Niagara Falls and Buffalo Wings: Buffalo, NY
Last week my office sent me to Buffalo, NY to give a presentation there. Normally this northern city would not be on my radar for DC weekend trips—somehow it seems more remote and further away than the New Englands and Chicagos of the world. But at less than a 90-minute flight, Buffalo turned out to be a great destination and closer (and cheaper) than other popular treks.
Where: Buffalo, NY and Niagara Falls, NY/ON
Get there: Less than a 90-minute flight from DC. We also rented a car once there.
Do: Visit Niagara Falls, stroll through downtown Buffalo, visit the Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Eat/drink: Chow down on Buffalo wings from the restaurant they originated in (The Anchor Bar), try some ice wine, treat yourself to dinner at The Left Bank or The Dapper Goose and cocktails at Buffalo Proper
Did you know Niagara Falls is only a 20-minute drive from Buffalo? If you’re traveling to the city, you definitely need to make this iconic natural wonder part of your trip.
Niagara Falls was actually the first state park in the U.S. (Fun fact! Also, is anyone else surprised it's not a National Park?) The other fun fact is that although you’ll be amazed by the falls on the American side of the park, if you cross the bridge into Canada (with a very easy customs stop from your car window), you’ll be much more impressed with the view from the Canadian side.
That being said, there are more places to walk around and things to do on the American side. There’s a free observatory tower and walkways to great views of the rapids. My friend Corie (who came with me on this trip) and I agreed that our favorite view was from Terrapin Point. Totally not just because we both went to the University of Maryland, home of the Terrapins, of course.
The big attraction on the American side is also the Maid of the Mist. This is a classic boat ride under the roaring falls where “you WILL get wet!” The boat only runs from late May through early fall, so you may want to plan your travel dates around this. You may even want to plan your wedding date around this (s/o to Jim and Pam).
The city of Buffalo itself has several neighborhoods with shops that are nice to walk through—notably, quirky Allentown and Elmwood Village. The Elmwood Village neighborhood is also home to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, which is home to works from famous artists like Jackson Pollock, Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, and Pablo Picasso. On warm days you can also walk to Canalside, the "waterfront crown" of Buffalo, or Delaware Park, where there's a zoo. (Thanks to my coworker Larisa, native Buffalonian, for these suggestions!)
One of the coolest things we did in Buffalo was go to the restaurant that invented the Buffalo wing. The restaurant is called The Anchor Bar. We were able to walk in and immediately get a table. The wings were delicious, as was the tomato onion salad and their (slightly less) famous pizza rolls.
Also famous and native to this region is ice wine—a very sweet wine made from frozen grapes. One benefit of the normally cold weather up here (although I’ll say that during our trip in May it was a beautiful 70 degrees).
Other nice restaurants to try include The Left Bank or The Dapper Goose, and Buffalo Proper. (Oh, and don't forget Tim Hortons, of course.) These are some of the fancier restaurants in town (OK, maybe not Tim Hortons) but still cheaper than DC! (But isn’t everything?)