From historic architecture and parks to art museums and historic districts, Buffalo, NY has so much to see and do. My recommendations from my recent trip include:
Cobblestone District: Located on Illinois Street, Buffalo’s Cobblestone District is an historic manufacturing area along the Buffalo River that is now on the National Register of Historic Places. It is undergoing a major redevelopment. Here you will find the popular Helium Comedy Club at 30 Mississippi St. Buffalo Iron Works, at 49 Illinois St. is a live music lounge in an early 1900s factory space serving burgers, wings and other bar food. Lockhouse Distillery was the first distillery in the city to open after Prohibition. It produced a vodka, gin, a coffee liqueur, amaro and bitters. They also have Lait Cru at Lockhouse Kitchen offering starters, flatbreads, soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts. I was disappointed that it was closed on Monday when I was touring the area. 41 Columbia St. The area is also becoming a hub for service businesses from advertising agencies to law firms.
Not far from the Cobblestone District is Big Ditch Brewing Company. This is a local microbrewery with a large, industrial-chic tap room. Here you can sample their brews or enjoy a small plate or entree made with one of the beers. I tried and really enjoyed the Blond Peach, a light, dry Belgian-style blonde ale, fermented warm over local, fresh, New York peaches. 55 E. Huron St.
Other recommended micro-breweries to try include Resurgence Brewery located at 1250 Niagara St. and Community Beer Works at 520 7th St. with its new Bar and Taproom. Over the past few years, over 20 breweries and distilleries have opened in the area. This influx has helped revitalize the city.
Buffalo RiverWorks: Located in a former grain-milling facility along the Buffalo River, Buffalo RiverWorks is a massive waterfront complex that features skating, hockey, curling and live concerts along with dining at the Ward Restaurant, bars and concessions. They offer a series of climbing walls, a zipline course, a ropes course as well as water sports like kayaking and paddle boarding. You can grab a beer at the RiverWorks Brewing Co., located in a former grain silo. 359 Granson St.
Canalside: Buffalo’s Canalside is the re-developed area located downtown along the Buffalo River. Here you can participate in watersports, enjoy a meal, attend a festival throughout the year or catch a concert.
Delaware Avenue Historic District: Make sure to take time to visit this Historic District when you are in town. During the 1880s and 1890s, Delaware Avenue was one of the premier addresses in the country. There were mansions set amidst tree-shaded lawns and elegant gardens. For the first three decades of the 20th Century, Delaware Avenue and the section beyond North Street was the most desirable address in the city. Many of the old mansions of the 1860s and 1870s were torn down to make room for more palatial properties. Today many are owned by institutions or have been converted to multi-unit buildings. Some have unfortunately been demolished. There are guided tours through Explore Buffalo.
Frederick Law Olmsted Parks: Frederick Law Olmsted was the man behind New York’s Central Park. Starting in 1868, he designed six parks in Buffalo and connected them in America’s first system of tree-lined parkways. His parks include Cazenovia Park in South Buffalo, Delaware Park in Delaware/Parkside District, Front Park at the Peace Bridge, Martin Luther King, Jr. Park at Fillmore Avenue, Riverside Park at Niagara and Tonawanda Street, and South Park at McKinley Parkway. There are also seven parkways and eight landscaped traffic circles.
Albright-Knox Art Gallery: Well-worth the visit is the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. The Beaux-Arts style building on Hoyt Lake in Frederick Law Olmsted’s Delaware Park, has an impressive collection of fine art. You will find works by Pollock, Cezanne, Monet, Matisse, Sargent, Renoir and Picasso. It is a major showplace for modern and contemporary art. In addition to a permanent collection and temporary exhibitions, there are lectures, tours, music performances and art classes. A new expansion project, costing $120 million, will add 29,000 sq. ft. of space. 1285 Elmwood Ave.
Burchfield Penney Art Center: Across from the Albright-Knox is the Burchfield Penney Art Center, part of Buffalo State College. The permanent collection spans the late 19th century through today, and includes the world’s largest collection of works by watercolorist Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), as well as the artist’s journals, which provide unique insight into his style and process. The permanent collection also includes work from more than 800 other artists who, like Burchfield, are connected to the Western New York landscape. They also feature temporary exhibitions. 1300 Elmwood Ave.
