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IntroductionBuffalo is known for its outstanding architecture, dedication to the arts and friendly welcome offered to visitors. Make sure to plan time to savor the surprises awaiting you in the city that The Washington Post touted as a “hip center of arts and performances.”
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In DepthHow Buffalo was named remains a mystery, although the site has never been called anything else. Ironically there have never been buffalo in Buffalo; even the shaggy beasts at the Buffalo Zoo are technically North American bison. One theory blames the misnomer on a mispronunciation of the French beau fleuve, or “beautiful river.” The river in question is the Niagara.
The French explorer Robert La Salle paddled his canoe down the Niagara in 1628. A small French settlement was established in 1758. It was burned by the British the following year, but the settlers held fast. Joseph Ellicott informed them in 1800 that the Holland Land Co. had bought the land. Ellicott mapped out plans for a town to be called New Amsterdam and patterned after Washington, D.C.
The town was built, but residents insisted on calling it Buffalo. Put to the torch again by the British during the War of 1812, the town was quickly reconstructed. In 1818 the first Great Lakes steamboat, Walk-on-the-Water, was built, the first of two major events that turned a small village into a major city in only 16 years.
The second event was the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. By connecting numerous trade and transportation routes, the canal made Buffalo the nucleus of the shipping trade between the Great Lakes region, Canada and the eastern United States. Ten years later the addition of railroads to Buffalo's transportation network boosted the city's growth potential even higher.
Buffalo's major industries include glass, rubber, plastics, electronics, and airplane and automobile manufacturing. High technology has emerged as a viable successor to the city's imperiled heavy industries.
Buffalo has produced important people as well. Two of its residents, Millard Fillmore and Grover Cleveland, became president. Fillmore is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery. Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in at the Wilcox Mansion on Delaware Avenue after President William McKinley's assassination at the city's Pan-American Exposition in 1901.
Samuel Clemens, a resident in the 1870s, was editor of the Buffalo Express. Author Taylor Caldwell also called Buffalo home. Such musical classics as “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” “My Wild Irish Rose” and “Over the Rainbow” were penned by Buffalo composers. Other former Buffalo residents include William G. Fargo of the Wells Fargo stagecoach line, as well as the inventors of the windshield wiper, the pacemaker and the electric chair.
Frank Lloyd Wright left his mark on Buffalo with Frank Lloyd Wright's Martin House Complex . Some say it is one of his best examples of prairie architecture. Wright also designed Martin's summer retreat, Graycliff, in nearby Derby, and the Fontana Boathouse at 1 Rotary Row. Although it was designed by Wright in 1910, the boathouse wasn't built until 2007.
Other noteworthy architectural features include several parks designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted; opulent Gilded Age mansions on Delaware Avenue's Millionaires Row; and their polar opposite, enormous grain elevators on the Buffalo River that influenced modern architecture.
Buffalo can aptly be called a college town; its 18 higher educational facilities range in curriculum from liberal arts to business to vocational training. The State University of New York, University at Buffalo is the largest university in the state.
The Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Kleinhans Music Hall and other cultural centers balance industrial practicality with aesthetic appreciation. At stadiums and arenas, cheering the local teams is almost a prerequisite for citizenship in a town known for its enthusiasm at sporting events.
By CarFrom Rochester and other points east I-90 approaches Buffalo's northeast corner. It then joins I-190 and travels south, paralleling the city's eastern boundary before continuing west along the Lake Erie shoreline. The segment of I-290 that connects I-90 from the east and I-290 going north to Niagara Falls is called the Youngmann Expressway.
I-190 approaches the city from the northwest, passing through the west side before cutting across town and joining I-90 to the east. Toll barriers along I-190 are northbound between exit 17, River Road, and exit 18A, Grand Island Boulevard, and southbound between exit 21, Robert Moses Parkway/Niagara Falls, and exit 20B, Long Road/Grand Island. Travelers using I-90 from the west can go either northwest through the city via I-190 or northeast via I-90. Both I-90 and I-190 are part of the New York State Thruway.
Entering the area from the south are US 219 (Southern Expressway) from Springville and SR 400 (Aurora Expressway) from South Wales. Both join I-90 headed northeast. SR 5 from Dunkirk joins I-190 just below Seneca Street; SR 5 then becomes Main Street, cutting northeast. US 62 (Bailey Avenue), going north and south, bisects Buffalo.
The Kensington Expressway (SR 33) comes in from the east; the Scajaquada Expressway (SR 198) enters from the west off I-190. At the intersection of these two expressways, the Scajaquada ends; the Kensington Expressway continues south to downtown and east to Buffalo Niagara International Airport on Genesee Street.
