There are so many fun things to do in Buffalo NY that I know you’ll love. Even though Buffalo is known to us Canadians as a place to hop across the border to go shopping at outlet malls or attending hockey games, there are so many things to see in Buffalo besides those basic activities. In fact, I’m not even going to mention a single outlet mall or hockey arena in this entire travel blog post.
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Buffalo has been undergoing a massive revitalization for several years now, with new businesses and community spaces opening at a quick pace. There’s such a buzz in the city as it continues to change by the moment. We stayed in brand new, unique hotels and there are so many unique restaurants popping up all over the place. Here’s a quick overview of some of the best things to do in Buffalo:
- Unique ways to go cycling
- Amazing architecture and history
- Art galleries and street art viewing
- Visiting restaurants and craft breweries
- Fantastic nightlife including live music and events
Needless to say, Buffalo surprised us. We were wowed and enchanted by the city. While it’s very exciting for the locals, Buffalo’s rebirth provides new reasons for tourists to travel there. With so many attractions and activities in Buffalo, it’s a worthy destination to add to your bucket list. In this Buffalo travel guide, we’re going to show you the most unique things to do in Buffalo, and exactly what to do in Buffalo for a memorable city break.
Where to Stay in Buffalo, New York
We’ve visited Buffalo on a few occasions, so we’ve had the opportunity to personally experience a few hotels. Justin and I loved our stays at the Curtiss Hotel and InnBuffalo. We’ll also post a map with hotel and vacation rental bookings so you can compare rates.
The Curtiss Hotel
Located right in downtown Buffalo, the Curtiss Hotel is within a historic landmark – the Harlow C. Curtiss building. It’s a very luxurious experience with high tech rooms – even the toilet comes with a remote control! It’s home to Buffalo’s only year round urban hot springs.
With free Wi-Fi and a rooftop lounge with epic views of the city, you might not even want to leave the hotel. If you’re looking for a swanky, ultra modern hotel at an affordable price (considering all the amenities!), the Curtiss Hotel is where you need to be.
Book your stay at the Curtiss Hotel when you travel to Buffalo and I am sure you’ll fall in love with this modern hotel. Take a look at more photos and read reviews by fellow travelers who have spent the night there, too.
InnBuffalo off Elmwood
InnBuffalo Off Elmwood is a delightful place to stay in Buffalo. It’s a very unique accommodation with an intriguing history. The building is a Victorian home, also known as the Hewitt mansion, converted into a nine room hotel.
When the owners renovated the home (after it sat in disrepair for many years), they uncovered many original and surprising elements that are currently on display throughout the home. This luxurious mansion was like a time capsule, preserving many extravagant features. For instance, there are murals, stained glass windows, wood carved cabinets and marble fireplaces.
Justin and I spent the night in the H.H. Hewitt Master Suite. The room features a king sized bed, comfortable bedding, and luxurious linens. The suite is large enough to comfortably fit one sofa, two chairs, a desk, and a dresser. While much of the furnishings are antiques, there are modern amenities like a flatscreen TV with satellite channels, complimentary Wi-Fi, and a Keurig coffee maker in the room.
InnBuffalo Off Elmwood is in an excellent location in the city within the trendy Elmwood neighborhood. You can walk from this hotel to many restaurants, cafes, and breweries in town. We loved staying here! Book your stay at InnBuffalo or read more reviews by fellow travelers if you’d like some more insights.
More Great Places to Stay
Want to browse more hotels and vacation rentals in Buffalo, New York? Here’s a great map where you can compare prices and locations of various accommodations in Buffalo to find the best rates.
Fun Things to Do in Buffalo: Cycling (Two or Three Ways!)
Did you know that there’s more than one way to go cycling in Buffalo? You can probably guess the first way – on a standard bicycle. One of the most fun things to do in Buffalo NY is going water biking! Haven’t heard of water biking? Let us show you what it’s all about.
Water Bikes of Buffalo
We rented water bikes from Water Bikes of Buffalo, and it’s one of the most fun things to do in Buffalo, NY. It’s essentially a bicycle on top of a floating platform that enables you to glide across the water. Justin and I pedaled down the canal on our water bikes, admiring the scenery as we embraced the slight waves caused by passing boats.
