Buffalo

For other places with the same name, see Buffalo (disambiguation).

The largest city in New York State's Niagara Frontier, Buffalo is a city full of surprises. Though Buffalo is sometimes the butt of jokes about chicken wings, its long-suffering sports teams, and the mountains of snow under which it is supposedly buried each winter, local residents and others who are in the know tell a different story: one of vibrant nightlife, world-class museums and cultural attractions, tight-knit neighborhoods with community spirit and a real sense of place, a winning combination of high quality of life and low cost of living – and the sunniest summers in the Northeastern United States. A great part of Buffalo's appeal to visitors is the still-palpable sense of its history as an important industrial center. Majestic historic buildings and sites around every corner tell the story of a city that was great once and has all the tools in place to be great again someday.

Districts

Buffalo regions - Color-coded map
Downtown
Buffalo's central business district boasts monumental architecture, a revitalized historic waterfront, the vibrant Theater District, the thumping dance clubs of Chippewa Street, and the brand-new Medical Corridor.
Allentown and the Delaware District
Allentown's hipster bars, rock clubs and art galleries are a lively counterpart to the sedate Delaware District's quiet residential streets. Both are heaven for architecture buffs, with charming Victorians lining the side streets off Allen Street and sumptuous Gilded Age mansions on Delaware Avenue's Millionaire's Row.
Elmwood Village
With Buffalo State College and the Museum District at the north end of the strip, Elmwood has Buffalo's finest dining, hippest clothing boutiques, and chillest bars, flanked by handsome turn-of-the-century side streets where yuppies and co-eds rub shoulders.
North Buffalo
With more of a suburban feel than other Buffalo districts, North Buffalo is a diverse hodgepodge composed of Little Italy along Hertel Avenue, scruffy but pleasant University Heights, and the beautifully-landscaped, historic residential areas of Parkside, Central Park, and Park Meadow.
West Side
Buffalo's most up-and-coming area. Long the epicenter of Hispanic culture in Buffalo, the West Side now boasts a veritable United Nations of immigrant communities and a nascent arts scene along Grant Street, ramshackle Victorian cottages in Prospect Hill and the West Village gradually being spruced up to their former glory, and waterfront parks galore. To the north are historic Black Rock and working-class Riverside.
South Buffalo
Separated from the rest of the city by the Buffalo River, proudly Irish South Buffalo can seem like a city unto its own: to the north, the historic Old First Ward and Cobblestone District and newly redeveloped Larkinville; to the east, pleasant parkland and quiet residential streets; to the west, the grain elevators and rail yards of Buffalo's mighty industrial past; along the lake shore, the redeveloping Outer Harbor, Buffalo's newest summer playground.
East Side
Buffalonians are quick to deride the East Side as a drug- and crime-infested ghetto. Those who are smart enough to disregard the locals will be rewarded with the jaw-dropping sight of huge, ornate churches built by 19th-century German and Polish immigrants, an educational look into Buffalo's African-American history, cultural attractions like the Buffalo Museum of Science, and other surprises in this truly off-the-beaten-path district.

Outside of Buffalo itself are a number of suburbs. Unlike the faceless cookie-cutter residential tracts surrounding other American cities, many of Buffalo's suburbs have real character — individual identities of which their residents are fiercely proud. More than that, suburbia's range of attractions, festivals and events, and other items of interest to visitors can hold its own with the urban core.

Understand

Buffalo is New York State's second-largest city, with (as of 2010) a population of 261,310 in the city proper and 1,135,509 in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls Metropolitan Area. Buffalo is the cultural and economic center of the Western New York region. Though for the past half-century it has been rightly considered a stagnant working-class city that has suffered from the aftereffects of deindustrialization, Buffalo's economy has turned around significantly, with an unemployment rate in April 2014 of 5.8%, running below the national rate of 5.9% and the statewide rate of 6.1% for that month. Perhaps surprisingly given its history as a center of heavy industry, Buffalo has also recently been cited as the third-cleanest city in the United States. Recently, Buffalo was named one of the Dozen Distinctive Destinations for 2009 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, whose 2011 National Preservation Conference was held in Buffalo and was the largest and best-attended of these annual conferences in the history of that organization. Other titles bestowed on Buffalo in recent years include a placement among the "44 Places to Visit in 2009" by the New York Times, the "All-America City Award" for the years 1996 and 2002, and one of the 10 best cities in the U.S. to raise a family, according to a 2010 feature in Forbes magazine.

History

Though the area had been settled by the Iroquois since well before Columbus and was visited periodically by French fur trappers beginning in the 17th Century, Buffalo's history per se begins about 1789, when Cornelius Winney set up a trading post at the mouth of the Buffalo River. At the time, this site was still far beyond the frontier of white settlement; it was not until 1793 when the Holland Land Company, a syndicate of investors from the Netherlands, purchased the tract of Western New York wilderness that included Buffalo. Land agent Joseph Ellicott, who arrived at Winney's trading post in 1798, felt that it had the potential to be the site of a thriving city. He gave the name New Amsterdam to the village he laid out there, though it was soon renamed Buffalo after the adjacent river. (The question of where the Buffalo River itself got its name is still very much a mystery — the most well-known theory, which has the French explorer Sieur de la Salle exclaiming about the beau fleuve, or "beautiful river", that he saw while sailing along Lake Erie in 1679, is almost certainly untrue; also, no buffalo or bison were known to have been present in Western New York at any time since the arrival of the white man, though 17th-century French explorers did find some living relatively nearby on the south shore of Lake Erie, in present-day Ohio.)

Despite Ellicott's aspirations, Buffalo remained a tiny outpost whose main claim to fame during its very early history was as the site of several important military installations and battles during the War of 1812 (famously, the village was burnt to the ground by British troops in December 1813 as part of the Niagara Frontier Campaign of that war). That all changed with the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825; the status of the western terminus of the canal was granted to Buffalo after a hotly contested dispute with the neighboring village of Black Rock (later to be annexed by its rival). The Erie Canal extended eastward from Lake Erie to the Hudson River at Albany, a distance of 363 miles (584 km) in all. The most ambitious work of infrastructure undertaken in the U.S. up to that time, the Erie Canal greatly lowered transportation costs and singlehandedly made large-scale settlement of the lands west of the Appalachians economically viable. The magnitude of the Erie Canal's commercial importance is illustrated by the fact that in the first five years after its completion, Buffalo's population more than tripled (to 8,668); two years later, in 1832, Buffalo was finally incorporated as a city.

Buffalo's early economic mainstay was as a transshipment port, where grain from the Midwest was unloaded from lake freighters and transferred to canal boats headed for New York City; it was in Buffalo where the world's first grain elevator was constructed in 1843, and indeed there are still many elevators that remain standing around Buffalo Harbor. Over the second half of the 19th Century, the Erie Canal gradually became obsolete, but that scarcely affected Buffalo's explosive growth. Instead, the city maintained its status as a transportation hub by transitioning into the second-most important railroad center in the U.S. (after Chicago); the New York Central, Pennsylvania, Michigan Central, Nickel Plate, Erie, Delaware Lackawanna & Western, West Shore, Baltimore & Ohio, and Lehigh Valley Railroads all passed through Buffalo at the height of the railroad era. In addition, the steel industry became a major player in the local economy in 1899, when the Lackawanna Steel Company moved its base of operations from Scranton, Pennsylvania to a site just south of the city line. By 1900, Buffalo boasted a population of over 350,000 and was one of the ten largest cities in the United States.

Located in the shadow of downtown, the Commercial Slip (seen here) was once the western end of the Erie Canal, which was built in 1825 and which transformed Buffalo almost overnight from a sleepy frontier village to one of the United States' fastest-growing cities and most important inland ports. It is now the centerpiece of the Canalside redevelopment on the downtown waterfront.

The Pan-American Exposition was a World's Fair that was held in Buffalo in 1901, at the apex of the city's glory days; it was intended to showcase, among other things, the technological marvel and economic possibilities of electric power (Buffalo's proximity to Niagara Falls, a site of early ventures in the generation of hydroelectricity, gifted it with the cheapest electricity in the nation at the time). Though the dazzling sight of the fairgrounds, illuminated by night with this new technology, earned Buffalo the enduring nickname "City of Light", the Pan-American Exposition's main historical significance is much more somber in nature: it was at the Exposition where, on September 6, 1901, U.S. President William McKinley was fatally shot by anarchist Leon Czolgosz, moments after concluding a speech at the Temple of Music.

