Telling someone you’re headed to Buffalo, New York for a weekend getaway to see Niagara Falls might earn you a condescending scoff, but hear us out: the city has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years. City leaders have redeveloped the waterfront area, invested in a burgeoning craft beer scene, and then there’s the legendary Niagara Falls. If you’re interested in visiting for the first time (or maybe giving Buffalo a second chance), we’ve rounded up some of the experiences to consider. 

Niagara Falls State Park

Maid of the MIst boat ride at Niagara FallsAmerica’s oldest state park is open year-round, with over 400 acres of protected wildlife and lush landscapes. In addition to the falls, the park includes interactive exhibits, miles of hiking trails, and attractions like the Maid of the Mist boat ride. Having operated since 1846(!) The Maid of the Mist is the only tour boat that will take passengers right up to the base of the American and Horseshoe Falls to experience what it sounds like when 600,000 gallons of water plummet hundreds of feet into the gorge below. The ride lasts 30 minutes, and a blue rain poncho is provided to protect you from the dowsing “mist.”

Cave of the Winds viewing platforms at Niagara Falls - Buffalo NYThe Cave of the Winds — a misnomer, because the rock overhang that used to allow people to stand under Niagara Falls collapsed in the early 1900s — is actually a series of viewing platforms that shouldn’t be missed. First, you pass through an exhibit called “The World Changed Here,” which illuminates the history of the falls and interesting facts, such as how Nikola Tesla first harnessed the power of the falls to create alternating current. Then, you’re given the ubiquitous poncho (and warned that your footwear will get soaked) before you descend 175 feet into Niagara Gorge. A series of walkways brings you to “Hurricane Deck,” where you are within feet of the crashing Bridal Veil Falls. Visitors often compare it to standing in the middle of a tropical storm, and they’re not far off. (Because of these wet and wild conditions, the full Cave of the Winds tour only operates from May to October.) Cave of the Winds is a timed ticketed attraction, so be sure to either reserve tickets ahead of time or at least make it the first stop of the day.

If you need a break from being outside, animal lovers should check out the “other water wonder” of the park, the Aquarium of Niagara. Located less than a mile from the Falls, the Aquarium of Niagara is accessible by the in-park Niagara Scenic Trolley, or you can walk there via park trails. It is home to penguins, rescued seals and sea lions, and over 1,500 other animals, including sharks and stingrays you can touch. 

From May through October 14th Niagara Falls has an epic fireworks nightly display. People in-the-know recommend viewing them from Prospect Point, so you can get the full experience of the show over the colorfully illuminated falls. 

Old Falls Street

Remember how we said the area has undergone some major changes? Old Falls Street is one notable example. The three-block cobblestone street that connects Niagara Falls State Park with other downtown hotels and attractions is essentially a small entertainment district, with seasonal food vending, festivals, concerts, and other family-friendly activities.

Canalside on the Waterfront

Waterfront Buffalo - CanalsideCanalside is at the heart of downtown Buffalo’s revitalized area. The once dilapidated, desolate area along Lake Erie is now a vibrant outdoor space, offering bike, kayak, and paddleboat rentals, boat tours, public art displays, a boardwalk, and food and beer gardens. The area is often the site of outdoor concerts and festivals, so check out the website before your visit to make sure you don’t miss anything! 

Buffalo AKG Art Museum

Recently reopened after undergoing three years of renovation and expansion, the Buffalo AKG Art Museum (named after its three major donors, John J. Albright, Seymour H. Knox II, and Jeffrey Gundlach) has a world-renowned collection of modern and contemporary art. Some of their most famous works span Impressionist and Post-Impressionist styles by artists like Paul Gauguin, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, and Vincent Van Gogh. The museum also has an impressive collection of works from Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keefe, Amedeo Modigliani, and Frida Kahlo. 

Allentown

Kleinhans Music Hall - part of the Allentown Amble in Buffalo NYThis Buffalo neighborhood encourages tourists to “walk and gawk,” and it’s hard not to. Wall-size murals flank the district’s many live music bars, neighborhood galleries, restaurants, and shops. Locals often refer to the section between Delaware Avenue and Chippewa Street as “the Allentown Amble,” going past the Wilcox Mansion, Allendale Theatre, Kleinhans Music Hall, and other distinctive architecture. Be sure to visit during First Friday to fully experience the neighborhood’s youthful energy, creative spirit, and neighborly hospitality.


MORE QUICK GETAWAYS: