Buffalo’s natural and man-made wonders

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
Brian Hayden

Fourth of July fireworks explode over the Erie Canal Harbor in Buffalo, N.Y. The city has several art museums, two dozen theaters, and a skyline filled with the works of prominent 19th and early 20th century architects.
Photo courtesy of Visit Buffalo-Niagara

Last winter, Buffalo was blanketed with 130 inches of snow, the seventh-snowiest season since World War II. Even in years with more benign winters, moisture off Lake Erie pushes the average snowfall to about eight feet.

But while the Washington area swelters during July and August, Buffalo gets its reward: High temperatures average 78 to 80 delightful degrees.

No matter the weather, Buffalo offers visitors numerous sites and activities to explore.

At the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, you can see one of the world’s most impressive collections of modern and contemporary art, including works by Van Gogh, Picasso and Warhol. Across the street, you’ll find the Burchfield Penney Art Center, which is committed to the art of Buffalo and Western New York.

Buffalo has some two dozen theaters, anchored by Shea’s Performing Arts Center, which hosts an annual Broadway series. The Grammy Award-winning Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is led by JoAnn Falletta, who has been hailed by the New York Times as one of the finest conductors of her generation.

 Buffalo’s emerging Canalside district showcases the city’s waterfront and history of shipping along Lake Erie and the Erie Canal. The centerpiece of this district is the commercial slip — the re-excavated and restored western terminus of the Erie Canal, dating from 1825.

A system of bike trails, parks and boardwalks comprise Buffalo’s Outer Harbor, offering stunning views of the lake and city skyline.

That skyline features the work of some of the most renowned architects of the 19th and early 20th centuries, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, H.H. Richardson, Richard Upjohn, and Eliel and Eero Saarinen.

There are also two large residences designed by Wright open to visitors: the Darwin Martin House complex, and the Martin’s summer estate nearby, Graycliff. Both continue to undergo restoration to their original magnificence.

 Other unique sites include the spot where Teddy Roosevelt took the presidential oath of office. The Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site was recently renovated.

Mark Twain spent time in Buffalo in the late 19th century as a newspaper editor. Leaves from the original manuscript of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are on display in the Mark Twain Room at downtown’s central library.

Learn about Buffalo’s Native American, ethnic and industrial heritage at the Buffalo History Museum. The city is also filled with African American heritage. Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie and other giants of jazz performed at the Colored Musicians Club, which is now a museum and still hosts regular gigs by area musicians.

Winging it

While Buffalo is justifiably proud of its chicken wings — and no trip to Buffalo is complete without a stop at the Anchor Bar, where Buffalo wings first took flight 50 years ago this year — it also boasts 400 independently-owned restaurants offering delicious local specialties, plus a pair of wine trails and vibrant farmers markets.

Don’t miss some Western New York culinary favorites, including beef-on-weck sandwiches (thinly cut roast beef served on a salt and caraway seed topped kummelweck roll), sponge candy (made with chocolate and caramelized sugar, with a texture and taste that even its creators say is hard to describe), and charcoal broiled hot dogs.

Buffalo is also home to several breweries, including Flying Bison Brewing Co. and Hamburg Brewing Company. The first distillery in Buffalo since Prohibition, Lockhouse Distillery, opened in 2013 to produce artisanal vodka.

Shoppers will find everything from hip boutiques in Buffalo’s trendy Elmwood Village, Allentown and Hertel neighborhoods, to major department stores at a number of local shopping centers and malls.

Sports fan? Buffalo has a wealth of options, including the NFL’s Bills, NHL’s Sabres, AAA baseball’s Bisons, world-class fishing, great skiing and fantastic water sports. Kayak through the city’s historic grain elevator district on the Buffalo River or rock climb up those elevators on Silo City Rocks, which is set to open later this year.

Spend a day in the natural splendor of the Tifft Nature Preserve, only minutes from downtown Buffalo, or admire floral beauty during a stroll in the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. A series of parks and parkways throughout Buffalo designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted provide a scenic respite in the heart of the city.

The region also offers a host of family-friendly activities, from the Buffalo Zoo and Buffalo Museum of Science to the Explore and More Children’s Museum in East Aurora.

Military buffs can view the submarine, destroyer and cruiser permanently docked at the Buffalo harbor — part of the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park, the largest inland naval park in the country.

The American side of Niagara Falls can be viewed 20 minutes outside of Buffalo.
Photo By Bob Corley

Upcoming festivals

Buffalo seems to have a festival for everything, ranging from the Taste of Buffalo on July 12 and 13, the largest two-day food festival in the country, to GardenWalk Buffalo, the nation’s largest free garden tour, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year on July 26 and 27, to the Erie County Fair (Aug. 6 to 17), celebrating its 175th, to the National Buffalo Wing Festival on Aug. 30 and 31.

Buffalo also offers a host of ethnic celebrations, from two St. Patrick’s Day parades to the Galbani Buffalo Italian Heritage Festival, reflecting the city’s diverse roots. There’s also Dyngus Day, the day after Easter Sunday, when polka bands, Polish food and a parade ring in the end of the Lenten season.

Niagara Falls is 20 minutes away. At Niagara Falls State Park, you can get up close to the roaring waters at the Cave of the Winds or venture to the base of the falls on a Maid of the Mist boat tour. Be sure to wear your souvenir rain ponchos!

Southwest Airlines has a roundtrip fare from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Buffalo of $184 in mid-August, as does U.S. Airways from Reagan National Airport.

For more information about events, attractions and things to do in the Buffalo/Niagara area, go to www.visitbuffaloniagara.com or contact Visit Buffalo Niagara at 1-800-Buffalo.

[If you plan to visit the Canadian side of the Falls, see the “If you go” tips at the end of “Villages and hamlets of the 1,000 islands” for border-crossing information.]

Brian Hayden is communications manager with Visit Buffalo.