Buffalo/South Buffalo

Buffalo is movin' on up these days: downtown has luxury hotels and condos aplenty, the Elmwood Village has high-end specialty shops, even the West Side sports a vibrant multiethnic pastiche with exotic food markets, restaurants, and artists. But let the other parts of town compete to see who's trendiest. South Buffalo doesn't need to be "cool" or to put on airs. What it offers visitors is not the future but the past; a throwback to a hardworking, blue-collar, rough-around-the-edges Buffalo that's steadily disappearing.

Combine the formidable barrier that is the Buffalo River with the notorious clannishness of its residents and it's easy to see why South Buffalo seems like a city all to its own, immunized both from Buffalo's post-WWII downward spiral and its 21st-century gentrification. You won't find much here that's pretentious, just quiet streets lined with old houses and shade trees, greasy spoons turning out some of the cheapest but tastiest food in the area, old-school watering holes, and friendly, downhome neighborhood people who'll give you a warm welcome the whole time.

Sound boring? Far from it. South Buffalo lays a hard-to-challenge claim on the title of best-kept secret in the city, with plenty to interest visitors. You can try your luck at the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, peruse the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens, learn about the area's industrial history at the Heritage Discovery Center or Waterfront Memories & More, or take a boat tour through Elevator Alley, the cavernous stretch of the Buffalo River lined with the grain elevators that earned Buffalo over 100 years of prosperity. And if you're the outdoor type, South Buffalo is the place for you: it's got a pair of Olmsted parks that are among the best-preserved in the city, nature preserves built on old industrial brownfields, golf courses, and — best of all — nearly four miles (6km) of Lake Erie shore lined with beaches, marinas, and still more parkland.

Fans of the Emerald Isle are in luck too: South Buffalo is the city's Irish enclave, with pubs lining the streets, traditional music and other cultural pursuits at the Buffalo Irish Center, and an official Irish Heritage District along Abbott Road with a handful of specialty boutiques selling imported wares. And if you're in town at the right time, South Buffalo's neighborhood St. Patrick's Day Parade is an unmissable spectacle, with the streets of the Old First Ward and The Valley turned green each year on the Saturday before March 17.


Broadly speaking, South Buffalo is bisected by the Buffalo River, which itself is the site of Elevator Alley, the world's largest extant collection of grain elevators that extend some two meandering miles (3km) inland from the harbor and were the nucleus of Buffalo's most important industry for nearly a century and a half. The neighborhoods north of the river are older than the ones to the south — in fact, the   Old First Ward, which extends from downtown east as far as the old New York Central Railroad tracks just past Katherine Street, is the cradle of South Buffalo, out of which all the outer neighborhoods grew. Though it remains Irish in constitution, the Old First Ward today bears little resemblance to the crowded, crime-ridden and desperately poor slum that it was in the 1800s: today it's mostly a quiet working-class residential area in the shadow of the grain elevators. However, its innermost blocks, known as the   Cobblestone District, have been given a new lease on life lately as a cluster of trendy bars and restaurants and even a casino. East of the Old First Ward, sandwiched between the New York Central and Buffalo Creek Railroad tracks (hence its name), is   The Valley, a largely Polish neighborhood that's almost as old.

Outward from these areas lie   Larkinville and   Seneca-Babcock, a pair of neighborhoods on South Buffalo's northern boundary that are often considered to be part of the East Side. They're included here because of their history as industrial centers, their adjacency to Seneca Street (an important South Buffalo thoroughfare), and, in the case of Seneca-Babcock, its majority-Irish ethnic demographics. Seneca-Babcock is a somewhat nondescript neighborhood of working-class homes whose interest to visitors is largely due to the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal at its northern edge; for its part, Larkinville has emerged as a sort of satellite business district, with corporate offices, small businesses, bars, and restaurants occupying the former warehouses of the Larkin Soap Company, and its central focal point, Larkin Square, hosting frequent events.

South of the river, things are a little more spread-out. Lying just at the foot of the main bridge across the river, the first neighborhood you'll come to is   The Triangle, a charming middle-class area of turn-of-the-century flats whose main thoroughfare is South Park Avenue. Northeast of there is Seneca Street, an imposing commercial district that dubs itself "downtown South Buffalo" even though it long ago lost the title of the neighborhood's main shopping street. Outward from there, neighborhood boundaries get murkier. Toward the city's southern borders, the thoroughfares of South Park Avenue and Abbott Road take on an almost suburban character, with strip malls and ample parking lots abundant; interspersed between them is a network of pleasant, leafy side streets lined with charming middle-class houses from the 1920s. Finally, in the southwest, separated from the rest of south-of-the-river South Buffalo by a wide swath of railroad tracks, is found the   Outer Harbor, a vast expanse of lakeshore that boasts the pleasant greenery of Buffalo Harbor State Park, Tifft and Times Beach Nature Preserves, Wilkeson Pointe, and other parkland.


South Buffalo's history begins with the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, at that time the most ambitious engineering project ever undertaken in the United States: a 363-mile (584 km) inland waterway from Albany to the sleepy frontier village of Buffalo. Though the bulk of what is now South Buffalo was then part of the Buffalo Creek Reservation, which had been set aside for the Seneca Indians at the time of the Holland Purchase in 1793, the lots immediately east of the harbor (today's Cobblestone District and Old First Ward) were not — and when the unskilled, destitute immigrant laborers from Ireland they hired to dig the canal were finished, they settled there.

The first years of the Erie Canal were a time of explosive growth for Buffalo, and the First Ward was no exception. This was among the city's lowest-lying land, and Buffalo's founding fathers had not even bothered to divide it into lots, assuming that no one would want to live on this swampy riverbank. But the digging of the canal was such a huge undertaking that there were hundreds if not thousands of Irishmen who needed housing, and the First Ward, dirt-cheap and close to the canal, was a natural place for them to make their homes. The poorest of the poor lived in the blocks south of the main drag of Elk Street (now South Park Avenue) in what was called "The Flats", which, in springtime and after heavy rains, would almost always be inundated by floodwaters from the Buffalo River. In the 1840s, during the Irish Potato Famine, another wave of immigrants crossed the Atlantic — and the First Ward became even more crowded.

In those days, when freighters filled with grain and flour arrived at port in Buffalo, the cargo had to be unloaded, divided, and sent east in canal boats by hand — a slow, inefficient process that required more workers than the First Ward had to offer. Buffalo's growth was stunted by the bottleneck of too many ships, too much grain, and too few workers. Enter Joseph Dart, a local merchant who, in 1842, invented a machine that unloaded grain by steam power, stored it in a huge silo, and loaded it later onto canal barges: the first grain elevator. In the space of less than ten years, the Buffalo River was lined with grain elevators, and the reinvigorated harbor had become so congested that many freighters could not find any place to berth. The city responded by constructing a network of feeder canals and basins, such as the City Ship Canal, the Main and Hamburg Canal, and the Ohio Basin, that crisscrossed the First Ward — and whose polluted, stagnant waters helped spread cholera and other communicable plagues among the residents. The First Ward earned the reputation as one of the nastiest slums in the country, plagued by crime and disease, where the desperately poor lived in shanties and tenements sandwiched among the shipyards and factories, working as canal boaters, grain scoopers, longshoremen, and miscellaneous unskilled laborers and shunned by their Anglo-Saxon Protestant social betters.

