Start your day on a high. When exploring a new city, it’s always a good call to get your bearings first, and there’s nowhere better to do so than by scaling the top floor of Buffalo’s stunning City Hall on Niagara Square. After an elevator ride to the 25th floor, you’ll reach the panoramic observation deck of this true Art-Deco masterpiece with views from downtown Buffalo to Lake Erie — and over to Canada, too.
Now that you know your way around town, come down to earth and explore Buffalo’s new and shimmering Canalside district, just a half-mile away. The revamped waterfront quarter features myriad quirky activities from ping-pong tables to the incredibly Instagrammable sculpture known as “Shark Girl.” But this is Buffalo, so why not rent a kayak, waterbike or paddle boat and get out on the water to really feel the ebb and flow of the city?
Breakfast & Brunch: Buffalonians love their breakfast and you’ll find many of them starting their day at Betty’s Diner on Virginia Street, where the breakfast burritos and biscuits and gravy deservedly draw lines. For Buffalo brunch heaven, head to downtown’s Patina 250 to indulge in buttermilk pancakes, Belgian waffles and clever cocktails.
You’ve seen the downtown, so spend the afternoon experiencing the heartbeat of Buffalo’s R&R: the beautiful Delaware Park, landscaped back in 1868 by Frederick Law Olmsted (better known as the mastermind behind New York’s Central Park and Niagara Falls State Park).
Amid its 350 acres, art lovers can pay a visit to the world-class Albright-Knox Art Gallery and wonder at the works of Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo and Pablo Picasso, while romantics can wander between the cherry blossoms of the Japanese Garden or rent a rowboat on postcard-perfect Hoyt Lake. Looking for an even wilder nature fix? The Buffalo Zoo, the nation’s third oldest, is also located in the park.
Lunch: Hit one of Buffalo’s beloved food trucks to indulge in a real local specialty, beef-on-weck: rare slices of fresh roast beef served upon a doughy kimmelweck roll with caraway seeds and horseradish. For the alternative foodie, venture down to Root and Bloom on Elmwood Avenue, a cute-as-can-be vegan cafe which even manages to lure avid carnivores with their delicious plant-based menu.
Come nightfall, it’s time to explore Buffalo’s vibrant and bustling neighborhood scene for a block party to remember. The districts of Elmwood Village and Allentown are packed with friendly and quirky watering holes where locals enjoy craft beers and cocktails amid a bohemian backdrop of street-art murals.
If you’re not gatecrashing the latest gallery opening, take your pick of Allentown’s awesome bar haul, like the Mexican Cantina Loco for the best guac and margs in town or hipster-favorite Colter Bay for their bottomless selection of local brews. Oh, and don’t forget, last call for many bars in Buffalo is 4 a.m., so time is on your side!
Dinner: When visiting Buffalo, it’s just got to be wings. Operating since 1934, lively gastropub Cole’s in Elmwood Village is an authentic spot to enjoy them just like a local. Looking to continue the ultimate Buffalo dining experience? Buffalo-style pizza — a zesty hybrid of Chicago deep-dish and New York pie — is worth the hype. For a slice at its best, hit Lovejoy Pizza in Allentown.