Buffalo continued to grow during the first part of the 20th Century. However, trends were beginning to emerge that would, by 1950, cause the city's growth to slow, stop and then reverse. As in other American cities, wealthier residents began to leave their homes in town for quieter, greener suburban properties outside the city line. This began in the 1910s and 1920s — many of Buffalo's older suburbs, such as Kenmore, Eggertsville, Pine Hill, and Snyder, date to this time — and kicked into high gear during the post-World War II economic boom. At the same time, the growing American middle class began to migrate in ever-larger numbers to areas in the West and South with milder climates, at the further expense of the cities of the Northeast. The construction of the Interstate Highway System fueled suburbanization at the same time that it contributed to the decline of the railroads and of Buffalo's port, as goods could be shipped more cheaply by truck.

However, the single most important cause of the free-fall that Buffalo suffered during the late 20th Century was the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959. Historically, Buffalo's importance as a port was largely due to the barrier that Niagara Falls posed to shipping. However, thanks to the expansion of the Welland Canal as part of the Seaway, freighters loaded with grain and other goods could now access the ocean directly via the St. Lawrence River, rather than stopping at Buffalo to transfer their cargo to railroad cars headed east. Within ten years of the Seaway's inauguration, most of the grain elevators at Buffalo Harbor had been abandoned, and the port that was once filled to capacity with ships was now nearly empty. As well, the steel plant in Lackawanna closed its doors for good beginning in 1977, unable to compete with cheaper foreign steel. By 1980, Buffalo's population was roughly equal to what it had been in 1900, down nearly 40% from its peak of 580,132 just thirty years earlier.

To add insult to injury, during the 1960s and '70s Buffalo's civic leaders responded to the deteriorating social conditions in the city by demolishing (in the name of "urban renewal" and "slum clearance") ethnic neighborhoods in such places as the Ellicott District and the Lower West Side that, though working-class, were in many cases healthy and vibrant. In particular, the splendid brick Victorian cottages of what was once the Lower West Side's "Little Italy" were nearly all lost to the wrecking ball, while the new public housing projects erected in the Ellicott District soon became high-rise versions of the slums they replaced, as the mere construction of new buildings did nothing to address the underlying social problems in the neighborhood. At the same time, noisy and intrusive expressways were constructed directly through Delaware Park and Humboldt Parkway, destroying the verdant ambience of what were (respectively) the largest park and the grandest parkway designed for the city by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted; thankfully, forceful opposition from neighborhood residents spared the Allentown Historic District a similar fate. In downtown, only one of the many examples of the senseless destruction of Buffalo's architectural heritage occurred in 1969, when several blocks of handsome Victorian commercial blocks as well as the stunning, castlelike Erie County Savings Bank building were demolished to make way for the Main Place Tower, a bland modernist office tower with an attached suburban-style shopping mall that utterly failed to attract shoppers back downtown in favor of the strip malls and plazas of the suburbs.

Despite these grave problems, the mentality in Buffalo never crossed the line into total defeatism, which was helpful when Buffalo's decline started to level off in the 1990s. The broad-based grassroots protests that accompanied the opening of the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino in 2007, which had been presented to the city as a means of spurring development and attracting tourists, serves as perhaps the quintessential example of the city's new approach: rather than relying on one-shot "silver bullet" solutions to the city's problems such as the casino, Buffalo has begun to model its strategy on the successful revival of other Rust Belt cities such as Pittsburgh and Cleveland — a strategy that has consisted of accepting the reality that heavy industry is gone for good and, instead, using the valuable resource of Buffalo's unusually high number of colleges and universities to encourage development of a diverse range of high-tech industries, such as the medical research and biotechnology ventures that have sprouted north of downtown under the aegis of the University of Buffalo Medical School. The business district, once replete with boarded-up storefronts and nearly deserted after the end of the workday and on weekends, has enjoyed a new measure of vitality due largely to the conversion of disused office space into high-end downtown apartments and condominiums, a commodity for which many Buffalonians were surprised to discover there was considerable pent-up demand. Additionally, Buffalo can boast of an architectural heritage that is still substantial despite the misadventures of the 1960s, a vibrant range of cultural institutions, and a perennially low cost of living. In the past few years, this new approach has engendered a newfound strength among Buffalo's preservationist community, a dogged devotion by its citizens to cultural attractions such as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Buffalo Zoo, and continued diversification of the local economy. Conversely, what remains of Buffalo's traditional heavy industry has benefited from the mini-rebound in American manufacturing after the most recent recession; for example, despite General Motors' recent financial troubles, that company made substantial investments in its plant in nearby Tonawanda in 2010, adding several hundred new jobs in the process. Though Buffalo has not completely stemmed its population losses and there is still much progress yet to be made, the bit of swagger with which residents of the "City of No Illusions" carry themselves today, finally reinvigorated after decades of decline, is unmistakable.

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°F) 31 33 42 55 67 75 80 78 71 59 48 36
Nightly lows (°F) 19 19 26 37 47 57 62 61 53 43 34 24
Precipitation (in) 3.2 2.5 2.9 3.0 3.5 3.7 3.2 3.3 3.9 3.5 4.0 3.9

   Data from NOAA (1981-2010)

Climate

Buffalo, although most famous for its winters, has four very pronounced seasons.

In the first half of winter, beginning in approximately November, the city can get lake-effect snow: cold winds blowing over the warmer waters of Lake Erie pick up a lot of water vapor, which is dumped as snow as soon as they reach land. This usually ends in January, when the lake finally freezes over. Contrary to popular myth, however, Buffalo is not the coldest or snowiest city in the countryor even in New York. The Buffalo airport averages 93 inches (236 cm) of snow per winter. On average, Buffalo only has 3 days per year where the recorded temperature dips below 0°F (-18°C). Buffalo's snowy reputation is based in large part on some of its most famous storms: the Blizzard of '77, the "October Surprise" of 2006, and the "Snowvember" blizzard in 2014 all received a lot of media coverage, but none of those things are normal occurrences in an average Buffalo winter.

Spring is rainy and cool up through the end of April. The temperatures can fluctuate wildly in March and April. It is not unusual to see snow one day, and a temperature in the mid-60s Fahrenheit (almost 20°C) the next.

A typical winter day in Buffalo's historic West Village.

Summer tends to be very comfortable and sunny — in fact, Buffalo has more sunny summer days than any other major city in the Northeastern U.S. The moderating effects of Lake Erie have allowed Buffalo to be one of very few places in the United States where the temperature has never reached 100°F (38°C). On average Buffalo has 60 days a year with temperatures reaching over 80°F (27°C).

Fall is warm and beautiful as well. The temperature usually stays warm enough through mid November, and one can watch the trees change colors in comfort. The days are warm, the nights are cool, and the first frost doesn't usually come until well after Halloween. Leaf hunters will be pleased with the number of trees (Buffalo is also one of the most tree-filled cities in the nation!) as well as in the surrounding areas.

Read

For more books about Buffalo, specifically ones that take place in or have to do with a particular neighborhood of the city, please see the respective district articles.

  • High Hopes: The Rise and Decline of Buffalo, New York (ISBN 9780873957359). Written in 1983 — perhaps the nadir of Buffalo's history — Goldman's first book traces the story of the Queen City from its birth as a frontier outpost, to its days as a buzzing inland port and industrial giant, to its post-World War II decline. In High Hopes, Buffalo is used as an exemplar of the classic pattern of urban development in the 19th and 20th Centuries, its fortunes linked inextricably with the economic well-being of urban America as a whole.
  • City on the Lake: The Challenge of Change in Buffalo, New York (ISBN 9780879755799). This book mines much of the same ground as its predecessor — and shares its format of discrete vignettes that come together to paint a broad cohesive image — but the focus here is on the turning point in Buffalo's history, the 1950s through the '70s, when glory days gave way to postindustrial poverty and blight. From racial tensions and white flight to poorly-thought-out urban renewal schemes to economic disinvestment, City on the Lake analyzes all facets behind the 20th-century decline of Buffalo along with the rest of the Rust Belt. However, in sharp contrast to the pessimistic tone of its ironically titled predecessor, the overall note is a presciently hopeful one that, at a date as early as 1990, few other commentators yet dared to strike.
  • City on the Edge: Buffalo, New York, 1900-Present (ISBN 9781591024576). Despite what the subtitle may suggest, City on the Edge is much more than just a rehash of Goldman's first two tomes — the dark age that Buffalo is now leaving behind is recounted merely as a prelude to what amounts to a tribute to the cultural institutions, strong community ties, and survivalist spirit that have weathered the storm and now serve as foundations on which to build the revived Buffalo. The book's ending breaks with the measured academic tone of the rest of the series, painting a rosy picture of Buffalo's best-case-scenario future and laying out a comprehensive roadmap for how to (and how not to) get there.