The world's first grain elevator was built at Buffalo Harbor in 1842.

Meanwhile, north of the First Ward was the Hydraulic Canal, which flowed westward from the Buffalo River over a large cascade to the Main and Hamburg Canal, in an area that came to be called The Hydraulics. Reuben Heacock, a wealthy merchant who was one of Buffalo's founding fathers, built the canal in 1828 to furnish water power for the Hydraulic Business Association, a league of manufacturing concerns he founded. Though the canal eventually proved too small to bring to full fruition Heacock's vision of The Hydraulics as one of the foremost industrial centers in the United States, it was still a buzzing milling district — and together with the harbor, it cemented South Buffalo's enduring status as the city's industrial epicenter.

Even before the federal government dissolved the Buffalo Creek Reservation, the overcrowding of the Irish neighborhoods forced some residents to seek out new spaces to live near the harbor — in fact, living conditions in the shantytowns along the lake shore near present-day Times Beach and on Ganson Street between the grain elevators were somewhat better than in the First Ward proper. However, when the Compromise Treaty of 1842 sent the Seneca south to the Cattaraugus Reservation, huge new tracts of land opened to development. One of the first new neighborhoods was The Valley, just east of the First Ward on the other side of the railroad tracks. South Buffalo's lot began to improve soon after, with Bishop John Timon working tirelessly to establish Catholic schools, hospitals and charities for the Irish, who were often victims of the anti-Catholic discrimination that ran rampant in city-owned institutions. The leaders of the Irish community also proved to be expert political organizers, playing on popular suspicions of tacit anti-Catholicism in the Republican Party to turn the First Ward loyally Democratic, with droves of voters turning out each Election Day. Soon, Irishmen began to enter political office, appointing their neighbors to lucrative patronage jobs and creating a middle class among their community — they came to be known as "lace-curtain Irish", as opposed to the "shantytown Irish" of the grain mills. (It should be emphasized that political activity in the First Ward was not limited to the ballot box: the most successful of the five Fenian Raids, where battle-hardened Irish-American Civil War veterans sought to invade the British colony of Canada and hold it for ransom until Ireland was granted its independence, was launched from Buffalo in 1866; Buffalo's Fenians successfully ambushed a Canadian militia company at the Battle of Ridgeway and briefly took Fort Erie before British reinforcements drove them back across the border.)

The new Irish political class soon turned their efforts to finding a better place to live than the crowded, crime-ridden First Ward, and starting about 1875, the Germans who farmed the lands of the former Seneca reservation south of the river gradually gave way to nouveau riche Irish city dwellers. Real-estate speculators such as William Fitzpatrick (the so-called "Builder of South Buffalo") were happy to oblige them, laying out side streets off Seneca Street, Abbott Road, and other former farm lanes and filling them with houses as fast as he could build them. Frederick Law Olmsted got into the act, too — he was called back to Buffalo to design a southern extension of the park system that had grown so popular in the city's northern precincts, and when South Buffalo's parks and parkways were finally completed in 1894, they helped stimulate even more growth in the new neighborhoods.

In the midst of all this expansion, there were fundamental changes afoot at the harbor. Throughout the 19th Century, the state government continuously enlarged and deepened the Erie Canal and transformed it into a full-fledged transportation network, with feeder canals such as the Genesee Valley Canal, the Cayuga-Seneca Canal, and the Chenango Canal extending into all parts of the state. Nonetheless, the canals found it harder and harder to compete with the railroads, which could transport passengers and goods much more quickly: in the years after the New York Central Railroad reached Buffalo in 1841, passenger traffic on the canal dropped to a small fraction of its former numbers, and freight traffic declined steeply as well. As public outcry forced the city to fill in many of South Buffalo's small canals as public health hazards, the First Ward and Elevator Alley became crisscrossed by railroads instead: the lines extended right up to the elevators themselves, enabling grain to be unloaded directly onto boxcars. The railroads also engendered a local steel industry which would go on to become a major player in Buffalo's economy: iron ore arrived daily by freighter from Michigan and Minnesota and coal was shipped by railroad from Pennsylvania to be processed into steel at what was then the world's largest steel mill, set up by the Lackawanna Steel Company in 1899 on the lake shore just south of the city line. The railroad network extended into The Hydraulics as well, enabling it to continue on as an industrial center after the Hydraulic Canal, too, was decommissioned in 1883. The Hydraulics soon came to be dominated by the Larkin Company, which was founded in 1875 as a producer of soap sourced from the nearby stockyards and helmed by a group including namesake John Larkin and top executive Darwin Martin. By the turn of the century, Larkin expanded into a conglomerate that occupied about a half-dozen huge warehouse buildings clustered around the corner of Seneca and Swan Streets, where a wide gamut of products sold by mail order were manufactured.

The early 20th Century was South Buffalo's heyday, with the Irish coming to dominate the police and fire departments just as they did local politics. As its middle class continued to grow and leave the First Ward for the more spacious neighborhoods south of the river, the demographics of the older neighborhoods began to change. Italians from the Ellicott District, who were seen by the Irish as competition for unskilled positions at the port and on the railroads, began to trickle south of the railroad tracks and formed a sizable minority in the First Ward by the 1920s; at about the same time, The Valley became a majority-Polish neighborhood centered around St. Valentine Church on Elk Street. Thanks to its residents' relatively stable civil service jobs and the charitable tradition of the Catholic church, South Buffalo rode out the Great Depression better than most parts of the city, but further changes came to the First Ward in 1940 when about 300 houses on Perry Street (derided by city officials as "slums") were razed to make way for the Commodore Perry Projects, a government-subsidized housing development for low-income individuals. For the first time, there was a sizable African-American presence in the First Ward, igniting ethnic tensions that simmer to this day.

"Six-Pack Jimmy"

The legacy of Buffalo's first Irish Catholic mayor casts a long shadow in South Buffalo. Devoutly Catholic, rough around the edges, and loyal to his neighborhood above all else, James D. Griffin (1929-2008) was the living embodiment of every First Ward stereotype. And his plainspoken wit was as quick as his temper: he earned the nickname "Six-Pack Jimmy" when he advised locals on how to handle the Blizzard of '85: "stay inside, grab a six-pack, and watch a good football game."

Jimmy Griffin was in City Hall from 1977 to 1993, making him the longest-serving mayor in the city's history — and, in the words of the Buffalo News, "the most dominant political figure of modern Buffalo". Though he was a Democrat, Griffin was an old-schooler with little use for the liberal wing of his party, wearing his independence and iconoclast status on his sleeve. This made for a stormy tenure as mayor; he had a chilly relationship with the black community and the press and earned his share of political enemies. In true First Ward style, Griffin occasionally settled political disputes with his fists, with Councilman David Franczyk and former adviser Joseph Martin among those on the receiving end. But he kept the loyalty of the majority of city voters, especially South Buffalonians: scores of Griffin's friends and neighbors got cushy jobs on the city payroll, and the First Ward's streets were the first to be plowed after every snowstorm. Also, even when Buffalo's economy was at rock bottom, he was one of the few people who could talk developers into investing in downtown: Griffin cut the ribbon on the Metro Rail in 1985 and was also responsible for the Adam's Mark Hotel, Coca-Cola Field (which almost earned Buffalo a Major League Baseball team in 1988), and in the closing days of his administration, the First Niagara Center.

