I have to admit, everyone I told my weekend plans to sort of looked at me in surprise. “Buffalo, for the WEEKEND? What’s in Buffalo? I haven’t been since I was a kid”. Buffalo, New York sort of has a bad rap here in Toronto, many of us just hop across the border for a day to enjoy sweet, sweet American shopping at Target and Outlets, then drive back home before the sun goes down.
A lot of us on this side of the border didn’t know about its recently revitalized waterfront, impressive art galleries and a bustling brewery scene. (Don’t’ forget about the Buffalo Wing Trail! https://www.visitbuffaloniagara.com/crawl/buffalo-wing-trail/) It even got a shout out from the New York Times recently after making its prestigious 52 Places To Travel list:
“Buffalo is making a big comeback in large part by re-purposing its historic buildings and long dormant grain silos,” The Times noted. “Downtown Buffalo now buzzes with life thanks in part to the ever-expanding Canalside entertainment and recreation complex and a host of new dining and drinking establishments.”
I ordered a brochure from The Unexpected Buffalo and was sold .My husband and I eyed a few cute properties on Air BnB and settled with the Elmwood Village Area. Elmwood Village is a more quiet, artsy part of Buffalo just outside the downtown area. Tree lined streets with some of the most beautiful homes we had ever seen greeted us upon arrival. This definitely wasn’t the Buffalo I was expecting to see. Great café’s, bars and restaurants were within walking distance and for lack of a better word, the area felt really ‘hip’.
We had just two short days to spend exploring the city and although we didn’t get to try everything on our list, we feel like we got a pretty good taste.
EXPLORE THE WATERFRONT:
Buffalo has a beautiful waterfront right downtown. We walked through tables of locals playing board games or enjoying a coffee or ice cream in the park. We watched boats, kayaks and unique ‘water bikes’ peddle past us as a band set up under a tent to play a few songs. A short walk down the pier you’ll find America’s largest inland naval museum ‘Naval & Military Park’ (https://www.visitbuffaloniagara.com/historic-adventures-at-the-naval-military-park/) where you’ll have the opportunity to see cruisers, submarines and destroyers.
Like public art? We made sure to hunt down the statue 'Shark Girl' by Casey Riordan Millard. An odd addition to a waterfront walkway, she's popular to sit beside for a quick selfie. It's not every day you see a little shark in a dress!
About a 10 minute drive away you’ll also be able to visit Buffalo River Works. You’ll know when you arrive to the entertainment hot spot when you spy the giant grain elevators painted like a 6 pack of Labatt Blue. Here you’ll be able to rent kayaks, rock climb up a mill, try your luck at an escape room or even zip line into the mouth of a graffiti great white shark! We particularly liked the bar patio where you can enjoy a drunk under the remains of a demolished building. It was pretty unique to say the least! The space there also offers fun events like guest DJs, concert series and sunset paint nights. When we visited there was a huge raffle ticket event where you could buy a stack of tickets to put into different prize baskets filled with item’s you’d want to win- and there were hundreds of packs! Looked like the patrons were having fun with it!
VISIT A RUMOURED ‘HAUNTED’ HOTEL:
I love quirky stops like this one! We heard about the Hotel Henry online before visiting and after finding out that the space used to be an insane asylum back in the 1800’s, we knew we had to pay it a visit. The venue went under a 100 million dollar renovation and recently opened its 88 room full service hotel to the public in 2017. We weren’t spending the night, but you’re welcome to pop in the hotel bar for a drink and have a look around (we also heard they do an amazing brunch, FYI).
We crept through what seemed like miles of hallways and up the stairs to the second floor patio overlooking the park out front where they were showing a movie on an outdoor screen. We nursed our cocktails while friendly locals told us stories about there being ‘shackles in the basement’ ‘dangerous patient overcrowding’ and ‘ghostly figures being seen at night’. While stunning, you could tell the building was not originally a hotel and could sort of make out the rooms where patients might have been held or where activity rooms or nurses quarters may have been. One of our favourite stops for sure.
