Did you know that there is much more to New York State than New York City? The city of Buffalo, NY, is on the rise and becoming a popular place for relocation, vacations, and production companies filming for movies and television. Buffalo is one of the biggest cities in New York State and offers several attractions, experiences, and day trips in one beautiful package. Let’s explore all that our city has to offer with this epic list of things to do in Buffalo, NY.
What Makes Buffalo Unique?
Beyond becoming famous for chicken wings, Buffalo is up-and-coming in the area of craft brewing and amazing cultural cuisine. Thanks to the nearby powerplant in Niagara Falls, Buffalo became the first city, in 1896, to have electrically lit streets, earning it the nickname “City of Light”. Buffalo is also the largest flour milling city in the US and the hometown of two U.S. Presidents, Millard Fillmore and Grover Cleveland. It used to be home to more millionaires per capita than any other city, a big industry, the first permanent movie theater, and even gave the world instant coffee and air conditioning. The city celebrates its history and new beginnings every day, so why not come check out what the largest city in Western New York has to offer?
47 Best Things to Do in Buffalo, NY + Year Round Activities
Located at the mouth of the Buffalo River, at the north entrance to Buffalo Harbor is a 60-foot tall tower; inscribed in the lintel above its door is the year 1833. While not Buffalo’s original lighthouse, it’s still a historical monument. If you’d like to visit and get an inside tour you can contact them or watch their Facebook page for announced tours. Tours are usually offered on Saturdays for $4 or get the all-inclusive tour with the tower, historical grounds, waterfront, and educational videos in their guest center for $10. You can walk the site between 11 am-4 pm on Saturdays during their season.
West Side Bazaar
The West Side Bazaar is what’s called a business incubator. Aspiring entrepreneurs can test out retail concepts and learn the fundamentals of running a business. The West Side Bazaar has food kiosks that serve authentic food from around the world, including Burmese, Chinese, Ethiopian, Japanese, Malaysian, South Sudanese, and Thai cuisines. There are also four retail kiosks featuring artisan goods from Africa, Asia, and beyond.
Unfortunately, in September of 2022, they experienced a fire that caused considerable damage to the building and businesses. While they plan to reopen, check out their webpage for updates before planning a visit.
Eternal Flames Waterfall Day Trip
Out in Chestnut Ridge Park, about a 20-minute drive from the city of Buffalo, there’s a unique and exciting hike. The Eternal Flame falls trail follows picturesque views of the Shale Creek Preserve section of the park. While the hike is only about a half mile, due to the creek bed it can be quite muddy and difficult to traverse, so come prepared. At the end of the loop trail, a 35-foot waterfall hides a yet unexplained pocket of natural gas that can be lit, allowing flames to defy the presence of water. While legends like to say that the flame has been burning for thousands of years after being lit by indigenous peoples, the flame does occasionally go out, so bring a lighter with you just in case.
This community, founded in 1895 in the village of East Aurora is the best preserved and most complete complex of buildings relating to the craft guilds of the United States. Visit the buildings and go for a tour of the campus and museum and learn the history of the movement where it all happened and eat some delicious food at the Roycroft Inn nearby, the former center of activity where people would go to meet its founder Elbert Hubbard.
Buffalo Harbor State Park
This 190-acre state park and marina on the shores of Lake Erie in Buffalo, NY offers beautiful views, 1,100 slip marina, restaurant, boat launches, playground, and beach access for all manners of fun. Rent a pavilion for a family get-together, enjoy a day out in the sun with your favorite canine companion, or check out one of their many special events throughout the year. Make a day of it and have a picnic at Buffalo Harbor followed by a hike at the Tifft Nature Preserve right next door.
Lockport Town + Caves Day Trip
Explore some of the old town charms of Western New York by spending the day in Lockport, about 40 minutes north of the city. Explore some history of the Erie Canal and tour the locks that helped it function and try some fine dining opportunities with breakfast in the 60s at Tom’s Diner and dinner at One-Eyed Jacks Smokehouse Grill. Explore Lockport Cave with an underground boat ride. Learn about the history of Lockport by boat and underground on still water. Book your tour here.
Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park
This amazing location is the largest inland Naval & Military Park in the country. Open 7 days a week between 10 and 5, right on the waterfront downtown. Why not combine a tour of naval vessels that served in various conflicts with some great food, and other views on Canalside, or visit some of the best breweries in Upstate New York? You can just walk in, but they encourage you to reserve tickets online for self-guided tours (adult $18, youth $12, seniors $15, and children 0-4yrs free) or docent-guided tours for $35 per person. They even offer minimal spots for a tour behind the scenes with the curator for $50, but reserve your spot quickly, they fill up fast.
Canalside – Epicenter of Buffalo Activities
At the heart of Buffalo’s waterfront revitalization is Canalside. It hosts hundreds of events throughout the year, like concerts and festivals, fitness classes, and ice skating right at the terminus of the historic Erie Canal. What a great way to combine history and the future. Enjoy the boardwalk or some biking, stop at Clinton’s Dish for some ice cream or a cold beer and enjoy the historic waterfront and amazing views. Book a cruise, rent a bike, or get a caricature drawing with friends and family; Canalside has something for everyone.
Buffalo AKG Art Museum (Albright-Knox Art Gallery)
Formerly known as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Buffalo AKG Art Museum will reopen after a serious remodel, in early 2023. Until that unveiling, you can check out the Sarah Braman: Finding Room being shown within Frank Lloyd Wright’s Graycliff. Art Tours are offered on Fridays and Saturdays at 2:30 pm and the first Saturday of every month holds free tours at 11:30 am and 2:30 pm. Sarah Braman is a local artist that desires to encourage people to think about how much their lives are exhibited in our immediate environment. What a combination: thinking about the meanings in our environments while exploring an exhibit inside another of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural accomplishments.
Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens – Best Places in Buffalo
There’s so much more to this site than a greenhouse! With so many events like Dining at Dusk and Feed the Fish, there’s something at the Botanical Gardens for everyone. If you plan your visit carefully, maybe you can make it to see one of their rare corpse flowers in bloom! There’s fun for kids and adults and you can reserve space for special occasions. Take a class or just come for a visit to see the beautiful botanicals and koi pond. Admission ranges from $14 for adults to $7.50 for kids ages 3-12.
Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site
Advanced ticket sales are recommended for this museum dedicated to one of the most influential U.S. Presidents on the grounds where he was sworn into office. That’s not all that happened at this site either. It served as an army barracks, a private residence, a restaurant, an abandoned building, and a National Park Service site. The how and why and events that led up to the inauguration after the assassination of President McKinley in Buffalo are all laid out in their exhibits. They provide guided tours for $12 beginning at 9:30 am on Weekdays and 11:30 am on the weekend.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House
Also known as the Darwin D. Martin House, this National Historic Landmark was designed for the Buffalo executive Darwin D. Martin by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright and built between 1903 and 1905. They offer regular tours of the gardens and Prairie house that’s considered one of the great achievements of his career. If you love amazing architecture, take a tour, plan an event, or maybe attend one of their Family Fun Days.
Forest Lawn Cemetery
It may be odd to see a cemetery on a list of fun things to do, but the history buried here will amaze you. Beyond being one of the first deliberately designed and landscaped rural cemeteries in the country, it’s the final resting place for many famous people and houses expansive archives and genealogical resources at the Margaret L. Wendt Archive and Resource Center. It’s also one of the area’s greatest public spaces open every day to walk, jog, read a book under a stunning flowering tree, marvel at works of art, get married in the chapel, or just learn about your family or the history of others.
Buffalo River Works
This massive complex on the waterfront is the city of Buffalo’s latest entertainment destination. A great place to spend time with family and friends, enjoy a small amusement park for the kids, good food, and regular events. The complex hosts ice skating, hockey, curling, and concerts; along with special events like wrestling, a rope course, and boating.
Watch A Sports Game
The city of Buffalo has two incredible sports arenas downtown: the KeyBank Center and Sahlen Field. If you don’t mind a drive, there’s also the Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, home of the Buffalo Bills, about 20 minutes south of the city. Whether it’s hockey, baseball, basketball, football, or soccer there’s a stadium or park to suit your sports needs. There are even other events hosted like concerts and wing fest. Fun is always found in at least one of these locations on a regular basis. Check out their websites for upcoming programs that might interest you.