And at the end, his announcement that he wouldn't run for a fifth term was classic Griffin. Citing the old-age memory lapses that were beginning to hinder his work, he quipped "I was also forgetting to pull my zipper up. And now, I'm forgetting to pull my zipper down."

After World War II, though, the bottom fell out. Traffic at the harbor still had not reached pre-Depression levels by the time the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959, rendering Buffalo permanently irrelevant as an inland port. While previously the presence of Niagara Falls meant that boat traffic on the Great Lakes couldn't go much further east than Buffalo, the enlargement of the Welland Canal in Canada made for direct access to the sea, so freighters could bypass Buffalo entirely. Within ten years, most of the grain elevators along the Buffalo River had shut down, the harbor was nearly empty, and the local economy was reeling. Furthermore, at about the same time, the railroad industry declined steeply thanks to the new Interstate Highway System, which moved passengers and freight much more quickly and cheaply. The steel industry wasn't spared either: a market flooded with cheap imported steel meant that the American-made version couldn't compete, so after shedding jobs for a few decades, the Lackawanna plant finally went belly-up in 1982.

But, even though these events were happening right in its backyard, South Buffalo rode out the downturn much better than most other areas of the city. The reason, once again, was the cushy civil-service jobs that a disproportionate number of its residents held (especially during the four mayoral terms of Jimmy Griffin, who took special care of his native First Ward and the rest of South Buffalo during the rock-bottom '80s and early '90s). As well, its residents' clannish nature and dogged loyalty to their neighborhood meant that South Buffalo did not lose nearly as many of its residents to the suburbs as other neighborhoods. And the urban renewal that wrought such havoc in places like the West Side and the Ellicott District barely touched South Buffalo, with the notable exceptions of Frank Lloyd Wright's Larkin Administration Building in The Hydraulics, which was demolished in 1950, and the construction of the Buffalo Skyway in 1953, the first controlled-access highway in Erie County, an elevated eyesore that serves as a giant wall between South Buffalo and the waterfront. Eventually, Buffalo bottomed out and slowly began pulling itself together, and today there are some parts of South Buffalo that are undergoing revitalization: the Cobblestone District is home to a handful of hip bars and a glitzy new casino, the Outer Harbor is now a state park, The Hydraulics has been reborn as a business district-cum-festival venue dubbed Larkinville, and the grain elevators are finally getting their due as engineering marvels of the Industrial Age. But, by and large, life here continues on the same as ever.


Thanks to Lake Erie, South Buffalo's climate is a little bit different than other parts of the city.

Much as in downtown, in the warmer months areas near the waterfront are noticeably cooler and windier than other parts of the city. This can be a double-edged sword: the fresh lake breezes are a godsend on a hot summer day, but if you're birdwatching at Times Beach or biking the Industrial Heritage Trail in the spring or autumn, you might want to wear a jacket and long pants.

These same winds over the lake also mean that, even more than other parts of the city, South Buffalo really gets pummeled in the winter with lake-effect snow. After the winds pass onto dry land, it takes some time for the snow to condense out of the moisture-rich air — so, curiously enough, it's not unusual for Cazenovia Park to get walloped while the Outer Harbor only sees a dusting.

Visitor information

Run on a volunteer basis by neighborhood residents, South Buffalo Home is a website that's a treasure trove for visitors who seek to "discover Buffalo's best-kept secret". There's plenty of slightly outdated but copiously detailed information on local attractions, activities and events; listings of restaurants, bars, and places of worship; and a lengthy section on the history of South Buffalo.


Don't be fooled by these signs!


Despite the bilingual street signs installed in 2008 on Abbott Road between Southside and Red Jacket Parkways — Buffalo's officially recognized "Irish Heritage District" — few if any South Buffalonians speak Gaelic, or anything other than English.

Get in and around

By car

South Buffalo is surrounded on three sides by highways. Though the New York State Thruway (I-90) runs just beyond and roughly parallel to the city line, it doesn't provide direct access to South Buffalo. However, the district is well-served by the other two.

Interstate 190 skirts the border between South Buffalo and the East Side on an east-west trajectory from the Thruway toward downtown, then turning north and passing through the West Side on its way toward Niagara Falls and the Canadian border. I-190 serves South Buffalo via the following exits:

The Buffalo Skyway (NY 5) begins downtown at I-190 and extends southward parallel to the lake shore, providing access to the Outer Harbor and various other parts of South Buffalo:

If you're visiting in the winter, keep in mind that the Skyway is often closed when there is inclement weather.

South Park Avenue is the main surface route between downtown and South Buffalo, running from the foot of Main Street somewhat south of due east through the Cobblestone District, the Old First Ward, and The Valley, then turning sharply southward at a complicated intersection with Bailey Avenue and Abbott Road where it picks up the designation of US 62. Thenceforward, it runs along the eastern edge of The Triangle, past South Park, and on beyond the city line. This somewhat confusing trajectory results from the fact that the portion of its route north of Southside Parkway was cobbled together in the 1930s from what was once Triangle Street and parts of Abbott Road and Elk Street. A GPS system or map will come in handy when navigating South Park, as there are a lot of opportunities for wrong turns. At the aforementioned confusing intersection, South Park meets Bailey Avenue (US 62), which runs north through Seneca-Babcock and into the East Side, and Abbott Road, which continues southeastward past Cazenovia Park and into the residential heart of South Buffalo.

Seneca Street (NY 16) straddles the murky, poorly-defined northern border of South Buffalo, running roughly southeastward from downtown through the Ellicott District, Larkinville, and Seneca-Babcock, through the South Buffalo business district, past Cazenovia Park, and into suburbia. Further north still, Clinton Street (NY 354) clips the northern boundary of Seneca-Babcock.

Designed by famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the tree-lined McKinley Parkway cuts a lovely, verdant 2.3-mile (3.7 km) swath through South Buffalo.

Like many other districts of the city, Frederick Law Olmsted's parkway system extends into South Buffalo. The backbone of South Buffalo's parkway system is McKinley Parkway, which begins at the Olmsted-designed Heacock Park and runs southeastward to   McClellan Circle, where it intersects with the short Red Jacket Parkway heading toward Cazenovia Park. It then proceeds due south to Dorrance Avenue, where   McKinley Circle sits directly on the city line. McKinley then proceeds for a short distance southwestward through Lackawanna, ending in front of the Botanical Gardens at South Park. Those who've seen Olmsted's work in other parts of the city will notice that South Buffalo's parkways are somewhat less impressive than the more northerly ones: though lined with shade trees, they are much narrower and lack a center median, bearing more resemblance to Richmond Avenue than Lincoln or Chapin Parkways. Olmsted had originally planned to link the northern and southern sections of his park system via Fillmore Avenue, Smith Street, and South Park Avenue, which were to be redesigned as a grand parkway that would have connected with McKinley Parkway at Heacock Park. However, with the exception of a few blocks of Fillmore south of Humboldt Park on the East Side where rows of stately elms were put in, his plans never came to fruition. The long-term plans of the Buffalo Olmsted Park Conservancy include improvements to those streets to better integrate the two halves of the system, but in the meantime, the Conservancy has also been hard at work elsewhere on South Buffalo's parkways: they were responsible for the construction of McKinley Circle in 2002 — a never-built feature of Olmsted's original plan — as well as installing charming period street lamps and thoroughly landscaping the parkways and circles with delightful flowers and new trees.

