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What Is Buffalo, New York Known For?

Buffalo, New York is a charming city in Upstate New York that is undergoing a rebirth after its heavily industrial past. Like many other Rust Belt cities, Buffalo experienced a downturn as demand for manufacturing declined in the late 20th century. These days, you can find the city exploring its new identity with plenty to offer its residents and visitors. 


Buffalo, New York, is an upstate city known for its historical events, industrial past, well-preserved architecture, and professional sports teams. The city is also home to iconic chicken wings, and it is a popular tourist destination because of its close proximity to Niagara Falls. 


In the rest of this article, we will explore both what Buffalo has been known for historically and how this identity has shifted in recent decades. Read on to learn about everything this Rust Belt city has to offer its residents and visitors, and how it is reinventing its previous identity and reputation.


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Teddy Roosevelt’s Inauguration Speech Was Held in Buffalo

Many historically significant events occurred on the streets of Buffalo, New York. It’s a city that hosted the Pan-American Exposition, saw a president assassinated, was the center of the industrial boom as well as a place of economic decline. To explore Buffalo’s history further, you can check out the Buffalo History Museum


This cultural institution has several permanent exhibits as well as rotating ones that celebrate and preserve the arts, culture, and historical events of this city.


You can get a taste of Buffalo in its heyday by strolling down Millionaire’s Row. This nickname refers to a section of Delaware Avenue where you can see the impressive residences that once belonged to the city’s elite. In addition to the stunning architecture of this neighborhood, it also holds greater historical significance.


On this street, President Theodore Roosevelt gave his inaugural address, beginning his term as the 26th President of the United States. At 641 Delaware Avenue, you can find an official, historic site that celebrates and preserves the events of that day in 1901. The site features a museum where you can learn more about his historic and unexpected inauguration.


However, a discussion of President Roosevelt’s inauguration is not complete without mentioning the tragic events that led up to his presidency. It was also in Buffalo that the 25th President of the United States was abruptly assassinated. 


President William McKinley was shot and killed at the Temple of Music during the Pan-American Exposition in 1901. You can still see many tributes to McKinley in Buffalo today, including the McKinley Monument located in front of City Hall.


Buffalo In the Birthplace of Spicy Buffalo Wings

One of the most famous things to come out of Buffalo is its chicken wings. These wings got their start in 1964 in Buffalo’s family-owned and operated Anchor Bar. The story goes that the bar had ordered a standard mix of chicken parts for the kitchen but, by accident, received a surplus of only wings.


With all of these extra wings on hand, bar owner Teressa Bellissimo reached for them when her son asked her to cook a late-night snack for him and his friends. This request was the definitive moment that the Buffalo wing was born. The wings were breaded, fried, and served up in a delicious, messy sauce that is now world-famous.


Buffalo wing sauce is a combination of butter, hot sauce, and red pepper. The sauce is typically orange and slathered abundantly onto the freshly fried wings. The story goes that Momma Bellissimo only had blue cheese dressing and celery on hand, so she served up the wings with these alongside. Blue cheese and celery have become the signature sides to a plate of wings in both Buffalo and beyond.


It took some time for the wings to catch on, but by the 1980s, this iconic bar snack was making its way across the country. In the 1990s, Buffalo wing eating contests became a national phenomenon, and nowadays, Buffalo wings are known all around the world. They are a staple bar food on menus throughout the United States and beyond its borders. 


The Anchor Bar still exists today and happily serves up plates of wings to its customers. You can enjoy a night of tap beer, a Bills game, or even live music while feasting on Buffalo wings in their birthplace. Of course, the bar also sells bottles of the signature Buffalo Wing Sauce that you can buy and take home to use to your own liking. 


Check out this recipe book with all the best foods from Buffalo.


The City Is Home to Stunning Architecture 

From its historic districts to the city’s distinct layout, Buffalo is an interesting intersection of architectural influences. One of the city’s greatest influences was Frederick Olmsted, the famed landscape architect who designed Central Park in New York City. Olmsted envisioned an interconnected park system in Buffalo that would make the city delightfully green and interwoven with its stunning upstate nature. 


Olmsted’s influence can be seen today in the sprawling parks, as well as the streets that connect them. When driving through Buffalo, you will easily find yourself at many traffic circles, with the center of these circles featuring vibrant green space. This was part of Olmsted’s planning. He wanted to create boulevards that weren’t separate from the grand parks but rather a way to connect the city cohesively.


One of the most celebrated pieces from Olmsted’s work is Delaware Park. You can find this impressive, expansive park in the north part of the city. It is so much more than luscious green space; it is home to the following:


  • Hoyt Lake
  • Albright-Knox Art Gallery 
  • Forest Lawn Cemetery
  • Buffalo Zoo 
  • Buffalo History Museum


This massive park is over 500 acres in size and borders the campus of Buffalo State College.


