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11 things to do for a perfect New York weekend in Buffalo and Niagara Falls

There's nothing to curb the ennui of Toronto's drab winter months like having a trip to look forward to, but this time of year may be the hardest as far as securing the funds for a full-blown holiday away (and let's face it, a staycation just doesn't hit the same).

While a flight to somewhere warmer, farther, or both may not be in the financial cards in the coming weeks, there are some nearby options that can give you that hit of vacation energy that you're so desperately fiending — such as two neighbouring cities just across the border in New York, Buffalo and Niagara Falls.

No, it's not an exotic beach locale, but within less than a two-hour drive, you can be in a completely new country, without the hassle or expenses of a huge trip. 

And, the very under-the-radar cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls manage to keep it fun and cheap, which is absolutely key, especially in this economy.

Here are just a few must-sees for when you make the trip down (which you absolutely should):

RiverWorks

There is always something going on at Buffalo RiverWorks, whether it's a concert, market, big event, or just the daily activities available at the venue.

Skating, axe-throwing, ropes courses, curling, brewery tours, drinking and dining are all on tap in the winter months — and come summer, there's ziplining, boating, rock climbing, roller skating and even a Ferris wheel and other rides to enjoy.

Canalside

Just like home, Buffalo has a waterfront, but it's got an array of all-new activities to try out and businesses to frequent. 

buffalo niagaraRide a restored 1924 carousel then see the construction of a replica Erie Canal packet boat, or just grab a bite and a drink somewhere like Ballyhoo or Pearl Street Grill.

You can also head to the Tifft Nature Preserve, or hit up a brewery like Southern Tier Brewing or Pod City Beer Labs. And speaking of breweries...

Brewery, distillery, and bar/restaurant hop! 

While the Canadian dollar may be doing pretty unfortunately right now, one of the saving graces of some U.S. cities is the fact that their bevvies are way cheaper than we could ever imagine in our home and native land.

buffalo niagaraBuffalo, of course, is one of these locales, with dive bar upon dive bar to hop between in Allentown; we suggest ordering a late-night steak sandwich at the Old Pink as a must, if you can handle the inevitable wait. And, there are breweries galore: Big Ditch Brewing, Community Beer WorksTwin PetrelsResurgence Brewing, and Belt Line Brewery to name just a few.

Take in wine country

Outside of the city centre of Niagara Falls, NY, the surrounding region is known as wine country (on both sides of the border) — and with nearly two dozen wineries, breweries, cideries and lots of local food to boot, no trip is complete without doing the Niagara Wine Trail.

buffalo niiagaraStop in at Arrowhead Springs Vinyards, Bella Rose Vineyard & Winery, Black Willow Winery and so many more, where the micro-climate and geographical characteristics make this the perfect spot for producing vino, from Chardonnay and Cabernet to ice wine and mead.

Take part in some outdoor adventures

Hiking, biking, fishing, boating, skating, snowshoeing — if you can think it, you can do it in Buffalo and Niagara Falls. Get active and explore the activities in and around the 400-acre Niagara Falls State Park, whatever the season or weather.

Get your shop on (for cheap)

Possibly the least interesting thing about the region but the biggest draw for most is the cheap and unique shopping available just across the border in Buffalo and Niagara Falls, NY.

buffalo niagaraWe all have an Ontario aunt or cousin who makes the regular trip to Buffalo for the "amazing deals" they can't stop writing home about. 

Discover tons of fashion outlets, as well as one-of-a-kind small-town shops and antique stores, and spend all day perusing for treasures.

Chandler Street Market

Head over to the Black Rock neighbourhood to see the Chandler Street Market, a new indoor/outdoor winter market that is the ultimate celebration of local goods and, of course, eats.

Among dozens of seasonal and permanent vendors are Buffalo Cake Pops, Logan’s Bagels, Flat 12 Mushrooms, the Sweet Whisk and the delicious Southern Junction, serving up Texas/Indian barbecue.

Explore history

The fact that Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in the U.S. aside, there is a ton of history (architecture, too) on the U.S. side of the border that we just don't have at home.

buffalo niagaraVisit the sites of the Underground Railroad in Buffalo along the Freedom Footsteps Trail, the Michigan Street Baptist Church, the waterfront Broderick Park where Harriet Tubman led people to freedom and a boat to Canada. Just north in Niagara Falls, NY, take in more centuries-old history at the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center and Old Fort Niagara.

See Niagara Falls from a new perspective

Okay, sure, you've probably done the obligatory family or school trip to Niagara Falls — but have you ever seen the U.S. side?

On the New York side of Niagara Falls, there's the Cave of the Winds, where you can get up close to the falling water and stand just 20 feet away, even in winter.

There's also the newly-restored Gorgeview area: a fully-accessible ribbon of green space connecting Whirlpool, DeVeaux Woods, and Devil’s Hole state parks, featuring scenic overlooks and trails for hiking and biking.

Catch a game for a fraction of the price you would pay in Toronto

Instead of paying hundreds of dollars to watch the Leafs lose at home, you can catch them or any other number of teams play in Buffalo for far, far cheaper (and the Buffalo Sabres are fun to watch in their own right, too!).

buffalo niagara

Also unique to the U.S. is the ability to catch an NFL game in person — while Buffalo is famous for its love of its team and its unparalleled tailgate parties.

Get in touch with your artsy side

If you're in for something a bit more cultural, these two neighbouring cities on New York’s border with Canada have that too. You'll find tons of museums, art galleries and theatres to check out.

You'll want to add the Riviera Theatre and Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University to your list, as well as the new, $230-million expansion of the Buffalo AKG Art Museum (opening in May) and the slew of public art murals around Buffalo and Niagara Falls, NY.

So there you have it, a great start to an epic New York State getaway to Buffalo and Niagara Falls — and we've only touched the tip of the waterfall! So check out all there is to see and do in these neighbour cities right on our border near the natural wonder we share with our American cousins.

buffalo niagara

® I LOVE NEW YORK is a registered trademark and service mark of the New York State Department of Economic Development; used with permission.

Photos by

Visit Buffalo Niagara and Destination Niagara USA


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