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The largest city in New York State's Niagara Frontier, Buffalo is a city full of surprises. Though Buffalo is sometimes the butt of jokes about chicken wings, its long-suffering sports teams, and the mountains of snow under which it is supposedly buried each winter, local residents and others who are in the know tell a different story: one of vibrant nightlife, world-class museums and cultural attractions, tight-knit neighborhoods with community spirit and a real sense of place, a winning combination of high quality of life and low cost of living — and the sunniest summers in the Northeastern United States. A great part of Buffalo's appeal to visitors is the still-palpable sense of its history as an important industrial center. Majestic historic buildings and sites around every corner tell the story of a city that was great once and has all the tools in place to be great again someday.
Buffalo's central business district boasts monumental architecture, a revitalized historic waterfront, the vibrant Theater District, the thumping dance clubs of Chippewa Street, and the brand-new Medical Corridor.
|Allentown and the Delaware District
Allentown's hipster bars, rock clubs and art galleries are a lively counterpart to the sedate Delaware District's quiet residential streets. Both are heaven for architecture buffs, with charming Victorians lining the side streets off Allen Street and sumptuous Gilded Age mansions on Delaware Avenue's Millionaire's Row.
With Buffalo State College and the Museum District at the north end of the strip, Elmwood has Buffalo's finest dining, hippest clothing boutiques, and chillest bars, flanked by handsome turn-of-the-century side streets where yuppies and co-eds rub shoulders.
With more of a suburban feel than other Buffalo districts, North Buffalo is a diverse hodgepodge composed of Little Italy along Hertel Avenue, scruffy but pleasant University Heights, and the beautifully-landscaped, historic residential areas of Parkside, Central Park, and Park Meadow.
Buffalo's most up-and-coming area. Long the epicenter of Hispanic culture in Buffalo, the West Side now boasts a veritable United Nations of immigrant communities and a nascent arts scene along Grant Street, ramshackle Victorian cottages in Prospect Hill and the West Village gradually being spruced up to their former glory, and waterfront parks galore. To the north are historic Black Rock and working-class Riverside.
Separated from the rest of the city by the Buffalo River, proudly Irish South Buffalo can seem like a city unto its own: to the north, the historic Old First Ward and Cobblestone District and newly redeveloped Larkinville; to the east, pleasant parkland and quiet residential streets; to the west, the grain elevators and rail yards of Buffalo's mighty industrial past; along the lake shore, the redeveloping Outer Harbor, Buffalo's newest summer playground.
Buffalonians are quick to deride the East Side as a drug- and crime-infested ghetto. Those who are smart enough to disregard the locals will be rewarded with the jaw-dropping sight of huge, ornate churches built by 19th-century German and Polish immigrants, an educational look into Buffalo's African-American history, cultural attractions like the Buffalo Museum of Science, and other surprises in this truly off-the-beaten-path district.
Outside of Buffalo itself are a number of suburbs. Unlike the faceless cookie-cutter residential tracts surrounding other American cities, many of Buffalo's suburbs have real character — individual identities of which their residents are fiercely proud. More than that, suburbia's range of attractions, festivals and events, and other items of interest to visitors can hold its own with the urban core.
- Tonawanda — a 19th-century lumber port turned middle-class residential community, Tonawanda is the western terminus of the modern-day Erie Canal.
- Amherst — Buffalo's most populous suburb contains the gargantuan UB North Campus, the charming village of Williamsville, and rural farmland in the far north.
- Cheektowaga — postwar suburbia at its most banal, but also shopping galore, including the area's largest mall. As the site of the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, Cheektowaga is likely on the itinerary of most visitors to Buffalo whether they actively seek it out or not.
- West Seneca — a proud German heritage dating to the town's foundation in the 1850s by the religious Ebenezer Society, and natural beauty that inspired watercolorist Charles Burchfield.
- Lackawanna — a rough-and-tumble company town that fell on hard times after the closure of the steel plant that gave the city its name, now the home of a vibrant Yemeni community and the magnificent Basilica of Our Lady of Victory.
- Grand Island — once a summer retreat for Buffalo's turn-of-the-century aristocracy, now the site of riverfront parkland, the kid-friendly Martin's Fantasy Island amusement park, and wide-open spaces a stone's throw from the bustle of the city.
- North Tonawanda — Tonawanda's sister city has a grittier and more working-class feel, but also a restored downtown with lively nightlife.
- Lancaster — an upper-middle-class second-ring suburb east of Cheektowaga in whose lovely town center stands the historic Lancaster Opera House.
- Orchard Park — The home of the Buffalo Bills has something for everyone, from bustling strip malls to a charming small-town downtown to the forests and hills of Chestnut Ridge Park.
- Hamburg — birthplace (allegedly) of the hamburger, Hamburg is also home of the Erie County Fair and boasts beautiful views over Lake Erie.
Buffalo is New York State's second-largest city, with (as of 2010) a population of 261,310 in the city proper and 1,135,509 in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls Metropolitan Area. Buffalo is the cultural and economic center of the Western New York region. Though for the past half-century it has been rightly considered a stagnant working-class city that has suffered from the aftereffects of deindustrialization, Buffalo's economy has turned around significantly, with an unemployment rate in April 2014 of 5.8%, running below the national rate of 5.9% and the statewide rate of 6.1% for that month. Perhaps surprisingly given its history as a center of heavy industry, Buffalo has also recently been cited as the third-cleanest city in the United States. Recently, Buffalo was named one of the Dozen Distinctive Destinations for 2009 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, whose 2011 National Preservation Conference was held in Buffalo and was the largest and best-attended of these annual conferences in the history of that organization. Other titles bestowed on Buffalo in recent years include a placement among the "44 Places to Visit in 2009" by the New York Times, the "All-America City Award" for the years 1996 and 2002, and one of the 10 best cities in the U.S. to raise a family, according to a 2010 feature in Forbes magazine.
Though the area had been settled by the Iroquois since well before Columbus and was visited periodically by French fur trappers beginning in the 17th Century, Buffalo's history per se begins about 1789, when Cornelius Winney set up a trading post at the mouth of the Buffalo River. At the time, this site was still far beyond the frontier of white settlement; it was not until 1793 when the Holland Land Company, a syndicate of investors from the Netherlands, purchased the tract of Western New York wilderness that included Buffalo. Land agent Joseph Ellicott, who arrived at Winney's trading post in 1798, felt that it had the potential to be the site of a thriving city. He gave the name New Amsterdam to the village he laid out there, though it was soon renamed Buffalo after the adjacent river. (The question of where the Buffalo River itself got its name is still very much a mystery — the most well-known theory, which has the French explorer Sieur de la Salle exclaiming about the beau fleuve, or "beautiful river", that he saw while sailing along Lake Erie in 1679, is almost certainly untrue; also, no buffalo or bison were known to have been present in Western New York at any time since the arrival of the white man, though 17th-century French explorers did find some living relatively nearby on the south shore of Lake Erie, in present-day Ohio.)
Despite Ellicott's aspirations, Buffalo remained a tiny outpost whose main claim to fame during its very early history was as the site of several important military installations and battles during the War of 1812 (famously, the village was burnt to the ground by British troops in December 1813 as part of the Niagara Frontier Campaign of that war). That all changed with the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825; the status of the western terminus of the canal was granted to Buffalo after a hotly contested dispute with the neighboring village of Black Rock (later to be annexed by its rival). The Erie Canal extended eastward from Lake Erie to the Hudson River at Albany, a distance of 363 miles (584 km) in all. The most ambitious work of infrastructure undertaken in the U.S. up to that time, the Erie Canal greatly lowered transportation costs and singlehandedly made large-scale settlement of the lands west of the Appalachians economically viable. The magnitude of the Erie Canal's commercial importance is illustrated by the fact that in the first five years after its completion, Buffalo's population more than tripled (to 8,668); two years later, in 1832, Buffalo was finally incorporated as a city.
Buffalo's early economic mainstay was as a transshipment port, where grain from the Midwest was unloaded from lake freighters and transferred to canal boats headed for New York City; it was in Buffalo where the world's first grain elevator was constructed in 1843, and indeed there are still many elevators that remain standing around Buffalo Harbor. Over the second half of the 19th Century, the Erie Canal gradually became obsolete, but that scarcely affected Buffalo's explosive growth. Instead, the city maintained its status as a transportation hub by transitioning into the second-most important railroad center in the U.S. (after Chicago); the New York Central, Pennsylvania, Michigan Central, Nickel Plate, Erie, Delaware Lackawanna & Western, West Shore, Baltimore & Ohio, and Lehigh Valley Railroads all passed through Buffalo at the height of the railroad era. In addition, the steel industry became a major player in the local economy in 1899, when the Lackawanna Steel Company moved its base of operations from Scranton, Pennsylvania to a site just south of the city line. By 1900, Buffalo boasted a population of over 350,000 and was one of the ten largest cities in the United States.
The Pan-American Exposition was a World's Fair that was held in Buffalo in 1901, at the apex of the city's glory days; it was intended to showcase, among other things, the technological marvel and economic possibilities of electric power (Buffalo's proximity to Niagara Falls, a site of early ventures in the generation of hydroelectricity, gifted it with the cheapest electricity in the nation at the time). Though the dazzling sight of the fairgrounds, illuminated by night with this new technology, earned Buffalo the enduring nickname "City of Light", the Pan-American Exposition's main historical significance is much more somber in nature: it was at the Exposition on September 6, 1901, when U.S. President William McKinley was fatally shot by anarchist Leon Czolgosz, moments after concluding a speech at the Temple of Music.
Buffalo continued to grow during the first part of the 20th Century. However, trends were beginning to emerge that would, by 1950, cause the city's growth to slow, stop and then reverse. As in other American cities, wealthier residents began to leave their homes in town for quieter, greener suburban properties outside the city line. This began in the 1910s and 1920s — many of Buffalo's older suburbs, such as Kenmore, Eggertsville, Pine Hill, and Snyder, date to this time — and kicked into high gear during the post-World War II economic boom. At the same time, the growing American middle class began to migrate in ever-larger numbers to areas in the West and South with milder climates, at the further expense of the cities of the Northeast. The construction of the Interstate Highway System fueled suburbanization at the same time that it contributed to the decline of the railroads and of Buffalo's port, as goods could be shipped more cheaply by truck.
However, the single most important cause of the free-fall that Buffalo suffered during the late 20th Century was the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959. Historically, Buffalo's importance as a port was largely due to the barrier that Niagara Falls posed to shipping. However, thanks to the expansion of the Welland Canal as part of the Seaway, freighters loaded with grain and other goods could now access the ocean directly via the St. Lawrence River, rather than stopping at Buffalo to transfer their cargo to railroad cars headed east. Within ten years of the Seaway's inauguration, most of the grain elevators at Buffalo Harbor had been abandoned, and the port that was once filled to capacity with ships was now nearly empty. As well, the steel plant in Lackawanna closed its doors for good beginning in 1977, unable to compete with cheaper foreign steel. By 1980, Buffalo's population was roughly equal to what it had been in 1900, down nearly 40% from its peak of 580,132 just thirty years earlier.
To add insult to injury, during the 1960s and '70s Buffalo's civic leaders responded to the deteriorating social conditions in the city by demolishing (in the name of "urban renewal" and "slum clearance") ethnic neighborhoods in such places as the Ellicott District and the Lower West Side that, though working-class, were in many cases healthy and vibrant. In particular, the splendid brick Victorian cottages of what was once the Lower West Side's "Little Italy" were nearly all lost to the wrecking ball, while the new public housing projects erected in the Ellicott District soon became high-rise versions of the slums they replaced, as the mere construction of new buildings did nothing to address the underlying social problems in the neighborhood. At the same time, noisy and intrusive expressways were constructed directly through Delaware Park and Humboldt Parkway, destroying the verdant ambience of what were (respectively) the largest park and the grandest parkway designed for the city by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted; thankfully, forceful opposition from neighborhood residents spared the Allentown Historic District a similar fate. In downtown, only one of the many examples of the senseless destruction of Buffalo's architectural heritage occurred in 1969, when several blocks of handsome Victorian commercial blocks as well as the stunning, castlelike Erie County Savings Bank building were demolished to make way for the Main Place Tower, a bland modernist office tower with an attached suburban-style shopping mall that utterly failed to attract shoppers back downtown in favor of the strip malls and plazas of the suburbs.
Despite these grave problems, the mentality in Buffalo never crossed the line into total defeatism, which was helpful when Buffalo's decline started to level off in the 1990s. The broad-based grassroots protests that accompanied the opening of the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino in 2007, which had been presented to the city as a means of spurring development and attracting tourists, serves as perhaps the quintessential example of the city's new approach: rather than relying on one-shot "silver bullet" solutions to the city's problems such as the casino, Buffalo has begun to model its strategy on the successful revival of other Rust Belt cities such as Pittsburgh and Cleveland — a strategy that has consisted of accepting the reality that heavy industry is gone for good and, instead, using the valuable resource of Buffalo's unusually high number of colleges and universities to encourage development of a diverse range of high-tech industries, such as the medical research and biotechnology ventures that have sprouted north of downtown under the aegis of the University of Buffalo Medical School. The business district, once replete with boarded-up storefronts and nearly deserted after the end of the workday and on weekends, has enjoyed a new measure of vitality due largely to the conversion of disused office space into high-end downtown apartments and condominiums, a commodity for which many Buffalonians were surprised to discover there was considerable pent-up demand. Additionally, Buffalo can boast of an architectural heritage that is still substantial despite the misadventures of the 1960s, a vibrant range of cultural institutions, and a perennially low cost of living. In the past few years, this new approach has engendered a newfound strength among Buffalo's preservationist community, a dogged devotion by its citizens to cultural attractions such as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Buffalo Zoo, and continued diversification of the local economy. Conversely, what remains of Buffalo's traditional heavy industry has benefited from the mini-rebound in American manufacturing after the most recent recession; for example, despite General Motors' recent financial troubles, that company made substantial investments in its plant in nearby Tonawanda in 2010, adding several hundred new jobs in the process. Though Buffalo has not completely stemmed its population losses and there is still much progress yet to be made, the bit of swagger with which residents of the "City of No Illusions" carry themselves today, finally reinvigorated after decades of decline, is unmistakable.
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Buffalo, although most famous for its winters, has four very pronounced seasons.