Though it didn't appear in his original plans, Olmsted's influence is also evident in the Outer Harbor Parkway, a three-and-a-half mile (5.6km) stretch of Fuhrmann Boulevard that runs along the Outer Harbor between Times Beach and the Union Ship Canal, which was redesigned in 2010. The Outer Harbor Parkway's design pays tribute to the grand avenues Olmsted built elsewhere in the city with all the classic features of his work: elegant roundabouts, charming antique lampposts, and a wide central median lush with trees and greenery.

Other major streets in South Buffalo include Ohio Street, which runs from South Park Avenue southward through the Old First Ward and across Elevator Alley, ending at Fuhrmann Boulevard; Tifft Street, an east-west route that links the Outer Harbor with South Buffalo proper; and Hopkins Street, which runs west of and parallel to South Park Avenue between The Triangle and South Park.

Parking in the Cobblestone District can be especially tight during Sabres games and other events at the First Niagara Center. The surface lots between Mississippi and Columbia Streets charge $2 per day, and at the First Niagara Center parking ramp on Illinois Street it's $2 per hour up to a maximum of $5 per day; naturally, both of these numbers increase sharply when there's an event at the arena. As for on-street parking, it's prohibited on Perry Street and South Park Avenues, but permitted on the side streets with some restrictions: parking meters are in effect on the southern half of Illinois Street on weekdays from 8AM to 5PM, charging $1 per hour to a maximum of 2 hours, and parking is prohibited on Columbia Street after 5PM. Larkinville is another place where parking can be a pain — there are plenty of surface lots, but most of them are restricted to workers in the various office buildings except during special events. For visitors, the best bet for parking is the Larkin @ Exchange visitors' lot on the corner of Exchange and Van Rensselaer Streets — parking is free and nominally limited to two hours, though it's not too well-enforced. There's also metered parking on Exchange Street between Van Rensselaer and Smith Streets, in effect on weekdays from 7AM to 5PM at a flat rate of $2 per day. Parking is free and unrestricted on Seneca Street, Swan Street, and the side streets, and is generally easier to find the further you get from Larkin Square.

Elsewhere in South Buffalo, parking on Abbott Road is free of charge and only subject to time limits in the vicinity of Mercy Hospital, with parking between Columbus and Alsace Avenues limited to two hours at a time between 7AM and 7PM, Monday through Saturday. Beware, though, because empty spaces on Abbott and its side streets can be hard to find, especially between Heacock and Cazenovia Parks. Two-hour parking is also in effect for the same days and times on Seneca Street between Pomona and Hayden Streets and between Zittel Street and the city line; on South Park Avenue between Abbott Road and the city line, the hours are 7AM to 7PM, Monday through Friday. However, on-street parking on Seneca and South Park is usually much easier to find than on Abbott. In the Old First Ward, The Valley, and Seneca-Babcock, on-street parking is free, unrestricted, and virtually always easily available.

By public transportation

Public transit in Buffalo and the surrounding area is provided by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA). The NFTA Metro system encompasses a single-line light-rail rapid transit (LRRT) system and an extensive network of buses. The fare for a single trip on a bus or train is $2.00 regardless of length. No transfers are provided between buses or trains; travelers who will need to make multiple trips per day on public transit should consider purchasing an all-day pass for $5.00.

By bus

South Buffalo is traversed by a number of NFTA Metro bus routes:

To and from downtown

NFTA Metro Bus #2 — Clinton. Beginning at the Bank of America Operations Center in West Seneca, Bus #2 proceeds down Clinton Street through the far northern part of Seneca-Babcock, with service to the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal. It ends on the Lower West Side.

NFTA Metro Bus #14 — Abbott. Beginning at Erie Community College South Campus in Hamburg, Bus #14 proceeds through South Buffalo via Abbott Road and South Park Avenue, passing by Cazenovia Park, along the northern edge of The Triangle, and through The Valley and the Old First Ward. Turning north at Michigan Avenue, Bus #14 serves the Cobblestone District via Perry Street before ending downtown.

NFTA Metro Bus #15 — Seneca. Beginning at the Southgate Plaza in West Seneca, Bus #15 proceeds along Seneca Street past Cazenovia Park and through Seneca-Babcock and Larkinville. Bearing right onto Swan Street at the fork, it then enters the East Side and ends downtown.

NFTA Metro Bus #16 — South Park. Beginning at the McKinley Mall in Hamburg, Bus #16 proceeds through South Buffalo via South Park Avenue, passing by South Park and the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens Park, and proceeding through The Triangle, The Valley and the Old First Ward. Turning north at Michigan Avenue, Bus #16 serves the Cobblestone District via Perry Street before ending downtown.

NFTA Metro Bus #36 — Hamburg. Beginning in the Village of Hamburg, Bus #36 enters South Buffalo via the Skyway, exiting onto Fuhrmann Boulevard at Tifft Street with service to Ship Canal Commons (via Ridge Road in Lackawanna), the Tifft Nature Preserve, Gallagher Beach, and Buffalo Harbor State Park. Turning north on Ohio Street, the route then passes through the Old First Ward and the Cobblestone District via Louisiana and Perry Streets, ending downtown.

Crosstown routes

NFTA Metro Bus #18 — Jefferson. Beginning at the Delavan-Canisius College Metro Rail Station, Bus #18 passes through the East Side via Jefferson Avenue, then continues down Hamburg Street just beyond the western edge of Larkinville. Entering South Buffalo, Bus #18 loops around the Old First Ward via Louisiana, Perry, and Hamburg Streets and South Park Avenue, ending at the corner of South Park and Louisiana.

NFTA Metro Bus #19 — Bailey. Beginning at the University Metro Rail Station, Bus #19 enters South Buffalo via Bailey Avenue, serving Seneca-Babcock and ending at the corner of Abbott Road near the northern tip of The Triangle.

NFTA Metro Bus #23 — Fillmore-Hertel. Beginning in Black Rock, Bus #23 proceeds through North Buffalo and the East Side and enters South Buffalo near where Fillmore Avenue and Smith Street merge. Serving Larkinville and The Valley via Smith Street and South Park Avenue, Bus #23 ends its route at the corner of Bailey Avenue and Abbott Road near the northern tip of The Triangle.

By Metro Rail

The Metro Rail lies north of South Buffalo, on a 6.4-mile (10.3 km) stretch of Main Street running south and west from the South Campus of the University at Buffalo. However, the southernmost station,   Erie Canal Harbor Station, is located at the corner of Main and Scott Streets, adjacent to Canalside and a stone's throw away from the Cobblestone District. As well, connections to Buses 14, 16 and 36 are also available a block down Scott Street, at Washington Street.

In early 2013, plans were hatched to extend the Metro Rail an additional 0.6 miles (1 km) past its current southern terminus. Trains would turn eastward around the back of the First Niagara Center, pass through the upper level of the former DL&W Train Shed that currently serves as the NFTA's terminal depot, and continue along South Park Avenue through the Cobblestone District, ending at a parking ramp to be built at the corner of Michigan Avenue (and across the street from the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino) that would serve commuters to the intentionally parking-poor Medical Corridor. At last check, the project had moved beyond the conceptual stage into the realm of feasibility studies and public workshops — but given the constant service delays and sharp reduction in ridership during the reconstruction of Main Street downtown, not to mention the scores of Metro Rail expansion plans over the decades that never went anywhere, the smart money says "don't hold your breath".