Watch

The history and extent of Buffalo's association with American cinema may come as a surprise to some. Early on in movie history, downtown Buffalo's Ellicott Square Building was home to the world's first purpose-built, permanent motion-picture theater, the Vitascope Theater, which was opened on October 19, 1896 by Mitchel and Moe Mark, who some years later would go on to build the world's first "movie palace" in New York City. Also in 1896, Thomas Edison sent camera crews to Buffalo, making it one of the first cities in America to appear in the movies. Edison also had the Pan-American Exposition filmed in 1901.

Under the aegis of the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission, an embryonic film industry has developed in the area which is beginning to produce some quality independent features. These and the more than 100 other films that have been shot in the Buffalo area over the last century include:

Visitor information

Talk

English is spoken in Buffalo and the surrounding area on a virtually universal basis. Though the West Side is well known as the home of the city's Hispanic community (mainly Puerto Ricans and Dominicans), the majority of Buffalo's Latinos are able to speak English as well as Spanish. Also on the West Side, there is a diverse collection of communities of first-generation immigrants centered around the Grant-Ferry neighborhood, most of whom speak some degree of English in addition to their native languages (Amharic, Somali, Vietnamese, Burmese, and Bengali are prominent). In any event, visitors to the West Side will have no significant issues with regard to language.

Those who venture across the international border will note that, despite that country's officially bilingual status, the only place the French language is usually encountered in the parts of Canada near Buffalo is on official signs and documents at the border crossings. Though Buffalo's neighborhoods include many vibrant ethnic enclaves, very few residents of these districts (other than perhaps a few elderly individuals) can speak more than a word or phrase or two of their respective ancestral languages.

The regional dialect of English spoken in Buffalo — especially among Italians and Poles of the working class — falls within the framework of Inland Northern American English, with the hard, nasally, slightly pinched-nose vowel sound in words like "car" and "stop" and the defricativization of the hard "th" sound (whereby "this" and "that" become "dis" and "dat"), a dialect that will be instantly familiar to those who remember the recurring Saturday Night Live sketch, "Bill Swerski's Superfans". Nonetheless, Buffalo's twist on the Inland North dialect involves some unique features such as the devoicing of voiced word-final plosives ("cold" becomes "colt", "rug" becomes "ruck"), and a habit of ending sentences with the word "there" (pronounced "dare") in much the same way Canadians use "eh?" — two speech patterns that are notoriously prevalent among Buffalo's Polish community.

For a somewhat outdated but quite accurate description of the particular phonetics and vocabulary of the area, see The Guide to Buffalo English.

Get in

By plane

Despite this photograph, the Buffalo Niagara International Airport is the busiest airport in Upstate New York.

From the airport, Buffalo is accessible via four NFTA bus routes:

In addition, the Buffalo Niagara International Airport is served directly by a number of intercity bus lines; see the "By bus" section. All buses, NFTA and long-distance, are boarded at the bus lane on the east side of the terminal, on the arrivals level.

Buffalo Airport Taxi's stand, as well as a number of rental car facilities, are located directly across from the terminal's main exit, on the arrivals level. For more information on taxi service and car rental, see the "Get around" section below.

For those who are coming by private plane and want to avoid the congestion of Buffalo Niagara International Airport, the closest alternative is Buffalo Airfield in West Seneca. Other general-aviation airports in the vicinity include Buffalo Lancaster Regional Airport in Lancaster, Akron Airport in Akron, and North Buffalo Suburban Airport in Lockport.

By car

The New York State Thruway (Interstate 90) runs east to west and connects Buffalo to other major cities and regionsNew York City, the Hudson Valley, Albany, Utica, Syracuse, and Rochester to the east, and Erie and Cleveland to the west. The New York State Thruway is a toll highway over most of its length, with the sole exception of the toll-free portion between Exits 50 and 55, which roughly corresponds to Buffalo's inner-ring suburbs. The New York State Thruway Authority accepts E-ZPass for toll payment, as well as cash.

Interstate 190 begins at Exit 53 of I-90 near the city line, extending west into downtown. At that point, it turns northward and mostly parallels the Niagara River, linking Buffalo to Niagara Falls and extending onward to Canada via the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge. Interstate 290 links I-90 with I-190 via Buffalo's northern suburbs. Interstate 990 runs southwest-to-northeast through suburban Amherst between I-290 and the hamlet of Millersport, after which point Lockport is easily accessible via NY 263 (Millersport Highway) and NY 78 (Transit Road).

If coming from Ontario, the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) is the best way to access Buffalo. The most direct border crossing into Buffalo, the Peace Bridge, is located at the end of the QEW in Fort Erie. Other bridge crossing options include the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, along with the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge in Lewiston. All of these bridges are easily accessible from the QEW; follow the well-posted signs.

By car, Buffalo is about two hours from Toronto, one to one and a half hours from Rochester, two and a half hours from Syracuse, and six to seven hours from New York City.

Average wait times at the various border entries vary: at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo/Fort Erie and the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, wait times over 30 minutes are unusual on most days other than holiday weekends, whereas at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, the norm is 30–60 minutes, more on holiday weekends.

By train

Buffalo is accessible from the east and west by Amtrak, which services two stations in or near Buffalo.

Buffalo is served by the following Amtrak lines:

By bus

The Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center is located at 181 Ellicott St. downtown, and serves as Buffalo's hub for intercity buses, a stop on most NFTA Metro Bus routes, and the city's main taxi terminal.

The following bus routes serve the Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center:

Service from Jamestown via Fredonia and Dunkirk.
Service from Olean via Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
Service from Pittsburgh via Indiana, DuBois, Bradford, Olean, and Salamanca.
Service from New York City via Scranton, Binghamton, Ithaca, Geneva, Rochester, and Batavia.
Service from Boston via Worcester, Springfield, Albany, Schenectady, Amsterdam, Utica, Syracuse, Rochester, Batavia, and Buffalo Niagara International Airport (note: not all runs stop at all intermediate cities).
Service from Cleveland via Ashtabula, Conneaut, Erie, and Fredonia (note: not all runs stop at all intermediate cities).
Service from Toronto via Mississauga, Burlington, Grimsby, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Fort Erie (note: not all runs stop at all intermediate cities).
Service from Toronto via Mississauga, Burlington, Grimsby, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls (Ontario and USA), and Buffalo Niagara International Airport (note: not all runs stop at all intermediate cities).
Service from New York City via Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
Service from Washington, D.C. via Baltimore and Philadelphia.
Direct service from Toronto.
Service from New York City via Newark, Scranton, Binghamton, Cortland, Syracuse, Rochester, Batavia, and Buffalo Niagara International Airport (note: not all runs stop at all intermediate cities).

In addition, Trentway-Wagar buses, operated by Coach Canada, run from St. Catharines to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport via Niagara Falls, Ontario, though they do not serve the Metropolitan Transportation Center.

By boat

As the place where the Erie Canal met vast Lake Erie, Buffalo's early growth came thanks to the Great Lakes shipping industry. Nowadays the canal has been rerouted to end downstream in Tonawanda, but that's not to say that the canal and the lake aren't still a fairly common, if novel, way to arrive in Buffalo. The West Side, downtown, and the Outer Harbor boast a variety of places for boats to dock. For visitors, the best place to dock is:

Get around

For most visitors to Buffalo, access to an automobile will prove extremely useful, if not quite utterly necessary. Buffalo's public transportation system provides access to the majority of the metropolitan area. Travelling around the city proper by public transit can be relatively hassle-free, especially on weekdays; however, transit riders travelling to the suburbs should be prepared for service that is infrequent (and, on the weekends, often non-existent).

By car

In addition to the Interstate highways mentioned in the "Get In" section, Buffalo has several intraurban expressways useful to visitors:

Buffalo's highway system was designed for a city twice its size (a reflection of the population loss the area has undergone between the 1950s and today); as a result of that, the city does not suffer nearly as much from traffic congestion as other U.S. cities. Rush hour, such as it is, occurs on weekdays roughly from 6:30AM-9AM and from 4PM-6:30PM. A good rule of thumb the locals know is that, even at the height of rush hour, it generally takes no more than 30 minutes to drive from downtown to the outer edge of suburbia.

Rental cars

Rental car facilities are located mainly at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Dollar, and Thrifty all have offices either directly on the airport property or (in the case of the latter two) on Genesee Street adjacent to the airport.

Car sharing

Members of the Zipcar car-sharing program can access vehicles in the Buffalo area from both the North and South Campuses of the University at Buffalo.

By public transportation

Buffalo's public transportation system is operated by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA). They run a single-line light rail system (the Metro Rail) as well as an extensive bus network. The NFTA system is focused around three main nodes. From largest to smallest, these nodes are located in downtown Buffalo, at University Station (located at the outer end of the Metro Rail), and at the Portage Road Transit Center in Niagara Falls. Most of the buses whose routes begin and end downtown access the Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center directly; many also service the Buffalo-Exchange Street Amtrak station.