Street SystemBuffalo's major streets branch off from its central business district in a radial pattern. Because Lake Erie borders the city's southwest side, most roads begin downtown and branch out to the north and east. Niagara Square is the primary downtown intersection. From the square Delaware Avenue runs north and south; Niagara Street goes diagonally northwest to the Black Rock Canal and then heads north. Genesee Street extends northeast from Niagara Square to the airport, although three blocks of the street near Niagara Square are closed to traffic.
Main Street, 2 blocks east of Delaware Avenue, runs north and south downtown but branches off to the northeast at Ferry Street. Main Street downtown and to the northeast is also known as SR 5; however, to the south SR 5 is known as Fuhrmann Boulevard and then Hamburg Turnpike as it goes farther south down the Lake Erie shoreline.
Seneca Street and Abbott Road are two main east-west routes connecting downtown and the southeast suburbs. Clinton Street begins 4 blocks east of Niagara Square at Lafayette Square and heads alternately south and east, detouring around the two-block section from Michigan Avenue to Pine Street.
The downtown speed limit is 30 mph. Unless otherwise posted, right turns at red lights are permitted after a complete stop; left turns at red lights from a one-way street to another one-way street are permitted after a complete stop. Rush hours, 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m., should be avoided.
ParkingMetered parking is available downtown, but spaces fill quickly. With patience, unmetered spaces also can be found. Many parking garages are available at $5-$15 per day. Underground parking is offered at Main Place, One M&T Plaza and One HSBC Center.
About the City
Sales TaxThe sales tax in Buffalo is 8.75 percent. There also is a 3-5 percent tax levied on lodgings and a 6 percent tax on rental cars.
Whom To Call
Police (non-emergency)(716) 851-4444
Time and Temperature(716) 844-4444
HospitalsBuffalo General Medical Center, (716) 859-5600; Erie County Medical Center, (716) 898-3000; Mercy Hospital, (716) 826-7000; Sisters of Charity Hospital-St. Joseph Campus, (716) 891-2400.
Where To Look and Listen
NewspapersThe Buffalo News is the local daily newspaper. Also available are more than 40 weekly and special-interest publications.
RadioBuffalo radio station WBEN (930 AM) is an all-news/weather station; WBFO (88.7 FM) is a member of National Public Radio.
Visitor InformationVisit Buffalo Niagara 403 Main St. BUFFALO, NY 14203. Phone:(716)852-0511 or (800)283-3256
For parks information phone (716) 851-9670.
Air TravelBuffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF) is at Genesee Street and Cayuga Road in nearby Cheektowaga; from I-90 exit 51E, take SR 33 (Kensington Expressway) east to Genesee Street. It is served by major domestic airlines. Airport Taxi Service provides limousine transportation to the airport from major hotels and the Ellicott Street Bus Terminal daily 7 a.m.-10 p.m.; phone (716) 633-8294. The Niagara Airbus runs to major hotels in Niagara Falls daily; phone (905) 374-8111.
Rental CarsHertz, (716) 632-4763 or (800) 654-3080, offers discounts to AAA members.
Rail ServiceAmtrak has two connecting stations: one at Exchange Street near the junction of Main and Seneca streets and another on Dick Road, in Depew.
BusesGreyhound Lines Inc. operates out of the Ellicott Street Bus Terminal downtown; phone (716) 855-7532 or (800) 231-2222. For New York Trailways information phone (800) 295-5555 or (800) 858-8555.
TaxisCab companies include Airport Taxi Service, (716) 633-8294, and Queen City Taxi, (716) 874-5050. The base rate is $2.30 at flag drop plus $3 per mile.
Public TransportationThe major Metro bus routes operate daily 5 a.m. to midnight. Service varies by route, but buses generally run every 20 minutes on weekdays. The base fare is $2; exact fare is required.
A light rail rapid transit system runs from KeyBank Center at the base of Main Street through Buffalo Place and the theater district, ending at the State University of New York, University at Buffalo's south campus. Rail fares are the same as bus fares, with free transfers available between the two systems. Route maps are available at the Transportation Center at 181 Ellicott St.; phone (716) 855-7211.
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EssentialsIf you’ve never been to Buffalo (or even if you have), take in a bird’s-eye view of “The Queen City” from the Art Deco City Hall’s observation deck (65 Niagara Sq.).
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Do the names Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko, Vincent van Gogh and Andy Warhol ring a bell? Find captivating works by these and many other national and international artists at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (1285 Elmwood Ave.).
Art aficionados will score a twofer in Buffalo, as the Burchfield Penney Art Center at SUNY Buffalo State (1300 Elmwood Ave.) is virtually across the street from the Albright-Knox. Here you can gaze at works created by artists from Western New York including the world's largest collection of Charles E. Burchfield's mystical watercolors. The museum also houses a re-creation of Burchfield's Gardenville studio.
