The Chautauqua Belle brings the Industrial Revolution's innovation and muscle back to life with cruises held aboard the historic open-air steamboat. The eponymous vessel glides across the calm surface of Chautauqua Lake as guides educate guests of all ages on the lake's colorful history. Guests can enjoy snacks and libations from the full-service bar as they glimpse picturesque beaches and lush forests during dinner, fireworks, and private charters or narrated history tours.
Founded by the architectural adepts of Preservation Buffalo Niagara, Buffalo Tours educates residents and visitors alike on the architectural heritage of the city and simultaneously raises funds for ongoing preservation efforts. More than 20 available walking tours, which vary seasonally, highlight such treasures as Buffalo’s most hallowed restaurants. The Parkside Neighborhood tour grants glimpses of an angular abode designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, who often used 1:16 models of his old projects as straight edges when designing his new ones. A historical Crime & Scandal tour explores Prohibition-era haunts and old presidential philandery. Boat, bus, and bike tours, alternatively, give hooves a break while their owners cruise down the Buffalo River, visiting War of 1812 battlefields or four of Buffalo’s museums.
Tours operate year-round, exploring city hall and downtown by winter and other locales daily from May to October. Members gain access to members-only events, often at a discounted rate, as well as a regular newsletter, which bestows information about the area's history, updates from the organization, and detailed landscaping horoscopes.
Open-Air Autobus tours, guided by the members of The Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, are anchored in affection for the preservation of Buffalo's architecture, landscapes, and other histori-cultural sites. The 100 Years of Bungalows and 'Foursquares' Tour highlights the architectural styles that boomed in the early 20th century, while The Whirlwind Tour, Open-Air Autobus's most popular excursion, provides a fast-paced look at Buffalo's masterworks by Frank Lloyd Wright, H.H. Richardson, Louis Sullivan, and more. Tours focusing specifically on Wright and delving into prime historic-neighborhood pockets are also offered; click here to see complete tour descriptions.
Development of the Roycroft Campus began in 1897 by author, lecturer, and entrepreneur Elbert Hubbbard, who sought to create a utopian society of artisans in reaction to the mass production of the Industrial Age. Drawing on inspiration by leaders of the arts-and-crafts movement in the UK, Hubbard founded the Roycroft Press to produce monthly publications, books, and elaborate conspiracy theories. After gaining international recognition for an essay he wrote in 1899, Hubbard was able to further expand and promote the Roycroft community, erecting 13 additional buildings on the campus over the next decade.
In its prime, the community was home to 23 presses and more imported handmade paper than all American printing institutions combined. More than 500 resident artists worked in wood, stained glass, and copper, and Roycroft became a thriving mecca for craftsmen, authors, artists, and philosophers. In 1986, the campus was designated a national historic landmark. Today it is home to 9 of the original 14 structures, preserved and restored throughout the last 17 years by the Roycroft Campus Corporation and open for exploration during guided walking tours.
Helmed by parapsychologist and expert raconteur Captain Bob Gossman, Eerie Erie’s array of supernatural safaris usher intrepid guests through the city’s haunted environs. Assemble up to 30 close-knit confreres for a private tour, or bond with stouthearted strangers over startled leaps into each other’s arms. Spine-chilling tales of uncanny events on and around Dobbins Landing are recounted en route during the two-hour, one-mile Eerie Bayfront ghost walk, where maritime materializations have been known to scare the pants off humans and dungaree-clad fish alike. Glimpse affluent apparitions along the path of Eerie Millionaire’s Row ghost walk, a two-hour, one-mile jaunt through lost cemeteries, a mysterious convent, and haunted apartment buildings where monocled phantoms partake in genteel parlor games. Groupon holders opting for the nonprivate tour can also partake in the New Moon, Full Moon, or Summer Solstice ghost walks. Check Eerie Erie’s website for tour dates and departure times.
The Arcade & Attica Railroad began its existence as a handful of incomplete tracks, proceeding in stops and starts through the Allegheny River valley. When the Pennsylvania Railroad Company decided it needed service to Buffalo, it bought up the disparate stretches of rail line and linked them together. The company and its successors hardly imagined it to be one of their more long-lasting endeavors, but the little railroad weathered track washouts and bankruptcies and even made it through the Great Depression without laying off a single employee. In the 1950s, its owners decided to try short, scenic passenger excursions to bolster their flagging freight business, and the tourist line as it exists today was born.
These days, trains launch from historical Arcade Station, which is a small museum of American railroad history. Restored steam engines idle out front, waiting to pull up to 382 passengers through countryside largely unchanged since the 1880s. In addition to stunning views, excursions provide photo opportunities with the locomotive and the chance to enthusiastically wear striped overalls in public.