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12 FUN THINGS TO DO IN BUFFALO, NY THAT ONLY LOCALS KNOW ABOUT

Buffalo Bike Tours – Food & History Tours of Buffalo!

AN INSIDERS GUIDE TO FUN THINGS TO DO IN BUFFALO, NY

Buffalo, NY can be a tough nut to crack, as embodied by our tagline “Keep Buffalo A Secret”. If you’re planning a trip and looking for fun things to do in Buffalo, then you’ll want to seek local insight.

For someone who doesn’t live here, it may be hard to know where to begin. That’s why we’ve compiled this guide to assist your trip planning. We’ve taken the guesswork out of searching for Buffalo’s off the beaten path spots and hidden gems. Here are our top 12 places to check out in Buffalo that only locals know.

(Full disclosure: we rent bikes and lead food tours and history tours by bike, which bring you to many of the city’s best sightseeing spots – all on two wheels!)


BUFFALO FUN THINGS TO DO BUCKET LIST:


The R & L Lounge - a classic East Buffalo bar
The R & L Lounge – a classic East Buffalo bar

1. STEP BACK IN TIME IN EAST BUFFALO

East Buffalo is well off most tourist agendas but rich in neighborhood history. Broadway Fillmore was once full of small businesses. The area became home to the second largest Polish population, second only to New York City.

Since the 1950s, the neighborhood saw economic decline due to lost jobs, redlining, and racism. This has resulted in some rough areas but still some hidden gems if you know where to go.

One of our favorite local bars is the R & L Lounge. Ronnie and Lottie, the couple who own the bar, have been in business for more than 50 years. The experience is a step back in time and like hanging out with your grandma. Try to catch them on a Friday night for fish fry and be sure to try Lottie’s pierogies, cooked to perfection.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/457963873?app_id=122963&wmode=opaque

Other landmarks include Buffalo Central Terminal, Broadway Market, Polish Library, and MLK Park.

There has been renewed interest in East Buffalo recently. Central Terminal hired a new Executive Director and is beginning to run tours. Just a block away, our friend Chris Hawley is opening a new bar, Eugene Debs Hall. And new immigrants and refugees are reshaping the community with eateries (we recommend Alibaba Kebab and their fish tandoori).


Silo City is a hidden gem
Silo City is a hidden gem

2. SEE A SHOW AT SILO CITY

Buffalo’s grain elevators are becoming a major draw for the area. In fact, Buffalo has the largest collection of grain elevators in the United States.

While you can certainly enjoy a drink at Buffalo Riverworks, we prefer the noncommercial Silo City. Silo City is a visionary project of Rick Smith, who bought the property to turn into a biofuel factory. When that proved too expensive, Smith decided instead to invest in the arts.

Silo City is fast becoming a magnet for the arts, design, and activism. They’ve hosted poetry readings, music concerts, and conferences, bringing new energy to the old buildings.

https://youtu.be/9UZTCwIUR4g

While there, be sure to check out Duende. The bar is hidden in the grain elevators and everything is made of repurposed materials found on site. Grab a beer and wander through a walking paths past ruins of Buffalo’s former industries.


Buffalo City Hall
Buffalo City Hall

3. GET THE BEST VIEW FROM CITY HALL

Buffalo’s City Hall is one of the city’s most iconic buildings. Built in 1929, at the height of the Great Depression, no expense was spared.

The colorful art deco building is filled with artwork reminding us of the city’s origins. Reliefs of workers and industry decorate the exterior reliefs, and the top of the building represents a headdress.

https://youtu.be/1movE65LKHE

Be sure to take their free daily tour, with the obvious highlight being the viewing deck. Venture up to the 28th floor (up 3 flights of stairs) and get the best view of the city. From the top, you’ll be able to see clear to Canada and get a view of Buffalo’s remarkable circular street grid.


Hotel Henry in Buffalo, NY
Hotel Henry in Buffalo, NY

4. TAKE A PHOTO SHOOT AT HOTEL HENRY

Hotel Henry is one of Buffalo’s finest places to stay. The wild thing is the hotel is actually a former insane asylum.