By bike

Buffalo has been making great strides in recent years in accommodating bicycling as a mode of transportation, with recognition from the League of American Bicyclists as a Bronze-Level "Bicycle-Friendly Community" to show for its efforts. The development of bike paths and lanes in South Buffalo lags somewhat behind more cycle-friendly parts of the city like Allentown and the Elmwood Village, but as in the rest of the city, it's steadily improving: notably, the conversion of Ohio Street into a vital link in Buffalo's bicycle transportation network — with two off-street bike lanes flanking an attractive tree-lined swath through the Old First Ward — was completed in July 2015.

The Industrial Heritage Trail passes along the Lake Erie shoreline at the Outer Harbor. That's Times Beach Nature Preserve in the background.

The showpiece of South Buffalo's bicycle infrastructure is the Industrial Heritage Trail. Completed in 2010, this waterfront path extends 3.5 miles (5.7km) along the shore of Lake Erie, paralleling the Outer Harbor Parkway from the Coast Guard station at the mouth of the Buffalo River to Ship Canal Commons and passing by or through waterfront attractions such as Times Beach, Buffalo Harbor State Park, and Tifft Nature Preserve. Via a similar path alongside Ohio Street, the Industrial Heritage Trail is linked to the Riverwalk, which extends further north along the waterfront all the way to Tonawanda, to form a grand waterfront path dubbed the Shoreline Trail. (From Memorial Day through Columbus Day, you can also get to the Outer Harbor from Canalside via the Queen City Bike Ferry; the fare is $1.)

Aside from the Industrial Heritage Trail, South Buffalo's original Olmsted parkways are also great places to enjoy a bike ride. McKinley Parkway has a bike lane on each side of the street from Southside Parkway at Heacock Park through to McKinley Circle and onward into Lackawanna, where it comes to an end at South Park in front of the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens. Red Jacket Parkway links Cazenovia Park to McKinley Parkway at McClellan Circle, again with bike lanes on each side of the street.

A growing number of other South Buffalo streets have also been fitted with bike lanes and other accommodations. The Cazenovia Park area has a particularly dense concentration — with "sharrows" (pavement markings on roads too narrow to accommodate dedicated bike lanes, indicating that drivers should be aware of bicyclists) on Seneca Street between Southside Parkway and the city line, as well as a dedicated bike lane on each side of North Legion Parkway for its entire length — as does the Cobblestone District, where there's a bike lane on each side of Michigan Avenue between Scott and Ohio Streets, as well as one in each direction along South Park Avenue between the First Niagara Center and Marvin Street (the bike lanes also continue up Marvin, behind the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, to Perry Street). Further down South Park Avenue, bike lanes appear again between Hamburg and Dorrance Streets. Elsewhere, the Tifft Street Greenway serves as a brief spur of the Industrial Heritage Trail along Tifft Street east to Ship Canal Parkway, with dedicated on-street bike lanes east of there as far as Hopkins Street, and a similar spur runs off the Ohio Street trail to Mutual Park via St. Clair Street and South Street. Finally, in Larkinville there's a bike lane on each side of Seneca Street between Emslie and Smith Streets, with plans in place to eventually bridge the gap between Smith Street and Southside Parkway with dedicated lines, sharrows, or some combination thereof.

Bike sharing and rental

In the Cobblestone District, the area between Illinois and Columbia Streets serves as a hub for Buffalo BikeShare. Members can sign in to the Social Bicycles mobile app to find available bikes there.

If you're planning to visit the Outer Harbor on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, the Shanty Shack (see below) rents bicycles for $10/hour from their location at the Small Boat Harbor adjacent to the Shoreline Trail.

On foot

While walking is not a feasible way to travel between the neighborhoods of South Buffalo, there are many areas within this sprawling district that are great for pedestrians. Abbott Road, especially north of Cazenovia Park, is a nice place for a stroll and some window-shopping. Similarly, if you want to go bar-hopping on Seneca Street, it's perfectly possible to leave your car at the hotel.



Buffalo's glorious past as an industrial giant is on full display in South Buffalo's range of historic museums and attractions.

When the Edward M. Cotter is not fighting a fire, visiting a local festival or boat show, or on winter icebreaking duty, it can be seen moored at its slip in the Cobblestone District, at the foot of the Michigan Avenue Lift Bridge.
  • Steel Plant Museum,  +1 716 821-9361. Between 1903 and 1982, Lackawanna, the industrial city immediately south of Buffalo, was home to the largest steel plant in the world, which covered 1,600 acres (640 ha) and employed 20,000 workers at its height. Established in 1984, the Steel Plant Museum tells the story of the Lackawanna Steel Plant and its workforce, as well as other area steel companies such as Republic Steel and Hanna Furnace, by displaying memorabilia such as union records, safety gear, signs, tools, steel specimens, and technical literature. Donation.
  • Western New York Railway Historical Society,  +1 716 821-9360. The marquee attraction at the Heritage Discovery Center is the Western New York Railway Historical Society, which has been working since 1980 to preserve the Buffalo area's disappearing railway heritage, but has lacked a space to display its collection until quite recently. At this expansive site are housed over 50 steam engines and railroad cars including a 1924 Baldwin locomotive that's been carefully restored to full working order, as well as hundreds of other historic artifacts and exhibits. Railroad history researchers will be in heaven in the library, where a vast array of books and maps are available for their perusal. Donation.


(716) GAL-LERY, Buffalo's smallest art gallery, is located in the Hydraulic Hearth.



Despite its former industrial character, today's South Buffalo is all about the outdoors, with a huge, breathtaking expanse of shoreline at its front door and many former industrial facilities that have been repurposed as green spaces.

Olmsted parks

In 1887, twenty years after the first phase of his work in Buffalo was complete, landscape architect extraordinaire Frederick Law Olmsted was called back to design an extension of his extremely popular park system to serve residents of the southern part of the city. His original design for the new sector would have been centered on a large park stretching inland from Lake Erie (around the current site of the present-day Ship Canal Commons), rivaling Delaware Park in size and boasting a beach, athletic fields, and a Venice-like maze of man-made canals for pleasure boaters extending all the way to downtown. After city leaders balked at the cost of such a park, he returned in 1894 with a second proposal that's the basis for what exists today: two inland parks, South Park and Cazenovia Park, linked to each other by a network of parkways that merge at the small Heacock Park to the north. Today, compared to the damage inflicted over the years by careless planners on the original parks and parkways, South Buffalo's Olmsted elements remain remarkably true to their original design. The links at Cazenovia Park draw golfers from all over Western New York — and, of course, locals by the thousands flock to the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens, the verdant centerpiece of South Park.