In the first half of winter, beginning in approximately November, the city can get lake-effect snow: cold winds blowing over the warmer waters of Lake Erie pick up a lot of water vapor, which is dumped as snow as soon as they reach land. This usually ends in January, when the lake finally freezes over. Contrary to popular myth, however, Buffalo is not the coldest or snowiest city in the country—or even in New York. The Buffalo airport averages 93 inches (236 cm) of snow per winter. On average, Buffalo only has 3 days per year where the recorded temperature dips below 0°F (-18°C). Buffalo's snowy reputation is based in large part on some of its most famous storms: the Blizzard of '77, the "October Surprise" of 2006, and the "Snowvember" blizzard in 2014 all received a lot of media coverage, but none of those things are normal occurrences in an average Buffalo winter.
Spring is rainy and cool up through the end of April. The temperatures can fluctuate wildly in March and April. It is not unusual to see snow one day, and a temperature in the mid-60s Fahrenheit (almost 20°C) the next.
Summer tends to be very comfortable and sunny — in fact, Buffalo has more sunny summer days than any other major city in the Northeastern U.S. The moderating effects of Lake Erie have allowed Buffalo to be one of very few places in the United States where the temperature has never reached 100°F (38°C). On average Buffalo has 60 days a year with temperatures reaching over 80°F (27°C).
Fall is warm and beautiful as well. The temperature usually stays warm enough through mid November, and one can watch the trees change colors in comfort. The days are warm, the nights are cool, and the first frost doesn't usually come until well after Halloween. Leaf hunters will be pleased with the number of trees (Buffalo is also one of the most tree-filled cities in the nation!) as well as in the surrounding areas.
For more books about Buffalo, specifically ones that take place in or have to do with a particular neighborhood of the city, please see the respective district articles.
- Buffalo Unbound: A Celebration by Laura Pedersen (ISBN 9781555917357). The author is a Buffalo native who, as of this writing, has written fifteen books as well as a number of plays and musicals, many of which are set in her hometown during her youth in the 1970s and '80s. Of all those works, though, Buffalo Unbound is the one that best captures the current zeitgeist. This collection of humorous essays provides a color commentary for Buffalo's rise from the morass, with the often bleak and world-weary tone (perhaps inevitable given the timeframe of her life) in the childhood reminiscences of Pedersen's earlier work tempered now with a healthy dose of optimism. Readers may find it hard at first to keep up with the steady stream of in-jokes and Buffalo-specific cultural references, but soon they'll find themselves attuned to the local culture in a way that few visitors ever experience.
- City of Light by Lauren Belfer (ISBN 9780385337649). It's 1901, and plans for the Pan-American Exposition are advancing at fever pitch. Louisa Barrett is the unmarried headmistress of the Macaulay School for Girls, a female mover and shaker in a world dominated by men. Her pride and joy is her goddaughter Grace, whose father Tom Sinclair is a wealthy industrialist who hopes to change the face of the city forever with his dream of drawing electric power from Niagara Falls. But when the chief engineer of the hydroelectric project is found murdered in Delaware Park, there's a nasty power struggle in the local elite to determine who will be in the driver's seat of Buffalo's future. In the midst of it all — and of her blossoming love for Tom — Louisa struggles with the burden of a dark secret whose tentacles penetrate deep into Buffalo's blue-blood aristocracy. City of Light is Belfer's debut novel, a tour de force of historical fiction that is critically acclaimed, meticulously researched, and paints a vivid picture of Buffalo at the height of its golden age.
- Gangsters and Organized Crime in Buffalo: History, Hits and Headquarters by Michael F. Rizzo (ISBN 9781609495640). This loosely organized collection of hardboiled true-crime stories starts off fairly slowly — recounting tales of scrappy street gangs and small-time John Dillinger wannabes robbing banks on the Polish East Side in the 1920s and '30s — but soon picks up steam chronicling the rise and fall of the Buffalo Mafia family and its well-respected don, Stefano "The Undertaker" Magaddino, who from his base on the city's West Side (and, later, an unassuming ranch house in suburban Lewiston) controlled a vast territory that stretched from Ohio to Montreal at its height. Best of all, the locations of all the murders, hideouts, clubs, and gambling halls described in the book are meticulously documented, the better to go exploring and retrace the steps of these gangsters of old.
- Eminent restaurateur-cum-local historian Mark Goldman has written a trilogy of books suitable for academic and casual audiences alike that, together, stand as perhaps the definitive analytical commentary on the reasons behind Buffalo's decline and how best to help it reclaim some of its past glory going forward.
- High Hopes: The Rise and Decline of Buffalo, New York (ISBN 9780873957359). Written in 1983 — perhaps the nadir of Buffalo's history — Goldman's first book traces the story of the Queen City from its birth as a frontier outpost, to its days as a buzzing inland port and industrial giant, to its post-World War II decline. In High Hopes, Buffalo is used as an exemplar of the classic pattern of urban development in the 19th and 20th Centuries, its fortunes linked inextricably with the economic well-being of urban America as a whole.
- City on the Lake: The Challenge of Change in Buffalo, New York (ISBN 9780879755799). This book mines much of the same ground as its predecessor — and shares its format of discrete vignettes that come together to paint a broad cohesive image — but the focus here is on the turning point in Buffalo's history, the 1950s through the '70s, when glory days gave way to postindustrial poverty and blight. From racial tensions and white flight to poorly-thought-out urban renewal schemes to economic disinvestment, City on the Lake analyzes all facets behind the 20th-century decline of Buffalo along with the rest of the Rust Belt. However, in sharp contrast to the pessimistic tone of its ironically titled predecessor, the overall note is a presciently hopeful one that, at a date as early as 1990, few other commentators yet dared to strike.
- City on the Edge: Buffalo, New York, 1900-Present (ISBN 9781591024576). Despite what the subtitle may suggest, City on the Edge is much more than just a rehash of Goldman's first two tomes — the dark age that Buffalo is now leaving behind is recounted merely as a prelude to what amounts to a tribute to the cultural institutions, strong community ties, and survivalist spirit that have weathered the storm and now serve as foundations on which to build the revived Buffalo. The book's ending breaks with the measured academic tone of the rest of the series, painting a rosy picture of Buffalo's best-case-scenario future and laying out a comprehensive roadmap for how to (and how not to) get there.
The history and extent of Buffalo's association with American cinema may come as a surprise to some. Early on in movie history, downtown Buffalo's Ellicott Square Building was home to the world's first purpose-built, permanent motion-picture theater, the Vitascope Theater, which was opened on October 19, 1896 by Mitchel and Moe Mark, who some years later would go on to build the world's first "movie palace" in New York City. Also in 1896, Thomas Edison sent camera crews to Buffalo, making it one of the first cities in America to appear in the movies. Edison also had the Pan-American Exposition filmed in 1901.
Under the aegis of the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission, an embryonic film industry has developed in the area which is beginning to produce some quality independent features. These and the more than 100 other films that have been shot in the Buffalo area over the last century include:
- Hide in Plain Sight (1980). Based on a true story. A working-class husband (James Caan) tries to track down his wife and children who are hidden away by a witness protection program.
- Best Friends (1982). Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn play a couple whose lives turn upside-down when, after years of living and working together, they decide to get married.
- The Natural (1984). Robert Redford and Glenn Close star in an adaptation of Bernard Malamud's novel about Roy Hobbs, a mysterious baseball player who appears out of nowhere to turn around the fortunes of a 1930s team.
- Buffalo '66 (1998). Buffalo native Vincent Gallo wrote, directed and starred in this critically-acclaimed dark comedy about a man who, after being released from jail for a crime he did not commit, vows to track down the Buffalo Bills kicker who put him there, all the while forcing a young tap dancer (Christina Ricci) to pose as his wife to earn respect from his neglectful parents.
- Bruce Almighty (2003). Jim Carrey stars as a hapless field reporter for WKBW-TV's Eyewitness News who, after complaining to God about his misfortunes in life, is allowed to stand in for the Supreme Being to see how well he performs in the role. Though the bulk of Bruce Almighty was shot in San Diego, the movie is set in Buffalo, most of the exterior shots were filmed there, and many real-life WKBW anchors make cameo appearances in the film.
- Unstoppable (2010). Based on the true story of the CSX 8888 incident of 2001, Denzel Washington and Chris Pine are two Allegheny and West Virginia Railroad workers tasked with stopping a runaway train carrying a cargo of toxic chemicals.
- Henry's Crime (2011). Keanu Reeves stars as a former Thruway toll collector who, after spending time in jail for a crime he did not commit, decides to get his revenge by holding up in real life the same bank he had been falsely convicted of robbing.
Visit Buffalo Niagara, 403 Main St., toll-free: , e-mail: email@example.com. M-F 9AM-5PM, Sa 10AM-2PM. The official visitors' association for the Buffalo/Niagara Falls region. Their location downtown in the Brisbane Building offers information, brochures, and souvenirs. Visit Buffalo Niagara also operates another Visitor Center at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport that is open M-Sa 6AM-7PM, Su 6AM-6PM.
English is spoken in Buffalo and the surrounding area on a virtually universal basis. Though the West Side is well known as the home of the city's Hispanic community (mainly Puerto Ricans and Dominicans), the majority of Buffalo's Latinos are able to speak English as well as Spanish. Also on the West Side, there is a diverse collection of communities of first-generation immigrants centered around the Grant-Ferry neighborhood, most of whom speak some degree of English in addition to their native languages (Amharic, Somali, Vietnamese, Burmese, and Taiwanese are prominent). In any event, visitors to the West Side will have no significant issues with regard to language.
Those who venture across the international border will note that, despite that country's officially bilingual status, the only place the French language is usually encountered in the parts of Canada near Buffalo is on official signs and documents at the border crossings. Though Buffalo's neighborhoods include many vibrant ethnic enclaves, very few residents of these districts (other than perhaps a few elderly individuals) can speak more than a word or phrase or two of their respective ancestral languages.
The regional dialect of English spoken in Buffalo — especially among Italians and Poles of the working class — falls within the framework of Inland Northern American English, with the hard, nasally, slightly pinched-nose vowel sound in words like "car" and "stop" and the defricativization of the hard "th" sound (whereby "this" and "that" become "dis" and "dat"), a dialect that will be instantly familiar to those who remember the recurring Saturday Night Live sketch, "Bill Swerski's Superfans". Nonetheless, Buffalo's twist on the Inland North dialect involves some unique features such as the devoicing of voiced word-final plosives ("cold" becomes "colt", "rug" becomes "ruck"), and a habit of ending sentences with the word "there" (pronounced "dare") in much the same way Canadians use "eh?" — two speech patterns that are notoriously prevalent among Buffalo's Polish community.
For a somewhat outdated but quite accurate description of the particular phonetics and vocabulary of the area, see The Guide to Buffalo English.
Buffalo Niagara International Airport (IATA: BUF), +1 716 630-6000. The Buffalo Niagara International Airport serves Buffalo as well as Niagara Falls, the rest of Western New York, Northwest Pennsylvania, and Southern Ontario. The airport is particularly popular with the latter group; Canadians looking for fares lower than those found at Toronto Pearson make up about 40% of the Buffalo Niagara International Airport's passengers. The Buffalo Niagara International Airport is served by American Eagle, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United, and US Airways and its affiliates, with about 110 nonstop flights per day to Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago (Midway and O'Hare), Detroit, Fort Lauderdale (seasonally), Fort Myers (seasonally), Las Vegas, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Newark, New York (JFK and LaGuardia), Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Tampa, and Washington (Dulles and Reagan National). International flights are handled by low-cost charter carrier Sunwing Airlines, with routes to Cancún and Punta Cana.
From the airport, Buffalo is accessible via four NFTA bus routes:
- NFTA Metro Bus #24B — Genesee makes frequent departures, seven days a week, from the airport terminal to downtown via Genesee Street, servicing both the Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center and the Buffalo-Exchange Street Amtrak station. Those travelling outbound from downtown Buffalo should keep in mind that only the #24B proceeds as far as the airport; the #24A ends at the city line.
- NFTA Metro Bus #47 — Youngs Road runs 15 times per day from Monday to Friday from the airport through Williamsville to the University Metro Rail Station, from which point downtown is easily accessible via the subway.
- NFTA Metro Bus #68 — George Urban Express makes one trip in each direction Monday through Friday between the airport and the Buffalo-Exchange Street Amtrak station downtown, leaving the airport at 6:56AM and leaving the train station at 4:38PM. Outbound trips (towards the airport) also serve the Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center.
- NFTA MetroLink Route #204 — Airport-Downtown Express makes 12 runs in each direction Monday through Friday between the airport and the Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center. Travellers should note that as of September 2012, Route #204 falls under the NFTA Metro system's new Enhanced Express service. An additional 50¢ surcharge applies to all trips on Enhanced Express buses, bringing the total fare to $2.50 one way.
In addition, the Buffalo Niagara International Airport is served directly by a number of intercity bus lines; see the "By bus" section. All buses, NFTA and long-distance, are boarded at the bus lane on the east side of the terminal, on the arrivals level.
Buffalo Airport Taxi's stand, as well as a number of rental car facilities, are located directly across from the terminal's main exit, on the arrivals level. For more information on taxi service and car rental, see the "Get around" section below.
For those who are coming by private plane and want to avoid the congestion of Buffalo Niagara International Airport, the closest alternative is Buffalo Airfield in West Seneca. Other general-aviation airports in the vicinity include Buffalo Lancaster Regional Airport in Lancaster, Akron Airport in Akron, and North Buffalo Suburban Airport in Lockport.
The New York State Thruway (Interstate 90) runs east to west and connects Buffalo to other major cities and regions—New York City, the Hudson Valley, Albany, Utica, Syracuse, and Rochester to the east, and Erie and Cleveland to the west. The New York State Thruway is a toll highway over most of its length, with the sole exception of the toll-free portion between Exits 50 and 55, which roughly corresponds to Buffalo's inner-ring suburbs. The New York State Thruway Authority accepts E-ZPass for toll payment, as well as cash.
Interstate 190 begins at Exit 53 of I-90 near the city line, extending west into downtown. At that point, it turns northward and mostly parallels the Niagara River, linking Buffalo to Niagara Falls and extending onward to Canada via the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge. Interstate 290 links I-90 with I-190 via Buffalo's northern suburbs. Interstate 990 runs southwest-to-northeast through suburban Amherst between I-290 and the hamlet of Millersport, after which point Lockport is easily accessible via NY 263 (Millersport Highway) and NY 78 (Transit Road).