It was designed by world renown architect HH Richardson and was intended to help those with mental health problems. Unfortunately, the complex fell into horrifying malpractice and was closed by the 1970s.

After decades of abandonment, preservations rallied to save the complex. The hotel now houses a farm to table restaurant, community events, and free concerts.

https://youtu.be/bLvdUpWmA0U

One of the coolest things is they have started hosting tours. They even have photo workshops where you can access parts of the complex that are usually off limits.


Chicken Wings - Buffalo, NY
Chicken Wings – Buffalo, NY

5. LEARN THE REAL STORY ABOUT BUFFALO WINGS

If it’s one thing Buffalo is known for it’s chicken wings. When in Buffalo, do like the locals do and get some wings.

Anyone can look up the Anchor Bar or Duff’s. But we like to avoid the crowds of tourists. Let’s dig a little deeper and find the true origins of Buffalo Wings.

Check out our Insiders Guide to Buffalo Wings and read the contested history of Buffalo’s most famous dish and our picks for the best wings in town. We even have an entire tour if you want to sample them all!

https://youtu.be/3yElU97pltE

Buffalo also has some lesser known classic foods, including beef on weck, a sandwich that is more than 100 years old. For more, see our blog post 7 Must Try Buffalo Foods.


Colored Musicians Club in Buffalo, NY
Colored Musicians Club in Buffalo, NY

6. CELEBRATE BLACK BUFFALO

Buffalo is rich in Black culture, thanks in part to those who came here during the Great Migration. At the center of it all is the Michigan Street Corridor. In a few block radius, you can explore key sites of black resistance.

One of our favorites is the Colored Musicians Club. The organization arose out of segregation and the inability of black musicians to find work in Buffalo. Today, it hosts a museum and live jazz shows and is the last remaining club of its kind in the U.S.

Michigan Street Baptist Church is another key hotspot. The site was an important link to the underground railroad. Many famous civil rights activists spoke there including Frederick Douglass. Mary Talbert, a founding member of the NAACP, was a regular member and a historical marker can be found at her former homesite.

Two other museums are in the area. The Nash House Museum honors the legacy of Reverend Jesse Nash, minister of the Michigan Street Baptist Church. Meanwhile, WUFO houses a small museum dedicated to Buffalo black radio history.

https://youtu.be/ATiVpcVFv3g

Be sure to check out the Freedom Wall, a city block long mural honoring Buffalo black activists. Broderick Park, located on the Niagara River is also of interest, where hundreds of freedom seekers passed on the underground railroad to Canada. The park is a great spot to catch a sunset, with gorgeous views of the waterfront. Finally, you’ll want to check out the Underground Railroad Museum in Niagara Falls. Located in a former train station, the museum has interactive exhibits connecting black history to the present.


A Buffalo Food Tour is an awesome experience
A Buffalo Food Tour is an awesome experience

7. GO BEYOND BLUE CHEESE ON A FOOD TOUR

Buffalo is fast becoming a foodie town. And it’s not all wings and blue cheese – we also have farm to table and artisanal flavors.

You can take it old school and visit Santasierio’s for some classic Italian dishes. The pasta e fagioli with the hot peppers is highly recommended and will suffice for two meals.

Or take it new school with the upstart scene. Check out Chandler Street market for numerous small businesses housed in an old aircraft factory. Try Barrel & Brine for all things pickled, Southern Junction for BBQ, and Bloom & Rose for their sweet and savory knishes.

https://youtu.be/gG23dJaXZBA

Other favorites are the Westside Tilth, for pizzas with fresh veggies grown on site and Las Puertas, an intimate tapas restaurant. Also worth a visit is the Westside Bazaar, where you can sample foods from around the world under one roof.

A great way to take in the best of Buffalo’s food scene is a Buffalo food tour. Buffalo Bike Tours offers two tours: the Wing Ride and Renaissance Ride. Earn and burn those calories!