It’s not only an original activity to try, but the scenery is truly one of a kind. Drift past old grain elevators, a giant naval ship, and even out towards a lighthouse along the shores of Lake Erie. This is one of the most unique things to do in Buffalo as I haven’t seen it anywhere else before.
Water bikes are rented out by the hour during the summer months. Although we didn’t try it, there are even tandem water bikes – just in case you’re interested in trying to make your partner do all the legwork (just kidding!).
Going Cycling in Buffalo
With a revitalized waterfront and lengthy paved paths, going for a bike ride is an excellent way to savour stunning views of Lake Erie. You can rent bikes by the hour to explore urban trails, nature preserves, and marinas. Buffalo’s Outer Harbor connects with other local trail systems, and there’s even a bike ferry to help you get around town.
Justin and I discovered Wilkeson Pointe, a hill topped with wind sculptures that has sweeping views of Lake Erie and the Buffalo skyline. We continued our journey towards Buffalo Harbor State Park, a green space where you can watch the boats sail by.
I can also suggest going on a bike tour around this area to travel around with an experienced guide. On this Buffalo waterfront bike tour, you’ll get to see all of the best spots and learn about the history of the city, too. Riding bikes is one of the most fun things to do in Buffalo, hands down.
Ice Biking in Buffalo
We haven’t tried this one (yet) as it’s a winter activity. Yes, you can go “ice biking” in Buffalo! It’s a bicycle outfitted to be maneuvered across ice. With lots of snowy conditions, may as well make the best of them! Check out Ice Bikes of Buffalo for more details about one of the most unique things to do in Buffalo.
Attractions in Buffalo NY: The Architecture
Buffalo is a city famous for its architecture. The buildings designed here were a new form of American architecture and influenced new designs throughout the world. There are buildings here produced by famous architects, such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, and H.H. Richardson.
Although you can wander around and explore the buildings on your own, it’s best to join a tour so you can learn from an expert. One of the best attractions in Buffalo is its architecture, so it’s not to be missed. It’s one of the best things to do in downtown Buffalo and beyond.
Explore Buffalo Architecture Tour
Taking a walking tour is the best way to familiarize yourself with the architecture in downtown Buffalo. Explore Buffalo operates their Masters of American Architecture tour several times a week. You don’t even need to make a reservation ahead of time – just show up!
Our guide was knowledgeable, friendly, and answered any questions that we had. We mostly wandered around outdoors, although we did venture inside a few of the buildings to see various interior architectural styles.
Along the way, we examined and admired several prominent buildings, including the Guaranty Building, the Old Post Office, the Ellicott Square Building, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Notably, Hotel Lafayette was designed by Louise Blanchard Bethune, the first known female architect in the United States.
The tour lasts approximately two hours and costs $15 per person. It was not only a great way to see the brilliant architectural gems around Buffalo, but it really helped us to familiarize ourselves with the city. It’s one of the best activities in Buffalo that’s in this Buffalo travel guide.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House Complex
For fans of architecture, one excellent reason to travel to Buffalo is to witness Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterful project, the Darwin D. Martin House. This home was built in the early 1900s, and it’s considered to be one of his greatest works. This is one of the best places to visit in Buffalo for those who love history, too.
Every detail of this large Prairie home was carefully planned, including every piece of furniture. There are six connected buildings in total, including a long pergola that leads to a conservatory. The house contains nearly 400 examples of Frank Lloyd Wright’s originally designed art glass, including the “Tree of Life” window.
While the home surprisingly sat abandoned and empty for many years, it became damaged and some buildings were completely destroyed. Thankfully, it’s been restored to its earlier glory. In 1986, the Martin House Complex was declared a National Historic Landmark.
We’ve never visited a home quite like this one. Justin and I really enjoyed exploring this site and learning all about its history. Whether you’re a fan of architecture or just a little bit curious, it’s well worth spending an hour or two walking around the Martin House Complex. If you’re looking for Buffalo trip ideas, definitely add this one to your list.
What to Do in Buffalo: Experience the Craft Beer Scene
The microbrewery scene is alive and well in Buffalo. Many of these breweries have unique elements and stories. You simply must sample as many varieties of beer as you can while you’re visiting. Drinking beer is one of the most fun things to do in Buffalo! Here are the best breweries in Buffalo to visit while you’re there, and here are a few memorable favorites of ours.