If picnics, concerts, and art are more your idea of fun, then you need to visit Elmwood Village. The Elmwood Village Association was formed to promote and protect their neighborhood, encourage small businesses, and support their local community. This blossomed into a locally well-known area for artists, open-air cafes, and farmer’s market vendors on a beautiful tree-lined parkway.
Richardson Olmstead Campus
Named after the great American Architect Henry Hobson Richardson and the landscape team of Frederick Law Olmstead who designed this architectural treasure once incorporated a treatment center for people with mental illness. This is one of the most iconic buildings in Buffalo. Now it’s home to one of the largest historic preservation projects in the nation that give tours of the neglected buildings as they work to restore them to their former glory. Two-hour tours are offered every Saturday and Sunday through October 2, 2022. Plan your visit ahead of time as pre-registration is required for these amazing tours of buildings that remained untouched since the 1970s.
Allentown Historic District
Today, Allentown is known for its community of artists and as a lovely neighborhood full of dining, galleries, and small retail shops. This neighborhood was named after the 19th-century farmer, Lewis Fallie Allen, who needed a new place to let his cattle graze and a neighbor offered this strip of land between the city of Buffalo and Black Rock. While times changed and the landscape was drawn into city life, the community wanted to preserve the rich history. Thanks to the community feeling, the history, festivals, bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and parks, Allentown has been listed as the 7th best neighborhood in Buffalo. Enjoy the quiet, picturesque neighborhood and try some Buffalo cuisine.
Within the historical atmosphere of Buffalo’s famous grain silos, a campus has developed to inspire creativity, art, cultural appreciation, and community. Walking Tours are led by Explore Buffalo and Buffalo River History Tour where you can experience the history of these massive silos, how grain elevators work, and the malt production process. There’s a Silo City readings series, music festivals, and even an immersive theater. As of 2018, it’s now home to Duende, a bar and live music venue to round out your amazing adventure with a Pork Bomber and cold brew.
Bird Island Pier + Unity Island
Buffalo natives and previous visitors have probably seen the long walkway that runs under the Peace Bridge along the I-190 and along the Black Rock Canal. Fishermen, joggers, dog walkers, and bird watchers all enjoy this lovely, photogenic 136-acre-long path that runs along the Niagara River and Lake Erie. You can access it via the southern end of Broderick Park, at the end of West Ferry Street in Buffalo. History-buffs may enjoy the War of 1812 markers scattered along the path that was built shortly after in 1825.
St. Joseph’s Cathedral
Located downtown, this cathedral was established by Buffalo’s first bishop, John Timon, and dedicated in 1855. It’s home to over 25 special events every year beyond its regular Mass schedule. Historians recognize its Hook and Hastings organ as one of the finest surviving examples of late 19th-century American organs. As part of Buffalo’s early history and its location downtown, St. Joseph’s has become an integral part of the revival of the city.
Iron Island Museum
Started by a small group, the Iron Island Preservation Society of Lovejoy, collected the history of their beloved neighborhood and a local businessman donated his former church/funeral home for their society headquarters and museum. If you’d like to explore the rich history of the Lovejoy neighborhood, they have an extensive collection representing Lovejoy and all it had to offer. Paranormal enthusiasts can also go on a ghost tour or overnight investigation. Self-guided tours are $2 per person and guided ghost tours are $5. Overnight investigations are available on request at $300 for up to 6 people and $25 for each additional person up to 10.
Buffalo Central Terminal
Another community revitalization effort is nestled in the Broadway-Fillmore district. This architectural jewel opened in 1929 to serve more than 200 trains and over 10,000 daily passengers. While it closed in 1979, the Central Terminal and its Art Deco architecture has been revitalized starting in 1997. It’s now a cultural arts destination with year-round events. Tours are available on a limited basis, but special events occur all year round. Check out their event calendar and find your next favorite thing to do in Buffalo.