Buffalo’s Outer Harbor
Buffalo’s Outer Harbor

8. TAKE A BIKE RIDE TO OUTER HARBOR

Buffalo is a great biking city due to its small size. Thanks to the work of bike advocates, its getting better all the time.

A lot of money has recently gone into the waterfront, with new bike paths leading out to Outer Harbor and a state of the art bmx bike track. There’s even a bike ferry you can catch from Canalside that will take you there (ferries leave every 20 minutes).

https://player.vimeo.com/video/332335053?app_id=122963&wmode=opaque

Don’t have a bike? No worries! There a range of bike rental options in town: check out our Insiders Guide to Bike Rentals and rent bikes from Buffalo Bike Tours; there are also free, self guided tours.


William McKinley Shooting Rock
William McKinley Shooting Rock

9. EXPLORE BUFFALO’S UNDERGROUND HISTORY

One key moment in Buffalo history was the Pan American Exposition, which pushed Buffalo to the international stage in 1901. Most famously, President William McKinley was assassinated and there is much to explore. You can check out the Buffalo History Museum, where they have the original gun that shot the president. Or visit the McKinley Shooting Rock, a tiny memorial at the exact location of the gruesome deed.

There’s also the TR Site, where President Teddy Roosevelt was inaugurated. Take in some of Buffalo’s architecture on the block and see mansions owned by titans in Buffalo industry.

https://youtu.be/yLOy6Abwzrg

Eager for more history that only locals know about? Try the Steel Plant Museum for a look at Buffalo’s working class history or the Museum of disAbility, a fascinating look at mobility activism.


buffalo-brewery

10. INDULGE IN BUFFALO’S BEST SPIRITS

Did we fail to mention beer? Buffalo’s got it. A lot of it.

Buffalo’s brewing history dates back to the 1800s and is indebted to its German roots. Bygone breweries such as Lang, Iroquois, and Simon Pure were part of the city’s backbone.

Unfortunately, much of Buffalo’s brewing collapsed during consolidation of the industry in the 1960s. Don’t worry – there’s a new crop of breweries breathing new energy into the tradition.

https://youtu.be/tWFkt9nK3go

Be sure to check out Community Beer Works, Beltline Brewing, and the Old First Ward Brewery. There’s plenty of hard alcohol distillers you’ll want to hit too. Among our favorites: Lockhouse Distillery, Barrell Factory, and Buffalo Distilling. For more, check out our 5 Must Try Breweries in Buffalo. Cheers!


Artist Mickey Harmon in front of the new Stonewall Nation mural in Allentown, Buffalo
Artist Mickey Harmon in front of the new Stonewall Nation mural in Allentown, Buffalo

11. GET ARTSY AND TOUR BUFFALO’S ART SCENE

Buffalo is a great place to experience the arts. You can visit Albright Knox, but if you want to go underground, stick with us.

The best place to plug into Buffalo’s art scene is Allentown, known for its longtime Allentown Arts Festival. There’s scores of great little art galleries and bohemian cafes. See Pine Apple Company, El Museo, Pausa art house, Fitz Waffles and Books, and Babeville for concerts.

The area is also known for being a safe space for LGBT folks. Check out the new Stonewall Nation mural and clubs Cathode Ray and Funky Monkey.

https://youtu.be/PpqJwxxQLYY

One of Buffalo’s most beloved artists is Larry Griffis. See his former studios on Essex Street, which is being enlivened by Buffalo Institute for Contemporary Art. Be sure to visit Griffis’ Flatman sculpture or take a day trip out to Griffis Outdoor Sculpture Park.

For more, check: Hallwalls, Squeaky Wheel, Eleven Twenty Projects, and Buffalo Arts Studio.


