Buffalo (New York)

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Travel Guide North America USA Northeastern United States New York Buffalo

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Introduction

The largest city in New York State's Niagara Frontier, Buffalo is a city full of surprises. Though Buffalo is sometimes the butt of jokes about chicken wings, its long-suffering sports teams, and the mountains of snow under which it is supposedly buried each winter, local residents and others who are in the know tell a different story: one of vibrant nightlife, world-class museums and cultural attractions, tight-knit neighborhoods with community spirit and a real sense of place, a winning combination of high quality of life and low cost of living — and the sunniest summers in the Northeastern United States. A great part of Buffalo's appeal to visitors is the still-palpable sense of its history as an important industrial center. Majestic historic buildings and sites around every corner tell the story of a city that was great once and has all the tools in place to be great again someday.

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Neighbourhoods

  • Downtown - Buffalo's central business district boasts monumental architecture, a revitalized historic waterfront, the vibrant Theater District, the thumping dance clubs of Chippewa Street, and the Medical Corridor.
  • Allentown and the Delaware District - Allentown's hipster bars, rock clubs and art galleries are a lively counterpart to the sedate Delaware District's quiet residential streets. Both are heaven for architecture buffs, with charming Victorians lining the side streets off Allen Street and sumptuous Gilded Age mansions on Delaware Avenue's Millionaire's Row.
  • Elmwood Village - With Buffalo State College and the Museum District at the north end of the strip, Elmwood has Buffalo's finest dining, hippest clothing boutiques, and chillest bars, flanked by handsome turn-of-the-century side streets where yuppies and co-eds rub shoulders.
  • North Buffalo - With more of a suburban feel than other Buffalo districts, North Buffalo is a diverse hodgepodge composed of Little Italy along Hertel Avenue, scruffy but pleasant University Heights, and the beautifully-landscaped, historic residential areas of Parkside, Central Park, and Park Meadow.
  • West Side - Buffalo's most up-and-coming area. Long the epicenter of Hispanic culture in Buffalo, the West Side now boasts a veritable United Nations of immigrant communities and a nascent arts scene along Grant Street, ramshackle Victorian cottages in Prospect Hill and the West Village gradually being spruced up to their former glory, and waterfront parks galore. To the north are historic Black Rock and working-class Riverside.
  • South Buffalo - Separated from the rest of the city by the Buffalo River, proudly Irish South Buffalo can seem like a city unto its own: to the north, the historic Old First Ward and Cobblestone District and newly redeveloped Larkinville; to the east, pleasant parkland and quiet residential streets; to the west, the grain elevators and rail yards of Buffalo's mighty industrial past; along the lake shore, the redeveloping Outer Harbor, Buffalo's newest summer playground.
  • East Side - Buffalonians are quick to deride the East Side as a drug- and crime-infested ghetto. Those who are smart enough to disregard the locals will be rewarded with the jaw-dropping sight of huge, ornate churches built by 19th-century German and Polish immigrants, an educational look into Buffalo's African-American history, cultural attractions like the Buffalo Museum of Science, and other surprises in this truly off-the-beaten-path district.

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Sights and Activities

  • Per capita Buffalo has the highest number of theaters in New York, after NYC. Theaters include, Sheas, Alleway Theater, Irish Classical Theater, and Lancaster Opera House.
  • From August to December, one can go to Ralph Wilson Arena in nearby Orchard park to see the Bills play in the National Football League. NHL seasons generally start in September/October and run until April, with playoffs in May/June and one can see the Sabres play in HSBC Arena in the heart of Downtown Buffalo. Buffalo is also home to some Minor League Baseball action, where the Buffalo Bisons play at Dunn Tire Park, also in the Downtown Buffalo area. Buffalo is also home to a Lacrosse team
  • Darien Lake, a popular amusement park, is located about 40 minutes outside of Buffalo in Darien, New York. The park is host to many popular concerts and is open from May to October, when they host a 'Frightfest' Halloween promotion.

Museums

Buffalo's wealth of cultural attractions is surprising given the city's somewhat small size. The museums here are many and varied, and are a point of pride for Buffalo's citizens. Arguably the most interesting among them are a great number of institutions that focus on the area's past. Those who are curious about Buffalo's rich history are advised to first stop in at the gargantuan Buffalo History Museum which focuses on the city's history in a general sense, then take your pick of the smaller, more specialized museums — the Lower Lakes Marine Historical Society Museum to learn more about the Great Lakes shipping routes that gave Buffalo its importance as an inland port, the Colored Musicians Club Museum or the Nash House Museum for African-American history in Buffalo, the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum for the story behind Buffalo's importance in the early-20th century automotive industry, the Buffalo Fire Historical Society for the history of firefighting in Buffalo, and more.

Art

More so even than its range of cultural attractions, Buffalo's art scene is huge for a city its size, with galleries large and small to suit all tastes. The Museum District at the north end of the Elmwood Village is the site of Buffalo's two largest art galleries, the beautiful Albright-Knox and the Burchfield-Penney. The Buffalo Religious Arts Center is an off-the-beaten-path gem in Black Rock, dedicated to preserving the statuary, icons, stained glass, and other objets d'art from the many churches and other houses of worship that have closed in the wake of Buffalo's late-20th-century population losses. Smaller storefront galleries are plentiful, and are concentrated in some of Buffalo's more interesting areas, such as Allentown, the Theater District, and Hertel Avenue - as well as, increasingly, emerging artistic communities on the Lower West Side, in Grant-Amherst, and just south of the Theater District in the 500 Block of Main Street.

Outdoors

Buffalo is a great place to enjoy the outdoors - especially in the warm months. A side effect of Buffalo's notoriously nasty winters is that locals really make the most of the warm-weather months. Predictably, in March or April on the first nice day of the year, the streets are thronged with pasty-skinned locals, dressed in shorts and tank tops despite the still-chilly temperatures, ravenously drinking in the fresh air and sunlight after the long, bleak winter. Autumn is also a pleasant time to be outdoors in Buffalo, with the crisp, fragrant air a perfect complement to the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot.

The city of Buffalo contains over 200 parks, both large and small. Among the largest and most interesting of Buffalo's parks were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, unquestionably the greatest landscape architect of the 19th Century, in conjunction with his then-partner Calvert Vaux. Buffalo's Olmsted parks are an interconnected network of six large parks and six smaller green spaces (three of the latter survive today), linked to each other by wide, tree-lined thoroughfares called parkways modeled after the grand boulevards of Paris. Though he would go on to design similar park systems for other cities, Buffalo's is the oldest and one of the best-preserved Olmsted park systems in existence - and the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, the not-for-profit that's been in charge of maintenance of the Olmsted park system since 2004, is hard at work repairing and restoring elements that have been lost over the years to put the parks in even better shape than they are now.

The Olmsted parks that will be of the most interest to visitors are Delaware Park, Buffalo's largest at 234 acres (93 ha) which boasts amenities including the Buffalo Zoo, a Rose Garden and a Japanese Garden, and public art installations, and South Park, which contains the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens. Additionally, though it's not an Olmsted park, LaSalle Park has an outdoor amphitheater, baseball and soccer fields, a dog run, and walking and jogging trails in a beautiful waterfront setting overlooking Lake Erie.

Speaking of which: as if to defy the ugly, intrusive Interstate 190 and Buffalo Skyway that run along the shoreline, Buffalo's waterfront is becoming more and more of a focal point for outdoor recreation. Situated in the heart of downtown, Canalside is ground zero for waterfront recreation in Buffalo, with summertime concerts and festivals held seemingly every day in the midst of preserved remnants of the historic Canal District. A number of harbor cruise lines are also based at Canalside, as is the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park.

Parkland is also abundant on Buffalo's waterfront. In addition to the aforementioned LaSalle Park, Broderick Park is a small green space at the southern tip of Unity Island that's most famous as the northern end of the Bird Island Pier, a 1.3-mile (2 km) walkway with an unparalleled view of the mouth of the Niagara River, lower Lake Erie, and - at its southern tip - the Erie Basin Marina and downtown. Further north, Riverside Park is an Olmsted park at the far northwest corner of the city, adjacent to the Niagara River. Deserving of special mention is the Outer Harbor, a vast expanse of former industrial land south of downtown that became a state park in September 2013. The Outer Harbor features Gallagher Beach, a pebble beach popular with boaters and windsurfers, as well as Times Beach Nature Preserve and Tifft Nature Preserve, where walking trails meander through wetland habitats filled with migratory birds and native fauna.

