Buffalo wings. Photo via Shutterstock.

Best Things to Do in Buffalo

BY Matt Meltzer | January 8, 2022

Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” Buffalo? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in Buffalo?”

It’s hard not to have a good time in Buffalo. A decade or so ago that might have been a hilarious statement, but if you’ve visited recently you know a fantastic weekend is there waiting for you. The “City of Good Neighbors” is filled with history, culture and bars that don’t close until 4 a.m. Which means you can spend your days exploring one of the industrial era’s great cities, then spend the night making new friends in neighborhood taverns. Not to mention stuffing yourself with wings and other all-American classics. Read on to find the best Buffalo has to offer, both indoors and out.

You’re here for wings

Astonishingly, there are some people out there who are unaware that Buffalo wings originated in…Buffalo. Maybe they thought they were a really small, hidden part of a bison? Either way, Buffalo is the birthplace of hot wings, and the city even has its own Wing Trail that’ll help you explore the region while you sample the best.

Anchor Bar in Buffalo
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Buffalo, NY, USA - July 4, 2019 - Statue of a waitress holding a plate of hot wings at the iconic Anchor Bar in Buffalo. Photo via Shutterstock.

Anchor Bar

1047 Main St, Buffalo, NY, USA

Here’s your obligatory visit: The origin of the Buffalo wing starts here, a downtown sports tavern where one late night an owner fried some soup wings, tossed them in hot sauce, and a legend was born. Are they the best wings in Buffalo? Not even close. But it’s a historic stop that all must make to see where wings began.

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Duff’s Famous Wings in Buffalo
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Duff’s Famous Wings in Buffalo

Duff’s Famous Wings

3651 Sheridan Drive, Amherst, NY, USA

Many a Buffalonian will cite Duff’s as the best wings in the city, a claim bolstered by its multiple locations around the region and three in Canada. Duff’s wings run a little hotter than average, but true heat heads will appreciate the religious experience that is Duff’s Death Sauce.

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Bar Bill Tavern in Buffalo
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Bar Bill Tavern in Buffalo

Bar Bill Tavern

185 Main St, East Aurora, NY, USA

About half an hour south of the city sits this small-town tavern that hand paints each individual wing. The style has led to Bar Bill’s place at the top of the wing pecking order, where its fanned-out display of poultry has people waiting an hour or longer to get in.

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Elmo’s Bar and Restaurant in Buffalo
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Elmo’s Bar and Restaurant in Buffalo

Elmo’s Bar and Restaurant

2349 Millersport Highway, Getzville, NY, USA

The least glamorous but best-tasting wings in Buffalo are tucked away in a suburban strip mall near the University of Buffalo. Elmo’s gained its fame as home of the double-dipped wings, where a wing is fried, covered in sauce, grilled, then covered in sauce again.

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Mammoser’s Tavern in Buffalo
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Mammoser’s Tavern in Buffalo

Mammoser’s Tavern

16 S Buffalo St, Hamburg, NY, USA

This narrow neighborhood tavern in the village of Hamburg is regularly filled with after-work locals catching sports on TV. It’s also filled with dry-rubbed wings covered in a smoky, spicy sauce that are unlike anything in Buffalo. The stuff is insanely hot, so don’t expect your wings to come out too saucy.

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Beyond wings, Buffalo does comfort food fantastically

Buffalo is far from a one-trick bison when it comes to food, and beyond the world of spicy wings you’ll find burgers, Buffalo-style pizza and Beef on Weck to delight your stomach.

Allen Burger Venture in Buffalo
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Allen Burger Venture in Buffalo

Allen Burger Venture

175 Allen St, Buffalo, NY, USA

Buffalo’s best burgers reside in this beer-filled bar in Allentown. Not only can you find over two dozen local beers on tap, you’ll also delight in order-by-number burgers topped with New York-sourced ingredients. The “Three” with Ommegang caramelized onions, applewood bacon and porter cheddar is always a winner.

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La Nova Pizzeria in Buffalo
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La Nova Pizzeria in Buffalo

La Nova Pizzeria

371 W Ferry St, Buffalo, NY, USA

Buffalo-style pizza is an odd city version that’s nearly impossible to procure elsewhere, where toppings and cheese stretch nearly to the edge of the thick crust and pepperoni curls up, creating little grease pools. Plenty of places around town have it, but La Nova’s been doing it since the 1950s, and was also one of the first pizzerias in America to put wings on its menu.

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Schwabl’s in Buffalo
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Schwabl’s in Buffalo

Schwabl’s

789 Center Road, West Seneca, NY, USA

Another Buffalo delicacy is Beef on Weck, a hot roast beef sandwich served on a Kummelweck roll, often with horseradish. It’s ubiquitous on local menus, but Schwabl’s just feels like where you should be eating one, a historic restaurant that’s been open since 1837 and serving sandwiches since World War II.

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Gabriel’s Gate in Buffalo
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Gabriel’s Gate in Buffalo

Gabriel’s Gate

145 Allen St, Buffalo, NY, USA

Gabe’s Gate is another spot locals will call out as home to Buffalo’s best wings. Set in an old row home along Allen Street, the bar feels a little like a hunting lodge, with an impressive antler chandelier and wood booths. The wings are the big draw, but don’t leave without warming up with some French onion soup or the traditional Friday fish fry.