Buffalo is perfect for exploring by bike
Buffalo is perfect for exploring by bike

12. TAKE A BUFFALO BIKE TOUR

The best way to get the inside scoop on Buffalo’s hidden gems is Buffalo Bike Tours. Our Buffalo history tours bring the city’s past to life through stories, songs, humor, and local insight. Or, consider taking one of our Buffalo food tours, where we take you to Buffalo’s best kept foodie secrets – from chicken wing joints to new pop-up restaurants. Check out our entire schedule here.

Ready to discover the real Buffalo? Book your tour now.

Buffalo Bike Tours – Food & History Tours of Buffalo!

AN INSIDERS GUIDE TO FUN THINGS TO DO IN BUFFALO, NY

Buffalo, NY can be a tough nut to crack, as embodied by our tagline “Keep Buffalo A Secret”. If you’re planning a trip and looking for fun things to do in Buffalo, then you’ll want to seek local insight.

For someone who doesn’t live here, it may be hard to know where to begin. That’s why we’ve compiled this guide to assist your trip planning. We’ve taken the guesswork out of searching for Buffalo’s off the beaten path spots and hidden gems. Here are our top 12 places to check out in Buffalo that only locals know.

(Full disclosure: we rent bikes and lead food tours and history tours by bike, which bring you to many of the city’s best sightseeing spots – all on two wheels!)

 

The R & L Lounge – a classic East Buffalo bar

1. STEP BACK IN TIME IN EAST BUFFALO

East Buffalo is well off most tourist agendas but rich in neighborhood history. Broadway Fillmore was once full of small businesses. The area became home to the second largest Polish population, second only to New York City.

Since the 1950s, the neighborhood saw economic decline due to lost jobs, redlining, and racism. This has resulted in some rough areas but still some hidden gems if you know where to go.

One of our favorite local bars is the R & L Lounge. Ronnie and Lottie, the couple who own the bar, have been in business for more than 50 years. The experience is a step back in time and like hanging out with your grandma. Try to catch them on a Friday night for fish fry and be sure to try Lottie’s pierogies, cooked to perfection.

Other landmarks include Buffalo Central TerminalBroadway MarketPolish Library, and MLK Park.

There has been renewed interest in East Buffalo recently. Central Terminal hired a new Executive Director and is beginning to run tours. Just a block away, our friend Chris Hawley is opening a new bar, Eugene Debs Hall. And new immigrants and refugees are reshaping the community with eateries (we recommend Alibaba Kebab and their fish tandoori).


Silo City is a hidden gem

Silo City is a hidden gem

2. SEE A SHOW AT SILO CITY

Buffalo’s grain elevators are becoming a major draw for the area. In fact, Buffalo has the largest collection of grain elevators in the United States.

While you can certainly enjoy a drink at Buffalo Riverworks, we prefer the noncommercial Silo City. Silo City is a visionary project of Rick Smith, who bought the property to turn into a biofuel factory. When that proved too expensive, Smith decided instead to invest in the arts.

Silo City is fast becoming a magnet for the arts, design, and activism. They’ve hosted poetry readings, music concerts, and conferences, bringing new energy to the old buildings.

While there, be sure to check out Duende. The bar is hidden in the grain elevators and everything is made of repurposed materials found on site. Grab a beer and wander through a walking paths past ruins of Buffalo’s former industries.

 


 

Buffalo City Hall

 

Buffalo City Hall

 

3. GET THE BEST VIEW FROM CITY HALL

 

Buffalo’s City Hall is one of the city’s most iconic buildings. Built in 1929, at the height of the Great Depression, no expense was spared.

 

The colorful art deco building is filled with artwork reminding us of the city’s origins. Reliefs of workers and industry decorate the exterior reliefs, and the top of the building represents a headdress.

Be sure to take their free daily tour, with the obvious highlight being the viewing deck. Venture up to the 28th floor (up 3 flights of stairs) and get the best view of the city. From the top, you’ll be able to see clear to Canada and get a view of Buffalo’s remarkable circular street grid.


Hotel Henry in Buffalo, NY

Hotel Henry in Buffalo, NY

4. TAKE A PHOTO SHOOT AT HOTEL HENRY

Hotel Henry is one of Buffalo’s finest places to stay. The wild thing is the hotel is actually a former insane asylum.