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Events and Festivals

Buffalo's calendar of annual festivals, parades and events is huge and growing. Ethnic pride festivals such as the Buffalo Greek Fest, the Buffalo Italian Heritage Festival, and Dyngus Day play a preeminent role, though a diversity of events of all kinds is enjoyed by citizens. Naturally, the lion's share of these festivals take place during the warm months, but efforts have been made to expand the slate of offerings in winter as well.

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

Other Events and Festivals

  • Dyngus Day
  • Elmwood Art Festival
  • Thursday in the Sqaure
  • Tuesdays at the Gorge
  • Taste of Buffalo
  • Italian Festival
  • Polish Festival
  • Greek Heritage Festival
  • World's Largest Disco

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Weather

While Buffalo is known for her snowy winters, the summers are mild and sunny with temperatures ranging from around 20 °C to sometimes 35 °C. August and early September are generally warm and humid. The falls are usually crisp and clear with temperature between 5 and 15 °C. Winter's are generally cold and can be quite snowy.

In the first half of winter, beginning in approximately November, the city can get lake-effect snow: cold winds blowing over the warmer waters of Lake Erie pick up a lot of water vapor, which is dumped as snow as soon as they reach land. This usually ends in January, when the lake finally freezes over.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max-1 °C-0.2 °C5.4 °C12.3 °C18.9 °C24.1 °C26.8 °C25.5 °C21.6 °C15.2 °C8.4 °C1.8 °C
Avg Min-8.3 °C-8.1 °C-3.4 °C2.3 °C8.3 °C13.6 °C16.6 °C15.6 °C11.7 °C5.9 °C1.1 °C-5.1 °C
Rainfall68.6 mm58.7 mm68.1 mm72.9 mm79.8 mm90.2 mm78.2 mm105.9 mm88.6 mm78.5 mm97.3 mm93.2 mm
Rain Days13.211.511.310.29.48.87.39.48.89.812.714

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Getting There

By Plane

Buffalo is home to the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport (BUF). The Buffalo Niagara International Airport serves Buffalo as well as Niagara Falls, the rest of Western New York, Northwest Pennsylvania, and Southern Ontario. The airport is particularly popular with the latter group; Canadians looking for fares lower than those found at Toronto Pearson make up about 40% of the Buffalo Niagara International Airport's passengers. The Buffalo Niagara International Airport is served by American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, and United, with about 110 nonstop flights per day to Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago (Midway and O'Hare), Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers (seasonally), Jacksonville (seasonally), Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami (seasonally), Minneapolis/St. Paul, Newark, New York (JFK and LaGuardia), Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Raleigh/Durham, Tampa, and Washington (Dulles and Reagan National). International flights are handled by low-cost charter carrier Vacation Express, with seasonal routes to Cancún, Montego Bay, and Punta Cana.

Getting to/from the airport
From the airport, Buffalo is accessible via four NFTA bus routes:

  • NFTA Metro Bus #24B - Genesee makes frequent departures, seven days a week, from the airport terminal to downtown via Genesee Street, servicing both the Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center and the Buffalo-Exchange Street Amtrak station. Those travelling outbound from downtown Buffalo should keep in mind that only the #24B proceeds as far as the airport; the #24A ends at the city line.
  • NFTA Metro Bus #47 - Youngs Road runs 15 times per day from Monday to Friday from the airport through Williamsville to the University Metro Rail Station, from which point downtown is easily accessible via the subway.
  • NFTA Metro Bus #68 - George Urban Express makes one trip in each direction Monday through Friday between the airport and the Buffalo-Exchange Street Amtrak station downtown, leaving the airport at 6:56AM and leaving the train station at 4:38PM. Outbound trips (towards the airport) also serve the Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center.
  • NFTA MetroLink Route #204 - Airport-Downtown Express makes 12 runs in each direction Monday through Friday between the airport and the Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center. Route #204 falls under the NFTA Metro system's new Enhanced Express service. An additional 50¢ surcharge applies to all trips on Enhanced Express buses, bringing the total fare to $2.50 one way.

