Spotlight: Buffalo & Niagara Falls

Explore the colorful cityscape and lively waterfront of Buffalo-Niagara. From the rhythmic beat of Canalside concerts to sizzling cuisine at farm-to-table restaurants and historic museums--there is something for everyone to love.

Why you'll love it:
Buffalo Canalside - Photo Courtesy of Visit Buffalo Niagara.jpg

After undergoing a remarkable transformation in recent years, Buffalo-Niagara is a cultural hotspot home to art galleries, a burgeoning craft beer scene and dotted with architectural gems throughout its historic neighborhoods--not to mention one of the most magnificent world wonders, Niagara Falls. So start exploring, here's what you need to know for your trip to the Greater Buffalo-Niagara region. 

Jump to: Spend a day | Spend a weekend | Spend a week | Where to stay | Where to eat | Cool things to know | Getting there

Three things you can't miss:

1. Canalside: Redeveloped from its glory days as the Western terminus of the Erie Canal, Canalside hosts over 1,000 annual events - from summertime concerts and recreation, to ice skating and sports in the winter.

Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours Photo Courtesy of Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours

2. Darwin D. Martin House: Constructed between 1903 and 1905, the Martin House is ranked as one of Frank Lloyd Wright's finest residential works. In the final stages of a $50 million restoration, tour the grounds of the complex and gawk at the attention to detail of this architectural master.

3. Niagara Falls Jet Boats: The Lower Niagara River offers two unique jet boats that will get your heart racing and take you up closer to the raging rapids then you ever thought possible. Niagara Jet Adventures and Whirlpool Jet Boats will plunge you through white water, class V rapids safely and give you that once in a lifetime experience! 


Family-style Fun

Penn Dixie Paleontological & Outdoor Education Center

Explore & More Children's Museum--Founded on the principle that play is essential to growth, health and above all--fun--this award-winning museum brings joy to learning through interactive exhibits and programs. Click here for their current play zones and exhibits.

Penn Dixie Paleontological and Outdoor Recreation Center--Ranked as the #1 fossil park in the United States, this geologic hotspot is nature preserve as well as quarry to collect and keep fossils from the shallow ocean environment. Providing unique, hands-on learning opportunities in the study of ecology, astronomy, geology and ornithology.

Buffalo Museum of Science--Exploring natural history and life sciences, this museum's immersive exhibits promote family-fun and interactive learning. With a broad range of rotating exhibits, as well as their newly added Explorations early childhood gallery and National Geographic 3D Cinema, this award-winning museum is fun for the entire family.

Spend a day

Canalside Waterfront Project in Buffalo

• Start the morning with Explore Buffalo and let highly knowledgeable tour guides show you the city's architecture by bike, boat, kayak or foot. Dive into Buffalo's rich history and view America's great architectural wonders including historic Silo City and Gilded Age mansions on this in-depth journey. Fuel up with lunch at Anchor Bar--home of the original Buffalo chicken wing. Try the classic hot sauce, or test your limits with their spiciest wings!

• Head over to Canalside, Buffalo's lively waterfront where sailing, shopping and outdoor concerts make it one of the top places to be downtown. Check their daily events schedule for the latest activities including yoga, art galleries and kid-friendly festivals. In the evening, drive to Niagara Falls for the Illumination light show where the cascading falls are lit up in a rainbow of colors.

Spend a weekend

Darwin Martin House Complex• Start with a morning tour of the Darwin D. Martin House, a masterpiece of 20th century architecture and one of Frank Lloyd Wright's most notable creations. Lead by highly knowledgeable guides, the 90-minute museum tour will take you through the estate complex and architectural history of America's Prairie School era.

• Buy tickets in advance for the Buffalo Bites Food Tour to enjoy tasty food and drink from local restaurants and speciality shops. Bring your appetite and a sense of adventure as your guide takes you on a historic tour of Elmwood Village or a cultural tour of East Aurora.

Maid of the Mist-Photo Courtesy Niagara USA Tourism & Convention• The Niagara USA Discovery Pass is the perfect way to experience the beauty of Niagara Falls State Park in a day. Start with the Niagara Adventure Theater, an IMAX-style film featuring an exhilarating perspective of plunging over the Falls. Enjoy a ride on the famous Maid of the Mist, or get soaked on the Whirlpool Jet Boat Tour and stop for some magnificent views on the Observation Tower.

• Nature lovers should check out the Cave of the Winds Tour that takes you 175 ft down to Niagara Gorge and up close with the cascading falls. If you want to keep your clothes dry, explore the Aquarium of Niagara for shows and exhibits. Grab dinner and a fresh pint at The Griffon Gastropub. This popular eatery puts a creative twist on American cuisine and offers 150 beers on tap at two Buffalo locations.

Spend a week

Buffalo Zoo giraffe Photo by NYS ESD

• Animal lovers will enjoy the Buffalo Zoo which hosts a range of species including lions, elephants and giraffes. Explore the grounds and check out awesome exhibits including the Reptile House and Gorilla Exhibit.