It was designed by world renown architect HH Richardson and was intended to help those with mental health problems. Unfortunately, the complex fell into horrifying malpractice and was closed by the 1970s.

After decades of abandonment, preservations rallied to save the complex. The hotel now houses a farm to table restaurant, community events, and free concerts.

One of the coolest things is they have started hosting tours. They even have photo workshops where you can access parts of the complex that are usually off limits.


Chicken Wings - Buffalo, NY

Chicken Wings – Buffalo, NY

5. LEARN THE REAL STORY ABOUT BUFFALO WINGS

If it’s one thing Buffalo is known for it’s chicken wings. When in Buffalo, do like the locals do and get some wings.

Anyone can look up the Anchor Bar or Duff’s. But we like to avoid the crowds of tourists. Let’s dig a little deeper and find the true origins of Buffalo Wings.

Check out our Insiders Guide to Buffalo Wings and read the contested history of Buffalo’s most famous dish and our picks for the best wings in town. We even have an entire tour if you want to sample them all!

Buffalo also has some lesser known classic foods, including beef on weck, a sandwich that is more than 100 years old. For more, see our blog post 7 Must Try Buffalo Foods.


Colored Musicians Club in Buffalo, NY

Colored Musicians Club in Buffalo, NY

6. CELEBRATE BLACK BUFFALO

Buffalo is rich in Black culture, thanks in part to those who came here during the Great Migration. At the center of it all is the Michigan Street Corridor. In a few block radius, you can explore key sites of black resistance.

One of our favorites is the Colored Musicians Club. The organization arose out of segregation and the inability of black musicians to find work in Buffalo. Today, it hosts a museum and live jazz shows and is the last remaining club of its kind in the U.S.

Michigan Street Baptist Church is another key hotspot. The site was an important link to the underground railroad. Many famous civil rights activists spoke there including Frederick Douglass. Mary Talbert, a founding member of the NAACP, was a regular member and a historical marker can be found at her former homesite.

Two other museums are in the area. The Nash House Museum honors the legacy of Reverend Jesse Nash, minister of the Michigan Street Baptist Church. Meanwhile, WUFO houses a small museum dedicated to Buffalo black radio history.

Be sure to check out the Freedom Wall, a city block long mural honoring Buffalo black activists. Broderick Park, located on the Niagara River is also of interest, where hundreds of freedom seekers passed on the underground railroad to Canada. The park is a great spot to catch a sunset, with gorgeous views of the waterfront. Finally, you’ll want to check out the Underground Railroad Museum in Niagara Falls. Located in a former train station, the museum has interactive exhibits connecting black history to the present.

 


 

A Buffalo Food Tour is an awesome experience
A Buffalo Food Tour is an awesome experience

 

7. GO BEYOND BLUE CHEESE ON A FOOD TOUR

 

Buffalo is fast becoming a foodie town. And it’s not all wings and blue cheese – we also have farm to table and artisanal flavors.

 

You can take it old school and visit Santasierio’s for some classic Italian dishes. The pasta e fagioli with the hot peppers is highly recommended and will suffice for two meals.

 

Or take it new school with the upstart scene. Check out Chandler Street market for numerous small businesses housed in an old aircraft factory. Try Barrel & Brine for all things pickled, Southern Junction for BBQ, and Bloom & Rose for their sweet and savory knishes.

Other favorites are the Westside Tilth, for pizzas with fresh veggies grown on site and Las Puertas, an intimate tapas restaurant. Also worth a visit is the Westside Bazaar, where you can sample foods from around the world under one roof.

A great way to take in the best of Buffalo’s food scene is a Buffalo food tour. Buffalo Bike Tours offers two tours: the Wing Ride and Renaissance Ride. Earn and burn those calories!


Buffalo’s Outer Harbor

Buffalo’s Outer Harbor

8. TAKE A BIKE RIDE TO OUTER HARBOR

Buffalo is a great biking city due to its small size. Thanks to the work of bike advocates, its getting better all the time.

