Serving up Buffalo for this week’s edition of Tuesday’s Travel Tips. Buffalo was the destination of our first-ever flight ten years ago, and one that’s truly a city of contrasts with its interesting economic, geographic, and demographic histories.
Located in the westernmost end of New York State, this cold upstate city boasts the second-highest population in the state, right after New York City (though, in all fairness, the population in Buffalo is about one-fiftieth the size of New York City’s). The city rests on the mouth of the Erie Canal and the Niagara River, quite literally breathing Canadian air with Ontario right across the river.
Buffalo was once one of America’s largest and wealthy cities, rich from trading thanks to its proximity to the Great Lakes and the Erie Canal, and its bustling industries including plane production and steel manufacturing. The city was also home to some of the richest people in the country at the turn of the 20th Century (you can still visit the mansions from this era). In the 1950s, with the decline of the manufacturing sector and the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, much of the city’s wealth – and the population that went with it – started to dwindle. Though sections of the city that were once lively are now largely abandoned, Buffalo still has many gems that make for a worthwhile visit (plus we have several, extremely affordable flights to Buffalo each day from Boston, New York and Florida, which means you’ll be preparing for landing before you’ve finished your Munchies Mix).
An interesting fact about Buffalo is that former President William McKinley was shot and killed at the Pan-American Expo in Buffalo in 1901 and Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in shortly after at the nearby Wilcox Mansion.
According to Communications Manager Sebastian, when he thinks of Buffalo, he thinks of mansions, mansions, mansions. And parks! JetBlue sponsors the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, the nonprofit that maintains the city’s parks. It is said that Frederick Law Olmsted went to Buffalo after designing Central Park and built a park system he said New York didn’t have the vision for! Buffalo’s parks are truly impressive and are not to be missed. The massive homes that surround them were designed by some of the most famous names in architecture, like Frank Lloyd Wright, who created a number of masterpieces in Buffalo including the Darwin Martin House. Other American architects like Louis Sullivan and Henry Hobson Richardson also did some of their best work in Buffalo, building an architectural legacy that has few rivals.
Sebastian says that SPoT Coffee offers up not only some of the best coffee on the planet, but in a great atmosphere, too, particularly their big Delaware Avenue location. Their chicken focaccia sandwich is a can’t miss.
Airport Operations Crewmember Roberta says, “of course we are well known for chicken wings and beef on weck, but Buffalo also serves the best fish fry, beer-battered or breaded. When President Obama was here he made a quick stop for wings at Duff’s Restaurant which is just a five-minute drive from the airport. Charlie the Butcher, five minutes the opposite way, has hand-carved beef on weck and McPartlan’s Corner is just a 10-minute drive away where you can enjoy an awesome fish fry.
Roberta also relays that the city offers daily tours of Niagara Falls with a few companies. One is Cascades of Niagara Tours, Inc. Buffalo is about a half hour away Niagara Falls, so don’t forget your passport because the views from the Canadian side top those stateside (and you can’t cross without a passport!). The fall foliage is the best and don’t forget to bring your skis in the winter months. Winters in Buffalo can be intense, with average of more than 95 inches of snowfall a year, the 11th snowiest city in the country, but the city has figured out pretty well how to go on with its regular business whatever the weather. Buffalo also has beaches (along the river), where you can go swimming and boating as well. You name it, Buffalo has it all!
In addition to mansions, fried food, big falls, and Canada, there’s also the Buffalo Bills, the only professional New York football team to actually be housed in New York State. And we’ve been their official airline for ten years!
Do you have any great Buffalo travel tips? Leave them in the comments below, or Tweet them using the hashtag #TTBUF.
And see below for an excerpt from an essay Communications Manager Sebastian wrote about Buffalo when he was living in the region:
My View: At Home in Buffalo Niagara
The Buffalo News | February 18, 2003
It’s funny the things that come up at snooty New England parties—Buffalo is one of them.
“It’s actually a pretty cool place,” I sheepishly interjected when recent dinner conversation turned to mockery of (pitiful) weather in (backwater) Buffalo.
Where I come from, convincing people that ‘Buffalo’ and ‘cool’ really belong together in the same thought is a tough sell. But I’ve tried. Making my pitch one Maine evening, extolling the beauty of Forest Lawn, the stately old neighborhoods and the civility of Olmsted’s gracious parkways that punctuate and connect them all, I found myself contemplating my own future in Buffalo.
Graduating this spring from one of western New York’s numerous colleges, I, like many others, am faced with the dilemma puzzling regional economic cheerleaders: Do I stay or do I go?
The answer is complicated. What I’m certain about, however, is the genuine and sincere depth of my emotions about Buffalo and its environs after living here for fewer than four years. My perplexed family and friends are astounded by my passionate feelings for the city.
My love affair with Buffalo Niagara began early one spring morning freshman year when my friend Jason and I ventured to the Falls before leaving for the summer. It being my first visit to the roaring wonder, I stood silently with my friend on the rocks off Goat Island, precariously close to the roilings of the river below. I was awed by the sheer might of the place. Under the warmth of the new day’s sun, and overcome by unanticipated feelings, I felt no desire to leave.
That day at Niagara, I felt uncertainty, too. After all, what did it say about me if I admitted that Buffalo, this supposed backwater, was cool? It was months—and a move back to New England—before I realized that on that striking day I’d found a profound sense of home in western New York, one wholly removed from my past.
Since moving to western New York in 1999, all my notions about the place and its people have changed significantly. I’ve grown to appreciate this glorious and (occasionally) maddening outpost on the Great Lakes. Certainly, the cliché that Buffalo’s charm lies in its people is true. But what about its unique regional culture, its seductive aesthetic, its je ne sais quoi?
Today, three years after my epiphany, I feel smug when I speak of Buffalo as if it’s a secret the world has yet to be let in on. The jaundiced eyes of listeners light up when I describe Delaware Avenue mansions, rave about the Albright-Knox, and glorify the city’s enviable park system.
For us soon-to-be graduates, half the battle in countering the western New York brain drain is ensuring that young people understand, appreciate, and feel strong ties to Buffalo Niagara and know that a future is here for them. Unfortunately, the norm is that young people know little more about the area than the strategic locations of its many malls, the bars on Chippewa, and the fastest route out to the airport and to Canada.
These are all great things, but what about appreciation and respect for the dreams, the spirit, and the high hopes that built the region and will determine its destiny?
Living and studying in the midst of Buffalo Niagara has been a larger lesson in history, society, and community that is sure to figure prominently in my post-graduation plans. I’m hoping that concepts like ‘cool’, ‘great home’ and ‘fantastic job’ can mean Buffalo, too.
Ultimately, if I don’t settle here, I’m sure the strong emotional pull will bring me back to the place where I grew and where, above all, I learned to see this tiny corner of the world in all its glory. I will always be thankful for, and an ardent supporter of, Buffalo Niagara.