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At 6 a.m. the streets of this Buffalo neighborhood are deserted. Dawn is gradually washing away the film of night, transforming lumpy gray forms into a scattered array of brick houses and the occasional leafy tree. Midway down the block in a lone storefront a soft fluorescence accompanied by the clanging of pans Read more

When we visited Buffalo, New York this year we faced an abundance of choices for things to see. We already wrote about 11 things to do in Buffalo, well here are 10 more.

1) 40,000 city planning fans can’t be wrong

allentownmusic buffalo (575x403)

The heart of downtown Buffalo is a neighborhood called Elmwood Village. It’s a funky neighborhood of boutiques, bars, restaurants and artist’s havens. Dating back to 1804, the American Planning Association has called it one of “10 Great Neighborhoods in America.”

Queen Anne-style homes within walking distance of retail and public transportation dominate the residential architecture. Adding to this mix, how many neighborhoods can boast architectural gems designed by H. H. Richardson, Frank Lloyd Wright and the father-and-son duo of Eliel and Eero Saarinen? My fave shops are Allentown Music to check out cigar box guitars and Poster Art USA for Buffalo-centric objects like “Pegulaville” t-shirts. (Ask a local to explain.)

2) Get Righteous at Babeville

babeville buffalo photo

Buffalo native singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco saved a 19th-century Gothic Revival church from destruction to create a multi-use arts facility called Babeville. Several venues provide intimate settings for concerts and art galleries plus the offices of Ani’s Righteous Babe Records. There’s no better place to see hip indie bands like Velvet Elvis.

 3) Teddy Roosevelt Inaugural Site

teddy roosevelt inaugural site buffalo

At the turn of the last century Buffalo was booming. It was the 8th largest city in America and hosted the 1901 Pan-American Exposition. Unfortunately for history, when President William McKinley visited the fair he was assassinated by an anarchist. Teddy Roosevelt rushed off to Buffalo and was sworn in as President where he was staying at a friend’s house.

That house is now the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site. It’s one of the few places where an American president was inaugurated outside Washington, D.C. The house is set up with furnishings of the period while the upstairs has been given over to interactive exhibits.

4) Truly honest historic markers

Buffalo john love murder sight

Most areas cover up their warts and focus on historic signs that usually mention when George Washington slept in the area. So it was quite refreshing to come across this signpost outside an idyllic farmhouse. It mentions a notorious murder that once happened here. Just up the road another sign notes a water well that started a cholera outbreak. Seriously, you have to appreciate that honesty.

5) Go take a bike

buffalo NY bike riding

Buffalo ranks 14th in the nation in bike commuter rate and was judged a Bronze Level Biking Community by the League of American Cyclists in terms of bicycle friendliness. From trails along the Buffalo River to city loops, Buffalo provides a range of bike rides. Plus we liked their funky bike racks. For more go to: Go Bike Buffalo.

6) Don’t miss a beet at the Bistro Europa

bistro europa buffalo NY

Any restaurant that serves house-made pierogi, salmon pastrami and locally sourced ingredients is A-OK in my book. But my favorite at Elmwood Village’s Bistro Europa is the “Local Beets 5 ways – Carpaccio, Tartare, Pickled, Roasted, Mousse and Goat Cheese with a Pistachio Truffle,” a bargain at $10; but learn from me and don’t wear a white shirt for this dish.

Update 2016 ~ Bistro Europa has closed while owners Steve and Ellen Gedra renovated larger quarters at the former Golden Key Tavern at 367 Connecticut Street. It is now the Black Sheep Restaurant and Bar.

7) Down on Main Street

buffalo NY aurora theater

Only 20 minutes south of Buffalo, East Aurora could have been a model for Norman Rockwell’s idyllic villages. It houses the circa 1925 Aurora Theatre, President Millard Fillmore’s home, the sprawling Vidler’s 5 & 10, which could be a trip in itself, and the Roycroft Campus; founded at the turn of the 20th-century, it grew into a diverse community housing artisans from the Arts & Crafts movement.