A lot of money has recently gone into the waterfront, with new bike paths leading out to Outer Harbor and a state of the art bmx bike track. There’s even a bike ferry you can catch from Canalside that will take you there (ferries leave every 20 minutes).

Don’t have a bike? No worries! There a range of bike rental options in town: check out our Insiders Guide to Bike Rentals and rent bikes from Buffalo Bike Tours; there are also free, self guided tours.

 


 

William McKinley Shooting Rock
William McKinley Shooting Rock

 

9. EXPLORE BUFFALO’S UNDERGROUND HISTORY

 

One key moment in Buffalo history was the Pan American Exposition, which pushed Buffalo to the international stage in 1901. Most famously, President William McKinley was assassinated and there is much to explore. You can check out the Buffalo History Museum, where they have the original gun that shot the president. Or visit the McKinley Shooting Rock, a tiny memorial at the exact location of the gruesome deed.

 

There’s also the TR Site, where President Teddy Roosevelt was inaugurated. Take in some of Buffalo’s architecture on the block and see mansions owned by titans in Buffalo industry.

 

Eager for more history that only locals know about? Try the Steel Plant Museum for a look at Buffalo’s working class history or the Museum of disAbility, a fascinating look at mobility activism.


buffalo-brewery

10. INDULGE IN BUFFALO’S BEST SPIRITS

Did we fail to mention beer? Buffalo’s got it. A lot of it.

Buffalo’s brewing history dates back to the 1800s and is indebted to its German roots. Bygone breweries such as Lang, Iroquois, and Simon Pure were part of the city’s backbone.

Unfortunately, much of Buffalo’s brewing collapsed during consolidation of the industry in the 1960s. Don’t worry – there’s a new crop of breweries breathing new energy into the tradition.

Be sure to check out Community Beer WorksBeltline Brewing, and the Old First Ward Brewery. There’s plenty of hard alcohol distillers you’ll want to hit too. Among our favorites: Lockhouse DistilleryBarrell Factory, and Buffalo Distilling. For more, check out our 5 Must Try Breweries in Buffalo. Cheers!


Artist Mickey Harmon in front of the new Stonewall Nation mural in Allentown, Buffalo

Artist Mickey Harmon in front of the new Stonewall Nation mural in Allentown, Buffalo

11. GET ARTSY AND TOUR BUFFALO’S ART SCENE

Buffalo is a great place to experience the arts. You can visit Albright Knox, but if you want to go underground, stick with us.

The best place to plug into Buffalo’s art scene is Allentown, known for its longtime Allentown Arts Festival. There’s scores of great little art galleries and bohemian cafes. See Pine Apple CompanyEl MuseoPausa art houseFitz Waffles and Books, and Babeville for concerts.

The area is also known for being a safe space for LGBT folks. Check out the new Stonewall Nation mural and clubs Cathode Ray and Funky Monkey.

 

One of Buffalo’s most beloved artists is Larry Griffis. See his former studios on Essex Street, which is being enlivened by Buffalo Institute for Contemporary Art. Be sure to visit Griffis’ Flatman sculpture or take a day trip out to Griffis Outdoor Sculpture Park.

 

For more, check: HallwallsSqueaky Wheel, Eleven Twenty Projects, and Buffalo Arts Studio.

 


 

Buffalo is perfect for exploring by bike

 

Buffalo is perfect for exploring by bike

 

12. TAKE A BUFFALO BIKE TOUR

 

The best way to get the inside scoop on Buffalo’s hidden gems is Buffalo Bike Tours. Our Buffalo history tours bring the city’s past to life through stories, songs, humor, and local insight. Or, consider taking one of our Buffalo food tours, where we take you to Buffalo’s best kept foodie secrets – from chicken wing joints to new pop-up restaurants. Check out our entire schedule here.

 

Ready to discover the real Buffalo? Book your tour now.

Download our Black History of Buffalo Timeline Book

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