One of the most impressive buildings in Buffalo is its City Hall building. Located right in the city’s historic downtown, this massive 32-story building dominates the Buffalo skyline. It features a classic Art Deco style from the 1920s, and its well-preserved condition has landed it on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, it is still a functional office space, with 26 of its 32 stories being used for city business.


However, this iconic piece of Buffalo architecture isn’t just for government employees. Visitors can stop by the City Hall and take the elevator all the way up to its observation deck. From the top of the building, visitors can see incredible views of the city expanding out in all directions. For those interested in learning more about the history, they can join a daily walking tour hosted by the municipality at City Hall each day.  


Finally, if you want a taste of famous Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, you have to stop by the Darwin D. Martin House. Wright is the famous designer of the Guggenheim in New York as well as Fallingwater in Pennsylvania. The Martin House in Buffalo was one of his most important designs, and, nowadays, it is open to the public. In addition to tours of the complex, the Martin House also hosts cultural events for the community from time to time. 



Buffalo Is Striving To Transform Its Industrial Identity

While Buffalo was once a booming industrial center, it also suffered hard as the demand for manufacturing dried up in the later 20th century. Nowadays, it is going through a renaissance where its industrial past is being reborn and repurposed. A prime example of this is the city’s grain elevators. 


Now commonly referred to as Silo City, these abandoned grain elevators have been given new life. Here, you can find music festivals, literary events, film screenings, and all kinds of cultural happenings hosted inside the industrial space. You can even see sections of the grain elevators come alive at night as carefully-placed lights create works of art on this massive canvas. 


A whole new kind of industry has been set up around Silo City. There are plenty of companies that offer historic tours, kayak rentals, and even zipline experiences. Buffalo is joyfully reclaiming its historic past, bringing arts, culture, and adventure into a part of the city that had begun to experience abandonment and decay. 



The City Is Renowned for Its Intense Winters

One part of Buffalo’s reputation is certainly true– it has some long, cold winters. With plenty of lake effect snow, it can feel like a long time between the end of fall and the beginning of spring. However, Buffalonians are quite used to it, and the winter months can’t stop them from enjoying their city.


There are several districts of the city that give you impressive nightlife all year round– snow or no snow. For clubs, dancing, and upscale bars, you can check out West Chippewa Street in the city’s downtown. For dive bars, cheap eats, and live music, you will want to hang around on Allen Street. This street is home to Buffalo’s most famous dive bar, the Old Pink. You can count on this bar to be open to the very end of the night, with the last call at 4 am. 



Buffalo Is Home to the Buffalo Bills

Even if you’re not a big fan of football, going to a Buffalo Bills game is a truly cultural event in the city. Buffalo has a die-hard devotion to its NFL team, no matter how well the team is playing in a particular season. Going to a game as a visitor is a fun glimpse into the Bills fandom that is common among city residents. 


The tailgating parties before the game are taken seriously, and you can find a joyous crowd of fans barbequing, drinking, and enjoying the day before taking their seats in the stadium. Even if you can’t make it to a stadium, you can enjoy the spirit of the city on game day by watching the game in a local bar. Remember to order up a plate of Buffalo wings for the complete local experience.



Buffalo Is Near to Niagara Falls

Although technically not located in the city of Buffalo, Niagara Falls is one of the most famous attractions associated with the city. Located about a 30-minute drive away from Buffalo’s downtown, Niagara Falls is a natural attraction that attracts visitors from all around the globe. This collection of powerful waterfalls marks the international border between the United States and Canada.


There are plenty of things to do at Niagara Falls once you’ve taken in the impressive power and beauty of the waterfalls themselves. From the U.S. side, you can explore some state-curated hiking trails as well as explore exhibits explaining more about the history and industrial use of the falls. There are also walking tours and other events you can join to learn more about the significance of this natural wonder. 


Niagara Falls State Park also famously offers the Maid of the Mist boat tour. This tour has been running for 150 years and is one of the best ways to get up close and personal with the falls. By getting on board, you will get close enough to the falls to feel the mist on your poncho. You will get the chance to see multiple falls and the unique rock formations from the unique perspective of being on the water. 


In the town, there are plenty of dining and entertainment options to make a whole, unforgettable day at the falls. While there are plenty of dining options in town, you can head to Old Falls Street for the full experience. This district is three blocks packed with restaurants, hotels, shopping, and entertainment venues. Live events and festivals are often located here, and it is definitely worth checking out when visiting the falls. 


Finally, make sure you don’t miss the falls at night. As the sun sets over the falls, the lights go on and illuminate the water beautifully with different colors. It is a stunning sight and a visitor favorite. 



Final Thoughts

Buffalo is one of the best-kept secrets in Upstate New York. It has a reputation as a drab post-industrial city, but this reputation is becoming out-of-date. Buffalo is a vibrant, creative city filled with exquisitely designed green space, passionate sports fans, and innovative entertainment. Visitors will be pleasantly surprised at all they can do in Buffalo, New York.


If you’re planning a trip to Buffalo check out this guide here.