The Metro Rail extends along Main Street from the University at Buffalo's South Campus at the northeast corner of the city southward to Canalside in downtown Buffalo, a distance of 6.4 miles (10.3 km). With nearly 25,000 riders per day, the Metro Rail boasts the third-highest number of passengers per mile (km) among light-rail systems in the United States. The northern portion of the system is below ground. As the subway enters the downtown core, at the Theater District, it emerges from the tunnel and runs at street level for the remainder of its length. Rides on the above-ground portion of the Metro Rail are free of charge. To ride in the underground portion of the system, it costs $4.00 for a round-trip ticket, or $2.00 for a one-way ticket. The Metro Rail is a popular mode of transportation for employees and residents who live along the line and north of the city to commute downtown, and also for attendees of downtown events who want to avoid paying high prices for parking.

The NFTA eliminated the zoned fare system in October 2010. Generally speaking, rides on a single bus or light rail vehicle now cost $2.00 regardless of length. The exception is the "Enhanced Express" service introduced by the NFTA in September 2012 and applied to Routes #60 — Niagara Falls Express, #64 — Lockport Express, and #204 — Airport-Downtown Express, as well as to selected runs of Routes #69 — Alden Express and #72 — Orchard Park Express. An additional 50¢ surcharge per trip applies on Enhanced Express buses.

There are no free transfers between buses. Passengers who will need to transfer from the bus to the Metro Rail, from the Metro Rail to a bus, or between bus lines should consider purchasing a day pass for $5. For further information on public transit in Buffalo including schedules and maps of individual routes, visit the NFTA Metro webpage.

By taxi

In Buffalo, taxis can generally be dispatched quickly and with ease; however, in general, the only places where they can be hailed on the street are at the airport and around the Metropolitan Transportation Center, the Chippewa Street entertainment district, the various downtown hotels, and (at certain times, and with some luck) Allentown, the Elmwood strip, and around the colleges and universities.

Taxi services in Buffalo include:

By bike

As in many cities, bicycling as an alternative method of transportation is growing more and more popular in Buffalo. However, in terms of the development of infrastructure such as dedicated bike lanes on city streets and bike parking areas, Buffalo lags behind many other "bikeable" cities such as Minneapolis, Portland, and Boston. Despite this, scenic bike routes such as the Riverwalk, the Scajaquada Creekside Bike Path, and the Industrial Heritage Trail are immensely popular with locals, and under the aegis of the city's newly adopted "Complete Streets" program, dedicated bike lanes and other rights-of-way are being added to more and more of the city's streets.

GO Bike Buffalo (formerly Green Options Buffalo) is the local organization that promotes and advocates for cycling and other sustainable transportation alternatives in Buffalo. The Community Bicycle Workshop they operate at 98 Colvin Ave. in North Buffalo offers used parts and complete refurbished bikes for sale, as well as special programs periodically throughout the year.

Bike sharing

Buffalo BikeShare is a program borne of a partnership between GO Bike Buffalo, the University at Buffalo, and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus that provides members with bicycles equipped with the revolutionary new GPS-enabled SoBi (Social Bicycles) technology. To use one of Buffalo BikeShare's bikes, simply sign in to the SoBi mobile phone app to find and reserve an available bike at any of the various hubs located around the city, then unlock it by typing your unique PIN number onto the bike's keypad. When you're done, return the bike to any hub. Membership in Buffalo BikeShare costs $30 a year (auto-renewing), which entitles you to 60 free minutes per day on any bike connected to the system. You're charged $3 for each hour thereafter, and there's also a $5 fee for locking the bike outside of a hub. Buffalo BikeShare has hubs in downtown, the Medical Corridor, the Cobblestone District, Allentown, the Elmwood Village, and both campuses of the University at Buffalo.

Buffalo City Hall is seen in this view down Court Street from Lafayette Square. Built in 1931 from a design by the local firm of Dietel & Wade, it is widely considered one of the world's finest examples of Art Deco architecture.

See

For individual listings of attractions, please see the respective district articles.

Museums

Buffalo's wealth of cultural attractions is surprising given the city's somewhat small size. The museums here are many and varied, and are a point of pride for Buffalo's citizens. Arguably the most interesting among them are a great number of institutions that focus on the area's past. Those who are curious about Buffalo's rich history are advised to first stop in at the gargantuan Buffalo History Museum which focuses on the city's history in a general sense, then take your pick of the smaller, more specialized museums — the Lower Lakes Marine Historical Society Museum to learn more about the Great Lakes shipping routes that gave Buffalo its importance as an inland port, the Colored Musicians Club Museum or the Nash House Museum for African-American history in Buffalo, the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum for the story behind Buffalo's importance in the early-20th century automotive industry, the Buffalo Fire Historical Society for the history of firefighting in Buffalo, and more.

Art

More so even than its range of cultural attractions, Buffalo's art scene is huge for a city its size, with galleries large and small to suit all tastes. The Museum District at the north end of the Elmwood Village is the site of Buffalo's two largest art galleries, the beautiful Albright-Knox and the brand-new Burchfield-Penney. The Buffalo Religious Arts Center is an off-the-beaten-path gem in Black Rock, dedicated to preserving the statuary, icons, stained glass, and other objets d'art from the many churches and other houses of worship that have closed in the wake of Buffalo's late-20th-century population losses.

Smaller storefront galleries are plentiful, and are concentrated in some of Buffalo's more interesting areas, such as Allentown, the Theater District, and Hertel Avenue — as well as, increasingly, emerging artistic communities on the Lower West Side, in Grant-Amherst, and just south of the Theater District in the 500 Block of Main Street.

Architecture

More and more, Buffalo's exquisite and well-preserved architecture has grabbed the attention of locals and tourists alike. Most recently, Buffalo's architecture took center stage when the 2011 National Preservation Conference was held in the city to unanimous acclaim. Buildings from almost every decade of Buffalo's existence are still preserved, with more being restored each year.

An enormous wealth of information about Buffalo's rich architectural heritage is available at the award-winning website, Buffalo Architecture and History.

Outdoors

Buffalo is a great place to enjoy the outdoors — especially in the warm months. A side effect of Buffalo's notoriously nasty winters is that locals really make the most of the warm-weather months. Predictably, in March or April on the first nice day of the year, the streets are thronged with pasty-skinned locals, dressed in shorts and tank tops despite the still-chilly temperatures, ravenously drinking in the fresh air and sunlight after the long, bleak winter. Autumn is also a pleasant time to be outdoors in Buffalo, with the crisp, fragrant air a perfect complement to the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot.

Nearly 150 years after it was constructed, Delaware Park continues to fulfill the intent of its designer, allowing citizens of Buffalo to escape into nature without leaving the city limits.

The city of Buffalo contains over 200 parks, both large and small. Among the largest and most interesting of Buffalo's parks were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, unquestionably the greatest landscape architect of the 19th Century, in conjunction with his then-partner Calvert Vaux. Buffalo's Olmsted parks are an interconnected network of six large parks and six smaller green spaces (three of the latter survive today), linked to each other by wide, tree-lined thoroughfares called parkways modeled after the grand boulevards of Paris. Though he would go on to design similar park systems for other cities, Buffalo's is the oldest and one of the best-preserved Olmsted park systems in existence — and the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, the not-for-profit that's been in charge of maintenance of the Olmsted park system since 2004, is hard at work repairing and restoring elements that have been lost over the years to put the parks in even better shape than they are now.

The Olmsted parks that will be of the most interest to visitors are Delaware Park, Buffalo's largest at 234 acres (93 ha) which boasts amenities including the Buffalo Zoo, a Rose Garden and a Japanese Garden, and public art installations, and South Park, which contains the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens. Additionally, though it's not an Olmsted park, LaSalle Park has an outdoor amphitheater, baseball and soccer fields, a dog run, and walking and jogging trails in a beautiful waterfront setting overlooking Lake Erie.

Speaking of which: as if to defy the ugly, intrusive Interstate 190 and Buffalo Skyway that run along the shoreline, Buffalo's waterfront is becoming more and more of a focal point for outdoor recreation. Located in the heart of downtown, Canalside is ground zero for waterfront recreation in Buffalo, with summertime concerts and festivals held seemingly every day in the midst of preserved remnants of the historic Canal District. A number of harbor cruise lines are also located at Canalside, as is the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park.

Parkland is also abundant on Buffalo's waterfront. In addition to the aforementioned LaSalle Park, Broderick Park is a small green space at the southern tip of Unity Island that's most famous as the northern end of the Bird Island Pier, a 1.3-mile (2 km) walkway with an unparalleled view of the mouth of the Niagara River, lower Lake Erie, and — at its southern tip — the Erie Basin Marina and downtown. Further north, Riverside Park is an Olmsted park located at the far northwest corner of the city, adjacent to the Niagara River. Deserving of special mention is the Outer Harbor, a vast expanse of former industrial land south of downtown that became a state park in September 2013. The Outer Harbor features Gallagher Beach, a pebble beach popular with boaters and windsurfers, as well as Times Beach Nature Preserve and Tifft Nature Preserve, where walking trails meander through wetland habitats filled with migratory birds and native fauna.