Resurgence Brewing Company
Resurgence Brewing Company features a taproom and a large beer garden on site. They offer many rotating styles of beer, as well as a few favorites that are always available. You’ll always find their signature Resurgence IPA at the brewery. Also on tap, the Sponge Candy Stout and Loganberry Wit are original classics at the brewery.
Resurgence’s name is quite fitting. After the brewery opened, the neighbourhood continues to experience a resurgence in life. It’s even a metaphor for Buffalo as a whole as it undergoes many positive changes.
Buffalo Riverworks Brewery
It’s the first brewery in the world to operate inside a grain silo. Although branded on the exterior as a Labatt Blue silo, Riverworks brews the beer inside the silo and serves it up at the base of it (the Silo Bar). We sampled the Wheeler Wheat (a traditional German Hefeweizen brewed with wheat and barley), and it was super refreshing.
Riverworks also finds a second interesting way to utilize the old grain silos. There is a rock climbing all on the outside of one set of silos, with one going as high as 50 feet. Justin and I tried climbing the silos – before we drank the beer, of course! It was quite windy that afternoon, on the verge of raining. It made the climb a little scarier and certainly more challenging!
Big Ditch Brewing Company
Big Ditch Brewing Company is one of my favorite breweries in Buffalo. The name “Big Ditch” refers to the Erie Canal, back when the locals were skeptical that it would ever be constructed. However, this “Big Ditch” brought business and prosperity to Buffalo for decades.
I sampled a flight of five beers, including some seasonal ales mixed in with the classics: the Berliner Weisse, Blonde Peach, Cinnamon Apple, FC (Fantastically Crushable), and Fresh Baked. My vote for the best beer goes to the Blonde Peach by far, where they use loads of real peaches in the brewing process.
Thin Man Brewery
Thin Man Brewery is located in Elmwood Village, right near our accommodation, InnBuffalo. Out of all the Buffalo breweries we visited, this one had the most collaborations with other microbreweries. You can find a huge selection of their own beers, as well as other beers that are made with other breweries.
Justin opted for their own Pills Mafia (German pilsner) and I ordered the Sunseeker Gose (a collaboration between Thin Man Brewing and Bolton Landing Brewery). My beer was a cherry lime sour, which is great for the summer! Thin Man Brewery also has a full pub menu with lots of vegan options.
Activities in Buffalo: The Nightlife
While you’ll likely be busy all day when you travel to Buffalo, save some energy for the evening. Buffalo has a happening nightlife scene, with several places to hang out and meet new people. If you’re looking for what to do in Buffalo, be sure to head out in the evening for a night on the town.
The people of Buffalo are quite friendly and take pride in their community, so you’ll likely make some new friends while you’re there. And visiting all of these places are really fun things to do in Buffalo at night (and some of them in the day, too). Here are a few nightlife hot spots around town.
While Larkin Square is open all day long, there are plenty of nighttime activities to check out. It’s the heart of Larkinville with loads of free community events. Food Truck Tuesdays runs every week from 5pm – 8pm, giving you the fuel you need for a random Tuesday night on the town.
During the summer months, there’s a live concert series every Wednesday night. At least two bands perform live, playing their original tunes. Pop over to Hydraulic Hearth if you’re looking for brick oven pizzas or tantalizing specialty cocktails.
Colored Musicians Club
The Colored Musicians Club is the only remaining and longest continually operating African American Musicians Club in the United States. Checking out a live performance is one of the best and most unique things to do in Buffalo, NY.
Back in early 1900s, the musicians union in Buffalo refused to allow African Americans to join. A separate union was formed, and a social club developed one year later. Members of the social club spent time there after work, using it as a practice space for band rehearsals. Eventually, the Colored Musicians Club found a permanent home, and this provided members with a sense of community.
Many jazz legends passed through the Colored Musicians Club, like Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald. It is one of the top places to visit in Buffalo without question.
Today, the club promotes the preservation of jazz in Buffalo, as well as detailing the history of jazz through its museum. The Colored Musicians Club museum provides an educational and entertaining experience for people of all ages. It’s open during the day from Thursday to Saturday (11:00 – 4:00pm).