If you’re brave enough to spend a night, rooms start at $200 and can be booked at www.hotelhenry.com Sweet dreams!
GRAB A PINT AT ONE OF BUFFALO’S 30 BREWERIES
I never mind travelling for beer and was happy to have time to stop at 3 out of the 30 local breweries Buffalo! Resurgence Brewery had a wonderful vibe to it and we were lucky to visit on a nice sunny afternoon. It had a great patio, dog friendly and tons of games to play. They also served the best pretzel bites we ever did have. (Fave beer: Watermelon Gose) 1250 Niagara St (www.resurgencebrewing.com)
Thin Man Brewery was located in Elmwood Village and was a fun local hangout. We enjoyed some live music while sipping on some flights and buffalo wings. Be sure to visit the second floor for a great patio, and a chance to play some skee-ball, pinball or darts.( Fave beer: Trial by Wombat) 492 Elmwood Ave (www.thinmanbrewery.com)
We did a last minute stop before heading back to Canada at Froth Brewery, attached to a skate park (it was closed when we visited on a Sunday, boo-hoo) it was an industrial looking brewery with a small outdoor patio. The drinks were a little pricier than the breweries listed above but the quality was good. They had a great looking menu (burgers other patrons were eating looked amazing) but we were in a hurry, so we only stopped for a quick drink. Bartender said locals usually frequent the brewery to catch the Bills game. (Fave beer: Peach-Mango OG Sour) 700 Military Road (www.frothbrewing.com)
INDULDGE IN SOME GREAT EATS:
There are plenty of great places to grab a bite in Buffalo, we loved Fry Baby Donuts, vegan donuts never tasted so good. We tried the strawberry kiwi, mango lemonade, and apple fritter. Two thumbs up. Be quick to arrive though, if they don’t sell out before hand, they close at 4:30pm, (closed Sunday’s). 336 S Elmwood Ave.
Ted’s Hot Dogs, a local institution serving Buffalo since 1927. Affordable foot long hot dogs and shakes with tons of toppings to choose from. Be sure to try those delicious onion rings, too! This is a local chain, so you have a few locations to choose from. Great for some late night eats.(www.tedshotdogs.com)
Sweet Ness 7 Café, a great spot to grab a coffee and brunch. We enjoyed some French toast and breakfast sandwiches sitting in old church pews and the lavender honey latte was just perfect. Nice staff too! We could tell it was a local spot with many customer’s they knew by name. Check it out at 220 Grant St. (www.sweetness7.com)
Bocce Club Pizza, another joint that’s been around forever (since 1959), they have two locations in Buffalo and it’s so in demand that you can have a half-baked frozen pizza shipped to you anywhere in the States. Jim Pacciotti carried on the tradition his father started when he formulated his own pizza recipe after finding a pizza oven in the basement of a beloved bocce club he purchased. Very popular with locals and there might be a bit of a wait but it’s worth it. Can’t go wrong with the good ol’ fashioned pepperoni and cheese pizza with a side of wings.(www.bocceclubpizza.com)
VISIT THE ALBRIGHT KNOX ART GALLERY
Ever wanted to see a Picasso or Salvador Dali up close? This gallery is the place to be! Although it’s currently under construction, you can still visit an open section of the gallery for a discounted price. We were both able to get admission for under $20. We spent a good hour and a half here taking in the paintings and visiting some travelling exhibits that were in town like Anthony McCalls ‘Dark Rooms, Solid Light’ and Kawita Vatanajyankur’s ‘Foul Play’.
Makes for a relaxed afternoon activity, check out their website to see what exhibits are stopping by when you’re in town! 1285 Elmwood Ave (www.albrightknox.org)
Although I think we did pretty well for a weekend – there is still so much I want to cross off my list! We’re hoping to visit again next summer, or heck maybe even this fall. Was there anything we missed that we ABSOLUTELY need to add to this list? Please comment below!
Hey! I'm Sarah! A 30 something living in downtown Toronto with a great guy and an OK dog. I love seeing what my city has to offer and try to hit up as many fun events or attractions as I can! I haven't slept since 2004.