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Buffalo is a top destination in New York and considered a gateway to Niagara Falls, but there are lots of other things to see and do here as well. Buffalo is a fun place to visit for sports fans, nature lovers, and anyone who enjoys a great pint of local craft beer. It is also filled with historic sites, cultural attractions, and an impressive waterfront area. Whether you come here for the food, the art, or to spend time in the parks, here are a few of the top things to do on a trip to Buffalo.
One of the top tourist attractions in the city is Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, a museum that celebrates the history and traditions of the Navy. Here you can see large naval vessels on display, as well as aircraft, displays, and exhibits. This is America’s largest inland naval park and home to the decommissioned Cleveland-class cruiser USS Little Rock, Fletcher-class destroyer USS The Sullivans, and the submarine USS Croaker. This museum is open every day from 10am to 5pm, and for a few weekends in the fall, it offers overnight camping for kids.
Art lovers will enjoy taking a stroll through the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, which has a history that dates back to the mid-1800s. Inside the museum, you’ll find modern and contemporary art created by famous artists, including Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh. Other collection highlights are works by Auguste Rodin, Jehan Georges Vibert, and Berthe Morisot. Visit between 10am and 5pm daily or until 10pm on the first Fridays of each month.
With a prime waterfront location, it’s also fun to go for a boat ride to break up sightseeing stops on a day in Buffalo. For example, you can take a sailing cruise on the Spirit of Buffalo to see the sights on a historic schooner that’s run by a professional crew. Cruises often serve local craft brews or feature pirate-themed entertainment for kids. Local guide companies to choose from for your on-water excursion include Bella Sera Yacht Charters, Buffalo CycleBoats, and Buffalo River History Tours. These are all great ways to see a different perspective of the city and enjoy a nice day outdoors.
Buffalo has held an important role as a port town with a harbor to accommodate ship traffic for trade and transportation. You can learn about this history by visiting the lighthouse along Buffalo’s historic waterfront. This iconic structure is at the mouth of the Buffalo River and the Buffalo Harbor’s north entrance. You can read the displays on the grounds and schedule group tours of the lighthouse too. Tours are less than one hour in length and offered seasonally.
A great way to experience nature while visiting Buffalo is to plan a trip to the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. This South Park destination was designed by the famous Frederick Law Olmsted and a place for community gathering, education, and research. You’ll love the domed glass ceilings of the conservatory and the educational programs offered throughout the year. The botanical gardens are open from 10am to 4:30pm daily and consist of 10 interconnected indoor greenhouses accessible by self-guided tour.
It is easy to get caught up in the tours and sightseeing of Buffalo, but take a moment to slow down and relax at the Buffalo Japanese Garden. This Mirror Lake garden was completed in 1974 and celebrates the sister-city relationship between Buffalo and the Japanese city of Kanazawa. It is located behind the Buffalo History Museum and features lush gardens and serene scenes. Take a walk along the Jesse Kregal Pathway to enjoy some peace and quiet. Cherry blossom festivals have also been held here in the spring.
However, these aren’t the only natural areas worth visiting when you’re in Buffalo, as there are lots of great parks to relax in and get some exercise. For example, the Erie Basin Marina is a riverfront park and marina in the downtown waterfront area. Meanwhile, Delaware Park is another Frederick Law Olmsted creation that is filled with gardens, forests, picnic lawns, and playgrounds. There’s a grand stage in this park where a professional theater company performs Shakespearean plays. Another natural area worth checking out is the Tifft Nature Preserve, which has walking trails and boardwalks that are perfect for bird-watching.
An interesting way to learn about local history is to take a tour of Buffalo City Hall. This is a famous Art Deco building and one of the largest city halls in the U.S. You can take a free, docent-led tour of the building to see the mayor’s office, council chambers, and views of the city from the 25th-floor observation deck.
But of course, no trip to Buffalo would be complete without seeing the iconic Niagara Falls. These famous falls are about 20 miles north of the city of Buffalo and make for an excellent day trip while staying in town. Niagara Falls State Park has a discovery center, hiking trails, and restaurant with panoramic views. Popular tourist attractions here are the Maid of the Mist boat tours, Cave of the Winds multimedia experience, and the Aquarium of Niagara. Download the Niagara Falls walking tour app to learn about the history of America’s oldest state park. This is also a pet-friendly park where you can walk on the paths and green spaces to see views of the falls with your four-legged friend.