In terms of nightlife, you can hear live music on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays. Whether it’s a concert or a jam session, you must head here for an evening of jazz by talented musicians. This is one of the top attractions in Buffalo, New York.
Angelica Tea Room
Angelica Tea Room is a beautifully decorated bar with an assortment of interestingly named beverages. Want to order drinks called, “Death in the Afternoon”, “Corpse Reviver #2”, and “Last Word”? This is the place to do it! The drinks are visually stunning. Some of them date back to the Prohibition Era.
It’s a very laid back cocktail bar where you can sip a beverage and enjoy great conversations with your pals.
Fun Things to do in Buffalo: View Amazing Art
While I’m not one to typically spend my limited time in a city wandering through museums, I highly recommend that you check out these two art museums in Buffalo. They both display modern art in two completely different and intriguing ways. And they’re right across the street from one another, so you can easily spend an afternoon exploring both of them.
If public art and street art is more your jam, Buffalo has plenty of that too! There are so many fun things to do in Buffalo if you’re an art lover. Here are our recommendations.
Burchfield Penney Art Center
The Burchfield Penney Art Center is a beautiful museum showcasing the works of artists hailing from Western New York. This includes the largest collection of art by famed artist, Charles E. Burchfield. Highlights include works in the Charles E. Burchfield Rotunda, and a recreation of his personal studio.
In addition to the permanent collection, there are rotating special exhibitions. When we visited, one exhibition was the vast collection of artist Victor Trabucco’s glass paperweights called Glass Within Glass: The Magic of the Trabucco Studio.
Another original exhibition we adored was Michael Bosworth’s The House Has Gone Down and the Lamps Are Out. It took place in a darkened room, surrounded by four video screens. There were a few tree branches, symbolizing trees in the middle of the room. In a seemingly random pattern, stop motion imagery of a house in the forest at night rotated around the screens. It had a vibe akin to the third season of Twin Peaks, and was unsettling to say the least. Check this one out while you can!
Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Across the street, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery features an extraordinary collection of contemporary and modern art. You’ll find works spanning decades at the museum, covering movements like Impressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, and contemporary art of the 21st century.
Even as you walk up the stairs to the second floor, the hallway serves as a gigantic work of art. From afar, it looks like a gray wall. Up close, you’ll see tons and tons of tiny hand drawn squiggly lines.
Surrounding the museum, there are outdoor sculptures that anyone can view on their own. Whether you venture inside the museum or not, you can walk around the property and explore almost 20 unique sculptures.
Street Art in Buffalo
One of the best things to do in Buffalo is explore the local street art scene. There are bright and colorful murals painted all over town. Many of them depict themes and imagery that put Buffalo on the map, and some art honors important figures to the city.
Here’s our street art guide to Buffalo and Niagara Falls if you are really interested in murals and want to know how to find them all. Discovering street art is one of my favorite things to do in downtown Buffalo and beyond. You’re bound to stumble upon a few if you’re walking around.
Getting Around Buffalo
We drove to Buffalo and I highly recommend having a car. Renting a car when you’re in Buffalo gives you the freedom to visit all of the best places whenever you like. I suggest comparing car rental prices to find the most affordable rates for your visit.
Buffalo Restaurants and Cafes
Buffalo is a haven for vegans and vegetarians. I’ve written a complete vegan restaurant guide to Buffalo if you’d like more details about all of the top plant-based eats in Buffalo. Here’s a brief listing of suggested restaurants and cafes.
Unfortunately, I can’t personally say that I’ve dined at Big Mood, but Justin and I did eat at this awesome vegan restaurant before their rebrand! It used to be called Root & Bloom. It’s one of the best vegan restaurants in Buffalo and their entire menu is plant-based.
Big Mood is all about comfort food gone vegan. You’ll find favorites on the menu like Buffalo chicken sandwiches, loaded mac & cheese, and even a burger with bacon and mac & cheese on it.
When Justin and I visited Root & Bloom, we went for their weekend brunch. I’m delighted to see that breakfast is served daily at Big Mood. It looks like they’ve got a pancake platter on the menu (along with so many other mouthwatering dishes) – if these pancakes are anything like the ones I tried at Root & Bloom, you’ve gotta check out Big Mood ASAP.
