Seven brilliant things to do in Buffalo, New York... including eating wings and seeing Niagara Falls

10 September 2019, 08:43 | Updated: 10 September 2019, 08:46

Buffalo is one of New York State's hidden gems
Buffalo is one of New York State's hidden gems. Picture: Getty / PA / Emma Gritt
Emma Gritt

By Emma Gritt

Most people's trip to New York starts and ends in the City... but if you're in the mood for a road trip, hire a car and make Buffalo your next stop.

After spending a week in New York I was craving a change of scene - so we hired a car and left the city, driving six-and-a-half hours upstate through breathtaking scenery to the city of Buffalo.

Known for its spicy chicken wings (more on those later), its main draw for tourists from across the US is the chance to see Niagara Falls, which is just 16 miles away, or cross the border in to Canada.

Within the city limits we discovered just as much to get excited about, a town of friendly locals, a thriving music and art scene, lavish Art Deco architecture and great food.

No one could believe that two English people had decided to spend a long weekend in their city of just 256,000 people - but we weren't the only Brits in town.

Bizarrely, wherever we went we ended up hearing either James Arthur of The Wanted being blasted out from one speaker or another.

Historically Buffalo is an agricultural powerhouse, and big money regeneration projects have seen the city's silos and other structures transformed in to bars, breweries, art and community spaces - there was so much to see and do we simply ran out of time.

Here are seven must-dos if you’re ever lucky enough to find yourself in The Nickel City.

Visit Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, as seen from the US-side of the natural wonder
Niagara Falls, as seen from the US-side of the natural wonder. Picture: Press Association

Niagara Falls is one of the most famous natural wonders of the world, and is just a short drive from Buffalo.

The incredible horseshoe-shaped fall is shared between the US and Canada, with the two countries linked by the Rainbow Bridge.

Niagara Falls Natural Park is open 365 days a year, meaning that you'll be able to take in the breathtaking sight - and sound - of the huge falls no matter the season, or weather.

Eat wings (and other things)

Buffalo wings originated in the city
Buffalo wings originated in the city. Picture: Getty
The Anchor Bar is regarded as the home of chicken wings
The Anchor Bar is regarded as the home of chicken wings. Picture: Emma Gritt

Buffalo wings genuinely are from Buffalo, with the Anchor Bar claiming to be the birthplace of the spicy bar snack. It's well worth a trip if you’re a fan of the classic American dish.

One local told me that their origins lie in needing to whip up a quick dinner for some hungry teens. A mum got in from work, and poured a mix of butter and hot sauce over some ready cooked chicken wings - and the rest is history.

The National Buffalo Chicken Wing Festival has taken place in Buffalo for the last 18 years, and attracts around 60,000 people from across the US (and world) every year. Find out about 2020's event here.

Due to its close proximity to Canada, Buffalo is also home to a Tim Horton's - in a nutshell, it's the Canadian version of Greggs.

They're loved on the other side of the border for their delicious freshly baked bagels, creatively decorated and flavoured donuts, and boxes of 'Tim Bits' which are small balls of donut dipped in icing and sprinkles.

If you prefer your carb coma to be more savoury, check out Five Points Bakery, where you can have pretty much anything on toast.

All the bread is baked on site - and they also do incredible hot chocolate adorned with mini-marshmallows.

There are also weekly farmer's markets, and plenty of food trucks dotted around the city if you're in the mood for a culinary tour.

Marvel at Art Deco and porches

Buffalo's City Hall is an incredible Art Deco building, and features a viewing platform at the top
Buffalo's City Hall features a viewing platform at the top. Picture: Getty

One of our favourite things about Buffalo was the mixture of architecture - it was a visual delight.

The city centre is dominated by City Hall, a 32-storey building from 1931 which offers panoramic views from an observation deck on the 28th floor. 

While less gobsmacking, the other downtown buildings are just as gorgeous, and hail from the same era.

No two homes in Buffalo look the same
No two homes in Buffalo look the same. Picture: Emma Gritt

Outside of the centre, the residential area of Elmwood Village features gorgeous wooden houses, and no two look the same - some even have turrets! 

Every year locals transform their front porches in to stages for the city's annual Porchfest, which has seen the community come together to mingle and enjoy homegrown talent since 2013.

Have a big night out

Thanks to its huge student population, Buffalo has a vibrant nightlife scene, and it's possible to see live music every night - and some of it is brilliantly odd.

We saw some avant garde beatboxing and cowbell (yes it was as bizarre as it sounds) at quirky club Nietzsche’s, after enjoying a few drinks at Buffalo's longest running bar, The Old Pink.

With graffiti and band stickers plastered over the wall, it was a lot grimier than its name suggested.

We also enjoyed a goth night in a weird art gallery - and rounded off the night with frozen margaritas and nachos at a 24 hour diner up the road.

If dive bars aren’t your thing, avoid Allentown and stay Downtown, where you’ll find RnB clubs galore, including the snappily named 'Modern Exclusive Sexy Bar'.

Wherever you end up, you'll have a blast people watching. 

Visit Rick James 

We paid our respects at to funk legend Rick James
We paid our respects at to funk legend Rick James. Picture: Emma Gritt

To many he’s just one of Dave LaChapelle’s most vivid characters, but when it comes to funk pioneer Rick James, truth is wilder than fiction.

He was born and raised in Buffalo, and is now buried in the city’s Forest Lawn Cemetery. 

As huge fans of the guitar wielding musician’s colourfully outrageous lifestyle and experimental back catalogue, we took the opportunity - like thousands of music fans every year - to pay our respects. 

Go thrift shopping 

There was loads of random tat and treasures at the flea market
There was loads of random tat and treasures at the flea market. Picture: Emma Gritt

If you’re a fan of digging through charity shops for hidden treasures, a trip to St. Vincent’s is a must.

With homewares, books, clothes and everything in between, you’re sure to find something you never knew you needed... until now.

About an hour out of the city is the East Aurora Flea Market. With over 100 sellers and shops specialising in trinkets, furniture, local produce and general tat, there's bound to be something you want to take home - and other things that you won't be allowed to take on the plane, like knives and crossbows.

Relax in affordable luxury

Twin rooms start from $150 a night at the recently refurbished Curtiss Hotel
Twin rooms start from $150 a night at the recently refurbished Curtiss Hotel. Picture: Curtiss Hotel

We stayed at The Curtiss Hotel, a five star hotel in the heart of Downtown. Recently renovated, the 68-room hotel is located within a historic building, and has retained a lot of the original features.

The hotel features a 200-seat restaurant, and a roof top lounge, Vue, which has views all the way across the city and Lake Eerie.

Twin rooms start from $150 a night.

Trending Live Playlists on Global Player: The official Heart app!