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Neighborhoods to know

Buffalo is truly a city of neighborhoods, where driving a mile or two in one direction will lead you to a place with a completely new character. You’d do well to check out as many as you can, but if time’s limited here’s where to head:

Allentown in Buffalo
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Allentown in Buffalo

Bar hop through Allentown

Allentown, Buffalo, NY, USA

For the ultimate Buffalo nightlife experience, spend a night in Allentown, where the long collection of bars don’t close until 4 a.m., and friendly locals will often invite you to keep the party going after. Grab drinks and dinner at Billy Club,  then meander over to Allen Street Hardware or Mulligan’s Brick Bar for beers with a lively crowd. Stop into Founding Fathers for endless trivia and presidential artifacts. And no night in Allentown is complete if it doesn’t end at The Old Pink, a landmark dive bar where the real fun starts after 2 a.m.

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Elmwood in Buffalo
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Elmwood in Buffalo

Stroll the shops of Elmwood Village

Elmwood Village, Buffalo, NY, USA

In Elmwood Village you’ll find fantastic local restaurants like The Place and Forty Thieves alongside boutique shopping aplenty. Summer brings an outdoor farmer’s market that’s become a city staple. And even during cold months, they’re still cranking out sponge candy at Watson’s Chocolates. If house-gazing is your thing, rows of historic homes and small mansions shoot off Elmwood Avenue. 

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42 Below in East Aurora
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42 Below in East Aurora

Step into a Hallmark movie in East Aurora

East Aurora, Buffalo, NY, USA

The Village of East Aurora could be a destination unto itself, where a storybook main street is lined with bars, restaurants and shops where everybody knows your name. It’s been used for exterior shots in more Hallmark movies than we can name, and is home to the country’s largest five-and-dime a Vidler’s. It’s also home to Bar Bill Tavern and its hand-painted wings, and a brewery where you can sleep overnight at 42 North. You can take that beer to go if you like, because East Aurora is also one of a handful of American cities where walking down the street with an open drink is perfectly acceptable.

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Catch a live show

Little-known fact: Rick James got his start in Buffalo. And long before they were pop stars, the Goo Goo Dolls were a punk band called the Sex Maggots, playing the steamy underground clubs of Western New York. Point being, Buffalo cultivates an eclectic mix of artists and music, and the question now is where to find it.

Sportsmen’s Tavern in Buffalo
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Sportsmen’s Tavern in Buffalo

Sportsmen’s Tavern

326 Amherst St, Buffalo, NY, USA

From the outside, this may seem like another average neighborhood tavern teeming with Bills fans and Labatt Blue. But it is, in fact, the city’s pre-eminent bar to catch live country and honky-tonk music, with performances almost nightly.

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Mohawk Place in Buffalo
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Mohawk Place in Buffalo

Mohawk Place

47 E Mohawk St, Buffalo, NY, USA

For alt and indie rock, head to this little music hall across from Big Ditch Brewing downtown. The small stage and bigtime sound system combine for the best pound-for-pound venue in the city, and you can stop by nearly every night to hear a local band you’ve probably never heard of.

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Explore Buffalo’s history and culture

A little over 100 years ago, Buffalo was the industry and innovation capital of America, where inventors like Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla were drawn by the power of Niagara Falls. Times have changed, yes, but the architecture and cultural institutions they brought remain, making Buffalo a fascinating city to explore.

Buffalo Architecture Tour
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Buffalo Architecture Tour

Buffalo Architecture Tour

Symphony Circle, Buffalo, NY, USA

During Buffalo’s industrial heyday, the city constructed some of the most impressive Art Deco and Beaux Arts buildings in the world. Stroll through grand old spaces like downtown’s City Hall, the old Statler Hotel and the Electric Tower with Explore Buffalo’s architecture tours. They’ll give you a new appreciation for the beauty of the city, and the history that made downtown so grand.

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Shea’s Buffalo Theatre in Buffalo
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Buffalo, New York - May 8, 2016: Shea's Performing Arts Center (originally Shea's Buffalo) is a theater for touring Broadway musicals and special events in Buffalo, New York. Pic via Shutterstock.

Shea’s Buffalo Theatre

650 Main St, Buffalo, NY, USA

Few smaller U.S. cities boast a performing arts center as ornate as Shea’s, a sea of gold leaf and red carpet with 1920s grandeur around every corner. It opened as a movie house in the 1920s, then went on to host live performances by everyone from the Marx Brothers to Frank Sinatra. Today, you can catch touring Broadway shows from the spacious main floor or a balcony that seems to sit right on top of the stage.

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Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo. Pic via Shutterstock.
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Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo. Pic via Shutterstock.

Albright-Knox Gallery

1285 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo, NY, USA

Buffalo’s finest art museum dates back over 150 years and is the cultural centerpiece of Delaware Park. The Albright-Knox displays hundreds of modern art masterpieces and is a destination for anyone with an appreciation for the world of contemporary painting and sculpture. It’s currently undergoing construction, however, and plans to reopen in the second half of 2022.