• Refuel at Ashker's Juice Bar and Cafe, their menu is full of tasty eats like warm paninis and fresh fruit smoothies served in mason jars, giving an artistic flare to your lunch retreat. Spend the rest of the day getting lost in Elmwood Village, a colorful neighborhood dotted with historic Victorian homes and quain boutiques.

Albright-Knox Gallery - Photo by Tom Loonan• Explore the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, home to world renowned collections of modern and contemporary art, including Andy Warhol, Arshile Gorky and Jackson Pollock. Located next to Buffalo State College and Delaware Park, you'll want to take time to walk by the water and explore the colorful neighborhood after the museum. Stroll through the Forest Lawn and check the events page for outdoor concerts and summer Shakespeare in Delaware Park performances.

• Head to Larkin Square for Food Truck Tuesday where dozens of New York's best food trucks are serving up endless options from gourmet mac & cheese to smokehouse barbeque. Enjoy beer, wine and live music every Tuesday evening April through October.

Lockport Locks & Erie Canal Cruise• Take a scenic drive out to Lockport, NY and enjoy lunch dockside at the Lockport Locks & Erie Canal Cruises. Afterward, board a boat and travel through the only set of working double locks on the Erie Canal. Cool down at Lake Effect Ice Cream, Western New York's premier artisanal small batch ice cream company and finish your day underground on the Lockport Cave & Underground Boat Ride.

• Feel like a kid again, and ride an original 1916 carousel at the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum. Take a stroll around Gateway Harbor, where many concerts and festivals are ongoing throughout the summer. Catch an evening show or movie at the historic Riviera Theatre & Performing Arts Center, home of the original "Mighty Wurlitzer Organ" and complete your day with the delicious, French inspired menu at Webster's Bistro & Bar.

Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens Photo Courtesy of Botanical GardensThursday:
• Smell the floral aroma at Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, a living museum hosting a rainbow of gardens, exotic plants and exhibits. Refresh with a craft beverage at Resurgence Brewery, pouring a wide selection of creative brews like their signature IPA and Blood Orange Saison. Pair your beer with one of their artisan pizzas, burritos or their meat and cheese board and enjoy your night in Buffalo.

• Enjoy breakfast at Betty's, a charming eatery displaying local art and serving up creative cuisine with an international flare. Spend the day exploring Allentown, one of Buffalo's many eclectic, historic neighborhoods known for its community of artists, local boutiques and antique shops.

• Catch a Broadway show at Shea's Performing Arts Center, a handsome 1920s venue that was designed like a European opera house, it's one of Buffalo's flagship landmarks and hosts musical artists from around the world.

Niagara Wine Trail

• Travel the Niagara Wine Trail. Take a wagon ride through the vineyards and learn how this region is uniquely suited to growing grapes and other tender fruit at Becker Farms & Vizcarra Vineyards. Sample local wines and beer right at the farm or make your way to Woodcock Brothers Brewery and pair a wood fired pizza with a hand crafted microbrews. Stop by The Winery at Marjim Manor to visit the most haunted winery in the country according to TLC's "Ghost Hunters."

Old Fort Niagara - Photo Courtesy Niagara USA  Tourism & Convention• Get lost in history at Old Fort Niagara, an 18th century fortress that offers you a chance to step back in time to an era when great empires struggled for control of North America. Afterwards, take a bite out of history and enjoy the Lower Niagara River views while dining at The Silo, a converted coal silo and terminal that used to board passengers and steamers on their way to Toronto. Challenge seekers will enjoy tackling the famous "Haystack" Sandwich which was featured on the Travel Channel's Man vs. Food.

• Explore the many shops and boutiques that line the streets of the historic Village of Lewiston or head to the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls USA, and visit over 200 designer outlets stores.

Where to stay

Swiss Cottage Inn: Offering great value and clean, comfortable, basic rooms. Perfect for a shopping getaway located just minutes from the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls USA. Outdoor pool, free parking, and free internet.

Moonlite Motel: With fantastic management, the Moonlite Motels offers a simple stay in a great location. Just 5 miles from the Falls with trolley stops to the Niagara Falls State Park right at the hotel. Free continental breakfast, outdoor pool and other basic hotel amenities.

Niagara Falls State Park Lotto ImageSheraton at the Falls: Located within walking distance to the State Park and many attractions, this hotel is located in the heart of downtown Niagara Falls. With a TGI Fridays, Rainforest Café, Sweet Treats candy shop and Starbucks right on property.

Holiday Inn Niagara Falls: Newly renovated in 2014 and just a short walk away from all the bustling activity of Niagara Falls. Tony Roma's Restaurant and Great American Arcade located on property, with free parking, free internet, and indoor pool available year round.

The Buffalo Marriott HARBORCENTER: Located in downtown Buffalo at the Canalside entertainment district and attached to First Niagara Center, it's the home of the Buffalo Sabres and a realxing retreat that's walking distance from the scenic small boat harbor, Lake Erie and the historic Erie Canal.