Do

Festivals and Events

Buffalo's calendar of annual festivals, parades and events is huge and growing. Ethnic pride festivals such as the Buffalo Greek Fest, the Buffalo Italian Heritage Festival, and Dyngus Day play a preeminent role, though a diversity of events of all kinds is enjoyed by citizens. Naturally, the lion's share of these festivals take place during the warm months, but efforts have been made recently to expand the slate of offerings in winter as well.

The festivals and events listed in this section take place at multiple venues city- or regionwide. For events specific to a particular venue or neighborhood, see the respective district articles.

Sports

Make no mistake about it — Buffalo is a sports town. Buffalonians are doggedly loyal to their teams despite the fact that the city hasn't won a national championship in any of the big four American sports since 1965 — the four fruitless trips to the Super Bowl by the Buffalo Bills and two to the Stanley Cup Finals by the Sabres in the intervening years are losses that local fans have been looking to avenge for a long time.

Major-league sports are played downtown at the First Niagara Center, where the National Hockey League's Buffalo Sabres have their home ice, and at Ralph Wilson Stadium in suburban Orchard Park where the Buffalo Bills play for the National Football League.

Buffalo has a number of teams in smaller leagues as well. These teams tend to be more successful on the field than the big-league clubs. Baseball's Buffalo Bisons have won seven pennants in the AAA-level International League and American Association, most recently in 2004; they play at Coca-Cola Field downtown. The Buffalo Bandits play indoor lacrosse at the First Niagara Center and have won four NLL championships. Soccer fans will want to check out the NPSL's FC Buffalo; matches take place at All-High Stadium on Main Street. The Premier Basketball League's Buffalo 716ers have their home court at the Burt Flickinger Athletic Center on the downtown campus of Erie Community College, while the city's newest sports team, the Buffalo Beauts, play their National Women's Hockey League opponents at the HarborCenter.

In the world of college sports, the University at Buffalo's Buffalo Bulls reign supreme. Bulls football and basketball games are played on the North Campus in Amherst, at UB Stadium and Alumni Arena respectively. Canisius College's Golden Griffins, who play at the Koessler Athletic Center on Main Street and the HarborCenter downtown, also have a sizable local following.

Golf

Golfers visiting the area might want to check out the suburbs first; public and private courses are plentiful outside the city limits. However, those who want to hit the links in Buffalo itself can do so in style. No fewer than three of Buffalo's Olmsted parks — Delaware, Cazenovia, and South Parks — boast golf courses (the former has 18 holes, the latter two have nine), and the Grover Cleveland Golf Course in University Heights is famous as the site of the 1912 U.S. Open. See the district articles for more details on individual courses.

Anglers cast their lines into the Upper Niagara River at Broderick Park.

Fishing

Buffalo is a hotspot for freshwater fishing, with a remarkable diversity of species thanks to its location at the junction of Lake Erie and the Niagara River, which each feature different scenarios for anglers.

In Lake Erie, the marquee catch is smallmouth bass: the Queen City has been recognized by Bassmaster magazine as one of the top three bass fishing destinations in the United States. If you're angling from shore — say, at Outer Harbor State Park or Ship Canal Commons in South Buffalo — the prime times are early May through mid-June and October through November, just after the lake thaws and before it freezes again. The bass move to cooler waters in midsummer, but if you have a boat, they're still easily catchable at those times in the deeper parts of the lake. Most of the bass you'll catch will be between 2 and 4 pounds (1 and 2 kg), though it's not unheard of to reel in whoppers of 6 or 7 pounds (3 kg) from time to time. Aside from bass, Lake Erie has some of the best walleye fishing you'll find anywhere, with average catches ranging from 5 to 8 pounds (2.5 to 3.5 kg), as well as muskellunge (especially around the mouth of the Buffalo River) and yellow perch.

The Buffalo River boasts its share of fishing spots too — notably RiverFest Park, Conway Park, Mutual Park, Seneca Bluffs, and other green spaces in the emerald necklace of the Buffalo River Greenway. Despite generations of heavy industry that once left it an ecological dead zone, the river was cleaned up enough by the early 1980s for fish to filter their way in once again, and today a typical catch might include bullhead, largemouth bass, yellow perch, and steelhead trout.

The upper Niagara River, meanwhile, is a great place to catch steelhead, lake trout, and northern pike which teem in its cool, fast-flowing waters all season long. This is also a place to find smallmouth bass in the summer months, when the shoreline areas of Lake Erie are too warm for them. Unity Island is the place to be for river fishing in Buffalo — folks from the West Side's Burmese refugee community reeling in dinner for their families are a regular sight at places like Broderick Park, the Bird Island Pier, and Unity Island Park. (But think twice before you follow their lead in eating your catch: though the Niagara River and Lake Erie have come a long way in terms of pollution, it's advised to severely restrict if not completely avoid eating fish caught in local waters. For more specific information, see the New York State Department of Health Fish Advisory.)

Gambling

It's no Vegas, but gamblers have a number of options in and around Buffalo.

The $130 million permanent home of the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino in the historic Cobblestone District finally had its grand opening in August 2013; it boasts 800 slot machines and 20 table games. The Buffalo Raceway, on the grounds of the Erie County Fair in the suburb of Hamburg, has slot machines, video poker, and, in season, live harness racing.

Further afield, there are several other destinations for fans of horse racing, slots, and other gaming (Niagara Falls foremost among them). See the Go next section for more on those.

The heart of downtown Buffalo's Theater District, with its great variety of performance venues, restaurants, and other attractions.

Theater

For a city its size, Buffalo has a surprisingly large, active, and diverse theater scene. Even after the closure in 2008 of the biggest producing theater in town, the Studio Arena Theatre, the Theater District, bounded roughly by Washington, Tupper, Franklin, and Chippewa Streets, has remained vibrant, with Curtain Up!, the gala event that marks the opening of the theater season, drawing larger-than-ever crowds downtown each September.

There are plenty of theaters outside the Theater District as well, many of which are connected to the theater programs of the various colleges and universities in the area. See the district articles for details.

Live music

For listings of individual venues, see the various district articles.

Despite the many directions in which it has evolved over the decades — a thriving punk, hardcore and new wave scene in the early '80s, a ragtag brotherhood of vaguely jangly alternative acts in the '90s, and a flourishing of countrified roots-rock bands lately — one thing that's always remained the same about Buffalo's music scene is its tight-knit camaraderie, its loyalty to its hometown fan base, and, despite the occasional native son or daughter that's gone on to greater fame (notably Rick James, Ani DiFranco, and the Goo Goo Dolls), its relative obscurity outside the confines of the local area. Buffalo may not have the reputation of Austin, but as a live music town it's worthwhile for locals and visitors alike.

Major national touring artists usually take the stage downtown. The biggest of the big stars — your U2's, your Rolling Stones — usually play at the First Niagara Center, but downtown also has a handful of midsize concert venues such as the Town Ballroom, The Waiting Room, and Shea's that play host to second-tier acts. Visitors from north of the border might be surprised to see many Canadian groups that haven't yet "made it big" in the States playing to packed houses at places like The Waiting Room — long lacking decent homegrown rock radio, local fans have taken a shine to Toronto stations and, as a result, bands like the Tragically Hip are huge draws in Buffalo. Summertime brings well-known names to outdoor events like Buffalo Place Rocks Canalside and the Outer Harbor Concert Series. As well, Babeville, located on Delaware Avenue on the northern fringe of downtown, is both the headquarters of Righteous Babe Records, the label helmed by Buffalo's own Ani DiFranco, and the site of Asbury Hall, a concert venue situated in a former church that regularly hosts shows by Righteous Babe's stable of folky indie singer-songwriters and other artists of the same ilk.

If local music is what you're looking for, the two hotspot neighborhoods are Allentown and Grant-Amherst. Allentown bars like Duke's Bohemian Grove, Merge, and the storied Nietzsche's are great places to see homegrown rockers and singer-songwriters doing their thing — usually the same two dozen or so bands playing "musical chairs" among the venues. Though it's uncommon, on occasion you'll even see a nationally famous name take the stage at these places (this seems to happen most often at Duke's). In Grant-Amherst, you're more likely to catch country, blues, or roots-rock acts — the nucleus of the Grant-Amherst musical scene, the Sportsmens Tavern, calls itself the "honkiest, tonkiest beer joint in town". Grant-Amherst is also the site of the recently reopened Showplace Theater, where in the glory days of the '90s and early '00s countless alt-rock acts on the cusp of superstardom played.

