.
Ristorante Lombardo is an excellent choice for date night or special occasions
For some upscale Italian cuisine, the family-run Ristorante Lombardo on Hertel Avenue provides an elegant dinner menu and a spectacular selection of wine and cocktails.
The restaurant is only open for dinner, so reservations are suggested.
Tip: If you've got some time before dinner, take a walk down Hertel Avenue to check out some of the local shops or stop in to one of the nearby bars for an aperitif.
Condrell's is a must-visit for those with a sweet tooth
Not only does the locally owned Condrell's offer a massive menu of ice-cream sundaes, floats, and shakes, it also doubles as a candy shop, serving everything from fudge to licorice in a retro-style setting.
Tip: Try one of Buffalo's signature treats: sponge candy. It's a crunchy, lightly toasted, and airy toffee-flavored candy covered in chocolate.
Final tips before your trip
If you're looking to avoid crowds and experience mild weather, consider visiting during the fall or spring. Summer tends to draw more tourists, and winter weather can be wildly unpredictable.
Enjoy the local nightlife, but be safe. Locals joke that Buffalo is a drinking town with a sports problem. Feel free to indulge in the fun, but have a plan for getting to and from your accommodations. Uber, Lyft, and taxi services are available.
Don't be afraid to ask the locals for advice or tips. Buffalonians are known for being quite friendly, especially when it comes to showing off our city, so feel free to ask what other places they recommend.
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