Buffalo, NY has plenty of surprises for day trippers and weekenders alike. A short drive from the Greater Toronto Area, it’s a popular south-of-the-border escape, with intriguing food, shopping and activities, and a chill college-town vibe. I visit throughout the year – here are some of my favorite things to do in Buffalo, NY.
Tours in Buffalo, NY
Buffalo Historical Bike Tour
From Canalside district through Michigan Street Baptist Church, learn more bout Buffalo’s history. Check rates and availability here
Classic Chicken Wings Experience by Bike
Don’t feel bad about indulging in the food Buffalo is known for on this tour! Bike around to main famous spots for Buffalo chicken wings while learning more about the city. Check rates and availability here
East Meets West Foodie Bike Tour
For a more unique tour of Buffalo, try this foodie experience that takes you from Buffalo’s East to West Side as you explore the city’s immigrant and culinary traditions. Check rates and availability here
Waterfront Harbor Bike Tour
This bike tour takes you all along Buffalo’s waterfront from the Outer Harbor to the city’s grain silos, network of canals, and more. Check rates and availability here
20 Unique Things to Do in Buffalo, NY
1. Try the wings at Anchor Bar
Birthplace of the original Buffalo Wings, this modest bar and restaurant has won accolades ranging from a James Beard Foundation Award for “America’s Classic Restaurant,” to “Best of Show” at the National Chicken Wing Festival. Try Tuesday nights for the killer combo of live jazz + pizza + a couple dozen hot wings.
2. Grab some Mexican at Cantina Loco
If you love Mexican spirits, this Elmwood Village hangout is the place to take a flight, with nearly four dozen tequilas and mezcals to choose from. It’s also the place for stick-to-your-ribs tacos. The deep-fried California Fish Tacos rock, with zesty pickled slaw and spicy sauce.
3. Grab a coffee at Grindhaus
Need to re-caffeinate? This boho Allentown coffee shop has a cozy, pre-Instagram aesthetic and cheap eats (many vegan). It’s the perfect place to hunker down with a book… or kill time if you’re waiting for a table at Cantina Loco or Allentown Burger Project.
4. Find your next read at Talking Leaves Books
Buffalo’s oldest indie bookshop is one of Elmwood Village’s anchor shops, and a must for those with a passion for literary fiction, poetry and/or social justice. While small, the shop has a well-curated selection – I never leave without an armload of books, including my fave genres – travel, essays and creative nonfiction about running.
5. Eat your way through Elmwood Village Farmers Market
May through November, Bidwell Parkway is the place to on Saturday mornings, especially if you’re hungry! This 20-year-old alfresco market is only open to producers, meaning, all the vendors make what they sell. That sourdough loaf, cold-pressed juice or artisanal kimchee? All made locally, by the person selling it to you!
6. Try out Wasabi Japanese Restaurant
It’s not slick, but Wasabi is an Elmwood staple where you can enjoy satisfying sushi and teriyaki in a cozy little hideaway – perfect for a date night.
7. Or try the Japanese at SATO
For a hipper, more casual-upscale take on Japanese cuisine, consider SATO, a homegrown success that has grown now includes the modern Japanese restaurant in Elmwood Village;
SATO Ramen in University Heights; and SATO Brewpub, a downtown izakaya with a small-plates menu, including yakitori (grilled meat skewers) and bentos.
8. Check out Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Exploring the Albright-Knox Art Gallery is one of my fave things to do in Buffalo, NY. Unfortunately, the main campus of this leading modern-art institution is freshly closed for renovations, but you can catch engaging exhibits through 2020/2021 at its temporary Albright-Knox Northland location.
9. Go mural spotting
Make sure your phone battery is fully charged before hitting the town in search of the larger-than-life wall murals that are transforming communities into art hubs. From quirky-cute to thought-provoking and historically centered, many of these murals are part of the Albright-Knox Public Art Initiative.
10. Shop at Target
If you’re American, you’re probably scratching your head wondering “What’s the big deal?” but Target’s ill-fated mission to Canada a few years ago left many fans starved for the capsule collections our American friends take for granted. So yeah: Target.
11. Get some food souvenirs at Lexington Coop Market
Drop by to stock your fridge if you’re staying overnight. You’re not? It’s still worth a stop for foodie souvenirs from local hot sauces (I always pick up some, whether I’m traveling locally or internationally) to regionally crafted dog treats (for those of us with pampered pups).
12. Try the beer, bourbon, and burgers at Allen Burger Venture
Splurge on a grass-fed angus burger, washed down with a craft beer and a whiskey-bourbon-Scotch flight, if you dare. Allen Burger Venture says its beef is sourced from verified humane and sustainable ranches, but a full list of “alternative burgers” ensures non-beef eaters are covered, too.
PRO TIP: Order the wings. ABV never claimed to invent Buffalo wings, but I’m pretty sure they’ve perfected them.
13. Shop at Walden Galleria Mall
Sure, Canada has a lot of the chains we used to have to travel south of the border for, but… not all in one place. While many Canadians associate Buffalo with outlet shopping, Walden Galleria is the mall to hit if you want fresh finds, not cheap-and-cheerful steals. Everything you could possibly need is here – with a Cheesecake Factory, too. Perfect for a rainy day in Buffalo.
14. Hang out in Canalside
A four-seasons destination and part of Buffalo’s waterfront revitalization, Canalside is the place to go right now for ice skating, curling, ice bowling and – hello! – ice bumper cars. During the warmer months, the inner harbor the perfect spot to walk, picnic, or catch an outdoor concert or festival.
15. Explore Outer Harbor
The “wilder”part of the waterfront, this 200-acre green space is a must if your idea of things to do in Buffalo, NY includes enjoying the great outdoors. Hike or snowshoe the trails in winter, or catch a concert in summer. Bike or run the trails (bike rentals are available in season), or join a free summer fitness class.
16. Run the Buffalo Marathon
Looking for a flat, fast course to hit a new PB (personal best)? The Buffalo Marathon is a runner favorite (93% of past runners recommend the event), and uber-inclusive, too. Race weekend includes the full marathon, a half marathon, 5K, and the 1K Ruffalo Stampede dog run, and a kids’ mini marathon.
17. Visit the Buffalo & Erie Country Botanical Gardens
Organized around a stunning 67’-tall palm dome filled with lush palms and tropical fruit trees (including a lemon tree and cacao tree), the greenhouses also host geographically themed areas. My favorite: the koi pond in the Asian Rainforest. Millennial alert: House 4 is home to cacti and succulents!
18. Relax at Tipico
Sip a pour-over from this café/roaster located in the Front Park area. Bring a laptop and work away in the airy space for a taste of the digital nomad lifestyle, or just swing by for a bag of their single-origin beans.
19. Shop at the West Side Bazaar
Head to Buffalo’s West Side for all things global: this small-biz incubator features vendors selling treats and treasures from around the world. You’ll find cool merch such as cult-fave black soap from Ghana, handcrafted jewellery from South Sudan, and locally made macramé plant hangers (naturally!), plus tasty eats like Burmese street food and traditional dishes from Puebla, Mexico.
20. Check out the architecture at Market Arcade
Shop, eat or just feast your eyes on the Beaux-Arts/Neo-Classical architecture of the Market Arcade, a beautifully restored circa-1892 shopping arcade. Hot picks: handmade souvenirs from local artists at Buffalo Arcade and artisan snacks for foodie dogs and cats at Buffalo Bakery.
What do you think are the best things to do in Buffalo, NY?