If coming from Ontario, the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) is the best way to access Buffalo. The most direct border crossing into Buffalo, the Peace Bridge, is located at the end of the QEW in Fort Erie. Other bridge crossing options include the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, along with the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge in Lewiston. All of these bridges are easily accessible from the QEW; follow the well-posted signs.
By car, Buffalo is about two hours from Toronto, one to one and a half hours from Rochester, two and a half hours from Syracuse, and six to seven hours from New York City.
Average wait times at the various border entries vary: at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo/Fort Erie and the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, wait times over 30 minutes are unusual on most days other than holiday weekends, whereas at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, the norm is 30–60 minutes, more on holiday weekends.
Buffalo is accessible from the east and west by Amtrak, which services two stations in or near Buffalo.
- Buffalo-Depew (BUF) is located at 55 Dick Rd. in the suburb of Depew, about 8 miles (12 km) east of the city. The Buffalo-Depew station can be reached by cab or (on weekdays only, and with considerable difficulty) via NFTA Metro Bus #46 — Lancaster.
- The Buffalo-Exchange Street (BFX) station is located downtown at 75 Exchange St., near the Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center, and is directly accessed by a number of NFTA Metro Bus routes. Unlike Buffalo-Depew, there is no QuickTrak Machine and the ticket office is not open for certain departures. Passengers needing to purchase or pick up tickets for a departure when the ticket office is closed will need to do so in advance of the date of departure, or print out an e-ticket from online. Tickets can also be mailed to you, but this option is slower and more expensive. Fares, schedules, and reservations are available through Amtrak.
Buffalo is served by the following Amtrak lines:
- The Empire Service runs from New York City via Yonkers, Croton-on-Hudson, Poughkeepsie, Rhinecliff, Hudson, Albany (Rensselaer), Schenectady, Amsterdam, Utica, Rome, Syracuse, and Rochester, and continues past Buffalo to Niagara Falls.
- The Maple Leaf, which runs from Toronto via Oakville, Burlington (Aldershot), Grimsby, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Niagara Falls, USA, then continues to New York City along the same route as the Empire Service.
- The Lake Shore Limited, which, unlike the Empire Service and Maple Leaf, only serves Buffalo-Depew. Eastbound trains on this route travel from Chicago via South Bend, Elkhart, Waterloo, Bryan, Toledo, Sandusky, Elyria, Cleveland, and Erie. Westbound trains begin either at Boston or New York City; trains from Boston proceed to Albany via Framingham, Worcester, Springfield, and Pittsfield; with trains from New York City making stops at Croton-on-Hudson and Poughkeepsie. At Albany, the two routes converge and trains follow the same route as the Empire Service, stopping at Schenectady, Utica, Syracuse, and Rochester.
The Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center is located at 181 Ellicott St. downtown, and serves as Buffalo's hub for intercity buses, a stop on most NFTA Metro Bus routes, and the city's main taxi terminal.
The following bus routes serve the Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center:
- Service from Jamestown via Fredonia and Dunkirk.
- Service from Olean via Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
- Service from New York City via Scranton, Binghamton, Ithaca, Geneva, Rochester, and Batavia.
- Service from Boston via Worcester, Springfield, Albany, Schenectady, Amsterdam, Utica, Syracuse, Rochester, Batavia, and Buffalo Niagara International Airport (note: not all runs stop at all intermediate cities).
- Service from Cleveland via Ashtabula, Conneaut, Erie, and Fredonia (note: not all runs stop at all intermediate cities).
- Service from Toronto via Mississauga, Burlington, Grimsby, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Fort Erie (note: not all runs stop at all intermediate cities).
- Service from Toronto via Mississauga, Burlington, Grimsby, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls (Ontario and USA), and Buffalo Niagara International Airport (note: not all runs stop at all intermediate cities).
- Service from New York City via Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
- Service from Philadelphia via Harrisburg.
- Service from Washington, D.C. via Baltimore and Harrisburg.
- Direct service from Toronto.
- Service from New York City via Newark, Scranton, Binghamton, Cortland, Syracuse, Rochester, Batavia, and Buffalo Niagara International Airport (note: not all runs stop at all intermediate cities).
In addition, Trentway-Wagar buses, operated by Coach Canada, run from St. Catharines to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport via Niagara Falls, Ontario, though they do not serve the Metropolitan Transportation Center.
As the place where the Erie Canal met vast Lake Erie, Buffalo's early growth came thanks to the Great Lakes shipping industry. Nowadays the canal has been rerouted to end downstream in Tonawanda, but that's not to say that the canal and the lake aren't still a fairly common, if novel, way to arrive in Buffalo. The West Side, downtown, and the Outer Harbor boast a variety of places for boats to dock. For visitors, the best place to dock is:
Erie Basin Marina, 329 Erie St., ☎ . Season lasts May 1st-Oct 15th. The Erie Basin Marina is not only one of the premier venues in Buffalo for locals and visitors to moor their boats, it's also a true waterfront destination in itself — the marina boasts two restaurants (The Hatch for burgers, hot dogs, and the like, and Templeton Landing for more upscale fare), the verdant Erie Basin Marina Gardens, an observation tower boasting stunning views of Buffalo's downtown and waterfront, and even a waterfront boardwalk that leads to a small swimming beach. As well, the Ship Store at the base of the observation tower (M-F noon-6PM, Sa-Su 10AM-7PM in season) stocks a full range of snacks, boating supplies, and essentials such as sunscreen, and there's also a fueling station. The Erie Basin Marina is located within easy walking distance of Canalside and the Naval and Military Park. Transient slip rental based on length of boat, $1.90 per foot per day.
For most visitors to Buffalo, access to an automobile will prove extremely useful, if not quite utterly necessary. Buffalo's public transportation system provides access to the majority of the metropolitan area. Travelling around the city proper by public transit can be relatively hassle-free, especially on weekdays; however, transit riders travelling to the suburbs should be prepared for service that is infrequent (and, on the weekends, often non-existent).
In addition to the Interstate highways mentioned in the "Get In" section, Buffalo has several intraurban expressways useful to visitors:
- The Kensington Expressway (NY 33) begins at the airport on Genesee Street, proceeding westward through the suburb of Cheektowaga and the East Side before turning southward and concluding downtown at Oak Street.
- The Scajaquada Expressway (NY 198) is a short highway that connects the Kensington Expressway with Interstate 190. The Scajaquada is a convenient route to the neighborhoods of Parkside and the Elmwood Village, the popular commercial strips of Hertel Avenue and Grant Street, as well as attractions like Delaware Park, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Buffalo History Museum, the Darwin D. Martin House, and the Burchfield Penney Art Center.
- The Buffalo Skyway (NY 5) begins downtown at I-190, extending southward parallel to the shore of Lake Erie with access to Gallagher Beach, Tifft Nature Preserve, and other Outer Harbor attractions. After passing over the Union Ship Canal via the Father Baker Bridge, the divided highway ends, but Route 5 continues as a wide, busy six-lane surface road (variously known as the Hamburg Turnpike, Lake Shore Road, or simply Route 5) that passes through the suburban areas of Lackawanna and Hamburg and continuing southward along the lake shore.
Buffalo's highway system was designed for a city twice its size (a reflection of the population loss the area has undergone between the 1950s and today); as a result of that, the city does not suffer nearly as much from traffic congestion as other U.S. cities. Rush hour, such as it is, occurs on weekdays roughly from 6:30AM-9AM and from 4PM-6:30PM. A good rule of thumb the locals know is that, even at the height of rush hour, it generally takes no more than 30 minutes to drive from downtown to the outer edge of suburbia.
Rental car facilities are located mainly at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Dollar, and Thrifty all have offices either directly on the airport property or (in the case of the latter two) on Genesee Street adjacent to the airport.
Members of the Zipcar car-sharing program can access vehicles in the Buffalo area from both the North and South Campuses of the University at Buffalo. Another car-sharing option that may be of interest to longer-term visitors to Buffalo is Buffalo CarShare. Buffalo CarShare's rates range from $5 to $8 per hour depending on the level of membership, including 50 free miles (about 80 free km); cars are available for up to 36 hours at a time. A surcharge of 25¢ applies for each additional mile driven (about 16¢ for each additional km). Buffalo CarShare "hubs" are located in Allentown, the Elmwood Village, the Medical Corridor, the West Side, and near Canisius College. Membership in Buffalo CarShare begins at $5/month; prospective members must have been in possession of a valid drivers' license for at least 2 years, have a valid credit card, and undergo a check of their driving record.
By public transportation
Buffalo's public transportation system is operated by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA). They run a single-line light rail system (the Metro Rail) as well as an extensive bus network. The NFTA system is focused around three main nodes. From largest to smallest, these nodes are located in downtown Buffalo, at University Station (located at the outer end of the Metro Rail), and at the Portage Road Transit Center in Niagara Falls. Most of the buses whose routes begin and end downtown access the Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center directly; many also service the Buffalo-Exchange Street Amtrak station.
The Metro Rail extends along Main Street from the University at Buffalo's South Campus at the northeast corner of the city southward to Canalside in downtown Buffalo, a distance of 6.4 miles (10.3 km). With nearly 25,000 riders per day, the Metro Rail boasts the third-highest number of passengers per mile (km) among light-rail systems in the United States. The northern portion of the system is below ground. As the subway enters the downtown core, at the Theater District, it emerges from the tunnel and runs at street level for the remainder of its length. Rides on the above-ground portion of the Metro Rail are free of charge. To ride in the underground portion of the system, it costs $4.00 for a round-trip ticket, or $2.00 for a one-way ticket. The Metro Rail is a popular mode of transportation for employees and residents who live along the line and north of the city to commute downtown, and also for attendees of downtown events who want to avoid paying high prices for parking.
The NFTA eliminated the zoned fare system in October 2010. Generally speaking, rides on a single bus or light rail vehicle now cost $2.00 regardless of length. The exception is the "Enhanced Express" service introduced by the NFTA in September 2012 and applied to Routes #60 — Niagara Falls Express, #64 — Lockport Express, and #204 — Airport-Downtown Express, as well as to selected runs of Routes #69 — Alden Express and #72 — Orchard Park Express. An additional 50¢ surcharge per trip applies on Enhanced Express buses.
There are no free transfers between buses. Passengers who will need to transfer from the bus to the Metro Rail, from the Metro Rail to a bus, or between bus lines should consider purchasing a day pass for $5. For further information on public transit in Buffalo including schedules and maps of individual routes, visit the NFTA Metro webpage.
In Buffalo, taxis can generally be dispatched quickly and with ease; however, in general, the only places where they can be hailed on the street are at the airport and around the Metropolitan Transportation Center, the Chippewa Street entertainment district, the various downtown hotels, and (at certain times, and with some luck) Allentown, the Elmwood strip, and around the colleges and universities.
Taxi services in Buffalo include:
- BUF Buffalo Airport Taxi Service: +1 716 292-4425.
- Buffalo Airport Taxi: +1 716 633-8294.
- Buffalo Transportation: +1 716 877-5600.
- Cold Spring Cab Company: +1 716 886-4900.
- Liberty Cab: +1 716 877-7111.
As in many cities, bicycling as an alternative method of transportation is growing more and more popular in Buffalo. However, in terms of the development of infrastructure such as dedicated bike lanes on city streets and bike parking areas, Buffalo lags behind many other "bikeable" cities such as Minneapolis, Portland, and Boston. Despite this, scenic bike routes such as the Riverwalk, the Scajaquada Creekside Bike Path, and the Industrial Heritage Trail are immensely popular with locals, and under the aegis of the city's newly adopted "Complete Streets" program, dedicated bike lanes and other rights-of-way are being added to more and more of the city's streets.
GO Bike Buffalo (formerly Green Options Buffalo) is the local organization that promotes and advocates for cycling and other sustainable transportation alternatives in Buffalo. The Community Bicycle Workshop they operate at 98 Colvin Ave. in North Buffalo offers used parts and complete refurbished bikes for sale, as well as special programs periodically throughout the year.
Buffalo BikeShare is basically the two-wheeled equivalent of Buffalo CarShare, a program borne of a partnership between GO Bike Buffalo, the University at Buffalo, and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus that provides members with bicycles equipped with the revolutionary new GPS-enabled SoBi (Social Bicycles) technology. To use one of Buffalo BikeShare's bikes, simply sign in to the SoBi mobile phone app to find and reserve an available bike at any of the various hubs located around the city, then unlock it by typing your unique PIN number onto the bike's keypad. When you're done, return the bike to any hub. Membership in Buffalo BikeShare costs $30 a year (auto-renewing), which entitles you to 60 free minutes per day on any bike connected to the system. You're charged $3 for each hour thereafter, and there's also a $5 fee for locking the bike outside of a hub. Buffalo BikeShare has hubs in downtown, the Medical Corridor, the Cobblestone District, Allentown, the Elmwood Village, and both campuses of the University at Buffalo.
For individual listings of attractions, please see the respective district articles.
Buffalo's wealth of cultural attractions is surprising given the city's somewhat small size. The museums here are many and varied, and are a point of pride for Buffalo's citizens. Arguably the most interesting among them are a great number of institutions that focus on the area's past. Those who are curious about Buffalo's rich history are advised to first stop in at the gargantuan Buffalo History Museum which focuses on the city's history in a general sense, then take your pick of the smaller, more specialized museums — the Lower Lakes Marine Historical Society Museum to learn more about the Great Lakes shipping routes that gave Buffalo its importance as an inland port, the Colored Musicians Club Museum or the Nash House Museum for African-American history in Buffalo, the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum for the story behind Buffalo's importance in the early-20th century automotive industry, the Buffalo Fire Historical Society for the history of firefighting in Buffalo, and more.
More so even than its range of cultural attractions, Buffalo's art scene is huge for a city its size, with galleries large and small to suit all tastes. The Museum District at the north end of the Elmwood Village is the site of Buffalo's two largest art galleries, the beautiful Albright-Knox and the brand-new Burchfield-Penney. The Buffalo Religious Arts Center is an off-the-beaten-path gem in Black Rock, dedicated to preserving the statuary, icons, stained glass, and other objets d'art from the many churches and other houses of worship that have closed in the wake of Buffalo's late-20th-century population losses.