Seneca Niagara casinoSeneca Niagara Resort & Casino: Niagara County's AAA four diamond Award-winning hotel with spectacular views, spa and salon, fitness center, indoor pool, 10 dining locations. Part of World-Class gaming and entertainment resort with 4,000 slots and 100+ game tables. Open year round, room service, Jacuzzi rooms, indoor pool, meeting facilities and free parking.

Mansion on Delaware: The Mansion on Delaware Avenue is a joyous renovation of architect George Allison's Second Empire Structure. Buffalo's AAA rated Four Diamond hotel, with service and amenities setting the benchmark for luxury.

Hotel @ The Lafayette: A historic landmark, this stylish red brick and white terra cotta French Renaissance-style building was designed by architect Louise Blanchard in 1904. Restored to it's original grandeur, the Lafayette's opulent interior features a splendid crystal chandelier-hung ballroom and luxurious accommodations that reflect early 20th century glamour.

Where to eat

Third Street Retreat: Located in downtown Niagara Falls, it's the perfect spot to grab a quick sandwich or fresh salad. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, this cafe is a great spot to refuel for more sightseeing or relax in the loft area with a game of pool or darts.

Black Bean Tricked Out Nacho - Photo Courtesy of Lloyd Taco Factory

Scripts Cafe: Located on East Ave. in Lockport, NY, Scripts Cafe serves up a variety of specialty items for breakfast, lunch or an early dinner. Enjoy freshly made quinoa bowls, sandwiches, wraps or paninis, homemade soups and salads, and a variety of homemade baked goods that change daily.

Lloyd Taco Factory: The first of its kind in Buffalo, this colorful eatery combines everything you love about street food with a fully stocked cocktail bar. It's the only restaurant from Chicago to NYC that makes their own corn tortillas using the nixtamalization process--so come in to enjoy authentic, fresh tacos and craft cocktails at this foodie hotspot.

Brickyard Pub & BBQ: Located in Lewiston, NY, the Brickyard Pub has some of the best wood fire cooking around. Everything is slow smoked with a blend of hickory & fruit woods for up to fourteen hours in the authentic wood pit BBQ smoker. Make it a sandwich or a platter, either way it will be fall off the bone delicious!

Bacchus Wine Bar & Restaurant - Photo Courtesy of Bacchus Wine Bar & RestaurantThe Como: A Niagara Falls staple and local favorite since 1927. Sit back and enjoy some family time, have a drink with friends and fill up on a hearty Italian meal. The Como has been proudly serving traditional dishes from the South of Italy for decades and continues to serve up a cozy atmosphere and a delicious menu.

Bacchus Wine Bar & Restaurant: A stylish eatery in the heart of Buffalo's historic entertainment district where guests enjoy flavorful cuisine and an award-winning wine list. Recognized by Wine Spectator for 10 consecutive years and named Best Waitstaff/Service" 2014 by Buffalo Spree magazine--this is the place to be for excellent wine and dining.

La Cascata: Fine Italian dining located inside the Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino. Enjoy this sought-after dining experience in Niagara Falls, NY where the air is filled with the tempting aromas of bubbling marinara, house-made sweet sausage and an array of mouthwatering pasta, meat and seafood dishes.

Wine glasses - Photo Courtesy The Black Sheep

The Black Sheep: An intimate spot located on Buffalo's West side that's serving up daily specials, small and large plates crafted with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Enjoy farm-to-table dining paired with food-friendly wines and local brews.  

Carmelo's Restaurant: Carmelo's, located in Lewiston, NY, just 15 minutes north of the Falls, serves up a fresh menu that varies from day to day. Enjoy staples like New York Strip and Atlantic Cod cooked up by Chef Carmelo Raimondi. Dining at Carmelo's is an adventure, using only the freshest, in season ingredients.

Cool things to know

Garden Walk Buffalo - © D. Zinteck, Photographics 2

• The Taste of Buffalo is the largest two-day food festival in the United States, hosting over 50 restaurants, several wineries, and nearly a half-million guests.

• Garden Walk Buffalo is one of the largest garden tours in the US, featuring nearly 400 different public and private gardens.

• 75,750 gallons of water surges over the crest line of the American portion of Niagara Falls every second.


Getting there

By train:
Amtrak TrainTake Amtrak to any of three regional stations including Buffalo Exchange Street (BFX), Buffalo Depew (BUF) and Niagara Falls station (NFL). Taxi service is available upon arrival at Depew and Niagara Falls stations. And the Exchange Street station is walking distance from downtown Buffalo and Canalside attractions!

By car:
• From New York City: 6 hours
• From Albany, NY: 4.5 hours
• From Boston, MA: 7 hours
• From Philadelphia, PA: 6 hours
• From Cleveland, OH: 3 hours
• From Toronto: 2 hours

By plane:
Fly into Buffalo Niagara International Airport, located just fifteen minutes east of downtown Buffalo. Major carriers include American, Delta, Jet Blue, Southwest, Sunwing and United Airlines.

By bus:
Greyhound to Buffalo or Niagara Falls, NY stations.


More fun in Buffalo-Niagara





Show some love for New York State

Come get social with your favorite state!