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How to Experience Buffalo’s Vibrant Arts and Architecture

From 20th-century masterpieces to contemporary murals, here are ways you can enjoy all the art, culture, and design in Buffalo—the other New York City.

How to Experience Buffalo's Vibrant Arts and Architecture

Buffalo is enjoying an exciting new chapter of its history of creativity and innovation. The city has an abundance of cultural gems, including remarkable American architecture, a flourishing visual arts scene, a revitalized waterfront, and a superb selection of regional cuisine. And that’s just for starters. There’s never been a better time to visit for a rewarding and relaxing getaway.

Explore the revitalized waterfront

A trip to Buffalo should start at its ever-evolving waterfront where the city’s legacy as an industrial powerhouse began. Grain elevators have found new life as Silo City, a popular spot for festivals and music. It’s also a great place to grab a seat at Duende for delicious drinks and elevated pub fare.

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Buffalo’s Silo City is home to Duende, a multifaceted bar, restaurant, performance space, and gallery located amid the towering grain elevators that shaped Buffalo’s early history.

Buffalo RiverWorks is another fantastic destination—just look for the giant beer cans. The brewery, restaurant, and entertainment complex is a beloved local spot for year-round fun, including rock climbing and zip-lining through the giant silos and grain elevators. You can even take a spin on the brand-new, solar-powered Buffal-“O” Ferris wheel. And when you’ve worked up an appetite, dig into some of the city’s favorite wings (chicken and cauliflower) and an assortment of beer and ale brewed onsite.

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Once a primarily industrial location, the Buffalo River has been transformed into an outdoor recreation hotspot featuring kayaking, paddleboarding, rock climbing and ziplining at the RiverWorks entertainment complex.

If it’s peace and quiet you’re after, head to Wilkeson Pointe for a stroll, bike ride, or paddle along the water. Afterward, stretch out in a hammock or Adirondack chair at Consumer’s 225 Beer Garden and watch the sunset over Lake Erie.

Marvel at architectural masterworks

The shoreline isn’t the only Buffalo attraction that recently received a makeover. The Darwin D. Martin House, Frank Lloyd Wright’s self-described “domestic symphony,” is now open to the public following an extensive, 20-year-long restoration. With its six buildings and 1.5-acre campus, this National Historic Landmark remains one of the finest examples of the legendary architect’s Prairie period.

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Set on a 1.5-acre site in Buffalo’s Parkside neighborhood, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Darwin Martin House is a National Historic Landmark.

Downtown Buffalo is home to even more architectural marvels from the 19th and 20th centuries. Buffalo City Hall, designed by architects George J. Dietel and John J. Wade, is an Art Deco masterpiece with an entrance relief depicting the city’s history. Book a tour to see the dramatic stained-glass window in the council chambers.

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A walking tour of Buffalo’s architecture stops in Niagara Square to admire City Hall, an Art Deco masterpiece built in 1931.

Next, head to the Guaranty Building, designed by Louis Sullivan, to learn about the early origins of skyscraper design. Then gawk at the ornate glass-covered concourse inside Daniel Burnham with Charles Atwood’s Ellicott Square Building, which was the largest office building in the world when it was built.

No trip to Buffalo would be complete without a stop at the Liberty Building. The two statues on the roof of this rare example of Neoclassical architecture represent the city’s important location on Lake Erie. With one facing west and the other facing east, they illuminate the city’s impressive skyline by night.

For a closer look at Buffalo’s architectural treasures, book a stay at the Hotel at the Lafayette, with rooms that blend historical decor with modern amenities. Louise Blanchard Bethune, the country’s first female architect, designed it in the French Renaissance style, complete with a facade of red brick and white terracotta.

Visit world-class landmarks and museums

The Roycroft Inn is another excellent choice for accommodations due to its location on the Roycroft Campus, widely regarded as the cradle of the American Arts and Crafts movement. The lobby of the cozy inn even features landscape murals by Alexis Jean Fournier, an American painter who was also a key figure in the movement. Stay in one of the quaint suites or dine in the restaurant with a menu highlighting local ingredients and regional foods.

And don’t forget to visit the Roycroft Campus’ recently renovated Copper Shop, where you can explore the rich cultural history of Elbert Hubbard and the artists who worked here. This shop and gallery displays the work of over 100 local and national artists and a wide variety of home goods and eclectic gifts.

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery, a celebrated center for contemporary and modern art, is also getting an update and will reopen as The Buffalo AKG Art Museum in spring 2023. The $180 million expansion will add more space for temporary exhibits and the museum’s world-renowned collection.

In the meantime, no art lover should miss the Burchfield Penney Art Center (BPAC), a museum dedicated to the art of Western New York. It boasts the most extensive public collection of work by American master Charles Burchfield.

Enjoy dazzling public art

Beyond the wealth of museum offerings, you can experience art almost anywhere you go in Buffalo. The public art scene is booming, so you’re guaranteed to stumble upon a few unexpected bursts of color during your travels.

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Artists Edreys Wajed and James “Yames” Moffitt work on the “Love Black Girls Love Black Boys” mural in downtown Buffalo’s Theater District.

Dazzling murals by acclaimed artists like Felipe Pantone, Eduardo Kobra, Logan Hicks, Josef Kristofoletti, Bunnie Reiss, Louise Jones, and Shantell Martin sit side-by-side with those by local artists. Although art is pretty much everywhere in Buffalo these days, you should make a point to visit one public art project in particular. Head to the Freedom Wall, located at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Ferry Streets where you can admire and reflect on 28 portraits of people who have dedicated their lives to human and civil rights.

Whether you’re spending time outdoors or experiencing one of the city’s many refreshed attractions, Buffalo’s creative spirit is undeniable—and a joy to behold.

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