Smaller storefront galleries are plentiful, and are concentrated in some of Buffalo's more interesting areas, such as Allentown, the Theater District, and Hertel Avenue — as well as, increasingly, emerging artistic communities on the Lower West Side, in Grant-Amherst, and just south of the Theater District in the 500 Block of Main Street.
More and more, Buffalo's exquisite and well-preserved architecture has grabbed the attention of locals and tourists alike. Most recently, Buffalo's architecture took center stage when the 2011 National Preservation Conference was held in the city to unanimous acclaim. Buildings from almost every decade of Buffalo's existence are still preserved, with more being restored each year.
An enormous wealth of information about Buffalo's rich architectural heritage is available at the award-winning website, Buffalo Architecture and History.
Buffalo is a great place to enjoy the outdoors — especially in the warm months. A side effect of Buffalo's notoriously nasty winters is that locals really make the most of the warm-weather months. Predictably, in March or April on the first nice day of the year, the streets are thronged with pasty-skinned locals, dressed in shorts and tank tops despite the still-chilly temperatures, ravenously drinking in the fresh air and sunlight after the long, bleak winter. Autumn is also a pleasant time to be outdoors in Buffalo, with the crisp, fragrant air a perfect complement to the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot.
The city of Buffalo contains over 200 parks, both large and small. Among the largest and most interesting of Buffalo's parks were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, unquestionably the greatest landscape architect of the 19th Century, in conjunction with his then-partner Calvert Vaux. Buffalo's Olmsted parks are an interconnected network of six large parks and six smaller green spaces (three of the latter survive today), linked to each other by wide, tree-lined thoroughfares called parkways modeled after the grand boulevards of Paris. Though he would go on to design similar park systems for other cities, Buffalo's is the oldest and one of the best-preserved Olmsted park systems in existence — and the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, the not-for-profit that's been in charge of maintenance of the Olmsted park system since 2004, is hard at work repairing and restoring elements that have been lost over the years to put the parks in even better shape than they are now.
The Olmsted parks that will be of the most interest to visitors are Delaware Park, Buffalo's largest at 234 acres (93 ha) which boasts amenities including the Buffalo Zoo, a Rose Garden and a Japanese Garden, and public art installations, and South Park, which contains the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens. Additionally, though it's not an Olmsted park, LaSalle Park has an outdoor amphitheater, baseball and soccer fields, a dog run, and walking and jogging trails in a beautiful waterfront setting overlooking Lake Erie.
Speaking of which: as if to defy the ugly, intrusive Interstate 190 and Buffalo Skyway that run along the shoreline, Buffalo's waterfront is becoming more and more of a focal point for outdoor recreation. Located in the heart of downtown, Canalside is ground zero for waterfront recreation in Buffalo, with summertime concerts and festivals held seemingly every day in the midst of preserved remnants of the historic Canal District. A number of harbor cruise lines are also located at Canalside, as is the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park.
Parkland is also abundant on Buffalo's waterfront. In addition to the aforementioned LaSalle Park, Broderick Park is a small green space at the southern tip of Squaw Island that's most famous as the northern end of the Bird Island Pier, a 1.3-mile (2 km) walkway with an unparalleled view of the mouth of the Niagara River, lower Lake Erie, and — at its southern tip — the Erie Basin Marina and downtown. Further north, Riverside Park is an Olmsted park located at the far northwest corner of the city, adjacent to the Niagara River. Deserving of special mention is the Outer Harbor, a vast expanse of former industrial land south of downtown that became a state park in September 2013. The Outer Harbor features Gallagher Beach, a pebble beach popular with boaters and windsurfers, as well as Times Beach Nature Preserve and Tifft Nature Preserve, where walking trails meander through wetland habitats filled with migratory birds and native fauna.
Festivals and Events
Buffalo's calendar of annual festivals, parades and events is huge and growing. Ethnic pride festivals such as the Buffalo Greek Fest, the Buffalo Italian Heritage Festival, and Dyngus Day play a preeminent role, though a diversity of events of all kinds is enjoyed by citizens. Naturally, the lion's share of these festivals take place during the warm months, but efforts have been made recently to expand the slate of offerings in winter as well.
The festivals and events listed in this section take place at multiple venues city- or regionwide. For events specific to a particular venue or neighborhood, see the respective district articles.
Buffalo Niagara Film Festival. An international film festival for and by filmmakers and screenwriters that has in the past been visited by such luminaries as Robert Redford, Richard Dreyfuss, Lou Gossett Jr., Lou Ferrigno, and Buffalo native William Fichtner, the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival uses the backdrop of majestic Niagara Falls and historic Buffalo as a setting for a modest but growing selection of independent feature-length and short films. In addition to film screenings, seminars, panel discussions, and workshops are presented on topics of interest to cineasts of all kinds, as well as a Festival Expo where festival sponsors can promote their wares.
Buffalo Pride Festival. The gay rights movement emerged later in conservative, blue-collar Buffalo than it did in many other American cities. However, every year since 1991 in late May and early June, the Buffalo Pride Festival has been helping LGBT Buffalonians and their straight allies make up for lost time, with a festive atmosphere of fun and entertainment infused with a message of tolerance for all people. The Buffalo Pride Festival is multifaceted and multi-venue: it kicks off with a flag-raising ceremony in Niagara Square proudly attended by Buffalo's best and brightest, continues with a "Gay 5K" footrace through the streets of downtown, picks up intensity in Allentown with the Dyke March and a raucous street festival (21+ admitted) that sees Allen Street awash in rainbow flags, live music and performances, and street activism, and culminates with the Pride Festival itself in Canalside, a family-friendly event featuring food and drink, entertainment, and information booths. The festival closes out each year with a beach party at Woodlawn Beach State Park in Hamburg.
National Garden Festival. This "five-week-long garden party" has, since its inception several years ago, turned Buffalo into one of the premier destinations in the U.S. for garden tourism. Under the aegis of the National Garden Festival fall not only Garden Walk Buffalo, the centerpiece of the festivities that The Atlantic magazine recently cited as the best event of its kind in the nation, but also many other garden walks throughout the various neighborhoods of Buffalo (and, beginning in 2012, even in the suburbs!) where participating residents design and maintain beautiful gardens in their front yards for walkers to enjoy. In addition, there are bus tours of the area's various urban farms, nurseries, and community gardens, weekday Open Gardens, speakers, symposia and the popular Front Yard Garden Competition. The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, the Erie Basin Marina Gardens, Delaware Park's Japanese Garden and Rose Garden, and even the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmer's Market are, understandably, replete with visitors during the National Garden Festival.
Buffalo Infringement Festival. This new festival, which takes place annually on the last week of July and the first week of August, is a celebration of genre-defying, boundary-pushing DIY art and spectacle by artists who may not have the straight-world cachet or blockbuster budgets that those who display at the Allentown or Elmwood Avenue festivals have. Displays of music, dance, theater, and visual arts, as well as more offbeat genres such as puppetry, fire art, mime, and "miscellaneous insurrection", can be seen at a multiplicity of venues around the city free or for a nominal price.
Buffalo International Film Festival. Founded in 2005, the not-for-profit Buffalo International Film Festival is presented yearly by the Buffalo Film Society in late September and early October with a mission of highlighting the cinematic contributions of individuals of the past and present who hail from Western New York. Furthermore, the Buffalo International Film Festival's focus also includes exposing people in Buffalo and the surrounding region to exciting works of film by lesser-known individuals around the world who represent a diverse array of cultures, ethnicities, and educational backgrounds. An exciting array of workshops and symposia are also presented.
Make no mistake about it — Buffalo is a sports town. Buffalonians are doggedly loyal to their teams despite the fact that the city hasn't won a national championship in any of the big four American sports since 1965 — the four fruitless trips to the Super Bowl by the Buffalo Bills and two to the Stanley Cup Finals by the Sabres in the intervening years are losses that local fans have been looking to avenge for a long time.
Major-league sports are played downtown at the First Niagara Center, where the National Hockey League's Buffalo Sabres have their home ice, and at Ralph Wilson Stadium in suburban Orchard Park where the Buffalo Bills play for the National Football League.
Buffalo has a number of teams in smaller leagues as well. These teams tend to be more successful on the field than the big-league clubs. Baseball's Buffalo Bisons have won seven pennants in the AAA-level International League and American Association, most recently in 2004; they play at Coca-Cola Field downtown. The Buffalo Bandits play indoor lacrosse at the First Niagara Center and have won four NLL championships. Soccer fans will want to check out the NPSL's FC Buffalo; matches take place at All-High Stadium on Main Street. Finally, the city's newest sports team, the Premier Basketball League's Buffalo 716ers, have their home court at the gymnasium of Tapestry Charter School in North Buffalo.
In the world of college sports, the University at Buffalo's Buffalo Bulls reign supreme. Bulls football and basketball games are played on the North Campus in Amherst, at UB Stadium and Alumni Arena respectively. Canisius College's Golden Griffins, who play at the Koessler Athletic Center on Main Street, also have a sizable local following.
Golfers visiting the area might want to check out the suburbs first; public and private courses are plentiful outside the city limits. However, those who want to hit the links in Buffalo itself can do so in style. No fewer than three of Buffalo's Olmsted parks — Delaware, Cazenovia, and South Parks — boast golf courses (the former has 18 holes, the latter two have nine), and the Grover Cleveland Golf Course in University Heights is famous as the site of the 1912 U.S. Open. See the district articles for more details on individual courses.
Buffalo is a hotspot for freshwater fishing, with a remarkable diversity of species thanks to its location at the junction of Lake Erie and the Niagara River, which each feature different scenarios for anglers.
In Lake Erie, the marquee catch is smallmouth bass: the Queen City has been recognized by Bassmaster magazine as one of the top three bass fishing destinations in the United States. If you're angling from shore — say, at Outer Harbor State Park or Ship Canal Commons in South Buffalo — the prime times are early May through mid-June and October through November, just after the lake thaws and before it freezes again. The bass move to cooler waters in midsummer, but if you have a boat, they're still easily catchable at those times in the deeper parts of the lake. Most of the bass you'll catch will be between 2 and 4 pounds (1 and 2 kg), though it's not unheard of to reel in whoppers of 6 or 7 pounds (3 kg) from time to time. Aside from bass, Lake Erie has some of the best walleye fishing you'll find anywhere, with average catches ranging from 5 to 8 pounds (2.5 to 3.5 kg), as well as muskellunge (especially around the mouth of the Buffalo River) and yellow perch.
The Buffalo River boasts its share of fishing spots too — notably RiverFest Park, Conway Park, Mutual Park, Seneca Bluffs, and other green spaces in the emerald necklace of the Buffalo River Greenway. Despite generations of heavy industry that once left it an ecological dead zone, the river was cleaned up enough by the early 1980s for fish to filter their way in once again, and today a typical catch might include bullhead, largemouth bass, yellow perch, and steelhead trout.
The upper Niagara River, meanwhile, is a great place to catch steelhead, lake trout, and northern pike which teem in its cool, fast-flowing waters all season long. This is also a place to find smallmouth bass in the summer months, when the shoreline areas of Lake Erie are too warm for them. Squaw Island is the place to be for river fishing in Buffalo — folks from the West Side's Burmese refugee community reeling in dinner for their families are a regular sight at places like Broderick Park, the Bird Island Pier, and Squaw Island Park. (But think twice before you follow their lead in eating your catch: though the Niagara River and Lake Erie have come a long way in terms of pollution, it's advised to severely restrict if not completely avoid eating fish caught in local waters. For more specific information, see the New York State Department of Health Fish Advisory.)
It's no Vegas, but gamblers have a number of options in and around Buffalo.
The $130 million permanent home of the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino in the historic Cobblestone District finally had its grand opening in August 2013; it boasts 800 slot machines and 20 table games. The Buffalo Raceway, on the grounds of the Erie County Fair in the suburb of Hamburg, has slot machines, video poker, and, in season, live harness racing.
Further afield, there are several other destinations for fans of horse racing, slots, and other gaming (Niagara Falls foremost among them). See the Go next section for more on those.
For a city its size, Buffalo has a surprisingly large, active, and diverse theater scene. Even after the closure in 2008 of the biggest producing theater in town, the Studio Arena Theatre, the Theater District, bounded roughly by Washington, Tupper, Franklin, and Chippewa Streets, has remained vibrant, with Curtain Up!, the gala event that marks the opening of the theater season, drawing larger-than-ever crowds downtown each September.
There are plenty of theaters outside the Theater District as well, many of which are connected to the theater programs of the various colleges and universities in the area. See the district articles for details.
For listings of individual venues, see the various district articles.
Despite the many directions in which it has evolved over the decades — a thriving punk, hardcore and new wave scene in the early '80s, a ragtag brotherhood of vaguely jangly alternative acts in the '90s, and a flourishing of countrified roots-rock bands lately — one thing that's always remained the same about Buffalo's music scene is its tight-knit camaraderie, its loyalty to its hometown fan base, and, despite the occasional native son or daughter that's gone on to greater fame (notably Rick James, Ani DiFranco, and the Goo Goo Dolls), its relative obscurity outside the confines of the local area. Buffalo may not have the reputation of Austin, but as a live music town it's worthwhile for locals and visitors alike.
Major national touring artists usually take the stage downtown. The biggest of the big stars — your U2's, your Rolling Stones — usually play at the First Niagara Center, but downtown also has a handful of midsize concert venues such as the Town Ballroom, The Waiting Room, and Shea's that play host to second-tier acts. Visitors from north of the border might be surprised to see many Canadian groups that haven't yet "made it big" in the States playing to packed houses at places like The Waiting Room — long lacking decent homegrown rock radio, local fans have taken a shine to Toronto stations and, as a result, bands like the Tragically Hip are huge draws in Buffalo. Summertime brings well-known names to outdoor events like Buffalo Place Rocks Canalside and the Outer Harbor Concert Series. As well, Babeville, located on Delaware Avenue on the northern fringe of downtown, is both the headquarters of Righteous Babe Records, the label helmed by Buffalo's own Ani DiFranco, and the site of Asbury Hall, a concert venue situated in a former church that regularly hosts shows by Righteous Babe's stable of folky indie singer-songwriters and other artists of the same ilk.