Buffalo Touring Company
Why not tour the best parts of the city on a Segway®? The Buffalo Touring Company offers driving and walking tours departing from the Buffalo History Museum, but they are best known for their Segway® tours. Learn about the city and historic sites of North Buffalo. They run tours on Saturday and Sunday mornings and afternoons, and they last 3-3.5 hours. Why not make a day of it and stop at one of Buffalo’s famous restaurants, Hutch’s, for lunch or dinner after?
Buffalo History Museum
Need something indoors and on the less expensive side? The Buffalo History Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday with pay-what-you-wish admission. Learn about Western New York’s influence on the shaping of the United States. It houses a unique collection of local paintings, photographs, artifacts, and various manuscripts that the founders of 1862 wanted to share with the public.
Michigan Street African American Corridor
If you’d like to dig deep into Buffalo’s African American history then check out the most concentrated portion of the corridor on Michigan Avenue from Ferry Street to South Division Street. Experience and learn about Buffalo’s Abolitionist movement, Civil Rights movement, and cultural and artistic periods through many sources including shops, restaurants, unique structures, historical markers, and people. If you’re looking for multiple things to do in Buffalo at once, they offer tours of their four Founding Cultural Anchors, and you can choose to tour just one or all four for between $15 and $50. Tours are available on Saturdays.
Buffalo Heritage Carousel
Not only has the fully restored Heritage carousel returned to Buffalo, but it was also originally manufactured north of the city in North Tonawanda in 1924. This wood menagerie carousel is now housed at Canalside, at the terminus of the Erie Canal. Carousel rides are only $1 a person so it’s a great place for those with kids wanting to explore some of what Canalside has to offer.
African American Cultural Center of Buffalo
Directly linked with the Paul Robeson Theatre, the African American Cultural Center is dedicated to promoting a sense of self among the African American community. They host film and theatre workshops, dance and drum performances, theatrical performances, and concerts. Check out their events and see if some interest you.
Buffalo Museum of Science
What’s more fun with kids than a family-oriented science museum for a rainy day or some warmer winter visits? The Buffalo Museum of Science houses a vast collection of cultural and natural history to explore and regularly houses traveling exhibits like mummies or animatronic dinosaurs. If you’re looking for a night out without the kids, check out their special events for stargazing and “Get a Clue” mystery games after hours. They’re open 10-4 Monday to Sunday with admission ranging from $13 to $16.
Shea’s Performing Arts Center
This stunning theater started as a movie theater in 1926 and now supports several traveling Broadway shows and events such as Hamilton, Riverdance, and Phantom of the Opera. There are three theaters under the Shea’s banner in Buffalo beyond the historic building. Why not snag some tickets to one of their many performances whether national or locally produced? With three theaters there’s bound to be something that tickles your fancy whether for a night out on the town or some fun with the kids.
Small Group Buffalo Walking Food Tour
This tour is designed specifically for all you foodies out there. Explore Elmwood Avenue on a walking tour of 5-7 of its top restaurants to make up your lunch, with dessert, while learning about Buffalo’s history, culture, and local architecture. Get a true taste of Buffalo’s favorite foods. These tours are guided by expert foodies such as yourself and run for 2.5 hours covering about 1.75 miles in total. They walk rain or shine so dress accordingly and book your tour today.
Buffalo Open Air or Double Decker Bus Tour
If you want to see a sample of the best places in the city, consider booking a tour with the Buffalo Double Decker Bus Tours. For laughs, book a 2-hour tour of the Best of Buffalo that includes a walking tour of the Naval Park. Want some water views? There’s a 90-minute tour of the outer harbor & marina with a walking tour of a grain silo. With fun-themed tours that cater to all sorts of interests, there are bound to be activities that will make your trip memorable.
3Quest Challenge Scavenger Hunt
If you’re not one to walk around and look at historic sites or national historic landmarks, there are things to do in Buffalo for you too. 3Quest offers an adventure challenge via a scavenger hunt that takes you around the city competing in 3 quests for first place on their leaderboards. Through their app, you can compete with your friends or family over two hours by completing challenges and discoveries around the city. You start the challenge when you want by purchasing your tickets and downloading the app to your tablet or smartphone.