In addition, the Buffalo Niagara International Airport is served directly by a number of intercity bus lines. All buses, NFTA and long-distance, are boarded at the bus lane on the east side of the terminal, on the arrivals level. This is also where Uber and Lyft pick up. Buffalo Airport Taxi's stand, as well as a number of rental car facilities, are found directly across from the terminal's main exit, on the arrivals level.

By Train

Buffalo is served by the following Amtrak lines:

  • The Empire Service runs from New York City via Yonkers, Croton-on-Hudson, Poughkeepsie, Rhinecliff, Hudson, Albany (Rensselaer), Schenectady, Amsterdam, Utica, Rome, Syracuse, and Rochester, and continues past Buffalo to Niagara Falls.
  • The Maple Leaf, which runs from Toronto via Oakville, Burlington (Aldershot), Grimsby, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Niagara Falls, USA, then continues to New York City along the same route as the Empire Service.
  • The Lake Shore Limited, which, unlike the Empire Service and Maple Leaf, only serves Buffalo-Depew. Eastbound trains on this route travel from Chicago via South Bend, Elkhart, Waterloo, Bryan, Toledo, Sandusky, Elyria, Cleveland, and Erie. Westbound trains begin either at Boston or New York City; trains from Boston proceed to Albany via Framingham, Worcester, Springfield, and Pittsfield; with trains from New York City making stops at Croton-on-Hudson and Poughkeepsie. At Albany, the two routes converge and trains follow the same route as the Empire Service, stopping at Schenectady, Utica, Syracuse, and Rochester.

By Car

The New York State Thruway (Interstate 90) runs east to west and connects Buffalo to other major cities and regions - New York City, the Hudson Valley, Albany, Utica, Syracuse, and Rochester to the east, and Erie and Cleveland to the west. The New York State Thruway is a toll highway over most of its length, with the sole exception of the toll-free portion between Exits 50 and 55, which roughly corresponds to Buffalo's inner-ring suburbs. The New York State Thruway Authority accepts E-ZPass for toll payment, as well as cash.

Interstate 190 begins at Exit 53 of I-90 near the city line, extending west into downtown. At that point, it turns northward and mostly parallels the Niagara River, linking Buffalo to Niagara Falls and extending onward to Canada via the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge. Interstate 290 links I-90 with I-190 via Buffalo's northern suburbs. Interstate 990 runs southwest-to-northeast through suburban Amherst between I-290 and the hamlet of Millersport, after which point Lockport is easily accessible via NY 263 (Millersport Highway) and NY 78 (Transit Road).

If coming from Ontario, the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) is the best way to access Buffalo. The most direct border crossing into Buffalo, the Peace Bridge, is at the end of the QEW in Fort Erie. Other bridge crossing options include the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, along with the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge in Lewiston. All of these bridges are easily accessible from the QEW; follow the well-posted signs.

By car, Buffalo is about two hours from Toronto, one to one and a half hours from Rochester, two and a half hours from Syracuse, and six to seven hours from New York City.

Average wait times at the various border entries vary: at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo/Fort Erie and the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, wait times over 30 minutes are unusual on most days other than holiday weekends, whereas at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, the norm is 30–60 minutes, more on holiday weekends.

By Bus

The Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center, at 181 Ellicott St. downtown, serves as Buffalo's hub for intercity buses, a stop on most NFTA Metro Bus routes, and the city's main taxi terminal. The following bus routes serve the Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center:

