The Best Things to Do in Buffalo

Buffalo may be best known for its chicken wings and chilly temps, but the City of Good Neighbors is also home to world-class art, unbeatable architecture, fascinating history, and outdoor recreation in spades. Sure, hit Anchor Bar for wings, but also make time for plenty of culture, sightseeing, and adventure.

1285 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo, NY 14222, USA
This museum is currently closed for construction until 2022. Albright-Knox Northland, a new project space at 612 Northland Avenue, will open on January 17, 2020.

One of Buffalo’s most well-known attractions, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery showcases an impressive collection of more than 6,500 works, with a focus on modern and contemporary art. Featured artists range from such big names as Degas, van Gogh, Matisse, Gauguin, and Frida Kahlo to Henry Moore, Jasper Johns, and Jackson Pollock. Sign up for an hour-long, docent-led tour to learn more about the pieces on display—including Convergence, Pollock’s monstrous, 8-by-12-foot oil-on-canvas—then head outside and walk the grounds, which are dotted with a number of domineering sculptures.
125 Jewett Pkwy, Buffalo, NY 14214, USA
Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1903 for a wealthy businessman, the Martin House is one of Buffalo’s architectural masterpieces. Situated in the beautiful Parkside neighborhood, it stands out among the restored Victorian homes and canopy of old-growth trees for its Prairie house style, complete with strong horizontal lines, deeply overhanging eaves, and a sheltering, cantilevered roof. A pergola connects the home to a conservatory and carriage house with chauffeur’s quarters and stables, while a smaller residence and gardener’s cottage sit nearby. Over the decades, the complex suffered considerable damage and three of the original five buildings were destroyed, but in 1992, the Martin House Restoration Corporation was formed to raise funds and oversee a complete restoration.

Extensive reconstruction efforts began in 1997 and are ongoing today, but visitors can now experience the property on a variety of tours. Choose from one- and two-hour options to see details like Wright-designed furniture, art glass, and light fixtures, or pick a themed tour like the Twilight, Photography+, or Wright Night. Either way, save time to check out the conservatory, anchored by a stunning replica of the Nike of Samothrace statue.
44 Prime St, Buffalo, NY 14202, USA
For decades, Buffalo’s waterfront was used almost exclusively for industry. Today, however, it’s a major attraction for outdoor enthusiasts, with everything from parks and bike trails to fishing, boating, ice skating, and more. Get in on the fun with help from Water Bikes of Buffalo, which rents water bikes, paddleboats, and stand-up paddleboards for exploring the Buffalo River. Ride through the historic canals, past grain elevators and naval ships, then head down to the lighthouse near Lake Erie for a thrilling day on the water. In the winter, the company also offers ice bikes at the Canalside skating rink, which just happens to be three times the size of the Rink at Rockefeller Center—or the equivalent of two NHL rinks.
1300 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo, NY 14222, USA
Located directly across the street from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, in the center of Buffalo’s Museum District, the Burchfield Penney Art Center is dedicated to famed watercolorist Charles E. Burchfield and other distinguished artists of Buffalo, Niagara, and Western New York. To complement its impressive permanent collection, the museum, which is affiliated with SUNY Buffalo State, also hosts nearly 30 exhibitions per year, guaranteeing something new every time you visit. Start your tour by browsing Burchfield’s works and journals, then move on to contemporary artists like Joseph Radoccia, Jack Edson, and Monica Angle.
359 Ganson St, Buffalo, NY 14203, USA
Open year-round on the banks of the Buffalo River, this massive waterfront complex offers everything you need for a fun afternoon. Zip-line between abandoned grain silos, challenge yourself on the high-ropes course, kayak down the river, or climb the 50-foot rock wall. There’s even an escape room experience, plus two covered outdoor skating rinks in winter. If you’d prefer something slightly more passive, RiverWorks hosts a series of music, cultural, and sporting events throughout the year, and also houses a fully functioning brewery and casual dining restaurant with outdoor seating on the river. While the venue sits in somewhat of an unexpected location, in the heart of Buffalo’s industrial corner, it’s pretty hard to miss—just look for the grain silos painted to resemble a six-pack of Labatt Blue beer.
City Hall Buffalo City, 65 Niagara Square, Buffalo, NY 14202, USA
Buffalo City Hall is a beautiful Art Deco building complete with symbolic reliefs, colorful murals, and an elegant silhouette at the heart of Niagara Square. What most visitors don’t know, however, is that you can head to the top of the 32-story building—one of the tallest in the city—for unobstructed views of Downtown, Lake Erie, and, on clear days, even Toronto. Admission is free but the observation deck is pretty tight, so it’s best to visit in small groups. Once you’ve had your fill of sweeping panoramas, walk down Court Street to Lafayette Square for the ideal photo op of City Hall, with the McKinley Monument in the foreground.
300 Parkside Ave, Buffalo, NY 14214, USA
Situated on the northern end of Delaware Park, the Buffalo Zoo offers family-friendly fun for warm summer days. Built in 1975, it’s the third-oldest zoo in the country, but the facilities have been updated over the years to provide spacious habitats for the resident animals. The underground sea lion exhibit and Rainforest Falls are favorites, as they allow visitors to get close—but not too close—to the animals. Also be sure to catch a glimpse of the giraffes enjoying the sunshine from their street-side enclosure. To avoid crowds, arrive early in the day—the place can get packed, especially on nice days.
1200 Fuhrmann Boulevard, Buffalo, NY 14203, USA
Buffalo offers the best of both worlds in the sense that there’s plenty of action in the heart of the city, but in no time at all you can also find yourself surrounded by nature. Just a seven-minute drive from Niagara Square, the 264-acre Tifft Nature Preserve in South Buffalo offers ponds, marshes, woodlands, and five miles of walking trails, plus wildlife like turtles, frogs, raccoons, deer, and a wide variety of birds. Visitors can stroll the three boardwalks for views of the cattail marsh, look for birds in the designated National Audubon Society “Important Bird Area,” fish at Lake Kirsty, or even snowshoe and cross-country ski in the winter. Best of all, admission is free, though a small donation is suggested.
3208 Main St, Buffalo, NY 14214, USA
Located in Buffalo’s University Heights District, Parkside Candy is famous not only for its affordable ice-cream sundaes and delicious sandwiches, but also for its beautiful space. Open since 1927, the shop is filled with Victorian details—from intricate plaster moldings to mahogany display cases—making a visit here feel like a step back in time. As for the food, the sandwiches are perfect for a light lunch and the sundaes are hands down the best in Buffalo—order the brownie option for a chocolate overdose. Also be sure to pick up signature treats like homemade chocolates, old-fashioned lollipops, and sponge candy for some sweet souvenirs.
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