The Wing Ride (Wings + Bike Tour)
One of the best things anyone could have come up with to do in Buffalo was combining biking and chicken wings. The Wing Ride or The Hidden History of Chicken Wings Food Tour is one of the best things to do in Buffalo for any foodies and sports enthusiasts.
Sample Buffalo’s best chicken wings, including the infamous recipe of John Young, the inventor of Buffalo’s first chicken wings (that have been off the table for 23 years), all while learning how race shaped the city from working-class origin to the resurgence in recent years. Book your tickets now for a 4 pm ride of your life through the city’s best wing joints.
The History Ride
Combine biking and history, and you have this epic biking tour through Buffalo. You don’t have to love history either. This tour brings the past to life through amazing stories, humor, and insights that only the locals know about. Learn about the Erie Canal and the infamous 1901 Pan American Exposition to Buffalo’s black history and labor unrest. It’s not just for visitors, even lifelong Buffalonians can learn a thing or two. Book your tour here.
Visit a Brewery
You can read our full guide to the 17 best breweries in Buffalo here. Below is just a glimpse of a few to check out.
- Thin Man Brewery has a location on Elmwood. Stroll the village and shops and then stop in for a flight of their 17 flavors of fun and new or old-world style beers.
- Big Ditch Brewing Company is one of the best restaurants in Buffalo. Why not stop by and try great food and a well-crafted beer named after the Erie Canal? You can even take a tour and learn the history of the brewery and sample their latest batch.
- Gene McCarthy’s
Day Trip to Niagara Falls
If you’re visiting Buffalo and have a free day, why not make the 20-mile drive to one of the seven natural wonders of North America? Check out the Horseshoe, American, and Bridal Veil Falls. With many attractions outside of the falls themselves like the Cave of the Winds, and the Maid of the Mist you can see this wonder of nature and learn its history from several angles.
Buffalo River History Tours
If you love being out on the water, take a cruise or history boat tour. From the fun perspective of the water, hear about the Erie Canal and Buffalo’s history as the largest grain port in the world. Take a Sunday Brunch cruise or watch the sunset in the harbor. They even offer walking tours of Silo City and the immense silos that still stand.
Burchfield Penney Art Center
Take a tour of the arts center at Buffalo State College. Open Wednesday through Sunday, there’s always something fun to do at the center, from exploring the galleries to hands-on workshops and film screenings to live performances. Even better for those on a budget, on the second Friday of each month, admission is free.
Niagara Wine Tour
If you’re on an adults-only visit and are fond of good wine, then book a tour on the Niagara Wine Trail that extends from Niagara County across Orleans and Munroe Counties. The natural climate created by the Niagara escarpment provides the perfect conditions for fine wine fruit. Take a tour with private transportation and visit 3-4 wineries for a glass of your favorite, including ice wine.
Home of the free community gatherings, events, and concerts, Larkin Square comes alive. Whether you’re a foodie and want to dine at Food Truck Tuesday or an academic who wants to hear a motivating and inspirational speech, Larkin Square has something for everyone. Check out their webpage or join their mailing list to see what events tickle your fancy.
Sail on Lake Erie
Whether you’re an experienced sailor or want to book a charter, Buffalo has all you need to get out on the Lake and enjoy a beautiful day with beautiful views. Check out Seven Seas Sailing Center, where you learn to sail and then rent their boats. Book your experience here. Or, sit back and relax on the Spirit of Buffalo for a two-hour sailing cruise.
Japanese Gardens at Delaware Park
Nestled in Delaware Park between the foothill of the Buffalo History Museum and Mirror Lake is 6 acres of beautiful Japanese gardens. Not only is it a beautiful stop once each season, but it also hosts Buffalo’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival each May. The perfect spot for a peaceful stroll or to take some pictures.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fontana Boathouse
This addition to Buffalo’s Frank Lloyd Wright venues did not come to Buffalo until 2007. How is that possible, you might ask? While Wright designed the boathouse for a family in Wisconsin to design the Fontana boathouse, it was never built. The plans, having been rediscovered at a Wright symposium by the director of the Darwin Martin House Restoration (another Buffalo favorite), a group assembled to get the rights to the design. Work started in 2000 and the Boathouse opened in 2007 and was named for a contributing member and long-time rower Charlie Fontana. Tours are available through Explore Buffalo for around $10.