  • Coach USA - Service from Jamestown via Fredonia, Dunkirk, and various points in between. Service from Olean via Franklinville, East Aurora, Buffalo Niagara International Airport, and various points in between.
  • Fullington Trailways - Service from DuBois via St. Marys, Bradford, Olean, Salamanca, Ellicottville, Springville, and various points in between.
  • Greyhound - Service from Cleveland via Ashtabula and Erie (not all runs stop at all intermediate cities).Service from New York City via Newark, Binghamton, Cortland, Syracuse, Rochester, Batavia, and Buffalo Niagara International Airport (not all runs stop at all intermediate cities). Service from New York City via Scranton, Binghamton, Ithaca, Geneva, Rochester, and Batavia. Service from Boston via Worcester, Springfield, Albany, Schenectady, Amsterdam, Utica, Syracuse, Rochester, Batavia, and Buffalo Niagara International Airport (not all runs stop at all intermediate cities). Service from Toronto via Mississauga, Burlington, Grimsby, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, and Fort Erie (not all runs stop at all intermediate cities).
  • Megabus - Service from New York City via Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo Niagara International Airport.Service from Toronto via St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, and Fort Erie (not all runs stop at all intermediate cities), and onward to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.Service from Washington, D.C. via Baltimore and Philadelphia.

By Boat

As the place where the Erie Canal met vast Lake Erie, Buffalo's early growth came thanks to the Great Lakes shipping industry. Nowadays the canal has been rerouted to end downstream in Tonawanda, but that's not to say that the canal and the lake aren't still a fairly common, if novel, way to arrive in Buffalo. The West Side, downtown, and the Outer Harbor boast a variety of places for boats to dock. For visitors, the best place to dock is:

Erie Basin Marina, 329 Erie St., ☎ +1 716 851-6501. Season lasts May 1st-Oct 15th. The Erie Basin Marina is not only one of the premier venues in Buffalo for locals and visitors to moor their boats, it's also a true waterfront destination in itself — the marina boasts two restaurants (The Hatch for burgers, hot dogs, and the like, and Templeton Landing for more upscale fare), the verdant Erie Basin Marina Gardens, an observation tower boasting stunning views of Buffalo's downtown and waterfront, and even a waterfront boardwalk that leads to a small swimming beach. As well, the Ship Store at the base of the observation tower (M-F noon-6PM, Sa-Su 10AM-7PM in season) stocks a full range of snacks, boating supplies, and essentials such as sunscreen, and there's also a fueling station. The Erie Basin Marina is within easy walking distance of Canalside and the Naval and Military Park. Transient slip rental based on length of boat, $1.90 per foot per day.

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Getting Around

By Car

In addition to the Interstate highways, Buffalo has several intraurban expressways useful to visitors:

  • The Kensington Expressway (NY 33) begins at the airport on Genesee Street, proceeding westward through the suburb of Cheektowaga and the East Side before turning southward and concluding downtown at Oak Street.
  • The Scajaquada Expressway (NY 198) is a short highway that connects the Kensington Expressway with Interstate 190. The Scajaquada is a convenient route to the neighborhoods of Parkside and the Elmwood Village, the popular commercial strips of Hertel Avenue and Grant Street, as well as attractions like Delaware Park, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Buffalo History Museum, the Darwin D. Martin House, and the Burchfield Penney Art Center.
  • The Buffalo Skyway (NY 5) begins downtown at I-190, extending southward parallel to the shore of Lake Erie with access to Gallagher Beach, Tifft Nature Preserve, and other Outer Harbor attractions. After passing over the Union Ship Canal via the Father Baker Bridge, the divided highway ends, but Route 5 continues as a wide, busy six-lane surface road (variously known as the Hamburg Turnpike, Lake Shore Road, or simply Route 5) that passes through the suburban areas of Lackawanna and Hamburg and continuing southward along the lake shore.

Buffalo's highway system was designed for a city twice its size (a reflection of the population loss the area has undergone between the 1950s and today); as a result of that, the city does not suffer nearly as much from traffic congestion as other U.S. cities. Rush hour, such as it is, occurs on weekdays roughly from 6:30AM-9AM and from 4PM-6:30PM. A good rule of thumb the locals know is that, even at the height of rush hour, it generally takes no more than 30 minutes to drive from downtown to the outer edge of suburbia.

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

By Public Transport

Buffalo's public transportation system is operated by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA). They run a single-line light rail system (the Metro Rail) as well as an extensive bus network. The NFTA system is focused around three main nodes. From largest to smallest, these nodes are located in downtown Buffalo, at University Station (at the outer end of the Metro Rail), and at the Portage Road Transit Center in Niagara Falls. Most of the buses whose routes begin and end downtown access the Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center directly; many also service the Buffalo-Exchange Street Amtrak station.