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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House in Buffalo. Pic via Shutterstock.
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Buffalo, New York - SEPTEMBER 25, 2O17: The Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin Martin House, Buffalo, New York. Pic via Shutterstock.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House

125 Jewett Parkway, Buffalo, NY, USA

This stunning architectural masterpiece was once the home of Larkin Co. executive Darwin Martin and today stands as a National Historic Landmark and tribute to preservation. Saved from complete demolition in 1992, its restoration was finally completed in 2019. It’s now filled with all the stylish angles, bright lights and thoughtful psychology that made Frank Lloyd Wright famous, and is open to the public Thursday-Monday.

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Adventure in the outdoors

Buffalo is known for a great many things. Its weather, however, is not one of them. Still, visit in the spring, summer or early fall and you’ll be able to enjoy the city outside in ways you might not have expected. Whether it’s kayaking through old grain silos or roller skating by the Erie Canal, Buffalo outside is just as fun as it is inside.

Buffalo Riverworks in Buffalo. Photo via Shutterstock.
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Buffalo, New York, USA - September 2, 2019: A bank of six labatt blue silos at Buffalo RiverWorks along waterfront, a nine-acre sports and entertainment complex with Brewery, restaurant and more. Photo via Shutterstock.

Buffalo Riverworks

359 Ganson St, Buffalo, NY, USA

You can experience in Buffalo a trifecta of awesome that few places in the world offer — no, seriously. At the Riverworks you are afforded the opportunity to sample craft beers, then scale a climbing wall and zipline between grain silos. Riverworks, a brewery/adventure center along the Buffalo River, is where you can do all of that, plus partake in ice skating in the winter. There’s a large events space that hosts boxing and concerts too, and a full menu of food alongside the beers.

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Silo City in Buffalo
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Silo City Row road sign on pole in front of abandoned grain silo in Buffalo, NY. Photo via Shutterstock.

Silo City

85 Silo City Row, Buffalo, NY, USA

Buffalo natives will joke that the city is lucky it was so poor during the depressed 1970s-1990s, because it couldn’t afford to tear down its historic structures. That’s why it’s left with places like Silo City, a collection of grain elevators along the Buffalo River, where you can take a kayak and paddle through the eerie, beautiful remnants of Buffalo’s port city past.

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Canalside in Buffalo. Photo via Shutterstock.
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Buffalo, New York - 08-21-2015: Canalside pedal boats water in Buffalo. Photo via Shutterstock.

Canalside

44 Prime St, Buffalo, NY, USA

What was once the western terminus of the Erie Canal has been redeveloped into the social hub of downtown Buffalo. During the winter, a skating rink, ice bikes and ice bumper cars lure families from all over Western New York. During the summer, it hosts nighttime roller discos and frequent concerts.

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Niagara Falls. Photo via Shutterstock.
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Niagara Falls, aerial view. Photo via Shutterstock.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls State Park, 332 Prospect St, Niagara Falls, NY, USA

America’s most famous waterfalls are only about half an hour from Buffalo, set inside a verdant state park with plenty of open viewing areas. While the U.S. side is easier to reach, if you’re up for a border crossing, the views from Canada are generally better, and offer a lot more in terms of restaurants and falls-related activities.

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Where to stay in Buffalo

Much like Buffalo keeps its history and character at the forefront of its neighborhoods, so it does with its hotels. Whether staying in a historic mansion or a converted downtown bank, hotels in Buffalo are far from generic, and always an education.

Art Nouveau East room in the InnBuffalo.
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Art Nouveau East room in the InnBuffalo.

InnBuffalo off Elmwood

619 Lafayette Ave, Buffalo, NY, USA

Once the grand home of industrialist Herbert Hills Hewitt, this Victorian mansion has been restored to its former glory and transformed into a 12-suite hotel. The main floor is a museum of antique pieces, and the basement “rathskeller” offers billiards and bourbon in a space where captains of industry once met. Owner Joe Lettieri will happily regale you with the place’s full history, often over a breakfast of fresh scones.

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Curtiss Hotel in Buffalo
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Curtiss Hotel in Buffalo

Curtiss Hotel

210 Franklin St, Buffalo, NY, USA

Buffalo’s most luxurious boutique digs sit in an old bank building downtown. The Curtiss is a marvel of marble and concrete, and home to the city’s best rooftop bar, a hit with guests and locals. Downstairs, the hotel’s circle bar is also a popular hangout. Also note: In the rooms, you’ll find the most high-tech showers of any hotel in America.

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The Mansion on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo
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The Mansion on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo

The Mansion on Delaware Avenue

414 Delaware Ave, Buffalo, NY, USA

Once upon a time, Delaware Avenue was known as “Millionaire’s Mile,” where some of the richest families in the world built over-the-top mansions. The 19th-century splendor lives on at The Mansion, where a team of butlers attend to your every request inside the exquisitely decorated property. A Land Rover shuttle takes you anywhere you want to go in the city, and each night you can enjoy cocktail hour by the warming fire downstairs or the fireplace in your room.

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