If local music is what you're looking for, the two hotspot neighborhoods are Allentown and Grant-Amherst. Allentown bars like Duke's Bohemian Grove, Merge, and the storied Nietzsche's are great places to see homegrown rockers and singer-songwriters doing their thing — usually the same two dozen or so bands playing "musical chairs" among the venues. Though it's uncommon, on occasion you'll even see a nationally famous name take the stage at these places (this seems to happen most often at Duke's). In Grant-Amherst, you're more likely to catch country, blues, or roots-rock acts — the nucleus of the Grant-Amherst musical scene, the Sportsmens Tavern, calls itself the "honkiest, tonkiest beer joint in town". Grant-Amherst is also the site of the recently reopened Showplace Theater, where in the glory days of the '90s and early '00s countless alt-rock acts on the cusp of superstardom played.
Fans of other types of music aren't left out in the cold either: the blues shows at Main Street's Central Park Grill are locally legendary, jazz fans can attend great concerts in the historic Colored Musicians Club or check out exhibits on local music history in the attached museum, and Kleinhans Music Hall, where the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra holds court, is a Nationally Registered Historic Place designed with pitch-perfect acoustics by architects Eliel and Eero Saarinen.
For those who want to be kept abreast of developments in Buffalo's local music scene and upcoming concert happenings in town, buffaBLOG is an exhaustive source of information.
Buffalo is home to a large number of private and public colleges and universities. The largest school in the area is the University at Buffalo (UB). One of the four "university centers" of the State University of New York (SUNY) system, UB is renowned as a large public research university. For this reason, it is one of 62 elected members of the prestigious Association of American Universities. UB has two campuses: the smaller South Campus is located in the University Heights neighborhood at the city's northeast corner, and the larger North Campus is located in the suburb of Amherst, about four miles (6 km) northeast of the South Campus.
Buffalo State College, also part of the SUNY system, is located across from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, at the north end of the Elmwood Village. Canisius College is Buffalo's largest private college, located near the intersection of Humboldt Parkway and Main Street. Other colleges and universities in the city and its surrounding area include Trocaire College, Medaille College, Villa Maria College, D'Youville College, Daemen College, and the three campuses of Erie Community College.
The University at Buffalo has an annual Distinguished Speakers Series, which has played host to Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Michael Moore, the Dalai Lama, Stephen Colbert, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta in recent years. These events take place on the North Campus and are open to the public; tickets are available from the University's box office. UB has a free series of summer lectures available to the public, and Buffalo State regularly has events open to visitors.
For listings of individual shops, please see the respective district articles.
Buffalo has a number of interesting shopping districts, each with its own flavor.
The Elmwood Village is located along Elmwood Avenue from Buffalo State College south to North Street. This area contains a variety of small shops with a very "independent" feel — you won't find many national chain stores or restaurants here. Elmwood Avenue's specialty is upscale clothing boutiques catering to fashion-forward urbanites; it's also a good place to seek out locally-produced art and jewelry, quirky gifts, and some of the finest dining Buffalo has to offer.
Allentown is centered along the entire length of Allen Street from Main to Wadsworth Streets, but especially west of Linwood Avenue. Adjacent, and similar in some ways, to the Elmwood Village, Allentown has more of a bohemian and artsy vibe compared with the college students and yuppies that frequent Elmwood. Amid the proliferation of hipster bars, you'll see a lot of antique shops, small art galleries, and clothing stores with a more urban style.
Hertel Avenue, between Delaware and Parker Avenues in North Buffalo, is home to a growing assortment of small shops. Hertel is the place to come to browse art galleries, shop for antique and contemporary furniture and home decor, mellow out in head shops such as Terrapin Station and Headin' to Hertel, and sample Middle Eastern cuisine at a variety of restaurants and bodegas at the west end of the strip, near Delaware Avenue.
University Heights, more specifically the Main Street corridor between the city line and LaSalle Avenue, has a more modest range of shops catering to students of the nearby University of Buffalo, with lots of fraternity swag, UB-logo T-shirts and hoodies, and the like. Independently-owned bookstores and comic shops are abundant as well. Also in this area is the University Plaza, Buffalo's oldest suburban-style shopping center that has anchored the outer end of the strip since 1939.
Grant Street, which runs north-to-south through the Upper West Side, is the main thoroughfare of two newly revitalized shopping areas in this rapidly gentrifying area of town. The stretch between (approximately) West Delavan Avenue and Hampshire Street, centered on West Ferry Street, is an up-and-coming commercial strip known as Grant-Ferry. A true "melting pot", with the Hispanics who've been here for years now joined by Somalis, Southeast Asians, Arabs, Eastern Europeans, and Buffalo State College students, Grant-Ferry is accordingly home to a modest but growing collection of ethnic food markets, clothing stores, and so forth. Also, Grant-Amherst, a short distance north at the corner of Amherst Street, was named Buffalo's "Best Up-and-Coming Neighborhood" in the "Best of Buffalo 2011" competition in Artvoice. Grant-Amherst boasts a small but growing collection of art galleries, antique shops, and restaurants within walking distance of Buffalo State College. Visitors should be warned, however, that despite the ongoing upswing, the neighborhoods around Grant Street are still a good deal "grittier" than places like the Elmwood Village and Allentown.
In the 'burbs can be found the usual lineup of malls and plazas. The largest mall in the area is the Walden Galleria, on Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga, 10 minutes from downtown via the Kensington Expressway and/or Interstate 90. Others include the Boulevard Mall in Amherst, the McKinley Mall on the border between Hamburg and Orchard Park, and the Eastern Hills Mall in Clarence. In Buffalo itself, there is a small area between Delaware and Elmwood Avenues at the northern edge of the city where shopping plazas, big-box stores, and chain restaurants can be found.
For restaurant listings, please see the respective district articles.
Buffalo is a haven for great food. Whereas the area was once largely the domain of unimaginative, cookie-cutter chain restaurants and "greasy spoons", local residents agree that the dining scene in Buffalo has come a long way in the past twenty years. Increasingly innovative and high-quality establishments have popped up more and more often in places such as downtown, the Elmwood Village, Allentown, and the Hertel Avenue corridor. Visitors — even those who have been to Buffalo in the past — may be pleasantly surprised by the array of options.
No visit is complete without trying some Buffalo wings. Oh, sure, everyone thinks they've tried them, but nothing compares to the ones you can get in Buffalo. (But please don't call them "Buffalo wings"; around here, they're just "wings".) For the uninitiated, an authentic Buffalo wing is a chicken wing slathered in a mixture of homemade hot sauce and butter and fried up crisp. Best served with celery and blue cheese. Locals endlessly debate whether the Anchor Bar on Main Street or the local chain Duff's has the best recipe.
Another local specialty is beef on weck (sometimes pronounced "beef on wick"), a sandwich that consists of slices of tender, juicy slow-roasted beef layered on a kümmelweck roll (a Kaiser roll topped with caraway seeds and Kosher salt) and traditionally garnished with horseradish. Any place that serves hot sandwiches is likely to have beef on weck on the menu, but Charlie the Butcher's Kitchen (1065 Wehrle Drive at Cayuga Rd. in Cheektowaga) and Schwabl's (789 Center Rd. at Union Rd. in West Seneca) are the two restaurants whose beef on weck has the best reputation among locals.
Texas hots, despite their name, were not invented in Texas, but in Buffalo, where they began as a unique offering in the area's many Greek restaurants (Seneca Texas Hots claims to be the first to serve them, though this is a matter of some dispute). The Texas hot is a hot dog slathered with mustard, onions, and spicy meat sauce or chili; the finished product bears some resemblance to the "Coney Island" hot dogs served in Detroit, though the chili sauce on Texas hots is lighter and thinner in consistency.
Loganberry is a non-carbonated fruit beverage that is often served as a fountain drink at local restaurants, and is available in bottles at supermarkets and convenience stores in the area. This intensely sweet, dark purple drink is flavored with loganberry juice; as such, its flavor is somewhere between raspberry and blackberry. Aunt Rosie's and PJ's Crystal Beach Loganberry are the two major brands you will see — "Crystal Beach" in the name of the latter brand is a reference to an amusement park that was once located just over the border in Ontario, which was popular with Buffalo's residents in the 1950s and '60s and where the drink first originated.
Fish fry is a Buffalo staple that owes its existence to the traditional predominance of Roman Catholicism among the local citizenry — practicing Catholics were once forbidden to eat red meat and poultry on Fridays. Though that prohibition hasn't been in effect since the 1960s, the tradition of enjoying a fish fry on Friday nights has stuck. The traditional recipe sees massive filets of haddock or cod coated in flour, beer-battered and deep-fried until golden brown, then finished with tartar sauce and/or lemon juice and served with sides that may include French fries, coleslaw, or perhaps macaroni salad. You can eat fish fry at some of Buffalo's nicer restaurants if you want, but this is still a working-class food at heart and, accordingly, the best fish fry is served by the smaller neighborhood watering holes and greasy spoons. Expect lines for fish fry to be especially long during the season of Lent (usually Feb-Apr, though it varies by year), when the old no-meat-on-Fridays rule still applies.
Contrary to local belief, sponge candy is not unique to the Buffalo area — it's found under various monikers in the British Isles, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Québec, and various places in the U.S. Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Still, above and beyond any other product, it's a specialty of local confectioners. Brown sugar, corn syrup, and baking soda are mixed together into a thick syrup and then baked. The heat from the oven then releases bubbles of carbon dioxide gas from the baking soda which get trapped in the mixture as it hardens and sets into a toffee, creating sponge candy's trademark crunchy, latticed interior. The local version is invariably served covered in chocolate. The Fowler's chain of chocolate shops is reputed to sell the best sponge candy in Buffalo, though its competitors Watson's and Parkside Candy would beg to differ.
Locations of most national chain restaurants can be found in Buffalo. However, Buffalo also boasts several local and regional chains that are beloved of Western New Yorkers and that serve as staples of the local cuisine.
Anderson's. Since 1946, the Anderson family has operated this chain of drive-ins which are immensely popular with Buffalonians, especially in the summer months. One of Anderson's specialties is roast beef; by local reputation their beef on weck is of passable quality, but pales in comparison with Charlie the Butcher's and Schwabl's. Anderson's true strength, though, lies in their dessert selections, with a dizzying variety of frozen custards, milkshakes, flavored ices, hard and soft-serve ice creams, and sundaes on offer. Anderson's seven locations include restaurants in North Buffalo and the suburbs of Amherst, Cheektowaga, Kenmore, Lancaster, Lockport, and Williamsville.
Bagel Jay's. The former owners of Bagel Bros., which boasted two dozen locations at its height before the company was sold, are back with the same delicious bagels Buffalonians grew to love. A wide range of New York-style bagels are on offer at the three locations of Bagel Jay's (one on Delaware Avenue in North Buffalo and two in the suburb of Amherst) — traditional varieties such as sesame, poppy, and onion as well as innovative ones such as tomato pesto and cranberry orange — with an equally wide variety of regular or flavored cream cheese "shmears". A range of breakfast sandwiches and dark-roasted coffees are on offer as well, while at lunchtime the impressive gamut of sandwiches, soups and salads are popular with Bagel Jay's patrons. Bagel Jay's is a multiple-time winner in the "Best Bagel" category of Artvoices' annual "Best of Buffalo" readers' poll. Corporate catering is also offered.
Charlie the Butcher. Charlie Roesch was not the inventor of beef on weck — that honor goes to Schwabl's restaurant, which opened in 1837 in the Near East Side and later moved to suburban West Seneca — but he and his descendants have certainly done the most to popularize that Buffalo specialty outside the immediate local area. The butcher shop of Charles E. Roesch and Company was founded in 1914 and operated for over eight decades in the Broadway Market, with its titular owner also serving as Mayor of Buffalo from 1930 to 1934. His grandson, Charles W., carries on the family business, both at his restaurant, Charlie the Butcher's Kitchen, in Cheektowaga — which has been visited, according to the photos hanging prominently on the wall, by such famous names as Mark Russell, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Denise Austin, Tim Russert, and Regis Philbin — and at four Charlie the Butcher Express locations in downtown Buffalo as well as the suburbs of Williamsville, Orchard Park, and East Aurora. In addition, Charlie the Butcher's carved roast beef is available at Buffalo Bisons games at Coca-Cola Field and at many supermarkets and grocery stores all over Erie and Niagara Counties. Charlie has also taken beef on weck to the national and international stage on TV shows such as "Good Morning America", "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee", and "FoodNation with Bobby Flay", and in the pages of magazines such as Gourmet and Martha Stewart Living.
Duff's Famous Wings. Buffalo wings: the Anchor Bar invented them, and, according to a strong local consensus, Duff's perfected them. It was in 1969 when Louise Duffney began serving chicken wings at the roadside tavern she operated in a then-rural area of Amherst; her interpretation of the Anchor Bar's recipe was an instant hit. Interestingly, in a parallel to SPoT Coffee, Duff's was purchased in 1998 by a pair of Canadian brothers who moved the business' operations to Toronto. However, Duff's identity is still far more closely linked to Buffalo than Canada, not only because of the food they serve that is so emblematic of Buffalo cuisine, but also because Duff's still has more Buffalo-area locations — the original location in Amherst as well as new ones in West Seneca, Depew, and the Eastern Hills Mall — than in Toronto, where there are only three.
Jim's Steakout. The credo of Jim's Steakout — "If You're Up, We're Probably Open" — has endeared this chain to clubbers, college students, and miscellaneous night owls all over the Buffalo area (indeed, most locations stay open until 5AM). Burgers, tacos, wraps, chicken wings and fingers, and fast food of a similar nature is served at Jim's, but it's their famous steak hoagies (the classic variety of which is dressed with lettuce, tomato, melted cheese, fried onions, and Jim's Secret Sauce) that really put this place on the local radar. Jim's Steakout has five locations in the City of Buffalo (in Allentown, the Chippewa Street entertainment district, the Elmwood Village, University Heights, and North Buffalo) as well as five suburban locations (two in Amherst and one each in Tonawanda, West Seneca, and East Aurora).