The Metro Rail extends along Main Street from the University at Buffalo's South Campus at the northeast corner of the city southward to Canalside in downtown Buffalo, a distance of 6.4 miles (10.3 km). With nearly 25,000 riders per day, the Metro Rail boasts the third-highest number of passengers per mile (km) among light-rail systems in the United States. The northern portion of the system is below ground. As the subway enters the downtown core, at the Theater District, it emerges from the tunnel and runs at street level for the remainder of its length. Rides on the above-ground portion of the Metro Rail are free of charge. To ride in the underground portion of the system, it costs $4.00 for a round-trip ticket, or $2.00 for a one-way ticket. The Metro Rail is a popular mode of transportation for employees and residents who live along the line and north of the city to commute downtown, and also for attendees of downtown events who want to avoid paying high prices for parking.

The NFTA eliminated the zoned fare system in October 2010. Generally speaking, rides on a single bus or light rail vehicle now cost $2.00 regardless of length. The exception is the "Enhanced Express" service introduced by the NFTA in September 2012 and applied to Routes #60 - Niagara Falls Express, #64 - Lockport Express, and #204 - Airport-Downtown Express, as well as to selected runs of Routes #69 - Alden Express and #72 - Orchard Park Express. An additional 50¢ surcharge per trip applies on Enhanced Express buses.

There are no free transfers between buses. Passengers who will need to transfer from the bus to the Metro Rail, from the Metro Rail to a bus, or between bus lines should consider purchasing a day pass for $5. For further information on public transit in Buffalo including schedules and maps of individual routes, visit the NFTA Metro webpage.

By Bike

As in many cities, bicycling as an alternative method of transportation is growing more and more popular in Buffalo. However, in terms of the development of infrastructure such as dedicated bike lanes on city streets and bike parking areas, Buffalo lags behind many other "bikeable" cities such as Minneapolis, Portland, and Boston. Despite this, scenic bike routes such as the Shoreline Trail and the Scajaquada Creekside Bike Path are immensely popular with locals, and under the aegis of the city's newly adopted "Complete Streets" program, dedicated bike lanes and other rights-of-way are being added to more and more of the city's streets.

GO Bike Buffalo is the local organization that promotes and advocates for cycling and other sustainable transportation alternatives in Buffalo. The Community Bicycle Workshop they operate at 98 Colvin Ave. in North Buffalo offers used parts and complete refurbished bikes for sale, as well as special programs periodically throughout the year.

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Eat

Buffalo is a haven for great food. Whereas the area was once largely the domain of unimaginative, cookie-cutter chain restaurants and "greasy spoons", local residents agree that the dining scene in Buffalo has come a long way in the past twenty years. Increasingly innovative and high-quality establishments have popped up more and more often in places such as downtown, the Elmwood Village, Allentown, and the Hertel Avenue corridor. Visitors — even those who have been to Buffalo in the past — may be pleasantly surprised by the array of options.