Cazenovia Park Falls revealed itself once again in 1965 after over half a century of submersion under Cazenovia Park Lake.
  •   Cazenovia Park Falls (Located along Cazenovia Creek 500 feet [140m] upstream from Cazenovia Street, access via footpath; Metro Bus 14 or 15). Ask locals about Cazenovia Park Falls and you'll likely get little more than quizzical looks: even more so than Buffalo's other natural waterfall, Forest Lawn Cemetery's Serenity Falls, this is truly a hidden gem. Strange, because it's easily the more impressive of the two — by comparison with its counterpart which is little more than a series of rapids, the horseshoe-shaped Cazenovia Park Falls is a six-foot (1.8m) vertical plunge along Cazenovia Creek over a ridge of dark, oil-rich shale. The scene at the falls is a very changeable one — after heavy rains the falls might be temporarily submerged again, and during the dry summer months the flow often slows to a trickle, but come at the right time and you'll bear witness to a lively affair of trout or bass jumping up the cascade as anglers try their luck.
  •   Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens, 2655 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16, 36 or 42),  +1 716 827-1584. Daily 10AM-5PM. Located at South Park, the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens were founded in 1898 and today consist of several collections of plants — the Panama Cloud Forest & Epiphyte Pavilion, the Palm Dome, the Florida Everglades pavilion, the Victorian Ivy & Herb House, the Orchid House, and the Rose Garden are only a few — arranged carefully in Victorian style. All in all, 1,500 varieties of plants are displayed here to more than 100,000 visitors annually. The lovely Victorian conservatory building of the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens was designed by Frederick A. Lord and William A. Burnham, who went on to design the conservatory at the National Botanical Gardens in Washington, D.C. some years later. $7, seniors and students $6, 12 and under $4, members and children under 3 free.
The Saskatchewan Cooperative Elevator as seen from Gallagher Beach.

Waterfront parks

  •   Gallagher Beach, 1515 Fuhrmann Blvd. (Metro Bus 36),  +1 716 852-2356. For many decades an "unofficial" swimming hole and summer recreation area for South Buffalo residents (including inimitable former mayor Jimmy Griffin), Gallagher Beach is one of Buffalo Harbor State Park's marquee attractions. Buffalonians flock to Gallagher Beach in the summer months to walk and bike along the new boardwalk and to enjoy sunbathing, fishing, kayaking, and windsurfing. (Swimming is nominally prohibited, but enforcement is lax, and if you visit you'll likely see folks in the water. However, it's probably not a good idea to follow suit.) Gallagher Beach is easily accessed via the Industrial Heritage Trail and is also adjacent to Tifft Nature Preserve. Free.
  •   Tifft Street Pier, 1699 Fuhrmann Blvd. (Metro Bus 36). Inaugurated in 2014, the Tifft Street Pier begins as a pleasant bow-shaped boardwalk, beautifully landscaped with greenery and space for public art installations, that leads joggers and walkers along the Industrial Heritage Trail directly onto the shore. But the main attraction is a floating pontoon that extends 130 feet (40 m) into the water, ending in a sleekly-designed, covered observation deck with unbeatable views over Lake Erie — a perfect spot for fishing, birdwatching or just relaxing on the waterfront. There's docking space for boats at the end, too.

Other parks

In addition to those listed above, South Buffalo is also home to a number of smaller parks. Many of them are part of the Buffalo River Greenway, an "emerald necklace" of small parks and green spaces along the shores of the Buffalo River. Aside from Seneca Bluffs, listed below, and the aforementioned Red Jacket Riverfront Park, the Buffalo River Greenway includes   Mutual Park, located at the foot of Hamburg Street in the Old First Ward and boasting a neighborhood historical museum, a riverfront promenade and small amphitheater, and the best views of Elevator Alley you can get outside of a boat, as well as   Buffalo RiverFest Park, which, as its name implies, is the setting for a three-day celebration of Buffalo's waterfront history each June.

Other parks in South Buffalo include   Conway Park, a pleasant expanse of ball fields, playgrounds and open lawns on the former site of the Ohio Basin, a vital link in the Old First Ward's 19th-century labyrinth of ship berths and canals, Seneca Indian Park, covered in the History section above, and   Heacock Park, a tiny Olmsted park whose significance lies not in its amenities but in its importance to Olmsted's design, as the northern hub of South Buffalo's parkway network and planned nexus with the northern parkways.

Nature preserves

A sunny September afternoon at Tifft Nature Preserve.


South Buffalo's main contribution to Buffalo's rich architectural heritage is the grain elevators of the former industrial district. It was in Buffalo where Joseph Dart built the first grain elevator in 1843, and today Elevator Alley is still the largest single collection of grain elevators in the world. Long derided as eyesores, these rock-solid monoliths were saved from the wrecking ball largely by virtue of how expensive it would be to demolish them. These days, though, Buffalonians have taken to embracing their scrappy industrial history, with grain elevators being repurposed for a variety of uses.

As well, South Buffalo contains a number of neighborhoods that are interesting to fans of historic architecture. In the entire city, there are nine historic districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places as well as seven additional ones that have been granted landmark status by the Buffalo Preservation Board, and although only one of them is located in South Buffalo, there are also a couple of "unofficial" ones that are notable.

The last remnant of the Larkin Administration Building. Yes, Buffalo's city fathers somehow saw fit to demolish one of Frank Lloyd Wright's masterworks, but there's a silver lining: more than any other single event, the demolition of the Larkin Building galvanized the emergence of a local preservationist movement that is now flourishing, and has saved numerous other architecturally and historically significant buildings around town from a similar fate.
  •   Remains of the Larkin Administration Building, between Swan Street and Seneca Street adjacent to the New York Central Railroad tracks (Metro Bus 15 or 18). The last remnant of the Larkin Administration Building is this 20-foot (6 m) brick and sandstone exterior wall. Built in 1906, the Administration Building was the most majestic Frank Lloyd Wright building in Buffalo and the prototypical adaptation of his favored Prairie Style to a large office building. Five stories tall and faced in dark red sandstone brick adorned with bas-relief sculptures and with two waterfall-like fountains flanking the entrance, the building consisted of offices arranged around the perimeter, with balconies looking onto a central court. The Administration Building's interior walls were of hard cream-colored brick with accents in Greek magnesite, and it boasted a state-of-the-art ventilation system and lighting and electrical fixtures designed by Wright himself. After the Larkin Company's bankruptcy in 1943, the Administration Building was left abandoned and decaying, and was eventually purchased by a trucking company who demolished it in 1950 to make room for a parking lot. The wall was restored in 2003; adjacent to it is an interpretive plaque with information on Larkin Company history and Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural legacy in Buffalo.


Festivals and events

Of South Buffalo's roster of festivals and events, by far the most interesting are held in Elevator Alley, where many of the old grain silos have been ingeniously redeveloped into innovative venues.   Silo City is the larger of these: a trio of grain elevators on Childs Street (the American, Perot Malting and Marine "A" Elevators) owned by local entrepreneur Rick Smith which, after having been abandoned for almost half a century beforehand, reopened in 2012 to a growing schedule of concerts, guided tours, activities, and events within and around these majestic, weather-beaten monoliths. Hot on Silo City's heels in late 2014 came   RiverWorks, the product of an $18 million restoration of the Grange League Federation Elevator complex on Ganson Street whose two regulation-size ice rinks play host to the Labatt Blue Pond Hockey Tournament and which also feature concerts and other events in the warmer months.






Elevator Alley, the stretch of the Buffalo River immediately adjacent to the harbor that is lined with historic grain elevators, is visited by several of the tour boats that operate out of Buffalo Harbor — including the River Queen, from which this photo was taken.



If you're a golfer in Buffalo, you're in the right neighborhood. South Buffalo contains two of the city's four golf courses, where you can hit the links amid a setting of impeccably manicured greenery designed by the United States' foremost landscape architect.