8) The other baseball Hall-of-Fame in upstate New York

buffalo bisons hall of fame

Yeah, you’ve already been to the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, but there’s also a baseball Hall-of-Fame tucked into Coca-Cola Field, home of the Buffalo Bisons, the AAA affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. Buffalo boasts a long and distinguished baseball history that dates to 1877. The team used to play at War Memorial Stadium. Film buffs will recognize it as the setting for Robert Redford’s baseball heroics in The Natural.

The Bisons Hall-of-Fame honors a surprising roster of All-Stars who passed through Buffalo on the way to the majors including: Warren Spahn, Johnny Bench and Ferguson Jenkins. The knowledgeable guide stationed in the museum during game time is an energetic font of information about all things Buffalo baseball related.

9) View the lake effect

lake erie view of buffalo skyline

Follow the Great Lakes Seaway Trail about 10 miles southwest of Buffalo to the town of Evans where you’ll find the Sturgeon Point Marina. A stone causeway jutting into Lake Erie offers one of the finest waterfront views of downtown Buffalo with the mists from Niagara Falls rising in the distance. On the way back stop off at Graycliff, a Frank Lloyd Wright designed home whose restoration is ongoing.

10) Oh yeah, you can see Niagara Falls too

visiting niagara falls

With over 12,000,000 visitors each year, Niagara Falls is one of the most popular tourist sights in the world. We were so busy in Buffalo we almost didn’t make the 20-mile drive to the Falls. It’s a fun day trip from Buffalo that seems to be on everyone’s bucket list. At least now you know there is so much more to do in the Buffalo Niagara region when you make your pilgrimage to Niagara Falls.

Bonus Pick:

11) Mazurek’s Bakery is growing

mazureks bakery in buffaloAs this post went to print we learned that our favorite bakery, Mazurek’s, is adding a downtown location so office workers can get their fill of Mazurek’s famous seeded NY rye bread and fresh donuts. Calorie counters, you’ve been warned. Watch for the Grand Opening of their second location at: Mazurek’s Bakery.

What do you recommend we try on our return trip to Buffalo?

For more check out Part 1 of this post: Unique things to do in Buffalo.

And if you’re hungry check out our guide to Buffalo hot dogs.

For more information about Buffalo go to Visit Buffalo Niagara.

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Shop for Buffalo items:

Sometimes the best travel trips come from the people we stay with, another argument for renting apartments rather than staying at hotels. That’s how we ended up at a cozy spot overlooking Goodyear Lake just outside Cooperstown, NY.

Of course we knew about the top sites in town: the Baseball Hall-of-Fame. But we became mightily intrigued when our hostess Doris mentioned, “Will you be going to the pancake fly-in breakfast in Cooperstown?” Say what? We’re airplane geeks who love to eat breakfast so what could be better?

fly-in breakfast in cooperstown

Held every 3rd Saturday from May to September, the Old Airplane Fly-In Pancake Breakfast is a fundraiser for the Middlefield Fire Department. It’s held at Cooperstown/Westville Airport, which boasts an old-fashioned grass runway. The food is served in one of the hangars overlooking the field. The cost of the all-you-can-eat breakfast and entertainment provided by the planes was only $7.

cooperstown westville fly-in pancake breakfast

To make the day even better the pancakes, sausage, cooked-to-order eggs and coffee are served with REAL maple syrup, not the gloppy “table” syrup served at most places. (We also learned that upstate New York syrup producers sell much of their batch to Vermont where it’s repackaged as real Vermont maple syrup. Shhh, don’t tell anyone.)