No visit is complete without trying some Buffalo wings. Oh, sure, everyone thinks they've tried them, but nothing compares to the ones you can get in Buffalo. (But please don't call them "Buffalo wings"; around here, they're just "wings".) The classic recipe, as originated at the Anchor Bar on Main Street, is a chicken wing slathered in a mixture of butter and hot sauce (Frank's Red Hot for best results) in varying proportions according to your spice tolerance, then fried up crisp and optionally finished on the grill for a bit of extra char. The debate over who serves the best wings in town is endless and often heated, but as a general rule, head to one of Buffalo's many off-the-beaten-path corner bars. For something a bit different, head to South Buffalo, which — ever the odd-neighborhood-out — has its own homegrown style of wings.
Another local specialty is beef on weck, a sandwich that consists of slices of tender, juicy slow-roasted beef layered on a kümmelweck roll (a Kaiser roll topped with caraway seeds and Kosher salt) and traditionally garnished with horseradish. Any place that serves hot sandwiches is likely to have beef on weck on the menu, but the two restaurants whose beef on weck has the best reputation among locals are Schwabl's (on Center Road in West Seneca) and Charlie the Butcher (main location on Cayuga Road in Williamsville; several branch locations around the metro area).
Texas hots, despite their name, were not invented in Texas, but in Buffalo, where they began as a unique offering in the area's Greek restaurants (Seneca Texas Hots claims to be the first to serve them, though this is a matter of some dispute). The Texas hot is a hot dog slathered with mustard, onions, and spicy meat sauce or chili; the finished product bears some resemblance to the "Coney Island" hot dogs served in Detroit, though the chili sauce on Texas hots is lighter and thinner in consistency.
Speaking of which: Greek food is of course hardly unknown in the United States, but in Buffalo it's a cuisine that has a surprisingly long history and wide reach — there's been a Greek diner in practically every neighborhood since the 1960s or '70s. But Buffalo doesn't have an especially big Greek community, so what gives? It all goes back to Theodore Liaros, who opened the first location of beloved local hot dog chain Ted's in 1927, as well as the time-honored immigrant tradition of ethnic communities coming together to help out new arrivals: as time wore on, more and more Greeks — some distant relatives of the Liaros family, some old friends from his hometown — came to Buffalo, learned the restaurant business at Ted's, and then struck out on their own. Even today, the roster of local Greek restaurateurs remains a tangled web of family relations and intermarriages. As for the food, traditionally these places used to serve Americanized versions of Greek street foods like souvlaki, gyro and spanakopita alongside usual diner fare like burgers and melt sandwiches. This model still predominates in the suburbs, which is also where you're more likely to run across one that keeps to the old tradition of staying open 24 hours, a practice that's more and more going by the wayside as shift-based factory jobs disappear and college kids grow more apt to spend late nights cramming for the test than partying. However, many Greek diners in the city proper — particularly Pano's, Mythos, and Acropolis on Elmwood Avenue; Allentown's Towne Restaurant is a notable exception — have reinvented themselves in a more upscale vein, with ever more creative menu items, swankier decor, and higher prices.
Loganberry is a non-carbonated fruit beverage that is often served as a fountain drink at local restaurants, and is available in bottles at supermarkets and convenience stores in the area. This intensely sweet, dark purple drink is flavored with loganberry juice; as such, its flavor is somewhere between raspberry and blackberry. Aunt Rosie's, Johnnie Ryan, and Crystal Beach Loganberry are the three major brands you will see (the name of the latter brand is a reference to an amusement park that was once located just over the border in Ontario, which was popular with Buffalo's residents in the 1950s and '60s and where the drink originated).
Fish fry is a Buffalo staple that owes its existence to the traditional predominance of Roman Catholicism among the local citizenry — practicing Catholics were once forbidden to eat red meat and poultry on Fridays. Though that prohibition hasn't been in effect since the 1960s, the tradition of enjoying a fish fry on Friday nights has stuck. The traditional recipe sees massive filets of haddock or cod coated in flour, beer-battered and deep-fried until golden brown, then finished with tartar sauce and/or lemon juice and served with sides that may include French fries, coleslaw, or perhaps macaroni salad. You can eat fish fry at some of Buffalo's nicer restaurants if you want, but this is still a working-class food at heart and, accordingly, like wings, the best fish fry is served by the smaller neighborhood watering holes and greasy spoons. Expect lines for fish fry to be especially long during the season of Lent (usually Feb-Apr, though it varies by year), when the old no-meat-on-Fridays rule still applies.
Contrary to local belief, sponge candy is not unique to the Buffalo area — it's found under various monikers in the British Isles, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Québec, and various places in the U.S. Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Still, above and beyond any other product, it's a specialty of local confectioners. Brown sugar, corn syrup, and baking soda are mixed together into a thick syrup and then baked. The heat from the oven then releases bubbles of carbon dioxide gas from the baking soda which get trapped in the mixture as it hardens and sets into a toffee, creating sponge candy's trademark crunchy, latticed interior. The local version is invariably served covered in chocolate. The Fowler's chain of chocolate shops is reputed to sell the best sponge candy in Buffalo, though its competitors Watson's and Parkside Candy would beg to differ.