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Your trip to Buffalo won’t be complete without a visit to at least one of the buildings designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. If your plans don’t call for a lengthy visit, stop at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House Complex (125 Jewett Pkwy.). This seven-building complex represents Wright, known for his Prairie School-style of architecture, at his best.
If you’ve developed Wright fever, drive to Derby, about 20 miles south of Buffalo, for a look at Wright’s Frank Lloyd Wright’s Graycliff (6472 Old Lake Shore Rd.). Designed 1926-31, the summer home of Darwin Martin was built 20-plus years after the Martin House Complex and represents Wright’s Organic Style. Designed to complement its 8.5-acre grounds, the estate sits on a bluff above Lake Erie, which makes for an exhilarating panoramic view; you can even see the Ontario coast in the distance.
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Top Picks for Kids
Under 13At The Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum (180 Thompson St.) in North Tonawanda, kids can ride the exhibits (well, two of them anyway): restored carousels built in 1916 (complete with hand-carved wooden horses) and the 1940s. On the grounds is Kiddieland Testing Park, with four refurbished 1950’s children’s rides that will have baby boomers waxing nostalgic.
Take tinier tots to the Theatre of Youth (TOY), where they’ll be enthralled by children’s plays like “James and the Giant Peach” and “Madeline’s Christmas” performed by professional actors. Shows are held at the Allendale Theatre (203 Allen St.) in eclectic Allentown, Buffalo’s version of Greenwich Village.
In nearby Eden, preteens will have a humdinger of a time at The Original American Kazoo Co. (8703 S. Main St.). They can watch factory workers make kazoos and see exhibits about its history. The best part? They can make their own kazoo and toot to their heart’s content.
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TeensHow about a history lesson that your teenagers will actually enjoy? At the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site (641 Delaware Ave.), they’ll have fun using today’s interactive technology to learn about the events that led up to Roosevelt’s swearing in as president in the same building. They’ll feel very presidential as you snap a photo of them sitting at a replica of Roosevelt's White House desk.
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ShoppingThe variety of stores offering fashions, fads and foods for every taste and budget make shopping in Buffalo an adventure. The eclectic mix of options on Elmwood Avenue ranges from funky boutiques to chic shops and eateries.
Antique and specialty gift shops are found in the Allentown area, Buffalo's version of Greenwich Village. Bargain hunters will appreciate tax-free shopping for brand-name merchandise at Duty Free Americas at The Peace Bridge.
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Performing ArtsShea's Performing Arts Center, an ornate 1926 theater at 646 Main St., presents performances year-round. For information about schedules and tickets, phone (716) 847-0850 or (800) 745-3000. The Theatre of Youth (TOY) Company performs children's shows in the Allendale Theatre; phone (716) 884-4400.
The rejuvenated theater district includes The New Phoenix Theatre on the Park at 95 Johnson Park; phone (716) 853-1334. Plays are presented September through early June. Shakespeare in Delaware Park gives free outdoor performances June through August; phone (716) 856-4533.
The Alleyway Theatre, One Curtain Up Alley, is a professional theater company dedicated to performing new plays in off-Broadway style; phone (716) 852-2600. The Irish Classical Theatre Co. performs international classics and plays from Irish literature at 625 Main St.; phone (716) 853-4282. Just outside of downtown at 320 Porter Ave. on the campus of D'Youville College is The Kavinoky Theatre; phone (716) 829-7668.
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SightseeingThose unfamiliar with Buffalo may wish to begin their sightseeing with an aerial view of the city from the observation deck of City Hall at Niagara Square downtown; phone (716) 851-4896. The deck is open Mon.-Fri. 8:30-4; closed holidays.
Many of Buffalo's historic structures have been renovated or restored; Allentown, a historic preservation district just south of North Street between Elmwood Avenue and Main Street, has Victorian buildings, ethnic restaurants, art galleries and boutiques. Information about tours of Allentown is available from the Allentown Association, 14 Allen St., Buffalo, NY 14202; phone (716) 881-1024.
Bus ToursBus tours of Buffalo are offered by Motherland Connextions Inc.; phone (716) 282-1028. During summer months, Campaign for Greater Buffalo gives historic and architectural tours aboard their Open-Air Autobus departing from Elmwood Street and Bidwell Parkway; phone (716) 854-3749.
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Brochures for self-guiding walking tours are available from Visit Buffalo Niagara at 403 Main St..
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EventsIn addition to its many cultural and historic landmarks, this destination hosts a number of outstanding festivals and events that may coincide with your visit.
In late May or early June the city is enlivened by the Buffalo Greek Fest , offering cultural displays, folk dancing and Greek food. During the second weekend in June the Allentown Art Festival in the historic Allentown district displays the works of local artisans.
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See all the AAA recommended events for this destination.
Places in Vicinity