Louie's Texas Red Hots. Founded in 1967, Louie's Texas Red Hots is a locally-owned chain of restaurants that is probably the best-known place in Buffalo that specializes in Texas hots (see description in the beginning of this section). Louie's menu also includes other standard fast-food staples such as regular hot dogs, burgers, milkshakes, chicken fingers, French fries, and the like. The origin of Texas hots among Buffalo's Greek immigrant community manifests itself on the menu as well — cheeseburgers made with feta are an interesting option, pita bread is listed as a side order, and Greek desserts such as rice pudding and baklava are available. Louie's has four locations in the city of Buffalo (in North Buffalo, Kensington-Bailey, University Heights, and the Elmwood Village), as well as three suburban locations (West Seneca, Depew, and Orchard Park).
Marco's Italian Deli. Marco Sciotino, longtime chef of Marco's Italian Restaurant on the West Side, has spent the last decade or so feeding Western New Yorkers' love of hearty, tasty Italian cuisine with his growing list of Marco's Italian Deli franchises. Delicious sandwiches are the rule here, boasting the finest premium Boar's Head deli meats and cheeses, as well as unforgettable monikers such as the "Don Corleone", the "How-You-Doin'", and the "Forget About It". Soups, salads, burgers, and panini are also served. In addition to the original restaurant, which serves a wider range of entrees, locations of Marco's Italian Deli can be found downtown, on Hertel Avenue in North Buffalo, and in the suburbs of Amherst, Kenmore, and Grand Island.
Mighty Taco. Perhaps the largest and best-known chain restaurant of local provenance, Mighty Taco is a Mexican fast-food outfit that was founded in 1973 and now boasts 21 locations in the Buffalo metropolitan area as well as two restaurants in suburban Rochester. This place's popularity among locals is so great that Taco Bell was shut out of the Buffalo market till well into the 1990s, and Mighty's sales figures still dwarf those of its much larger multinational rival. Signature specialties are the El Niño Burrito and their extensive line of "Roastitos", as well as seasonal offerings such as Chipotle Chili and BBQ Beef Burritos. Mighty Taco is also well-known for the unique, somewhat psychedelic commercials they run on local television, especially during the late-night hours.
Rachel's Mediterranean. From humble beginnings as a small food counter in the lobby of an office building in Williamsville serving on-the-go lunches to corporate types, the Khoury family has grown Rachel's into a beloved local chainlet of fast-casual eateries specializing in light, healthy and inexpensive Greek and Lebanese fare — "like Chipotle for Mediterranean food", in the words of one reviewer. At Rachel's, everything is totally customized: choose between a wrap, a salad, or rice or pita-chip bowl, then pick your favorites from a seemingly neverending list of veggies, cheeses, sauces and toppings. As you can imagine, this place is heaven for vegetarians and vegans, but Rachel's doesn't neglect meat lovers either: the gyro meat and souvlaki chicken and steak available in wraps or as add-ons to the salads are some of the most mouth-watering you've ever tasted. Add on a side — hummus and tabbouleh are popular options — and you're good to go. In addition to the original Rachel's that's still going strong on Main Street in Williamsville, there are locations on UB North Campus in Amherst, on Chippewa Street downtown, and in Hamburg.
SPoT Coffee. A longtime Buffalo tradition, SPoT Coffee's stock in trade is not only high-quality coffee roasted in-house and gourmet sandwiches, soups, salads, baked goods and other light meals, but also a keen attention to the history and identity of each of the communities they serve that is reflected in the individualized recipes and decor of each of their coffeehouses. SPoT Coffee was purchased in 2004 by a group of investors from Toronto, but Buffalonians still claim SPoT as their own as the chain was founded in Buffalo, has an identity that is still entwined with that of Buffalo, and still has more coffeehouses in the local area than any of the new markets they have entered since the change in ownership. Aside from the new locations in Toronto, Rochester, Glens Falls, Saratoga Springs, and Delray Beach, Florida, SPoT's five coffeehouses in the Buffalo area are located in the Elmwood Village, the Chippewa Strip, North Buffalo, and in the suburbs of Williamsville, East Amherst, and Orchard Park.
Ted's Hot Dogs. The hot dogs served up at this place since 1927 by three generations of the Liaros family have made Ted's among the best-loved of Buffalo's local traditions. Locally-produced Sahlen's frankfurters are broiled slowly before your eyes on a charcoal-fired grill, with the standard condiments of ketchup, mustard, onion and pickle relish available, as well as chili and cheese for a nominal extra cost — it should be noted, though, that Ted's chili sauce is distinctly different from the sauce that comes on Texas hots. Burgers, fries, onion rings, milkshakes, and soft drinks (including loganberry) round out the offerings here. Sadly, Ted's original location on the lovely waterfront of Buffalo's West Side closed in the 1990s, but the chain still boasts eight locations in the suburbs of Amherst, Cheektowaga, Lancaster, Lockport, North Tonawanda, Orchard Park, Tonawanda, and Williamsville — as well as one in Tempe, Arizona, where owner Spiro Liaros lived after his retirement. Not to be confused with Ted's is Theodore's Red Hots, a rival chain that's the product of an acrimonious split in the Liaros family; local consensus holds it as an inferior knockoff of the original.
Vasilis Express. Given the preponderance of Greek diners on the Buffalo restaurant scene, it was perhaps inevitable that a chain-restaurant version would eventually emerge. Vasilis Panagopoulos, the ambitious owner of the restaurant of the same name on Kenmore Avenue, has expanded into several Vasilis Express outlets around the Buffalo area. Here, all the Greek diner staples are available: souvlaki and gyro wraps, avgolemono, moussaka, and Greek salad, as well as burgers and fish fry; most of the business at Vasilis Express is take-out, though each restaurant boasts at least a few tables for sit-down business. Vasilis has four locations currently — the original Vasilis Restaurant in Tonawanda, as well as Vasilis Express locations downtown, in the Elmwood Village, and in University Heights.
Food trucks have finally arrived in Buffalo, and they're a sensation. According to the comprehensive source on the subject, bflofoodtrucks.com, there are over fifteen food trucks operating in Buffalo now, serving everything from the standard hot dogs and tacos to more unusual selections like elegant scratch-made desserts, gourmet fusion cuisine, and carnival fare. The growth of food trucks in Buffalo has not been without its share of struggle, though: in 2013, a proposal in the Common Council, backed by many of the city's bricks-and-mortar restaurants, for a laundry list of new fees and regulations for food trucks was only narrowly defeated thanks to intense grassroots efforts. Also, many suburban communities have instituted similarly draconian regulations or ban the trucks entirely.
Listed below are some of Buffalo's more popular food trucks. They can most commonly be found downtown or in Allentown, the Elmwood Village, and North Buffalo; if you're in the suburbs, office complex parking lots are another frequent venue. Many food trucks maintain Facebook fanpages and/or Twitter feeds that update fans on where they'll be setting up shop.
Betty Crockski, ☎ . Maybe it was the cheeky name; maybe it was because it was the first new food truck to come on the scene in a while; maybe it was because in a city with such a strong, enduring Polish heritage there is such a lack of Polish cuisine — but starting right from the announcement in early 2014 of its imminent opening, anticipation for Betty Crockski built up like no food truck in the city's history. According to Buffalo Eats, lines were so long in their first few days that "it seemed like they had a passionate fan base already waiting for them". Betty does not disappoint: in the months before opening, the owners were on sabbatical in Poland learning that country's authentic culinary traditions, with the result that the scratch-made specialties served here are second to none in quality. Pierogi are the backbone of the menu, and they're mouth-watering: variously stuffed with braised pork and caramelized onion, sauerkraut, or a mix of shaved Bellavitano, creamy farmers' cheese and chèvre. Also not to be missed is Betty Crockski's own homemade kielbasa, seasoned just enough to enhance but not overwhelm the smoky, delicious pork flavor, and in summer the salatka of field greens, asparagus, heirloom tomatoes, potatoes and peppers never fails to refresh. Needless to say, Betty Crockski is an institution at the Dyngus Day festival at Central Terminal. Best of all is the service — it's lightning fast (especially impressive given how long the lines usually are), and delivered with a smile and an irreverent wit that you'll get a kick out of.
Black Market Food Truck. With the Black Market Food Truck, Christian Willmott and Michael Dimmer, otherwise known as the owners of The Nines Catering Company, seek to redefine "fast food" — marrying freshly-prepared, handcrafted gourmet cuisine with speedy and efficient service that is more often seen at McDonald's or Subway. The cuisine in question is so wide-ranging as to defy attempts to describe it in one word, encompassing imaginative works of culinary fusion such as coconut-curry chicken souvlaki, jerk pork sandwiches with yellow peppers and banana guacamole, and Buffalo chicken arancini. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options are available, along with a soft drink selection that consists exclusively of locally-bottled Johnnie Ryan craft sodas. Those who wonder whether the BMFT can pull off such a feat while maintaining high quality can rest assured — it bested stiff competition to win the "Best Food Truck" category in Buffalo Spree magazine's "Best of Western New York" competition for 2013. Also, unlike many area food trucks, credit cards are accepted.
The Cheesy Chick. Grilled cheese is the name of the game here, but these aren't your ordinary sandwiches: The Cheesy Chick dishes out seemingly infinite permutations of this classic childhood staple, with the freshest quality ingredients on offer. Buffalonians looking for comfort food on the go can choose from an ever-changing and mind-bogglingly ample array of specialty sandwiches; the Cheesy Chick's concoctions encompass combinations of cheeses from the standard cheddar to brie and havarti, breads from Italian to sourdough to cinnamon raisin to panini, and toppings as creative as prosciutto, coleslaw, and fresh apples and pears. The modest selection of non-grilled-cheese offerings include a range of desserts, salads and (in season) hot soups. The Cheesy Chick's perennial Achilles heel is their service, which ranges from fast and friendly to slow and indifferent.
Fally Mac, ☎ . After spending several years living in Savannah, Falynn Koch came home to Buffalo with a newfound taste for the cuisine of the American South. Enter Fally Mac, the somewhat eponymous food truck she founded that specializes in that Southern favorite: macaroni and cheese. You can get the basic recipe at Fally Mac — here it's called the "Plain Jane", elbow noodles liberally smothered in crumbled parmesan — but the specialty here is surprisingly elaborate gourmet concoctions such as Crawfish Mac ("forget lobster mac, crawfish is your new fave", says the menu) and a Summer Roll Mac that's perfect for vegans, topped with tofu, sliced carrot, shaved coconut, and peanuts and garnished with a mixture of Sriracha and hoisin sauces. Elsewhere on the menu are upscale interpretations of other Southern standbys, like edamame succotash and a pimento cheese sandwich garnished with green apple slices. The Achilles heel at Fally Mac is the prices, especially given the size of their portions; also, if you like your pasta al dente, this place may disappoint. But service is lightning quick and always comes with a smile.
Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs. This is one of the best food trucks in Buffalo, and the "gourmet" in their name is no joke — though Frank will happily serve you the standard ketchup/mustard/onion/relish setup, the heart and soul of this place is in artful (and reasonably priced!) creations such as the French Onion dog with cream cheese, the "Chelsea Lately" (with coleslaw, barbeque sauce, and crumbly blue cheese), and the "Quito" (served in a tortilla with cheddar cheese, refried beans, and fresh salsa and guacamole). De rigueur in a city where Ted's is the king of hot dogs, Frank's dogs are charcoal-broiled and employ only the freshest ingredients, making for a product that can hold its own with the fare at that longstanding local chain. The upscale touch continues with the side dishes, starring hand-cut French fries that come slathered in your choice of specialty ketchups, aiolis, and other toppings.
Lloyd Taco Truck, ☎ . The original (inaugurated in 2010) and still the undisputed king of Buffalo food trucks, Lloyd's fleet now comprises three trucks whose appearances around the area consistently draw crowds eager for their "high-end food and service at street-level prices". Wash down popular Lloyd staples such as tomatillo pork tacos, braised beef burritos and "tricked-out nachos" — made with free-range, antibiotic- and hormone-free meats and locally grown produce — with an ice-cold Jarritos soda or HFCS-free Coke imported from Mexico.
The Roaming Buffalo. The Roaming Buffalo leaves the hoity-toity gourmet food to its competitors, concentrating instead on "smacking the taste back into the mouths of Buffalonians" (to quote the official website) with perennial local favorites such as a fried bologna sandwich with onions, a mouth-watering beef on weck with locally-produced Miller's horseradish sauce, and hot dogs made with Sahlen's frankfurters. A huge range of burgers are served, too, from classic hamburgers and cheeseburgers to more specialized options like the "WTF!?!? Burger" (peanut butter and bacon) and the perennial favorite "Buster Burger" made with 100% bison meat. Service at the Roaming Buffalo tends to be a bit slow, but it's always friendly — and the food is worth it.
The Whole Hog. Painted an unmissable shade of pink, The Whole Hog's specialty is homestyle Southern comfort food, with an accent on some of the best barbecue Buffalo has to offer. The pulled pork sandwiches are the star of the show here — massive, messy concoctions of tender, smoky pork dripping with sauce and piled onto the softest French bread rolls you've ever seen, served with a side of delicious mac 'n' cheese with hot sauce at the ready for those who like it spicy. On the other hand, vegans are well taken care of as well, with at least one or two options on the rotating menu at any given time (the "beans and greens" are a favorite). Best of all, with meat and produce sourced from local farmers (including the West Side's Massachusetts Avenue Project) and employment opportunities provided to underprivileged inner-city youth, The Whole Hog's customers help, bite by delicious bite, to make Buffalo a better place.
Of course, nothing goes better with a big plate of chicken wings than a hot, fresh pizza, and Buffalonians are justifiably proud of the pizza served in their city. You'll find a lot of pizzerias here, but one thing you won't find a lot of are big national chains. If you absolutely need Domino's or Papa John's, there are a few locations here and there, but the scene in Buffalo is dominated by neighborhood mom-and-pop pizza places and locally-based chains, each of whose individual variation on the classic recipe inspires fierce loyalty — and rivalry. And they're all a lot better than the big national outfits.
Appropriately enough for a city that's almost exactly at the midpoint between New York City and Chicago, Buffalo pizza splits the difference between New York-style thin-crust and Chicago deep-dish, with a crust that tends to be a bit spongier than average. Out-of-towners also sometimes remark about the sauce on Buffalo pizza, which tends to be sweeter in flavor than in other parts of the country.