Food trucks have finally arrived in Buffalo, and they're a sensation. There are several dozen food trucks operating in Buffalo today, serving everything from the standard hot dogs and tacos to more unusual selections like elegant scratch-made desserts, gourmet fusion cuisine, and carnival fare. The growth of food trucks in Buffalo has not been without its share of struggle, though: in 2013, a proposal in the Common Council, backed by many prominent owners of local "stationary" restaurants, for a laundry list of new fees and regulations for food trucks was only narrowly defeated thanks to intense grassroots efforts. More recently, however, the line between food trucks and brick-and-mortar restaurants has blurred: many of the latter have taken an "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach and started up their own food trucks, while a few of the most popular trucks have expanded on their success by opening their own brick-and-mortar restaurants that also double as prep kitchens for their mobile operations.

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Drink

As a historically (and enduringly) blue-collar town, Buffalo has traditionally had a fairly dense concentration of bars and taverns. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Buffalo is among the top ten cities in the United States in number of bars per capita.

Drinkers in Buffalo aren't limited to rough-and-tumble working-class watering holes, though — although there are plenty of those, Buffalo has quite a number of more upscale nightlife districts, each with a distinct character. There's truly a bar scene in Buffalo for every taste, from the thumping dance clubs of Chippewa Street, to the cooler-than-thou hipster dives of Allentown where local rock bands gig, to the chichi cocktail bars in the Theater District that fill with theatergoers before and after shows, to the chill yuppie hangouts of the Elmwood Village, to the historic taverns of the Cobblestone District and the Old First Ward where it doesn't take much imagination to picture the canal boaters, grain scoopers, and railroadmen of a century ago relaxing at the bar with a frosty mug after a long workday.

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Sleep

There is a wide range of high-quality lodging to choose from in both Buffalo and its suburbs, encompassing hotels, motels, B&Bs, hostels, and guest houses. In particular, downtown Buffalo is in the middle of a boom in hotel construction, with about a half-dozen new properties opened or nearing completion. Much of this is the product of the preservation of architectural heritage that has come into vogue in Buffalo, with beautiful but vacant old buildings restored and repurposed — so if you're staying downtown, particularly at the Lofts on Pearl or the Hotel Lafayette, be prepared for a real Gilded Age treat. Of course, not all hotels downtown are old — the 205-room Marriott that opened in 2015 is the centerpiece of the HarborCenter development in burgeoning Canalside, and existing hotels such as the Hyatt Regency have been renovated extensively. Elsewhere in the city proper, Delaware Avenue in Allentown is the site of the luxurious Mansion as well as the grand old Hotel Lenox, and several B&Bs can be found peppered here and there catering to travelers in search of a distinctive, quirky urban experience.

In suburbia, the usual range of budget and mid-priced chains can be found clustered mostly around highway interchanges and in various other places. Two especially big clusters of hotels exist just south of the University of Buffalo's North Campus in Amherst, as well as around the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, where the arrival of discount airlines in Buffalo, cheap airport parking, and the highest airfares in North America out of Toronto have combined to spark a hotel boom comparable to downtown's.

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Learn

Buffalo is home to a large number of private and public colleges and universities. The largest school in the area is the University at Buffalo (UB). One of the four "university centers" of the State University of New York (SUNY) system, UB is renowned as a large public research university. For this reason, it is one of 62 elected members of the prestigious Association of American Universities. UB has two campuses: the smaller South Campus is in the University Heights neighborhood at the city's northeast corner, and the larger North Campus is in the suburb of Amherst, about four miles (6 km) northeast of the South Campus.

Buffalo State College, also part of the SUNY system, is across from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, at the north end of the Elmwood Village. Canisius College is Buffalo's largest private college, located near the intersection of Humboldt Parkway and Main Street. Other colleges and universities in the city and its surrounding area include Trocaire College, Medaille College, Villa Maria College, D'Youville College, Daemen College, and the three campuses of Erie Community College.

The University at Buffalo has an annual Distinguished Speakers Series, which has played host to Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Michael Moore, the Dalai Lama, Stephen Colbert, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta. These events take place on the North Campus and are open to the public; tickets are available from the University's box office. UB has a free series of summer lectures available to the public, and Buffalo State regularly has events open to visitors.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 42.886875
  • Longitude: -78.877875

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This is version 28. Last edited at 9:45 on Jun 12, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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