If "full-size golf" is not your thing, head to Larkinville instead:

Ice skating

The Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino brings a little bit of Las Vegas-style neon glitz to the outer edge of the Cobblestone District.



Live music and performance

With the emergence of the Cobblestone District as a hip cluster of bars in the shadow of the First Niagara Center and Canalside, plus a growing slate of offerings around the Outer Harbor, the live entertainment scene in South Buffalo has exploded in size in recent years.

The Cobblestone District is Buffalo's newest nightlife destination, with a small but lively roster of bars, concert venues, and other entertainment clustered in the blocks east of the First Niagara Center.


South Buffalo is the home of   Trocaire College, a small, private Catholic junior college founded in 1958 by the Sisters of Mercy. Expanded from its initial mandate of training teachers for Buffalo-area Catholic Schools, Trocaire now offers associate and bachelors' degrees in about a dozen health care, hospitality and technology programs at its campus adjacent to Mercy Hospital.


South Buffalo Business District

Though it's been outshined in recent decades by the more suburban-flavored Abbott Road corridor, "downtown South Buffalo" still boasts its share of shops, bars and eateries.


Liquor, beer and wine


Cobblestone District, the Old First Ward, and The Valley

The latest phase of Buffalo's ongoing renaissance has seen developers set their sights on the precincts of South Buffalo closest to downtown, notably the Cobblestone District and the Ohio Street corridor. As that gets off the ground, a bevy of stores and other attractions for visitors will surely follow; however, at present there's not much here for shoppers.

Specialty foods

Liquor, beer and wine

The Triangle and South Park Avenue

As a shopping street, South Park Avenue is the happy medium between the historic but largely deserted Seneca Street business district, and the somewhat more upscale boutiques of Abbott Road.

Specialty foods

Furniture and home decor


Liquor, beer and wine


Outer Harbor



Unveiled in June 2012, Larkin Square is a public green space inspired by the plans of the Larkin Soap Company to build an outdoor plaza for its employees (the unrealized original was to be built on what's now the site of Engine 32/Ladder 5 Firehouse, just off the right margin of this photo). Today, aside from being a pleasant break-time hangout for workers at the nearby office buildings, Larkin Square also boasts a series of restaurants and recreational facilities, and plays host to a busy weekly schedule of special events such as the Thursday-night Larkin Market, seen here.



Liquor, beer and wine


Abbott Road

The closest thing South Buffalo has to an Elmwood Avenue, the section of Abbott Road adjacent to and north of Cazenovia Park is densely packed with a variety of shops and restaurants, many with an Irish theme (in keeping with its designation as Buffalo's Irish Heritage District). South of there, it takes on a more spread-out, suburban feel.




Specialty foods

The Abbott Road business district, looking north from between Athol and Salem Streets.

Chocolate and candies

Tattoos and piercing


Since 1931, Seneca-Babcock has been the home of the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal, founded in 1931 by the Erie and Nickel Plate Railroads as an alternative to the congested Elk Market Terminal for wholesale produce vendors. Despite the demise of both railroads and the rise of suburban-style supermarkets as the dominant option for grocery shoppers, the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal continues in operation and is today the home of a number of specialty food concerns, as well as the Clinton Bailey Farmers' Market (q.v.)

Liquor, beer and wine



If you want the most elegant fine dining Buffalo has to offer, look elsewhere. But if you want neighborhood dives brimming with local color and serving up delicious homestyle foods at shockingly low prices, South Buffalo has you covered.

Interestingly enough for a neighborhood that makes much of its Irish heritage, South Buffalo goes toe-to-toe with Little Italy when it comes to pizza. South Park Avenue especially has a wealth of pizzerias to choose from.

This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget Under $20
Mid-range $20-$40
Splurge Over $40

South Buffalo Business District



The corner of Seneca and Cazenovia Streets is the heart of the business district informally known as "downtown South Buffalo".


The following pizzerias are located in the South Buffalo business district. Those who are interested in pizza delivery (as opposed to pickup) might want to also check listings in adjacent districts; local pizzerias will often deliver to several different neighborhoods of the city.


Farmers' markets

Cobblestone District, the Old First Ward, and The Valley




The following pizzerias are located in the Cobblestone District, the Old First Ward, and The Valley. Those who are interested in pizza delivery (as opposed to pickup) might want to also check listings in adjacent districts; local pizzerias will often deliver to several different neighborhoods of the city.


The Triangle and South Park Avenue



Local chains

The following local chains have locations in The Triangle and on South Park Avenue. Descriptions of these restaurants can be found on the main Buffalo page.


The following pizzerias are located in The Triangle and on South Park Avenue. Those who are interested in pizza delivery (as opposed to pickup) might want to also check listings in adjacent districts; local pizzerias will often deliver to several different neighborhoods of the city.



Larkinville has a variety of brick-and-mortar restaurants to choose from, listed here. However, when it comes to dining, doubtless the most well-known attraction in the neighborhood is Food Truck Tuesdays, where a revolving cast of about two dozen food trucks from Buffalo, as well as visitors from Rochester and elsewhere, descend on Larkin Square from 5PM to 8PM, May through October.



Abbott Road




The following pizzerias are located on Abbott Road. Those who are interested in pizza delivery (as opposed to pickup) might want to also check listings in adjacent districts; local pizzerias will often deliver to several different neighborhoods of the city.




The following pizzerias are located in Seneca-Babcock. Those who are interested in pizza delivery (as opposed to pickup) might want to also check listings in adjacent districts; local pizzerias will often deliver to several different neighborhoods of the city.


The Niagara Frontier Food Terminal is home not only to Buffalo's largest farmers' market, but also several "cash and carry" markets, where you can buy groceries directly from distributors at wholesale prices, "cutting out the middleman" and enjoying substantial savings as a result.

Farmers' markets


South Buffalo is a drinker's paradise: the main drags of Seneca Street, South Park Avenue and Abbott Road are lined with colorful and unpretentious spots where you can mingle with the locals or even have a pint with one of Buffalo's finest after the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade.

South Buffalo Business District

Cobblestone District

"Industrial chic" is the name of the game in Buffalo's newest nightlife district. The Cobblestone District is located in the shadow of the First Niagara Center, and as you can imagine, these bars really hop when the Sabres are playing. When there's nothing going on at the arena, the scenario is different but no less pleasant — you can imbibe in a quieter and more intimate ambience, and enjoy ample free parking at the huge, deserted First Niagara Center lots.

Located in the Old First Ward in the shadow of the mighty grain elevators, the Swannie House is Buffalo's oldest continually operating bar and restaurant, opened in 1882 or earlier. Though there are few if any grain scoopers and canal workers left in Buffalo of the type that once frequented the place, the Swannie House's ambience is still blue-collar and Irish. The new owners have lovingly restored the place inside and out, right down to the vintage ad for "Old Hardie" Kentucky whiskey painted on the side of the building.

Old First Ward and The Valley

Bar-hopping in the Old First Ward and The Valley is like taking a trip back in time to working-class Buffalo of old. These rough-and-tumble gin mills go way back — in fact, some of them (like the Swannie House) have been in business since the late 1800s, when the First Ward was home to Irish canal workers and grain scoopers.

The Triangle and South Park Avenue

South Park Avenue's lengthy roster of Irish pubs (of course) are not quite as gritty as the ones you'll find in the Old First Ward, but there's still plenty of opportunity to mingle with the locals in an environment that's utterly free of pretension.


