Given the paucity of actual buffaloes roaming the sidewalks of Pearl and Main streets in downtown Buffalo, nobody knows for sure where the city got its name. It might be a corruption of a French phrase such as beau fleuve (“beautiful river”) or le boeuf (a reference to the early French settlement at Fort Le Boeuf). Then again, it might simply be an indication that the city’s founders were taken with the symbolism of the American buffalo.
Whatever the case, few can deny that Buffalo has forged an identity as unique as its name. Surrounded by rolling landscapes and adjacent to the waters of Lake Erie, the city is just as connected to nature as to its identity as a historic steel town. This means that there’s never a shortage of things to do and see in New York’s second largest metropolis.
Though Buffalo typically weathers up to four major snowstorms each year, the city’s park system never shuts down. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the system’s crown jewel is Delaware Park—a 350-acre landscape where footpaths intersect with meadows and circle a glassy lake. Olmsted’s partner, Calvert Vaux, designed the park’s many structures, which include a boathouse, a gazebo, and an ornate stone viaduct. Other gardens and parks surround the glass-domed Victorian arboretum known as the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. Throughout the year, guides lead tours of the conservatory’s greenhouses, which bloom with fruit trees, palms, flowers, and the largest collection of ivy in the world.
Buffalo also brims with arts and culture, thanks in part to the opening of the Erie Canal in the 19th century and the subsequent influx of wealthy patrons to the city. Housed in a beautiful Greek Revival building, the Albright-Knox Gallery, contains a diverse collection of 20th-century paintings, photographs, and sculptures. Though exhibits rotate regularly, the permanent collection includes works by Gauguin, Pollock, Picasso, and Warhol.
At Shea's Performing Arts Center, you can attend touring Broadway musicals, dance programs, and award-winning modern plays. Constructed in 1926 in the style of a European opera house, the theater still bears original features that include ornate moldings and accents of velvet and crystal. To witness the talents of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, head to one of their near-weekly concerts at Kleinhans Music Hall. Though it’s been around for more than 70 years, the venue continues to garner praise for its superb acoustics and an interior dominated by curving lines.
Natives of Buffalo are notoriously proud of their culinary contributions: the chicken wing, the beef on weck sandwich, sponge candy, and the chargrilled white hot. One of the best places to sample a local staple is Anchor Bar, where the buffalo wing reportedly originated. Another treasured city fixture, the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres carve up the ice at First Niagara Center from October through April.