Late this summer we had the opportunity to spend a few days in Buffalo, New York, on a family getaway! We’ve been to Buffalo, NY MANY times before, but I have to admit, there’s only really been two main reasons that I’ve visited the city before: shopping and flying to/from. You see Buffalo is the closest American city for us Canadians living in the Greater Toronto Area, being about 1-2 hours away depending on where you are travelling from. Since we moved, we live closer to two hours, fifteen minutes away from the border, depending on traffic. But it’s still very drivable and a great place to head for some cross-border shopping (hello, Target) at majorly discounted prices. Also, flying out of the Buffalo airport is often times MUCH cheaper than flying from Toronto Pearson’s airport (also WAY less chaotic). Up until this summer, that had been the extent of my time in Buffalo.
So when Visit Buffalo Niagara tourism reached out to us to come down to experience all that Buffalo has to offer, aside from shopping and flying, we were IN!
Let me tell you from the start, Buffalo did NOT disappoint! In fact, we ran out of time to see and do all that we had wanted to and already have plans to go back for another family weekend!
To cover all that we did during our three-day stay in the city, I’m going to break it down into four categories (for easy reference): Activities, Food, Sightseeing, Accommodation. So let’s get into it!
The Buffalo Zoo:
We started our family getaway with driving straight to The Buffalo Zoo. Two things almost immediately struck me about this zoo – the size and the age. For starters, I noticed right away that it was smaller than a few other zoos I’ve been to and I LOVED it! Let me explain. As much as I love zoo’s, often times I find that they are SO massive that it’s almost impossible to see the entire thing in one day, especially with small kids. We love our local Toronto zoo, but to this day, I’ve still NEVER seen the ENTIRE place because it’s just too much to walk around. The Buffalo Zoo felt totally doable in a day, not having to skip certain exhibits because of exhaustion or time running out. Parents with small kids, this place is for you!
I also was struck by the age of the zoo – I knew almost immediately by looking around at the buildings that it must be an older establishment and sure enough, I’ve come to learn that it is. The zoo was actually built in 1875 and is the third oldest zoo in the entire United States! The Buffalo Zoo has done an incredible job at preserving that old world charm in their buildings and animal enclosures. I’ve never seen another zoo like that before.
They had an animatronic dinosaur exhibit on throughout the park that absolutely made my youngest son’s LIFE! He has been obsessed with dinosaurs since a very young age and as soon as we walked into the zoo, his heart skipped a beat when he saw these creatures moving in the woods!
Buffalo Museum of Science:
Next up was the Buffalo Museum of Science, which was another place we could have easily spent all day at. As soon as we walked in, we noticed once again it was in an old, historic building (you’ll notice a trend here) and it was absolutely beautiful! I know museums are supposed to be about the artifacts IN it, but I couldn’t help but be amazed at the structure of the building itself!
To no one’s surprise, we spent most of our time in the Rethink Extinct Dinosaur exhibit! It was complete with a fossil dig pit which my little palaeontologist couldn’t get enough of! Every floor led to more exploration – from dinosaurs to space to all kinds of hands on activities for the kids. They were able to play with wind turbines, record themselves going on TV as a meteorologist, and experiencing what the winds feel like during a hurricane. They also were able to play around in the Wegman’s store, actually able to scan grocery items (hello, every kids dream!) Every detail and experience clearly crafted to educated through reading, visual interest and hands-on learning!
Explore & More Children’s Museum:
It’s really hard when doing a trip like this to not play favourites – because let’s face it, everything we get to try and experience is ALWAYS a lot of fun. But if I had to choose MY personal favourite activity that we did as a family, it would have to be Explore & More Children’s Museum. I think I also liked the fact that it was literally across the street from our hotel, making it super easy to commute to!
Explore & More has only been open for a few months and it’s a museum ALL about Buffalo and Western New York for kids! It’s a 43,000 square foot, four floor wonderland for children aged 0-12 years old! The hands on experiences here just blew my mind and truthfully made me want to join in with my kids on the fun!
From colouring pages that you could turn into digital artwork and watch move around a digital image on the wall to building bridges and homes together to playing various sports, there were endless options for family fun and exploration, all while learning about the rich history of Buffalo and surrounding area! My kids truly didn’t want to leave, if that tells you how much we loved it there!
Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park:
Across the street from Explore & More in the Canalside District of Buffalo is the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park, that is home to several decommissioned US Naval vessels, including a submarine. There is also a small museum on land that houses some military artifacts including small planes and small vehicles. This was hands down my husbands favourite part of our trip – he has a deep love for history surrounding wars.
What was super interesting and exciting about this attraction is that you can actually walk all throughout these ships and see how life was like when they were in use. In fact, one of the ships actually had a crew working and sleeping on it while we were there. We ended up having to go inside one of the ships as a massive thunderstorm rolled in and had a chance to chat with some of the crew and learn more about the programs that they run on these ships throughout the year!
If you are a military and war buff, this is definitely a sight to see! So much history to learn and experience and honestly, how many people can say they’ve actually been inside a submarine! I now can!
Lloyd Taco Factory:
Our first place to visit for lunch in Buffalo was Lloyd Taco Factory on Hertel Avenue (an up and coming spot in the city that has seen massive revitalization in the recent years). Let me just say that there wasn’t a bite I had at Lloyd that I didn’t like. I loved it SO much that I’ve already revisited it again since our family trip. We take tacos VERY seriously in our home (you can check out our previous taco recipes) and because Chris is such a taco genius, I usually am underwhelmed when I try tacos now in restaurants. So I won’t lie, I was nervous going here. After a few bites, I looked at Chris and said “Sorry babe, these are better!” LOL! True story! And he agreed! If you’re in Buffalo, DO NOT MISS Lloyd! You’ll thank me later!