Breakfast in the hangar at Cooperstown airport (575x447)

We ate breakfast in the hangar to the sweet drone of propeller planes gliding in for the event. The doors were flung open so we could watch the planes coming and going as we munched on our freshly-made breakfast. We have to say the pancakes made from scratch were among the best we’ve had anywhere.

fly-in breakfast in cooperstown

Pilots, many of them in vintage planes, fly in from all over New York and New England for this combination breakfast and airplane show. They line the aircraft up along the runway so you can marvel at their glossy finishes after downing your carbs.

experimental airplane

Some of the planes are experimental light aircraft that looked like they’re powered by a Briggs & Stratton lawnmower engine with a propeller no bigger than the ones you see on those goofy hats.

vintage curtiss airplane

Many of the planes also seem to be flown by vintage pilots. We watched one older couple shuffle and squeeze themselves into the cramped cockpit of a gorgeous burgundy 1947 Beechman when he turned to us and said, “They say if you can climb in then you can still fly.”

piper airplane logo

We stood by the side of the runway while he and his wife taxied for take off. While they rumbled down the runway and slid into the air, his wife gave us a parting wave as they flew away into the wild blue yonder.

Cooperstown airport safety sign (575x418)

Here’s a comforting airport sign.

If you’re into vintage planes you might like this biplane ride over The Lord of the Rings sites in New Zealand.

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Buffalo, New York may be the hot dog capital of the world. Buffalonians insist that their hot dogs be grilled over charcoal, just like at an old-fashioned backyard barbecue, and hanker for the foot-long hot dogs that were the Holy Grail of our youth. Most of the places in Buffalo serve Sahlen’s hot dogs, a Buffalo institution that’s been around since 1869.

hot dogs in buffalo new york

Hot Dog Day Afternoon

So we set off to eat as many hot dogs as we could to compile our guide to the best Buffalo hot dogs. If you have any to add, or disagree with our selections, please chime in at the comments section below. (We also learned that Buffalonians are not shy about their opinions.)

Our Buffalo hot dog tour started a bit inauspiciously when we showed up at the first spot, Louie’s Hot Dogs in Elmwood Village, to find its windows covered with plywood, the victim of a recent fire. I guess chargrilling does have its risks.

Buffalo hot dogs louies

Moving right along, we were told their main rival was Ted’s which opened in 1923 and now has seven locations in the area. Ted’s brags about their hot dogs cooking over “a bed of real hardwood charcoal,” the long lines at their locations attesting to their popularity. The crispy hand-battered onion rings are pretty good too.

Just across the street from Ted’s in Orchard Park we hit up Taffy’s Red Hots in a circa 1940s beach-style shack at the corner of Routes 240 and 40. It’s still owned by the 96-years-young Nellie Eliah. Taffy’s also boasts 110 milk shake flavors. Taffy’s crispy dogs are enhanced by their own hot sauce.

best hot dogs in buffalo NY taffys

Dog Days of Summer Tour

We followed a recommendation and headed towards Lake Erie to try Connors. The Lake Shore Road location in Angola serves a beachfront vacation community, look for the sign with the green shamrock. Connor’s was brave enough not to serve Sahlen’s hot dogs, instead using Wardynski’s, which their menu refers to as “Buffalo’s finest hot dogs.” There must be some story behind that rivalry. We didn’t think they had the same snap as Sahlen’s, perhaps it was because they were cooked over gas.

connors hot dog stand angola ny

Connors is also known for their fried baloney sandwich.

Next up, a trip north to Sullivan’s in Niagara Falls. The cook there really works the hot dogs, rolling them vigorously with his tongs until the skin punctures, creating smoky flavor inside the dog. Just like Connors though, Sullivan’s cooks over gas, maybe it’s an Irish thing? They slap the dog on a Schwebel’s bun, which appears to be the go-to bread in the Buffalo Niagara region.

sullivnas hot dogs niagara falls

The blistered dogs at Sullivan’s showcase the cook’s efforts.

Top Dog

Back in Tonawanda, just north of Buffalo, we met our favorite dog of the trip. Old Man River is a quirky spot that’s recognizable by the giant blue whale floating on the roof. The smoky aroma that hit us when we got out of our car, plus the piles of charwood stacked up inside the entrance, told us this was going to be a charbroiled delight, and it was. We asked for our dogs well done and they arrived super crispy and charred, just how we like them.

hot dogs in buffalo new york old man river

For you vegetarians out there, who probably didn’t make it this far in the story anyway, they serve a Bunny Dog; a marinated and grilled carrot served on a hot dog roll. We like carrots but confess we didn’t try it.