Below are listed some of the more well-known local pizza places:
Bocce Club. The Bocce Club is a small operation, barely worthy of the term "chain" — it only has two locations, both in Amherst — but it merits inclusion here due to its outsize reputation among Buffalonians. Though some say Bocce's is not quite as good as it used to be, the Pacciotti family's secret recipe is still often cited as the gold standard of Buffalo-style pizza, right down to, in the words of one reviewer, the "crunchy, curled-up pepperoni with pools of grease" in the middle. The key is the freshness of the ingredients, with dough made from scratch on the premises and only 100% whole-milk mozzarella cheese, which makes up for the fairly modest range of toppings offered. The usual array of wings, subs and sides are also offered, along with a decent fish fry. Also on Transit Road in East Amherst is the Original Bocce's Pizza, run by a different branch of the same family; local consensus says it's not as good.
Franco's. The happy medium of Buffalo pizza, Franco's pies are offered with a respectable variety of toppings, but they're not as creative as Just Pizza; fresh-tasting and well-balanced, but not as artfully executed as Bocce's. Though the quality here can sometimes be inconsistent, Franco's is generally agreed to be above-average on the Buffalo pizza hierarchy. Where they truly excel, however, is the accompaniments — the garlic bread here is soft, moist and has a pleasantly sharp garlic flavor, the wide variety of subs on offer are all large and delicious, and the hot wings pack a spicy punch. Franco's pizzas stand out from the rest of the pack thanks to their square(-ish) shape; as the slogan goes, "Franco's doesn't cut any corners"! Locations are concentrated in Buffalo's northern suburbs, with two Tonawanda outlets and one each in Amherst, Kenmore and North Tonawanda.
Just Pizza. The closest thing to "gourmet" that you'll find in the realm of Buffalo pizza delivery, the creativity and endless variety offered at Just Pizza have earned it comparisons to a homegrown version of California Pizza Kitchen — the online menu even suggests wine pairings to accompany their more popular specialty pies. Retaining the classic Buffalo crust and sauce but reinventing everything else, Just Pizza's dizzying selection of toppings (from the usual suspects to broccoli, breaded eggplant, and tiger shrimp), cheeses (mozzarella, ricotta, fontinella, cheddar, and even feta) and fourteen different crusts (from regular to sesame, lemon pepper, honey BBQ, and more) are such that even the most diehard pizza fanatic will never be bored. Despite their name, Just Pizza also serves respectable chicken wings (with, true to form, your choice of 20 sauces), subs, tacos, and the like. Unique among Buffalo pizzerias, Just Pizza slices all their pizzas into squares, not just sheet pies. By far the largest chain of pizzerias in the area, Just Pizza boasts twelve locations, five in Buffalo and one each in Amherst, Clarence, Depew, Grand Island, Lancaster, North Tonawanda, and West Seneca.
La Nova. Like the Bocce Club, the extent of La Nova's reputation belies the small size of the business, with only two locations — one on the Upper West Side and another in suburban Williamsville. That reputation is largely thanks to the Todaro family's ingenious marketing ploys, with T-shirt giveaways, La Nova-brand pizza sauce sold in area supermarkets, and even the annual "Wingstock" pizza-and-wing tasting constantly boosting the place's profile among locals — and non-locals; they ship nationwide! That may sound crass, but why be modest? La Nova pizza is among the best Buffalo has to offer, piled high with fresh toppings (including meaty, mouth-watering pepperoni) and cheese galore. The crust tends to be thicker and doughier than average as well; perhaps following Just Pizza's lead, a number of "crust toppings" are available. La Nova's wings deserve special mention — in the same league as Duff's and the Anchor Bar according to many locals, La Nova grills their wings after they come out of the fryer, giving the finished product a crispy but not smoky char. (Those who'd like to try both the pizza and the wings — highly recommended — should opt for a Combo Pack).
Picasso's. With four locations in Williamsville, West Seneca, Lancaster and Hamburg, Picasso's stands out from its competition for the value customers get for their money. On paper, the prices at Picasso's are comparable to other pizza places in Buffalo — but the portions are huge, such that a medium pizza here could easily pass for a large somewhere else. That being said, the pizza itself can be described as merely average, with a crust that's slightly sweeter and nuttier in flavor, and wing lovers would probably be better served elsewhere. Picasso's does have an immense variety of other options available encompassing pretty much every type of simple, portable food that you might imagine from a place like this: everything from calzones to pasta dishes to several dozen varieties of hot and cold subs, and most interesting of all, an impressive variety of surprisingly tasty salads.
Buffalo's range of grocery stores is comparable to other U.S. cities its size. Naturally, the lion's share of them can be found in the suburbs, but unlike the infamous "food deserts" of other Rust Belt cities like Detroit, even the most forlorn inner-city precincts usually have at least one full-service supermarket.
Among the three major players on the Buffalo grocery-store scene, locally-based Tops has the most stores, but the upscale, just-this-side-of-pretentious Wegmans chain, based in Rochester, enjoys by far and away the most loyalty and devotion among locals. Walmart, meanwhile, has greatly expanded its slice of the pie since its first Buffalo-area "supercenter" opened in 1997.
Budget shoppers can choose from Aldi, Save-a-Lot, and PriceRite, each of which have a handful of stores in Buffalo that sell a more limited range of items in a no-frills environment, for costs considerably lower than the major grocery chains. Of these, PriceRite boasts an especially good selection of fresh produce including an abundance of tropical fruits and vegetables, and Save-a-Lot's offerings in the realm of meats is equally impressive — they're the only discount supermarket in Buffalo that employs their own butchers. Dash's is another small, locally-based chain. As a last resort, "dollar stores" such as Dollar General and Family Dollar usually stock a limited range of canned vegetables, dry groceries, snacks, and occasionally milk, eggs, and frozen foods, but not fresh produce or meat.
Aside from a lone Trader Joe's in Amherst, there's not much in the way of upscale specialty grocers here (a niche that's partially filled by Wegmans). An exception is the Lexington Co-op, a cooperatively-run purveyor of upscale natural, organic, and often locally-sourced foods with a location currently open in the Elmwood Village and a second one planned for North Buffalo.
Finally, the latest craze in Buffalo among aficionados of fresh, locally-grown foods are the farmers' markets which have exploded in number and size over the past decade or so. At the present time, there are about two dozen of them located all over the metro area, where local farmers, vintners, cheesemakers, and producers of other artisanal food products come to sell their goods directly to the public. Farmers' markets usually take place on a weekly basis during the growing season, and many of them double as full-fledged street festivals, with live music, games, and other entertainment.
For bar listings, please see the respective district articles.
As a historically (and enduringly) blue-collar town, Buffalo has traditionally had a fairly dense concentration of bars and taverns. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Buffalo is among the top ten cities in the United States in number of bars per capita.
Drinkers in Buffalo aren't limited to rough-and-tumble working-class watering holes, though — although there are plenty of those, Buffalo has quite a number of more upscale nightlife districts, each with a distinct character. There's truly a bar scene in Buffalo for every taste, from the thumping dance clubs of Chippewa Street, to the cooler-than-thou hipster dives of Allentown where local rock bands gig, to the chichi cocktail bars in the Theater District that fill with theatergoers before and after shows, to the chill yuppie hangouts of the Elmwood Village, to the historic taverns of the Cobblestone District and the Old First Ward where it doesn't take much imagination to picture the canal boaters, grain scoopers, and railroadmen of a century ago relaxing at the bar with a frosty mug after a long workday.
Last call in Buffalo is 4AM. For this reason, many bars in Buffalo don't get going until sometime after midnight on weekends. As elsewhere in the United States, the legal drinking age is 21.
For hotel listings, please see the respective district articles.
There is a wide range of high-quality lodging to choose from in both Buffalo and its suburbs, encompassing hotels, motels, B&Bs, hostels, and guest houses. In particular, downtown Buffalo is currently in the middle of a boom in hotel construction, with about a half-dozen new properties recently opened or nearing completion. Much of this is the product of the preservation of architectural heritage that has come into vogue in Buffalo recently, with beautiful but vacant old buildings restored and repurposed — so if you're staying downtown, particularly at the lovely Lofts on Pearl or the newly reopened Hotel Lafayette, be prepared for a real Gilded Age treat. Of course, not all hotels downtown are old — the 205-room Marriott set to open in 2015 will be the centerpiece of the Harborcenter development in burgeoning Canalside, and existing hotels such as the Adam's Mark have been renovated extensively. Elsewhere in the city proper, Delaware Avenue in Allentown is the site of two mid-range properties and the grand old Hotel Lenox, and several B&Bs can be found peppered here and there catering to travelers in search of a distinctive, quirky urban experience.
In suburbia, the usual range of budget and mid-priced chains can be found clustered mostly around highway interchanges and in various other places. Two especially big clusters of hotels exist just south of the University of Buffalo's North Campus in Amherst, as well as around the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, where the arrival of discount airlines in Buffalo, cheap airport parking, and the highest airfares in North America out of Toronto have combined to spark a hotel boom comparable to downtown's.
Publicly accessible wireless Internet is mainly limited to coffee shops, bookstores, and other such establishments; Internet cafés are virtually unknown in Buffalo. In particular, McDonald's, Starbucks, Coffee Culture, Tim Hortons, and Barnes & Noble offer free WiFi and boast many easy-to-find locations throughout the region. Public libraries also usually offer Internet access.
Buffalo's main post office and mail processing facility is located at 1200 William St. in the city's Lovejoy neighborhood.
The reputation of Buffalo's East Side as a rough part of town can be over-exaggerated by locals, but it's not entirely undeserved. Generally speaking, the East Side is the city's poorest residential district, with widespread urban blight and high crime rates plaguing many parts of the district (especially the Bailey Avenue corridor). To a lesser extent, some parts of the West Side also have these problems. That being said, crime rates in Buffalo have fallen in recent years to levels not seen in half a century. What violent crime does occur is usually drug- and gang-related and does not target tourists. Follow general precautions that would apply in any urban area — locking car doors, keeping valuables out of sight, being aware of your surroundings, etc. — and you should be fine pretty much anywhere.
Panhandlers can be found occasionally on Chippewa Street downtown and in Allentown and the Elmwood Village, though not nearly to the degree of most other cities. Aggressive panhandling is virtually unknown.
Newspapers and print media
Since the Courier-Express went bankrupt in 1982, the Buffalo News has been the city's sole daily newspaper. With a circulation of nearly 155,000 daily and over 235,000 Sunday, the Buffalo News is the most widely circulated newspaper in Upstate New York. Journalists employed by the News have won three Pulitzer Prizes, two for Editorial Cartooning and one for Local Reporting; in 2009, the New York State Associated Press Association named the Buffalo News New York State's "Newspaper of Distinction" for that year in recognition of the quality of its journalism. These facts may come as a surprise to locals. Listings for concerts, movies, theatre productions, and other events around town are published in Gusto, a weekly supplement to the Buffalo News published on Thursdays.
Buffalo has two alternative newsweeklies, the well-established Artvoice and upstart The Public — each of which feature, in varying proportions, a progressive take on local news as well as coverage of the thriving Buffalo arts community. By comparison with each other, Artvoice tends to focus more on event listings, restaurant and theater reviews, and other cultural coverage in a tone that's optimistic and upbeat, while The Public has already earned a sterling reputation as a source of incisive investigative journalism that tackles matters of local import in a take-no-prisoners fashion.
Buffalo Rising is an excellent online publication whose "beat is New Buffalo" and which features "original content written by fellow Buffalonians knowledgeable and passionate about their city". In much the same vein, The Good Neighborhood is an online journal that describes itself as a "daily destination for good news, events, and people making a difference in our communities", with a focus on news, event listings and business reviews relevant to Buffalo's various individual neighborhoods.
The African-American community of Buffalo is served by two newspapers: the Buffalo Criterion, one of the oldest continually-published African-American newspapers in the country, and also the Challenger Community News, which celebrates its 50th year in operation in 2013. Panorama Hispano publishes news relevant to Buffalo's Latino community in both English and Spanish, and also serves the Hispanic communities in the nearby cities of Dunkirk, Jamestown, and Rochester. The Am-Pol Eagle is a weekly paper featuring news and commentary of interest to the Polish-American community in the area. Also, many of Buffalo's neighborhoods boast community newspapers of their own, such as the Allentowner and the North Buffalo Rocket.
Buffalo Spree is a monthly magazine that features articles on dining, events, and the arts in the local area. Block Club is a quarterly magazine with a "hyperlocal focus" that "talks about building a better Buffalo", featuring interviews with prominent local business owners, community figures, and innovators of all kinds, and commentary on a host of community issues.
In the field of radio broadcasting, Buffalo's history is one of the longest in the nation; its oldest radio station, WGR, has been on the air since 1922. Sadly, though, Buffalo radio leaves much to be desired in the present day, a fact that has led many locals to become listeners of radio stations based in Toronto and elsewhere in Southern Ontario. Buffalo's highest-rated radio stations as of 2011 are WYRK, WBLK, WGRF, and WHTT on the FM dial, and WBEN on the AM dial.
Radio stations serving the Buffalo area include:
- News/Talk: WBFO 88.7 FM (NPR), WBEN 930 AM (conservative), WLVL 1340 AM (conservative).
- Sports: WGR 550 AM, WHLD 1270 AM, WWKB 1520 AM.
- Oldies/Classic rock: WBUF 92.9 FM, WGRF 96.9 FM, WHTT 104.1 FM, WECK 1230 AM/102.9 FM (light oldies), WSPQ 1330 AM, WJJL 1440 AM.
- Top 40/Adult Contemporary: WMSX 96.1 FM, WKSE 98.5 FM, WTSS 102.5 FM.
- Urban: WBLK 93.7 FM, WUFO 1080 AM (gospel/soul), WWWS 1400 AM (soul).
- Country: WYRK 106.5 FM, WXRL 1300 AM.
- Alternative rock: WEDG 103.3 FM, WLKK 107.3 FM/107.7 FM.
- College radio: WBNY 91.3 FM (Buffalo State College).
- Classical: WNED 94.5 FM.
- Religious: WFWO 89.7 FM (gospel music), WFBF 89.9 FM, WDCX 99.5 FM/970 AM, WLOF 101.7 FM (Catholic).
- Spanish-language: WBBF 1120 AM.
Canadian radio stations with significant popularity among Buffalonians include:
- CJRT 91.1 FM (jazz), CHTZ 97.7 FM (alt-rock), CKFM 99.9 FM (top 40), CKEY 101.1 FM (top 40), CFNY 102.1 FM (alt-rock), CILQ 107.1 FM (classic rock).