One of the “must-haves” when visiting Buffalo are chicken wings, specifically the Buffalo wing (which is where they were first invented)! The city is so well known for their wings that they even have a “wing trail” that includes 13 pubs all throughout the city that are best known for all varieties of chicken wings. Gabriel’s Gate in the Allentown District is one of those pubs on that trail that we had the pleasure of visiting!
It was obvious from the moment that we got there that it was a popular spot because there was almost an hour wait! So tip for the wise, make a reservation before you go. We were able to walk around the area and discover a few cute spots before our table came up. The restaurant not only sits in one of the original Tift Row Homes built in 1864, the “Gate’, as it’s known to locals, has been running for 50 years! The wings were big, juicy, saucy and so delicious! Definitely worth the wait!
Inside the Naval & Military Park is a quaint, waterfront eatery called Liberty Hound – the perfect spot to stop for lunch when visiting the park and/or Explore & More!
Their menu is filled with lots of fish-centeric options including lobster rolls and fish tacos and crab tostadas! If you love fish, this is a place to check out for sure. And if you aren’t the biggest seafood fan, that’s ok, there’s lots of other delicious bites to satisfy all while watching the sun set in the harbour! Pictured above are the lobster rolls and crab tostadas – both excellent choices!
Public Espresso & Coffee:
For one of our breakfasts while visiting Buffalo we headed downtown to Public Espresso & Coffee, a small batch craft coffee roastery, espresso bar and cafe that is located inside the historic Hotel Lafayette. I mean before we even stepped foot inside, I was already blown away by the gorgeous building facade!
The coffee was to die for, as expected, but so were the breakfast offerings: avocado toast and the hash bowl complete with sourdough bread! SO GOOD! Not to be outdone by the in-house made specialty donuts that we had at the end – sorry, we devoured those before we could take any pictures to capture them! You’ll just have to take our word on it that they were delish!
Ted’s Hot Dogs:
I’ll be honest, I had never heard of Ted’s Hot Dogs before this trip but if you’ve ever spent much time in Buffalo and Western New York, you’ve likely stumbled across a Ted’s at some point. They have been open since 1927 and have eight locations in the Western New York, serving charbroiled hot dogs, old fashioned milk shakes and homemade onion rings. It was the perfect meal to cap off our family weekend away in Buffalo – even complete with kids meals and paper crowns!
We had the pleasure of staying at the newly renovated Marriott Harborcenter in the heart of Canalside District along the waterfront of Buffalo. This hotel is uniquely situated steps away (connected via a walking bridge) from the KeyBank Center where the Buffalo Sabres play and many concerts and attractions are held. There’s actually two hockey rinks right inside the hotel, including multiple restaurants including a Tim Horton’s at street level.
(photo courtesy of Marriott)
Our room was facing Lake Erie and offered the most unreal sunsets! We also had access to the VIP Marriott Lounge which offered a nice selection of snacks and beverages throughout the day. The hotel was beautiful, impeccably clean and very quiet, considering it’s location!
Buffalo Harbor State Park:
We spent our last morning visiting Buffalo Harbor State Park. This was one of those moments I could have stayed in forever. The sun was shining, it wasn’t too hot, breeze in the air and the views were just gorgeous! This is one of the newest state parks in Buffalo and boasts a marina, restaurant, boat launch, restrooms, picnic pavilions and a beautiful, new park for kids to play on. There’s also the Tift Nature Reserve across the street filled with hours of walking trails. The perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon or even hosting a family picnic under one of their pavilions!
(photo courtesy of Visit Buffalo Niagara)
One of the things I like to do before going to a new city is to look online and check out if there are any cool spots filled with street art. I just think it’s not only such a perfect photo-op, but a way to see some perhaps lesser known areas of the city and discover new areas.
Well let me tell you, Buffalo has NO shortage of AMAZING street art. Because we had limited time, we didn’t get to see them all, but here are a few of them!
The first two murals can be found downtown Buffalo, not terribly far apart. The first is the iconic “Greeting from Buffalo” and the second is the beautiful Wildflowers of Buffalo. There are even more murals painted downtown that we didn’t get a chance to stop and take pictures of. What I’d recommend, if you have time, is to grab a coffee from Public Espresso and walk around the downtown area to spot these murals! And you’ll get to gaze about some of Buffalo’s most beautiful old buildings at the same time!
“Greetings from Buffalo” – located at 461 Ellicott Street (downtown) by Casey William Milbrand
“Wildflowers for Buffalo” – 465 Washington Street (downtown) by Louise Jones
The next four are all found within a couple blocks of each other on Hertel Avenue, which is where I mentioned that Lloyd Taco Factory was located. So if you go to grab lunch there, walk around and try to spot these murals! There’s also some other really cool shops in the area from unique home and floral stores to a number of antique places! I could spend an entire day just wondering this street!
“Looking Good” – 1472 Hertel Avenue by Casey Milbrand
“Magic Buffalo” – 1322 Hertel Avenue by Bunnie Reiss
(this mural wraps around Joe’s Deli – this is one side, the below picture is the other side of the building)
The Buffalo Map – 1297 Hertel Avenue by Mario Zucca
There’s actually an entire website dedicated just to the street art on Hertel Avenue called Hertel Walls (I discovered this AFTER our trip to Buffalo). You can see so many more of the various street art on that street including the stories and history behind the murals and the artists that painted them!
Well there you have it friends, our complete guide to our family getaway weekend in Buffalo, New York! As you can tell, there was so much to do, and honestly we feel like we’ve just scratched the surface with exploring in Buffalo. It’s such a family-friendly city – small enough to navigate around but big enough that there is plenty of offerings for just about any type of family adventure! We know we will be back soon!
Love & Blessings,
Note: This post was sponsored by Visit Buffalo Niagara. All the thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.