Abbott Road



South Buffalo doesn't have any hotel accommodations of its own, but there are ample options in nearby areas. Clustered near Exit 55 of the Thruway in West Seneca and around Exit 1 of Interstate 190 on the border between Cheektowaga and the East Side, you'll find a range of budget- and mid-priced chains — and of course, downtown you'll find a more upscale selection that tends toward quirky boutique hotels and luxury properties for business travelers. Also, if the Outer Harbor is on your agenda, there's a Best Western Plus located on Route 5 in Lackawanna, less than five minutes by car from the state park.


For postal service, head to the   South Side Post Office at 2061 South Park Ave., corner of Woodside Ave.

As in other neighborhoods in Buffalo, for those who need access to the Internet and don't have a usable smart phone or laptop of their own, a public library is the best bet. South Buffalo is represented in the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library System by the   Dudley Branch Library, at 2010 South Park Ave. at the southern edge of The Triangle. Not only do they offer free WiFi, but there are also twenty computer terminals available for public use, all with Internet access and printers. Also, though it's no longer affiliated with the county library system, the   Cazenovia Library & Resource Center at 155 Cazenovia St. remains open as a community center with publicly accessible computers.

Stay safe

Despite the fact that Buffalo's crime rate has fallen steadily since the 1990s, it is still higher than the national average for cities its size. If you're passing through the Commodore Perry Projects on the northern edge of the Old First Ward, watch out: robberies, vehicle break-ins, and assaults happen here frequently. But these crimes aren't targeted at tourists, and tourists don't have much reason to be in that area anyway. Another hot spot is the northern half of The Triangle immediately west of Heacock Park (extending south to around Koester Street) and around the corner of McKinley Parkway and Tifft Street, an area where cars get broken into from time to time.

However, for the most part, South Buffalo is a quiet residential area that boasts among the lowest crime rates of any district in the city. This includes the bars on Seneca Street and South Park Avenue, which, while gritty and blue-collar, are almost never the scenes of drunken violence. Of course, as in any urban area, common sense pays — lock your car doors, keep your valuables out of sight, and so forth — but you have little to worry about in this part of town when it comes to crime.

The panhandlers that are becoming more and more of a nuisance in places like the Elmwood Village and Allentown are almost completely absent from South Buffalo.



In operation since 1920, the South Buffalo News is a weekly community paper that covers local news and high school sports for both South Buffalo and neighboring Lackawanna. Event listings, a police blotter, and Lackawanna City Council proceedings are also featured.

The weekly South Buffalo Courier is another source for neighborhood news and views, high school and amateur sports, event listings, and classified ads, as well as local news from outside South Buffalo courtesy of other Community Papers of Western New York publications.


Laundry and dry cleaning

South Buffalo Business District

The Triangle and South Park Avenue


The Larkin Convenience Store, open weekdays 7AM-7PM in the atrium of the Larkin @ Exchange office building, offers dry cleaning services.

Abbott Road

Places of worship

Not much religious diversity here: South Buffalo is the most monolithically Christian area of the city.

Roman Catholic

True to its own history in particular as well as the demographics of the Niagara Frontier as a whole, the Catholic Church remains a dominant force in South Buffalo's religious life.

  •   Holy Family Church, 1885 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16). Mass Su 8:30AM & 11AM, Sa 4:30PM, M-F 7:30AM in basement chapel. Situated at the corner of South Park Avenue and Tifft Street, Holy Family is one of the oldest churches in this part of the city — the congregation was founded in 1902 to serve the rapidly growing community that had moved in to take jobs at the huge new steel plant in nearby Lackawanna. With its stout arches and twin steeples looking over South Park Avenue, the building is one of the most magnificent examples of Romanesque Revival architecture anywhere in the city, thanks to the firm of Lansing & Beierl, famous around Buffalo for designing churches for the Catholic diocese. Holy Family's interior seats 950 people and boasts stained glass imported from Austria and mural paintings by Danish artist Holvag Rambusch based on the Book of Kells (it's said to be the only church in the United States that uses ancient Irish art in its interior decoration).
  •   St. Ambrose Church, 65 Ridgewood Rd. (Metro Bus 16). Mass Su 8:30AM, 10AM, 11:30AM & 7PM; Sa 4PM; M-F 8:30AM. Dating to 1930 — toward the end of the great South Buffalo building boom — St. Ambrose Church is located on a charming side street between South Park Avenue and McKinley Parkway. The current church building was erected in 1950 and absolutely looks it: the façade of this striking modernist building features a blocky, monolithic brick wall centered on a column of rectangular-paneled stained glass windows with images celebrating the church's relevance in the modern world.
Located a short distance north of Cazenovia Park, the Italian Baroque-style design of St. Thomas Aquinas Church has the 11th-century Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome as a model. The church's exterior is faced in "Crab Orchard" sandstone from Tennessee in imitation of the yellow marble of its model, and also boasts a red tile roof and a 100-foot (30m) campanile standing sentinel over Abbott Road; inside there's a polychromatic, Medieval-style wooden ceiling and some wonderful examples of mosaic art imported from Italy: an intricate oeuvre on the semidome above the altar depicting the Blessed Sacrament, as well as Stations of the Cross in mosaic form.

Traditionalist Catholic



Black churches

A few African-American congregations can be found near South Buffalo's northern border with the East Side.

Go next

  • Hamburg, which has a little something for everyone. In the Southtowns' largest town (population about 55,000), you'll find a diverse environment that runs the gamut from the scruffy blue-collar neighborhood of Blasdell in the far north, which doesn't look terribly dissimilar to South Buffalo, to the historic Village of Hamburg in the south with its quaint downtown full of cute shops, to sprawling waterfront mansions along Old Lake Shore Road. For the visitor, Hamburg boasts a wealth of attractions: beachcombers can laze by the shore of Lake Erie at Woodlawn Beach State Park, amateur paleontologists can dig for 300-million-year-old fossils at the Penn Dixie Center, and at the end of the summer, you can join over a million Western New Yorkers at the twelve-day-long Erie County Fair. And if your money is burning a hole in your pocket, why not splurge on a day of shopping at the McKinley Mall or try your luck on the horses at the Buffalo Raceway?
  • Orchard Park, which is more than just the home of the Buffalo Bills' Ralph Wilson Stadium. First settled by Quakers in 1804, this upscale outer-ring suburb boasts a handsome village center full of cute little boutiques, elegant restaurants, and historic character. Also in Orchard Park is Chestnut Ridge Park, a twelve-month-a-year destination for outdoor lovers: over 1,200 acres (490 hectares) of forested hills with disc golf, verdant nature trails, one of Western New York's most popular sledding and tobogganing hills, and an eternal flame hidden behind a low waterfall.
  • West Seneca, which before the South Buffalo Irish arrived was solidly German — in the 1840s and '50s, it was home to the Ebenezer Society, a reclusive sect of renegade Lutherans from Hesse who came here seeking a place far removed from the evils of the outside world. You can learn about them at the West Seneca Historical Society, located in an original Ebenezer home built about 1848. The Ebenezers are long gone, and the town is a lot more crowded now than it was 150 years ago, but you can still "get away from it all" in West Seneca: the Charles E. Burchfield Nature & Art Center is a patch of woods along the shore of Buffalo Creek that was an inspiration for its namesake, once one of the premier watercolor painters in the United States.
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