Colored Musicians Club & Museum
This is not simply a place to hear music, but one dedicated to research and preserving the history of African American music. Buffalo Local 533 was formed in 1917, making Buffalo the 8th city in the US with racially segregated musician’s local unions. It is the only continuously running, all-Black owned club in the United States. The interactive museum is designed for all ages, including a multimedia archive that tells the story of jazz legends that performed here. Whether you only want to check out the museum or listen to excellent music, there’s something for you here. The museum is open Thursday through Saturday from 11-4.
Nash House Museum
From 1925 until 1987, this was the residence of Rev. J. Edward Nash, Sr. This legendary leader of the African American community in Buffalo had connections that allowed him to gain benefits for the community and its individual citizens. Located in the African American Heritage Corridor, you can visit this museum and other cultural anchors on Saturdays between 11 and 4. If you need a different day or time, you can email them to make arrangements.
Paul Robeson Theatre
This theatre is the second oldest component of the African American Cultural Center, founded in 1968 to showcase African American playwrights, producers, directors, actors, and stage technicians. If you love theater, check out one of the four to five productions during their season (September to May) that focus on the African American experience.
Kayaking in Buffalo
One of the favorite pastimes of the people of Buffalo is kayaking. Whether you’d like to explore the lake, harbor, or canal, rent a kayak and see the Queen City from a different angle.
- Elevator Alley Kayak: provides lessons, guided tours, and rentals.
- Buffalo Harbor Kayak: #1 for Buffalo Kayak rentals with three types of guided tours
Longboards Paddle Co.: With 5 locations from Hamburg to the Outer Harbor, rent single or tandem kayaks and paddle boards.
Niagara Heritage Village
A nice, free activity during the tourist season, you can experience 19-century life over 35 acres of historic homes, churches, and a schoolhouse. Formerly known as the Amherst Museum, the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village has regular events, including a Scottish Festival, trick-or-treating, and even a children’s summer day camp. You can also explore their 25,00 square foot indoor museum.
Where to Eat in Buffalo, NY
- Hutch’s $$$ is an American take on a French Bistro with options from oysters and escargot to Jambalaya pasta, lamb chops, or steak. Drool-worthy food and right near some of Buffalo’s greatest attractions.
- Las Puertas $$ Their menu changes every five weeks and requires a reservation with a deposit. The courses are designed to engage conversation in your group and bring people together.
- The Grange $$ is located about a 15-minute drive south of the city in the quaint village of Hamburg, inside one of its historic buildings on Main Street. Enjoy mouth-watering plates from pastries to a tomahawk rib-eye straight from their wood-burning oven.
- Liberty Hound $$ is a waterfront seafood restaurant with the Naval ships towering over its patio. Enjoy good food with great views of the waterfront.
Where to Sleep in Buffalo, NY
- Reikart House Buffalo is a boutique hotel located in historic Amherst, north of the city. With a stunning interior and elegant rooms, your stay in Buffalo will be unforgettable. Book your room now.
- South Bridge Bed and Breakfast is known for its stunning views on Grand Island, between Buffalo and Niagara Falls. Book your stay at this home on the water with dockside outdoor dining and oversized suites.
Frequently Asked Questions about visiting Buffalo
Is Buffalo worth visiting?
Absolutely! Someone once asked if Buffalo was worth an afternoon of their lives and in fact, most answered it’s worth more. You could squeeze a few of its shining attributes into a 6-hour afternoon window, but there are so many things to do in Buffalo you should give it at least a weekend.
What is Buffalo famous for?
Most people think of the Buffalo Bills, chicken wings, and the incredibly affordable housing market. We also are super close to Niagara Falls, making Buffalo an easy stop during many New York family road trips.
Where can you get the best Buffalo wings in Buffalo?
Author’s Bio: Heather Menz
Heather Menz has called the Buffalo area home for over 35 years. With a degree in archaeology and a keen interest in history, she has explored sites that are both easy to find and those hidden deep in Buffalo and Rochester’s history. As part of an active and outdoors-oriented family, she has traveled and hiked much and learned more about all that the Western New York area has to offer.