Buffalo's television stations represent all major American television networks. In addition to these, many Canadian television stations based in Toronto are available through Time Warner Cable; however, over-the-air reception of these stations is generally very poor.
Television stations serving Buffalo include:
- WGRZ Channel 2: NBC.
- WIVB Channel 4: CBS.
- WKBW Channel 7: ABC.
- WNED Channel 17: PBS.
- WNLO Channel 23: The CW.
- WNYB Channel 26: Tri-State Christian Television.
- WUTV Channel 29: Fox.
- WDTB Channel 39: Daystar Television Network. Christian television.
- WNYO Channel 49: MyNetworkTV.
- WPXJ Channel 51: Ion Television.
- WBXZ Channel 56: Cozi TV.
- WBBZ Channel 67: Me-TV.
In case of medical emergency, Buffalo is well-served by a wide variety of hospitals and other medical facilities. The Erie County Medical Center on Grider Street is Buffalo's largest hospital and is a teaching facility for students of the University of Buffalo Medical School. Kaleida Health operates Buffalo General Hospital, Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo, and (in the suburbs) Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital and DeGraff Memorial Hospital. Catholic Health Systems of Buffalo operates Mercy Hospital and Sisters of Charity Hospital, which each have one city location and one suburban location.
Places of worship
For more information on specific places of worship, please see the respective district articles.
From early in its history, Buffalo's population has been predominantly Roman Catholic, a trend that still holds true today. The seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo is St. Joseph's Cathedral, at 50 Franklin St. downtown. Buffalo has some truly magnificent Catholic churches, particularly on the East Side, where 19th-century German and Polish immigrants built a bevy of massive, ornate stone churches and cathedrals, some still in use, most not. Outside of Buffalo proper but still worthy of note is Lackawanna's Our Lady of Victory Basilica, a massive marble structure that is a testament to the charitable institutions headed by Father Nelson Baker.
Protestant churches are far more numerous in the suburbs than in Buffalo proper; however, there are a few large and active congregations in the city, especially in neighborhoods such as Allentown, the Elmwood Village, and Parkside that still contain significant numbers of old-money WASPs. Notable Protestant churches in Buffalo include St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral at 125 Pearl St. downtown, the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York as well as a Nationally Registered Historic Place and a National Historic Landmark, and E. B. Green's First Presbyterian Church on Symphony Circle, the oldest religious congregation in Buffalo.
Black churches are numerous on the East Side, and the most well-known among them is the Michigan Street Baptist Church, whose roots stretch back to the very beginning of Buffalo's African-American history. Though it no longer hosts regularly-scheduled services, it is still of great importance to connoisseurs of local history as a former "station" on the Underground Railroad and the modern-day centerpiece of the Michigan Street African-American Heritage Corridor. As for congregations that remain active today, you have everything from huge modern megachurches like True Bethel Baptist Church to historic congregations almost as old as Michigan Street Baptist, like Bethel A.M.E. Church.
Those of Eastern Orthodox faiths are served by the Delaware District's Hellenic Orthodox Church of the Annunciation and St. George Orthodox Church in Park Meadow. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has a location near downtown as well as suburban churches in Amherst, Lancaster, and Orchard Park.
Buffalo's modest-sized Jewish community is found primarily in the suburb of Amherst. Congregation Shir Shalom (Reform), Temple Beth Tzedek (Conservative), and Young Israel (Orthodox) are all located there. Temple Beth Zion, situated in a boldly modernist building on Delaware Avenue, is the largest Jewish congregation in the area and also one of the oldest and largest congregations of Reform Jews in the United States. As well, North Buffalo contains several Orthodox shuls left over from its bygone days as Buffalo's Jewish stronghold.
The Jaffarya Islamic Center of Buffalo is Buffalo's largest mosque, a Shia congregation located on Transit Road in Swormville, about 20 miles (30 km) northeast of the city. Sunni mosques can be found just south of the city line in Lackawanna — a place that's well-known locally for its growing Muslim population — and also on the East Side.
Adherents of other religions may be interested in the ̈Chùa Từ Hiếu Buddhist Cultural Center of Buffalo at 647 Fillmore Ave., the Buffalo Zen Center in suburban West Seneca, the Hindu Cultural Society of Western New York in Amherst, and the Buffalo Gurdwara Sahib, a Sikh temple at 6569 Main St. in Williamsville.
- East Aurora is a quaint suburban village that's known as the site of the Roycroft Community of artists and artisans that was an important component of the early 20th-century Arts and Crafts Movement, and as the longtime home of the Fisher-Price toy company, whose founding in 1930 earned East Aurora the nickname "Toy Town, U.S.A." Though the Toy Town Museum is on an indefinite hiatus, the still-active Roycroft Campus hosts tours, classes and demonstrations.
- Niagara Falls, New York is a short 30-minute drive from Buffalo. Compared to its counterpart in Ontario, Niagara Falls, New York might seem at first like just another down-at-the-heels industrial burg of the Rust Belt, but those who look beyond that will come to appreciate charms such as the revitalized Little Italy along Pine Avenue, the world-class Aquarium of Niagara, and the attention that is finally being paid to the historic downtown area, centered around Old Falls Street. As for the falls themselves, Niagara Falls State Park is understated and even serene, with no hoopla to distract attention away from the main attraction. Fans of Niagara Falls, Ontario-style neon glitz need not be completely disappointed, either: the Seneca Niagara Hotel and Casino has been in operation on the American side since 2003.
- Clarence is a quaint upper-middle-class suburb of Buffalo, located about 30 minutes north and east of the city via State Route 5 or exit 49 of Interstate 90. Appropriately for such a historic town (Clarence was settled in 1799, a few years after Buffalo), Clarence is well-known locally as a paradise for antique shopping, most of which is centered in and around Clarence Hollow, a quaint business district centered along Main Street about 15 miles (24 km) east of Buffalo.
- Lockport is the county seat of Niagara County, New York, located about 25 miles (40 km) northeast of Buffalo via Interstate 990 and State Routes 263 and 78. A historic industrial city that owes its existence to the Erie Canal (much like Buffalo), Lockport grew up around a series of locks that can still be seen downtown where the canal crosses the steep Niagara Escarpment. Canal-related attractions such as the Lockport Locks and Erie Canal Cruises and the Lockport Erie Canal Museum are on offer.
- Lewiston is a historic village on the Niagara River located about 40 minutes north of Buffalo via Interstate 190. Aside from the cute boutiques, restaurants, and B&Bs in the charming business district, Lewiston contains Earl W. Brydges Artpark, the only state park in the U.S. devoted to the arts. Water Street Landing, on the riverfront, is the site of the Freedom Crossing Monument, where many escaped African-American slaves staged their final push toward Canada, and the Whirlpool Jet Boat, which takes passengers on a thrilling ride through the Niagara River rapids.
- Darien Lake is a theme park resort in rural Genesee County, about 40 minutes east of Buffalo. "Western New York's Coaster Capital" contains over 40 rides, plus a hotel, campground, and laser light show, and is hands-down the most popular amusement park for Buffalonians in the summer. Also, the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center is one of Western New York's premier venues for live music.
- The hills south and southeast of Buffalo bear the brunt of the lake-effect snow that falls in early winter; as such, this is Buffalo's ski country. The closest ski resort to Buffalo is Kissing Bridge, located on Glenwood-East Concord Rd. in the town of Colden. Kissing Bridge gets 180 inches (450 cm) of snow per year on average, creating perfect conditions for its 36 slopes. Next to Kissing Bridge is the Colden Tubing Company. More ski resorts are located in Chautauqua County and in Ellicottville, discussed below.
- The beaches along Lake Erie south of Buffalo are popular summer day trips for locals. Though many are privately owned or restrict admission to residents of their respective towns, several are accessible to the general public. The most popular of these is Evangola State Park, just before the county line in the town of Brant, offering not only one of Western New York's finest beaches but also picnic shelters, campsites, and recreation facitilies. Other public beaches further afield can be found in Chautauqua County, in Silver Creek (Sunset Bay) and Dunkirk (Wright Park and Point Gratiot Park).
- Genesee County is located along I-90 about midway between Buffalo and Rochester. Batavia, the county seat, is one of the oldest and most historic towns in Western New York; visitors to Batavia may be interested in Batavia Downs Casino, which features harness racing, slots, and video gaming. Other Genesee County attractions include Darien Lake, described above, as well as the JELL-O Gallery, a kitschy roadside museum dedicated to the gelatin dessert located in the town of Le Roy, where it was invented.
- Old Fort Niagara in Youngstown, 40 minutes north of Buffalo, is a state park and a National Historic Landmark whose history can be traced to 1678, when it was built as a French trading post and military base. Built in 1726, the fort's centerpiece, the "French Castle", is the oldest building in the U.S. between the East Coast and the Southwest. Today 100,000 visitors each year come to take tours, see historical reenactments and other events, and peruse a museum of archaeology and local history.
- Chautauqua County is located southwest of Buffalo and is easily accessible via Interstate 90. A place of farms, forests, mountains, and beaches, Chautauqua County contains the Chautauqua Institution, a historic retreat on the shores of Chautauqua Lake offering performances, lectures and workshops in a charming Victorian setting. A bit south of Fredonia, Lily Dale is a center of the Spiritualist movement and boasts psychic mediums, fortune-tellers, and the like. Peek 'n Peak Resort in Clymer is a year-round destination in Chautauqua, with 27 ski slopes, downhill tubing, and golf.
- Located southeast of Buffalo, the "Enchanted Mountains of Cattaraugus County" include several notable sites. Ellicottville is a year-round destination best known for its two ski resorts, Holiday Valley and HoliMont. Griffis Sculpture Park in East Otto is the oldest sculpture park in the country, founded in 1966. Next to the state line is Allegany State Park, the "wilderness playground of Western New York", offering camping, skiing, hiking, and natural beauty. Nearby is the Seneca Allegany Hotel and Casino, in Salamanca.
- New York State's third-largest city, Rochester, is a short drive of 60 to 90 minutes eastward along Interstate 90. Museums, art galleries, street festivals, exciting professional sports, and more are to be had in a perfect combination of big-city amenities and small-town intimacy.
- The Finger Lakes region is located between Rochester and Syracuse, about two hours east of Buffalo along Interstate 90. Named for the series of eleven long, slender lakes found there, the region offers natural beauty and small-town charm, but is best-known among locals for its status as the most important wine-producing area in the Eastern U.S. Over 100 wineries are located in the Finger Lakes, many of which offer tours and tastings in season.
North of the Border
All people, including U.S. citizens, are required to produce a passport or an enhanced drivers' license to cross the Canadian border as well as on their return trip to the United States. Vehicles may be stopped and searched, but more often travellers will be sent on their way quickly after showing their passports and being questioned briefly about the purpose of their trip and the planned length of their stay (this is especially true of U.S. and Canadian citizens).
There are three border crossings in Western New York: the Peace Bridge, by which travellers cross from Buffalo to Fort Erie, Ontario for a toll of $3.00 (payable in either U.S. or Canadian funds), the Rainbow Bridge between Niagara Falls, New York and Niagara Falls, Ontario (toll $3.25 U.S. or Canadian), and the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge a short distance north of Niagara Falls (toll $3.25 U.S. or Canadian). For travellers to most Canadian destinations other than Niagara Falls and Fort Erie, the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge offers the most direct route, but is also the one that is most prone to delays.
- Fort Erie is a small city of about 30,000 located just west of Buffalo, easily accessible via the Peace Bridge. Attractions here include Old Fort Erie, a reconstructed garrison where several War of 1812 battles were fought. From May to October, Fort Erie Racetrack is the scene of thoroughbred races including the Prince of Wales Stakes, the second jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown. Uncle Sam's Bingo Palace and Golden Nugget Bingo offer games of chance. Also near town are some of Canada's finest freshwater beaches, such as Crystal Beach, Waverly Beach, and Bay Beach.
- Niagara Falls, Ontario is directly across the river from Niagara Falls, New York, and accessible via the Rainbow Bridge. In sharp contrast to its U.S. counterpart, the views of the Falls from Ontario are almost unanimously considered to be better, but rather than the greenery that abuts the falls on the American side, in Ontario can be found Clifton Hill, a gaudy, Vegas-like neon jungle of high-rise hotels, casinos, restaurants, nightclubs, and gimmicky tourist traps like the Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum and the Movieland Wax Museum. It's considerably quieter outside of the main tourist district, with romantic B&Bs, parkland, and (further north) wineries lining the Niagara Parkway, a scenic drive stretching from Fort Erie to Niagara-on-the-Lake.
- Niagara-on-the-Lake is an hour from Buffalo, at the mouth of the Niagara River. The provincial capital was briefly located here in the late 1700s, and the town was of strategic importance during the War of 1812 — historic Fort George is still open for tours. Today, visitors to the Falls often make the short drive north to take in the charming streets and stone buildings here, a scene straight out of a prim British village. Niagara-on-the-Lake is also home of the Shaw Festival; each year from April to November, a selection of plays by George Bernard Shaw and others is performed in three historic theatres.
- The Niagara Peninsula extends between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, immediately west of Buffalo. Aside from the region's fertile farmland and historical importance as a battleground during the War of 1812, the Niagara Peninsula is greatly popular with tourists as Canada's most productive wine-producing region. There are dozens of European-style wineries straddling both sides of the Niagara Escarpment that are open to visitors in season. The unique microclimate of the Niagara Peninsula is particularly suited to producing ice wine, an extremely sweet variety popular as a dessert wine.
- Toronto is located about two hours from Buffalo (assuming ideal traffic conditions and no delays at Customs). With over five and a half million people living in the Greater Toronto Area, Canada's largest city is an exciting and dynamic metropolis that offers all the big-city excitement one could want.
|Routes through Buffalo|
|Ends at ← Cheektowaga ←||S N||→ Tonawanda → Niagara Falls|
|Niagara Falls, ON ← Fort Erie ← ←||W E||→ Ends at|
|Jct W E ← Lackawanna ←||S N||→ Tonawanda/Amherst → Niagara Falls|
|Erie ← Lackawanna ←||W E||→ Amherst → Auburn|
|END ←||W E||→ Cheektowaga → Auburn via|