Fans of other types of music aren't left out in the cold either: the blues shows at Main Street's Central Park Grill are locally legendary, jazz fans can attend great concerts in the historic Colored Musicians Club or check out exhibits on local music history in the attached museum, and Kleinhans Music Hall, where the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra holds court, is a Nationally Registered Historic Place designed with pitch-perfect acoustics by architects Eliel and Eero Saarinen.

For those who want to be kept abreast of developments in Buffalo's local music scene and upcoming concert happenings in town, buffaBLOG is an exhaustive source of information.

Learn

Buffalo is home to a large number of private and public colleges and universities. The largest school in the area is the University at Buffalo (UB). One of the four "university centers" of the State University of New York (SUNY) system, UB is renowned as a large public research university. For this reason, it is one of 62 elected members of the prestigious Association of American Universities. UB has two campuses: the smaller South Campus is located in the University Heights neighborhood at the city's northeast corner, and the larger North Campus is located in the suburb of Amherst, about four miles (6 km) northeast of the South Campus.

Buffalo State College, also part of the SUNY system, is located across from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, at the north end of the Elmwood Village. Canisius College is Buffalo's largest private college, located near the intersection of Humboldt Parkway and Main Street. Other colleges and universities in the city and its surrounding area include Trocaire College, Medaille College, Villa Maria College, D'Youville College, Daemen College, and the three campuses of Erie Community College.

The University at Buffalo has an annual Distinguished Speakers Series, which has played host to Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Michael Moore, the Dalai Lama, Stephen Colbert, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta in recent years. These events take place on the North Campus and are open to the public; tickets are available from the University's box office. UB has a free series of summer lectures available to the public, and Buffalo State regularly has events open to visitors.

Buy

For listings of individual shops, please see the respective district articles.

Buffalo has a number of interesting shopping districts, each with its own flavor.

Elmwood Avenue, the backbone of the Elmwood Village, is a crowded thoroughfare of lovely boutiques, art galleries, sidewalk cafés, and fine restaurants.

The Elmwood Village is located along Elmwood Avenue from Buffalo State College south to North Street. This area contains a variety of small shops with a very "independent" feel — you won't find many national chain stores or restaurants here. Elmwood Avenue's specialty is upscale clothing boutiques catering to fashion-forward urbanites; it's also a good place to seek out locally produced art and jewelry, quirky gifts, and some of the finest dining Buffalo has to offer.

Allentown is centered along the entire length of Allen Street from Main to Wadsworth Streets, but especially west of Linwood Avenue. Adjacent, and similar in some ways, to the Elmwood Village, Allentown has more of a bohemian and artsy vibe compared with the college students and yuppies that frequent Elmwood. Amid the proliferation of hipster bars, you'll see a lot of antique shops, small art galleries, and clothing stores with a more urban style.

Hertel Avenue, between Delaware and Parker Avenues in North Buffalo, is home to a growing assortment of small shops. Hertel is the place to come to browse art galleries, shop for antique and contemporary furniture and home decor, mellow out in head shops such as Terrapin Station and Headin' to Hertel, and sample Middle Eastern cuisine at a variety of restaurants and bodegas at the west end of the strip, near Delaware Avenue.

University Heights, more specifically the Main Street corridor between the city line and LaSalle Avenue, has a more modest range of shops catering to students of the nearby University of Buffalo, with lots of fraternity swag, UB-logo T-shirts and hoodies, and the like. Independently-owned bookstores and comic shops are abundant as well. Also in this area is the University Plaza, Buffalo's oldest suburban-style shopping center that has anchored the outer end of the strip since 1939.

Grant Street, which runs north-to-south through the Upper West Side, is the main thoroughfare of two newly revitalized shopping areas in this rapidly gentrifying area of town. The stretch between (approximately) West Delavan Avenue and Hampshire Street, centered on West Ferry Street, is an up-and-coming commercial strip known as Grant-Ferry. A true "melting pot", with the Hispanics who've been here for years now joined by Somalis, Southeast Asians, Arabs, Eastern Europeans, and Buffalo State College students, Grant-Ferry is accordingly home to a modest but growing collection of ethnic food markets, clothing stores, and so forth. Also, Grant-Amherst, a short distance north at the corner of Amherst Street, was named Buffalo's "Best Up-and-Coming Neighborhood" in the "Best of Buffalo 2011" competition in Artvoice. Grant-Amherst boasts a small but growing collection of art galleries, antique shops, and restaurants within walking distance of Buffalo State College. Visitors should be warned, however, that despite the ongoing upswing, the neighborhoods around Grant Street are still a good deal "grittier" than places like the Elmwood Village and Allentown.

In the 'burbs can be found the usual lineup of malls and plazas. The largest mall in the area is the Walden Galleria, on Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga, 10 minutes from downtown via the Kensington Expressway and/or Interstate 90. Others include the Boulevard Mall in Amherst, the McKinley Mall on the border between Hamburg and Orchard Park, and the Eastern Hills Mall in Clarence. In Buffalo itself, there is a small area between Delaware and Elmwood Avenues at the northern edge of the city where shopping plazas, big-box stores, and chain restaurants can be found.

Eat

For restaurant listings, please see the respective district articles.

Buffalo is a haven for great food. Whereas the area was once largely the domain of unimaginative, cookie-cutter chain restaurants and "greasy spoons", local residents agree that the dining scene in Buffalo has come a long way in the past twenty years. Increasingly innovative and high-quality establishments have popped up more and more often in places such as downtown, the Elmwood Village, Allentown, and the Hertel Avenue corridor. Visitors — even those who have been to Buffalo in the past — may be pleasantly surprised by the array of options.

The canonical Buffalo wings: wings, celery, blue cheese, beer, and moist towelettes.

Local specialties

No visit is complete without trying some Buffalo wings. Oh, sure, everyone thinks they've tried them, but nothing compares to the ones you can get in Buffalo. (But please don't call them "Buffalo wings"; around here, they're just "wings".) For the uninitiated, an authentic Buffalo wing is a chicken wing slathered in a mixture of homemade hot sauce and butter and fried up crisp. Best served with celery and blue cheese. Locals endlessly debate whether the Anchor Bar on Main Street or the local chain Duff's has the best recipe.

Another local specialty is beef on weck (sometimes pronounced "beef on wick"), a sandwich that consists of slices of tender, juicy slow-roasted beef layered on a kümmelweck roll (a Kaiser roll topped with caraway seeds and Kosher salt) and traditionally garnished with horseradish. Any place that serves hot sandwiches is likely to have beef on weck on the menu, but Charlie the Butcher's Kitchen (1065 Wehrle Drive at Cayuga Rd. in Cheektowaga) and Schwabl's (789 Center Rd. at Union Rd. in West Seneca) are the two restaurants whose beef on weck has the best reputation among locals.

Texas hots, despite their name, were not invented in Texas, but in Buffalo, where they began as a unique offering in the area's many Greek restaurants (Seneca Texas Hots claims to be the first to serve them, though this is a matter of some dispute). The Texas hot is a hot dog slathered with mustard, onions, and spicy meat sauce or chili; the finished product bears some resemblance to the "Coney Island" hot dogs served in Detroit, though the chili sauce on Texas hots is lighter and thinner in consistency.

Loganberry is a non-carbonated fruit beverage that is often served as a fountain drink at local restaurants, and is available in bottles at supermarkets and convenience stores in the area. This intensely sweet, dark purple drink is flavored with loganberry juice; as such, its flavor is somewhere between raspberry and blackberry. Aunt Rosie's and PJ's Crystal Beach Loganberry are the two major brands you will see — "Crystal Beach" in the name of the latter brand is a reference to an amusement park that was once located just over the border in Ontario, which was popular with Buffalo's residents in the 1950s and '60s and where the drink first originated.

Fish fry is a Buffalo staple that owes its existence to the traditional predominance of Roman Catholicism among the local citizenry — practicing Catholics were once forbidden to eat red meat and poultry on Fridays. Though that prohibition hasn't been in effect since the 1960s, the tradition of enjoying a fish fry on Friday nights has stuck. The traditional recipe sees massive filets of haddock or cod coated in flour, beer-battered and deep-fried until golden brown, then finished with tartar sauce and/or lemon juice and served with sides that may include French fries, coleslaw, or perhaps macaroni salad. You can eat fish fry at some of Buffalo's nicer restaurants if you want, but this is still a working-class food at heart and, accordingly, the best fish fry is served by the smaller neighborhood watering holes and greasy spoons. Expect lines for fish fry to be especially long during the season of Lent (usually Feb-Apr, though it varies by year), when the old no-meat-on-Fridays rule still applies.

