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Buffalo/Niagara Falls, New York

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Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • Former Buffalo mayor, William Fargo, cofounded American Express (1850) and Wells Fargo Bank (1852).
  • Once in history, an ice jam stopped the flow of Niagara Falls (March 1848).
  • Buffalo’s Statler Hotel was the first U.S. hotel with a closet, telephone, private bath and running water in each room (1908).
  • Buffalo’s Anchor Bar created Buffalo wings, known simply as wings locally.
  • About 20% of U.S. drinking water goes over Niagara Falls.

One canal, three waterfalls

Buffalo is a city with a past and plenty to show for it in the way of architectural reminders and a legacy of community and cultural projects. It also is roughly 20 miles from Niagara Falls. Location has just about everything to do with the Buffalo story. The city, in western New York, sits on Lake Erie where the lake empties into the Niagara River.

It was a little too close to the strategically situated Old Fort Niagara; during the War of 1812, the British burned the fledgling settlement.

Things picked up in 1825, when the Erie Canal, built to link Albany to the lake, made Buffalo its western terminus. The canal set the stage for Buffalo’s transformation into a prosperous transportation and industrial center.

Men made fortunes and funded striking edifices for themselves and the community. They supported or later revitalized art galleries and performing arts venues, including, in the latter category, the Kleinhans Music Hall and Shea’s Performing Arts Center.

The city also retained Frederick Law Olmsted, a designer of New York’s Central Park, to create America’s first coordinated system of parks and parkways. Olmsted and his partners started this work in 1868.

Historic sites recall the 1901 assassination of President William McKinley in Buffalo and the inauguration of his successor, Theodore Roosevelt. Homes of two other presidents, Millard Fillmore and Grover Cleveland, can be seen in the city.

In sum, the waterfront and parks provide spaces for outdoor activities complemented by a landmark-laden architectural landscape, cultural centers and a percolating nighttime club scene.

Niagara Falls — nearby, on the U.S.-Canadian border — is a collection of three waterfalls on a scale rarely seen anywhere. More than 750,000 gallons of water rush over Niagara Falls every second, but amazingly an equal amount is diverted for electricity. Niagara Falls attracts millions of tourists yearly for scenic boat rides and awesome views from a variety of vantage points.

Many Buffalo visitors cross into Canada to experience the falls to the fullest. When returning to the U.S., tourists need a U.S. or other passport; U.S. passport card, enhanced driver’s license or a Trusted Traveler Program card.

Things to do for Venturers

  • In winter, go ice fishing or cross-country skiing in Beaver Island State Park.
  • Or, in summer, explore the Buffalo waterfront from a rental kayak or stand-up paddleboard.
  • On the U.S. side of Niagara Falls, get as close as possible to the rushing water at the Cave of the Winds, which takes you very close to the rushing water at the base of Bridal Veil Falls — and leaves you soaked. On the Canadian side, choose Journey Behind the Falls for a close-up view of Horseshoe Falls.
  • Attend a Tavern Night at a “not-so-upscale 18th century tavern” at the 300-year-old Old Fort Niagara. Built by the French and strategically important during the French and Indian War, the American Revolution and the War of 1812, the fort hosts reenactments and other special events.
  • See Niagara Falls from a helicopter.
  • Buffalo has an emerging club scene around Chippewa Street and in other districts. Explore these areas.

Things to do for Centrics

  • From Lockport northeast of Buffalo, travel 15 miles on the Erie Canal with Lockport Locks and Erie Canal Cruises.
  • Further pursue an interest in the history of transport at the Buffalo Transportation/Pierce-Arrow Museum, for its antique cars, and the Pedaling History Bicycle Museum, for one of the world’s largest collections of antique and classic bicycles.
  • Eat Buffalo wings at the Anchor Bar or in just about any eatery in town. Order other local favorites — a sandwich called beef on weck, the weck referring to the kummelweck hard roll, and a drink called loganberry, a blend of blackberry and red raspberry juices.
  • Walk to all the viewing points on Goat Island and the Three Sister Islands, in the middle of the Niagara River and accessible by foot bridges and a car bridge from the U.S. The islands are part of New York’s Niagara Falls State Park, still another park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.
  • At Daredevil Museum of Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada, be amazed, and sometimes impressed, by the stories of people who intentionally went over Niagara Falls. The first to go over the falls in a barrel was 63-year-old Annie Edson Taylor (1901).
  • Attend a concert at Kleinhans Music Hall, but get better acquainted with Buffalo in unique ways, too. Discover the hidden taverns and pubs on a Forgotten Buffalo tour, or consider a guided ghost walk.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Take the scenic Maid of the Mist Boat Tour for spectacular views at the foot of Niagara Falls. Hornblower Niagara Cruises operates a similar tour from the Canadian side. Choose a late sailing to see the falls lighted at night. These sightseeing cruises are North America’s oldest attraction (1846).
  • Tour Frank Lloyd Wright-designed houses — the Darwin D. Martin House complex of five Wright buildings and Graycliff, which overlooks Lake Erie.
  • Pursue an interest in modern art at Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Or, choose the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, described as holding the world’s largest private collection of original documents. They include the original draft of the Bill of Rights and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.
  • Get a look at American Falls and Horseshoe Falls at the same time from the deck that extends out over Niagara Gorge from the Observation Tower in New York’s Niagara Falls State Park.
  • Take the kids or just yourself to shop at Vidler’s 5 and 10, occupying four connected 19th century buildings in East Aurora and described as the world’s largest variety store and offering 75,000-plus items.
  • Study Buffalo history and architecture by admiring the art deco City Hall and its revealing friezes, mosaics and murals. Get a look at the city and Lake Erie from the City Hall’s observation deck.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Visit Buffalo Niagara at