Darwin D. Martin House: This is the home, in northern Buffalo, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright as his first commission outside of Chicago. It was built for the local businessman Darwin Martin. It was completed between 1903 and 1909 and consisted of five buildings. In the 1960s three of the buildings were demolished and the other two remodeled. A major restoration started in the late 1990s and is now completed including the rebuilding of the three buildings and bringing the other two back to the original design when the family lived there. The project took 20 years and cost over $50 million. It also has a contemporary welcome center designed by Toshiko Mori. It is a beautiful property where you can see great examples of Wright’s Prairie Style design in the architectural details, stained glass and furnishings. According to a Travel + Leisure magazine article, Wright declared the Martin house “a domestic symphony” and that it was “the most perfect thing of its kind in the world.” He affectionately called it his “opus.”
They offer a number of public tours. I suggest booking online before you go to get the time slot that you want. 125 Jewett Parkway.
Graycliff: The Martin family’s lake house on Lake Erie is a 20 minute drive south of downtown Buffalo. It was also designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built between 1926 and 1931. It is undergoing a complete renovation. A portion still needs to be done including interiors of both houses, select landscape projects and restoring access to the beach tower. Public tours are available. 6472 Old Lake Shore Rd., Derby, NY.
Fontana Boathouse on the Buffalo River: In 2000, a long-forgotten Frank Lloyd Wright design of a boathouse was unearthed and brought to life a few years later. He designed it in 1905 and it was built in 2007. One Rotary Row. Two other Wright design were later brought to life in Buffalo including a filling station in 2014 at the Pierce Arrow Museum downtown at 263 Michigan Ave. A mausoleum, The Blue Sky Mausoleum, was built in 2004 at Forest Lawn Cemetery. It was to be the burial site for the Martin Family, but it as never built at the time of Darwin Martin’s death.
Architecture buffs will also love some of the classic downtown buildings including the Guaranty Building, now the Prudential Building, at 140 Pearl St. It was an early skyscraper completed in 1896 and designed by famed Chicago architects Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler. Friends also loved and recommended the Buffalo City Hall at 65 Niagara Square. It is a 32-story Art Deco building completed in 1931 by Dietel, Wade & Jones. It has an observation deck, open during the week from 8am to 4pm, that has great views of the city.
Larkin Square: Larkin Square was the former corporate home of the Larkin Soap Company. The headquarters building was designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, in 1903, as a result of his longtime friendship with Darwin Martin, who was secretary of the corporation. It was unfortunately torn down in 1950. The other former buildings have now been turned into new offices with modern work-spaces along with a large park-like plaza with stages for music, food trucks and outdoor restaurants. Food Truck Tuesdays is a popular event throughout warmer months. There is an authors and speakers series, a summer concert series and pickleball games played on two courts.
Today it is a fun spot to go and hangout. There is the Swan Street Diner. It is open for breakfast and lunch in a 1937 Sterling Co. diner, that was restored and moved to 700 Swan St. in 2017. Owned by the same group is the Larkin Square Filling Station. It is open for lunch daily at 745 Seneca St.
The Hydraulic Hearth Restaurant and Brewery is a happy hour and dinner destination. Their menu is focused on brick oven pizzas and shareable starters along with beers brewed in house by Community Beer Works. They have a great outdoor terrace in the summer months. 716 Swan St.
Nearby, the Flying Bison Brewing Company was the first brewery to open in the area. It bottles and kegs its own beer and brews some traditional styles like Maibock and porter. They also offer live music and other events. 840 Seneca St.
Buffalo Distilling Company is local distillery with roots back to 1883. It makes a bourbon, an apple brandy, a vodka and a Polish style Krupnik or honey infused vodka. Their distillery and cocktail bar is located at 860 Seneca St. in the historic Duchmann & Sons Carriage Mfg. building from 1890.