Contrary to local belief, sponge candy is not unique to the Buffalo area — it's found under various monikers in the British Isles, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Québec, and various places in the U.S. Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Still, above and beyond any other product, it's a specialty of local confectioners. Brown sugar, corn syrup, and baking soda are mixed together into a thick syrup and then baked. The heat from the oven then releases bubbles of carbon dioxide gas from the baking soda which get trapped in the mixture as it hardens and sets into a toffee, creating sponge candy's trademark crunchy, latticed interior. The local version is invariably served covered in chocolate. The Fowler's chain of chocolate shops is reputed to sell the best sponge candy in Buffalo, though its competitors Watson's and Parkside Candy would beg to differ.

Local chains

Locations of most national chain restaurants can be found in Buffalo. However, Buffalo also boasts several local and regional chains that are beloved of Western New Yorkers and that serve as staples of the local cuisine.

Food trucks

Food trucks have finally arrived in Buffalo, and they're a sensation. There are several dozen food trucks operating in Buffalo now — both independent operations as well as mobile satellite locations of established bricks-and-mortar restaurants — that serve everything from the standard hot dogs and tacos to more unusual selections like elegant scratch-made desserts, gourmet fusion cuisine, and carnival fare. The growth of food trucks in Buffalo has not been without its share of struggle, though: in 2013, a proposal in the Common Council, backed by many prominent owners of local "stationary" restaurants, for a laundry list of new fees and regulations for food trucks was only narrowly defeated thanks to intense grassroots efforts. Also, many suburban communities have instituted similarly draconian regulations or ban the trucks entirely.

Listed below are some of Buffalo's more popular food trucks. They can most commonly be found downtown or in Allentown, the Elmwood Village, and North Buffalo; if you're in the suburbs, office complex parking lots are another frequent venue. Many food trucks maintain Facebook fanpages and/or Twitter feeds that update fans on where they'll be setting up shop.

Pizza

Of course, nothing goes better with a big plate of chicken wings than a hot, fresh pizza, and Buffalonians are justifiably proud of the pizza served in their city. You'll find a lot of pizzerias here, but one thing you won't find a lot of are big national chains. If you absolutely need Domino's or Papa John's, there are a few locations here and there, but the scene in Buffalo is dominated by neighborhood mom-and-pop pizza places and locally based chains, each of whose individual variation on the classic recipe inspires fierce loyalty — and rivalry. And they're all a lot better than the big national outfits.

Appropriately enough for a city that's almost exactly at the midpoint between New York City and Chicago, Buffalo pizza splits the difference between New York-style thin-crust and Chicago deep-dish, with a crust that tends to be a bit spongier than average. Out-of-towners also sometimes remark about the sauce on Buffalo pizza, which tends to be sweeter in flavor than in other parts of the country.

Below are listed some of the more well-known local pizza places:

Groceries

Buffalo's range of grocery stores is comparable to other U.S. cities its size. Naturally, the lion's share of them can be found in the suburbs, but unlike the infamous "food deserts" of other Rust Belt cities like Detroit, even the most forlorn inner-city precincts usually have at least one full-service supermarket.

Among the three major players on the Buffalo grocery-store scene, locally based Tops has the most stores, but the upscale, just-this-side-of-pretentious Wegmans chain, based in Rochester, enjoys by far and away the most loyalty and devotion among locals. Walmart, meanwhile, has greatly expanded its slice of the pie since its first Buffalo-area "supercenter" opened in 1997.

Budget shoppers can choose from Aldi, Save-a-Lot, and PriceRite, each of which have a handful of stores in Buffalo that sell a more limited range of items in a no-frills environment, for costs considerably lower than the major grocery chains. Of these, PriceRite boasts an especially good selection of fresh produce including an abundance of tropical fruits and vegetables, and Save-a-Lot's offerings in the realm of meats is equally impressive — they're the only discount supermarket in Buffalo that employs their own butchers. Dash's is another small, locally based chain. As a last resort, "dollar stores" such as Dollar General and Family Dollar usually stock a limited range of canned vegetables, dry groceries, snacks, and occasionally milk, eggs, and frozen foods, but not fresh produce or meat.

Aside from a lone Trader Joe's in Amherst, there's not much in the way of upscale specialty grocers here (a niche that's partially filled by Wegmans). An exception is the Lexington Co-op, a cooperatively-run purveyor of upscale natural, organic, and often locally sourced foods with a location currently open in the Elmwood Village and a second one planned for North Buffalo.

Finally, the latest craze in Buffalo among aficionados of fresh, locally-grown foods are the farmers' markets which have exploded in number and size over the past decade or so. At the present time, there are about two dozen of them located all over the metro area, where local farmers, vintners, cheesemakers, and producers of other artisanal food products come to sell their goods directly to the public. Farmers' markets usually take place on a weekly basis during the growing season, and many of them double as full-fledged street festivals, with live music, games, and other entertainment.

Drink

For bar listings, please see the respective district articles.

As a historically (and enduringly) blue-collar town, Buffalo has traditionally had a fairly dense concentration of bars and taverns. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Buffalo is among the top ten cities in the United States in number of bars per capita.

Drinkers in Buffalo aren't limited to rough-and-tumble working-class watering holes, though — although there are plenty of those, Buffalo has quite a number of more upscale nightlife districts, each with a distinct character. There's truly a bar scene in Buffalo for every taste, from the thumping dance clubs of Chippewa Street, to the cooler-than-thou hipster dives of Allentown where local rock bands gig, to the chichi cocktail bars in the Theater District that fill with theatergoers before and after shows, to the chill yuppie hangouts of the Elmwood Village, to the historic taverns of the Cobblestone District and the Old First Ward where it doesn't take much imagination to picture the canal boaters, grain scoopers, and railroadmen of a century ago relaxing at the bar with a frosty mug after a long workday.

Last call in Buffalo is 4AM. For this reason, many bars in Buffalo don't get going until sometime after midnight on weekends. As elsewhere in the United States, the legal drinking age is 21.

Sleep

For hotel listings, please see the respective district articles.

The Hotel Lafayette is one of a growing number of new or newly remodeled hotels that are mushrooming in downtown Buffalo.

There is a wide range of high-quality lodging to choose from in both Buffalo and its suburbs, encompassing hotels, motels, B&Bs, hostels, and guest houses. In particular, downtown Buffalo is currently in the middle of a boom in hotel construction, with about a half-dozen new properties recently opened or nearing completion. Much of this is the product of the preservation of architectural heritage that has come into vogue in Buffalo recently, with beautiful but vacant old buildings restored and repurposed — so if you're staying downtown, particularly at the lovely Lofts on Pearl or the newly reopened Hotel Lafayette, be prepared for a real Gilded Age treat. Of course, not all hotels downtown are old — the 205-room Marriott that opened in 2015 is the centerpiece of the HarborCenter development in burgeoning Canalside, and existing hotels such as the Adam's Mark have been renovated extensively. Elsewhere in the city proper, Delaware Avenue in Allentown is the site of two mid-range properties and the grand old Hotel Lenox, and several B&Bs can be found peppered here and there catering to travelers in search of a distinctive, quirky urban experience.

In suburbia, the usual range of budget and mid-priced chains can be found clustered mostly around highway interchanges and in various other places. Two especially big clusters of hotels exist just south of the University of Buffalo's North Campus in Amherst, as well as around the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, where the arrival of discount airlines in Buffalo, cheap airport parking, and the highest airfares in North America out of Toronto have combined to spark a hotel boom comparable to downtown's.

Connect

The area code for the entire Buffalo-Niagara Falls metropolitan area (as well as Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties to the south) is 716. It is not necessary to dial the area code for local calls.

Publicly accessible wireless Internet is mainly limited to coffee shops, bookstores, and other such establishments; Internet cafés are virtually unknown in Buffalo. In particular, McDonald's, Starbucks, Coffee Culture, Tim Hortons, and Barnes & Noble offer free WiFi and boast many easy-to-find locations throughout the region. Public libraries also usually offer Internet access.

Buffalo's main post office and mail processing facility is located at 1200 William St. in the city's Lovejoy neighborhood.

Stay safe

The reputation of Buffalo's East Side as a rough part of town can be over-exaggerated by locals, but it's not entirely undeserved. Generally speaking, the East Side is the city's poorest residential district, with widespread urban blight and high crime rates plaguing many parts of the district (especially the Bailey Avenue corridor). To a lesser extent, some parts of the West Side also have these problems. That being said, crime rates in Buffalo have fallen in recent years to levels not seen in half a century. What violent crime does occur is usually drug- and gang-related and does not target tourists. Follow general precautions that would apply in any urban area — locking car doors, keeping valuables out of sight, being aware of your surroundings, etc. — and you should be fine pretty much anywhere.

