While planning a recent cross-border trip to New York, we kept hearing an odd but persistent rumour: there's a lot more to Buffalo than suburban malls and "Tarjay" (a.k.a. the popular discount retailer Target). So we shuffled off to see Buffalo for ourselves. When we arrived, we discovered that Buffalo has quietly and unobtrusively become a very cool town.
How to get to Buffalo, N.Y.
The Queen Elizabeth Way should get you from Toronto to Buffalo in under two hours. But if you have more time, take the slower scenic route along the Niagara Parkway, starting at picturesque Niagara-on-the-Lake. Hugging the Niagara River, this road passes the Whirlpool Basin, Niagara River Gorge and the thundering Horseshoe Falls. It's no wonder Winston Churchill called it "the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world."
What to do in Buffalo – Art, theatre & music
Crossing the Canada-U.S. border at the Peace Bridge takes you right into downtown Buffalo, which is anchored by the soaring art deco City Hall. ("It's so beautiful that you don't even mind paying a parking ticket to see it," says Buffalo local Doug Sitler.)
Stroll through the theatre district to marvel at the majestic Shea's Performing Arts Center, a national historic site built in 1926, where you can see a Broadway production for a fraction of the price you would in New York City or Toronto.
A great place to shop and explore is the Elmwood Village neighbourhood. Among the beautiful heritage homes, you'll find dozens of eclectic boutiques and galleries. Elmwood is home to the world-class Albright-Knox Art Gallery, where you can view modern and contemporary masterpieces. Grab a quick gourmet sandwich or salad at Globe Market, or enjoy a leisurely meal at one of several hip restaurants along Elmwood Avenue.
Page 1 of 2 – Read about the wonderful architecture and history of Buffalo, plus find out where to get authentic Buffalo chicken wings on page 2.
Treasure hunters will want to check out the Allentown district, a colourful historic neighbourhood with eclectic coffee shops, art galleries and antiques stores. The Allentown Art Festival held each June is a big draw.
You can catch a live music performance, literary reading or film screening at one of the city's coolest venues, Babeville. It's a unique multi-arts space in a formerly abandoned church that was resurrected by musician and Buffalo gal Ani DiFranco. Home to DiFranco's indie recording company – Righteous Babe Records – and Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Babeville has a concert hall, art gallery, film screening room and a grotto-like bar.
What to do in Buffalo – Architecture & history
Buffalo is blessed with an abundance of stunning architecture, including several buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. A must-see is the Darwin D. Martin House Complex, where you can see Wright's prairie-style buildings being lovingly restored to their original 1907 glory. The nearby city parks system was planned by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of Manhattan's famous Central Park. The Buffalo Zoo is also nearby. Another restored wonder is the beautiful Victorian-era Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, containing domed greenhouses situated in the Olmsted-designed South Park.
The towns surrounding Buffalo are equally rich in cultural history. The village of East Aurora is a 25-minute drive from Buffalo's downtown core. Enjoy a meal at the village's historic Roycroft Inn on the Roycroft Campus, an important community from the early-20th-century American Arts and Crafts movement. In the Copper Shop Gallery, you'll find beautiful handcrafted pottery, art and furnishings for sale. And before leaving East Aurora, be sure to stop by Vidler's 5 & 10, a sprawling old-fashioned general store that sells everything from the mundane to the arcane.
Authentic Buffalo chicken wings
No trip to Buffalo is complete without a visit to the world-famous Anchor Bar, home of the original Buffalo-style chicken wings. We were told Canadians are partial to the "suicidal" wings, but we stopped at "medium." We also tried (and recommend) the local specialty Beef on Weck. This sandwich is all about a caraway and pretzel salt encrusted bun – a creation said to be unique to Buffalo.
There's a lot unique to Buffalo; savour a taste of it and you'll be back for more.
For more travel tips, visit caamagazine.ca.
Page 2 of 2