Grindhaus Cafe is a 100% vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based restaurant in Buffalo in the historic Allentown neighborhood. On the menu, you’ll find an assortment of sandwiches, salads, and sides. This place is perfect for lunch! They also have an expansive tea list (hot and iced), coffee, or even coffee infused with your favourite kind of tea.
I ordered the “Creature from the Beige Legume” – a mock tuna salad made out of chickpeas, carrots, relish, parsley, handmade vegan mayo, lettuce, and tomato in a wrap. For a side, I tried the “Mujadara” – chilled Lebanese-style lentils and brown rice topped with a zesty cucumber salad. Both were amazing! Highly recommend you check out this gem of a spot.
Marble and Rye
Marble and Rye uses high quality ingredients to create new and exciting dishes. There are a few vegan items on the regular menu, and the chef omitted dairy from a pasta dish to make it vegan. I ordered a falafel dish with hummus, pickles, herbs, spices, and toast.
Casa Azul is a local Mexican restaurant, featuring delicious tacos. There are a couple of vegetarian tacos that are easily made vegan. I ordered two of the potato poblano tacos, and split an order of nachos with salsa. Yum!
Merge is a super vegan-friendly restaurant with many meal, dessert, and drink options. They’re all clearly marked on the menu. The chef sources locally grown ingredients, and the restaurant believes strongly in the “farm to table” philosophy.
Merge’s mission is to unite music, the arts, nutrition, and wellness all under one roof. They support the arts community with monthly shows. Furthermore, there’s a large blackboard hallway where guests can unleash their artistic spirit.
I ordered their seitan wings, the gnocchi, and a vegan butterbeer drink (inspired by Harry Potter!). For dessert, we split two slices of cake: the peanut butter cheesecake and the chocolate cake.
Everything was super yummy and full of flavor. We’ll have to return to try some other items off the menu.
Ashker’s Juice Bar
Ashker’s has a few locations, and we went to Ashker’s on Elmwood for breakfast. It’s a juice and smoothie bar with healthy food options.
For breakfast, there weren’t too many vegan food choices, so I had a bagel with peanut butter. I also enjoyed a pina colada smoothie. For lunch options, it looks as though many vegetarian choices can be made vegan by removing the dairy products.
Breadhive Bakery and Cafe
Breadhive is a worker cooperative, entirely owned by the employees. The bread, bagels, and pretzels are produced using locally milled flour, with a long ferment sourdough process.
There are a few vegan sandwiches, clearly marked on the menu. I tried the “Dolly” – seitan, onion, BBQ sauce, pickles and coleslaw. There were also vegan cookies; naturally, I had to try one for dessert. Kombucha is on tap there, too.
Yes, Parkside Candy is a candy and chocolate shop, but you’ll be able to find a few vegan chocolates there. The dark chocolate peanut butter cups, dark chocolate peanut clusters, and dark chocolate nonpariels are all dairy-free and super tasty.
Fry Baby Donuts
Buffalo has an all vegan donut shop called Fry Baby Donuts. It’s pretty hyped and for excellent reason – they’re super tasty. You can’t tell the difference between these donuts and ones containing animal products. Fry Baby Donuts has several flavors.
We sampled the fudge sundae donut, the chocolate sprinkle, and the apple fritter donuts and they were all amazing.
Public Espresso and Coffee
Public Espresso & Coffee is one of the best places to go for a cup of coffee in Buffalo. It’s in the Lafayette Hotel, and there are even a couple of vegan options for food. Their bagels are vegan, and you can order them with peanut butter or jam.
There’s also vegan biscotti on the top counter, which was pretty exciting because vegan biscotti is a little tougher to find!
Well, what are you waiting for? This city has changed so much over the years, and it’s ready for you. There are so many fun things to do in Buffalo NY. Choose a completely original hotel, explore the great outdoors, wander through museums, discover great architecture, taste yummy food and craft beer, and so much more.
Justin and I have visited Buffalo on a few occasions now since it’s so close to home, just across the border. Even still, there are so many things to see in Buffalo that we’ll return again and again I’m sure!
More Things to Do in New York State
Since New York is only a quick drive across the Canada/USA border for us, we’ve spent lots of time exploring this state. Here are more travel blog posts to help you plan your trip to NY.