Panhandlers can be found occasionally on Chippewa Street downtown and in Allentown and the Elmwood Village, though not nearly to the degree of most other cities. Aggressive panhandling is virtually unknown.

Cope

Newspapers and print media

Since the Courier-Express went bankrupt in 1982, the Buffalo News has been the city's sole daily newspaper. With a circulation of nearly 155,000 daily and over 235,000 Sunday, the Buffalo News is the most widely circulated newspaper in Upstate New York. Journalists employed by the News have won three Pulitzer Prizes, two for Editorial Cartooning and one for Local Reporting; in 2009, the New York State Associated Press Association named the Buffalo News New York State's "Newspaper of Distinction" for that year in recognition of the quality of its journalism. These facts may come as a surprise to locals. Listings for concerts, movies, theatre productions, and other events around town are published in Gusto, a weekly supplement to the Buffalo News published on Thursdays.

Buffalo has two alternative newsweeklies, the well-established Artvoice and upstart The Public — each of which feature, in varying proportions, a progressive take on local news as well as coverage of the thriving Buffalo arts community. By comparison with each other, Artvoice tends to focus more on event listings, restaurant and theater reviews, and other cultural coverage in a tone that's optimistic and upbeat, while The Public has already earned a sterling reputation as a source of incisive investigative journalism that tackles matters of local import in a take-no-prisoners fashion.

Buffalo Rising is an excellent online publication whose "beat is New Buffalo" and which features "original content written by fellow Buffalonians knowledgeable and passionate about their city". In much the same vein, The Good Neighborhood is an online journal that describes itself as a "daily destination for good news, events, and people making a difference in our communities", with a focus on news, event listings and business reviews relevant to Buffalo's various individual neighborhoods. As well, Buffalo Spree is a monthly magazine that features articles on dining, events, and the arts in the local area.

The African-American community of Buffalo is served by two newspapers: the Buffalo Criterion, one of the oldest continually-published African-American newspapers in the country, and also the Challenger Community News, which celebrates its 50th year in operation in 2013. Panorama Hispano publishes news relevant to Buffalo's Latino community in both English and Spanish, and also serves the Hispanic communities in the nearby cities of Dunkirk, Jamestown, and Rochester. The Am-Pol Eagle is a weekly paper featuring news and commentary of interest to the Polish-American community in the area. The weekly Karibu News serves Buffalo's growing immigrant and refugee community with local news, commentary, and event information in a variety of languages including English, French, Arabic, Swahili, and others. Also, many of Buffalo's neighborhoods boast community newspapers of their own, such as the Allentown Neighbor and the North Buffalo Rocket.

Radio

In the field of radio broadcasting, Buffalo's history is one of the longest in the nation; its oldest radio station, WGR, has been on the air since 1922. Sadly, though, Buffalo radio leaves much to be desired in the present day, a fact that has led many locals to become listeners of radio stations based in Toronto and elsewhere in Southern Ontario. Buffalo's highest-rated radio stations as of 2011 are WYRK, WBLK, WGRF, and WHTT on the FM dial, and WBEN on the AM dial.

Radio stations serving the Buffalo area include:

Canadian radio stations with significant popularity among Buffalonians include:

Television

Buffalo's television stations represent all major American television networks. In addition to these, many Canadian television stations based in Toronto are available through Time Warner Cable; however, over-the-air reception of these stations is generally very poor.

Television stations serving Buffalo include:

Hospitals

In case of medical emergency, Buffalo is well-served by a wide variety of hospitals and other medical facilities. The Erie County Medical Center on Grider Street is Buffalo's largest hospital and is a teaching facility for students of the University of Buffalo Medical School. Kaleida Health operates Buffalo General Hospital, Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo, and (in the suburbs) Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital and DeGraff Memorial Hospital. Catholic Health Systems of Buffalo operates Mercy Hospital and Sisters of Charity Hospital, which each have one city location and one suburban location.

Places of worship

The foundation of St. Stanislaus, Bishop & Martyr in 1872 gave rise to the Polish community centered in Broadway-Fillmore. Unlike most East Side Catholic churches, St. Stanislaus is still an active and vibrant parish.

For more information on specific places of worship, please see the respective district articles.

From early in its history, Buffalo's population has been predominantly Roman Catholic, a trend that still holds true today. The seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo is St. Joseph's Cathedral, at 50 Franklin St. downtown. Buffalo has some truly magnificent Catholic churches, particularly on the East Side, where 19th-century German and Polish immigrants built a bevy of massive, ornate stone churches and cathedrals, some still in use, most not. Outside of Buffalo proper but still worthy of note is Lackawanna's Our Lady of Victory Basilica, a massive marble structure that is a testament to the charitable institutions headed by Father Nelson Baker.

Protestant churches are far more numerous in the suburbs than in Buffalo proper; however, there are a few large and active congregations in the city, especially in neighborhoods such as Allentown, the Elmwood Village, and Parkside that still contain significant numbers of old-money WASPs. Notable Protestant churches in Buffalo include St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral at 125 Pearl St. downtown, the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York as well as a Nationally Registered Historic Place and a National Historic Landmark, and E. B. Green's First Presbyterian Church on Symphony Circle, the oldest religious congregation in Buffalo.

Black churches are numerous on the East Side, and the most well-known among them is the Michigan Street Baptist Church, whose roots stretch back to the very beginning of Buffalo's African-American history. Though it no longer hosts regularly-scheduled services, it is still of great importance to connoisseurs of local history as a former "station" on the Underground Railroad and the modern-day centerpiece of the Michigan Street African-American Heritage Corridor. As for congregations that remain active today, you have everything from huge modern megachurches like True Bethel Baptist Church to historic congregations almost as old as Michigan Street Baptist, like Bethel A.M.E. Church.

Those of Eastern Orthodox faiths are served by the Delaware District's Hellenic Orthodox Church of the Annunciation and St. George Orthodox Church in Park Meadow. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has a location near downtown as well as suburban churches in Amherst, Lancaster, and Orchard Park.

Buffalo's modest-sized Jewish community is found primarily in the suburb of Amherst. Congregation Shir Shalom (Reform), Temple Beth Tzedek (Conservative), and Young Israel (Orthodox) are all located there. Temple Beth Zion, situated in a boldly modernist building on Delaware Avenue, is the largest Jewish congregation in the area and also one of the oldest and largest congregations of Reform Jews in the United States. As well, North Buffalo contains several Orthodox shuls left over from its bygone days as Buffalo's Jewish stronghold.

The Jaffarya Islamic Center of Buffalo is Buffalo's largest mosque, a Shia congregation located on Transit Road in Swormville, about 20 miles (30 km) northeast of the city. Sunni mosques can be found just south of the city line in Lackawanna — a place that's well-known locally for its growing Muslim population — and also on the East Side.

Adherents of other religions may be interested in the ̈Chùa Từ Hiếu Buddhist Cultural Center of Buffalo at 647 Fillmore Ave., the Buffalo Zen Center in suburban West Seneca, the Hindu Cultural Society of Western New York in Amherst, and the Buffalo Gurdwara Sahib, a Sikh temple at 6569 Main St. in Williamsville.

Consulates

Go next

Nearby

Further afield

North of the Border

All people, including U.S. citizens, are required to produce a passport or an enhanced drivers' license to cross the Canadian border as well as on their return trip to the United States. Vehicles may be stopped and searched, but more often travellers will be sent on their way quickly after showing their passports and being questioned briefly about the purpose of their trip and the planned length of their stay (this is especially true of U.S. and Canadian citizens).

There are three border crossings in Western New York: the Peace Bridge, by which travellers cross from Buffalo to Fort Erie, Ontario for a toll of $3.00 (payable in either U.S. or Canadian funds), the Rainbow Bridge between Niagara Falls, New York and Niagara Falls, Ontario (toll $3.25 U.S. or Canadian), and the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge a short distance north of Niagara Falls (toll $3.25 U.S. or Canadian). For travellers to most Canadian destinations other than Niagara Falls and Fort Erie, the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge offers the most direct route, but is also the one that is most prone to delays.

Routes through Buffalo

END Niagara Falls (New York)  W  E  Depew Albany (Rensselaer)
Niagara Falls (Ontario) Niagara Falls (New York)  W  E  Depew Albany (Rensselaer)
Niagara Falls Tonawanda  N  S  Cheektowaga Ends at W E
Niagara Falls (Ontario) Fort Erie  W  E  Ends at
Niagara Falls Tonawanda/Amherst  N  S  Lackawanna Warren
Erie via Lackawanna  W  E  Amherst Auburn
END  N  S  West Seneca Olean
END  W  E  Cheektowaga Rochester
END  W  E  Cheektowaga Auburn via


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