One wag told us that Nathan’s, the famous Brooklyn hot dog chain, tried to make it in Buffalo and failed. Locals deemed the griddle-cooked hot dogs too greasy. We’ve always been big fans of Nathan’s but after tasting the chargrilled franks of Buffalo we’re hooked. Hopefully on our return visit Louie’s will have reopened.

Let us know what hot dog places you recommend, in Buffalo and elsewhere.

Pin it!The city of Buffalo, New York is famous for char-grilled hot dogs. Here's a guide of our favorites.

For more things Buffalo read: 11 Unique Things to do in Buffalo

28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Shop for Buffalo items:

We were planning to spend a week in the Niagara Falls region when something caught our eye, the city of Buffalo only 20 minutes to the south. We realized that there are many unique things to do in Buffalo so we decided to make Buffalo our base for touring. Although we spent a week there, we didn’t get around to all the exciting attractions in what was once the 8th-largest city in America.

Click here for tours and experiences in Niagara Falls and Buffalo.

11 unique things to do in Buffalo, New York

1) See the Wright Stuff

FLW house

A young architect named Frank Lloyd Wright made his mark on Buffalo, designing homes for wealthy industrialists. Those homes are now available for touring including the Martin House complex, Graycliff Estate and more. The sites are less crowded but just as exciting as Wright’s more well-known houses in Chicago.

2) Hot dogging it around Buffalo

visit buffalo hot dogs

Forget chicken wings, if we had known that Buffalo was the home of chargrilled hot dogs we would have visited much sooner. Most places cook their dogs, or franks if you prefer, over good old-fashioned charcoal, just like our dads did when we were kids. We tried as many places as possible in one week but declared the winner at Old Man River, a quirky spot overlooking the Niagara River where the bags of authentic charwood are stacked up out front.

3) Go with the grain

silo city rocks buffalo

Due to its location at the foot (head?) of Lake Erie and the Erie Canal, Buffalo stored much of the grain grown in the Midwest, America’s breadbasket. Today it houses the largest collection of concrete grain silos in the world, which reportedly inspired the round shapes of the Bauhaus movement. Well what do you do with all those large structures? The folks at Silo City Rocks are turning a group of them into the tallest (190 feet) rock climbing wall in the world. It’s due to open in September.

4) A wing and a prayer

we just call them wings tshirt

You want to start a heated discussion in a Buffalo bar? Ask the locals for the best place to try chicken wings, the devouring of which takes on an almost religious fervor. Just don’t call them “Buffalo” wings. Here they’re just wings.

5) The Pierce-Arrow Museum (it’s not dedicated to Cupid)

pierce-arrow hood ornament

The legendary Pierce-Arrow automobile, the Maserati of its day, was manufactured in Buffalo. The Pierce-Arrow Museum houses a collection of these and other vintage automobiles. In a new wing the curator is building a Frank Lloyd Wright designed filling station from his original plans. It’s one of his many designs that never got built and the last one to be authorized by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

6) The last of the Mazureks

things to do in buffalo mazureks bakery

Mazurek’s Bakery is the last of the old-time Polish bakeries in Buffalo’s First Ward. Since Larissa’s maiden name is Mazurek, we just had to visit this spot. They even let us work there for a day, starting out with the baking and donut-frying crew at 6 AM. Mazurek’s is justly renowned for its crusty New York rye bread.

7) Taste the toast of the town

five points bakery toast cafe buffalo

Of course, we can never limit ourselves to just one bakery. The Five Points Bakery is also the first “Toast Café” we’ve encountered. Sweet and savory selections of perfectly toasted, thick slices of bread were paired with locally sourced toppings. Above is the cheese-stuffed bread with sides of bleu cheese, hot sauce and sour cream; sort of a toasty take on Buffalo wings.

8) Try sweets that are sponge-worthy

sponge candy ice cream

Sponge candy is a local delicacy, although the name is somewhat of a misnomer. Sugar is boiled until it gets all foamy then allowed to harden to a crispy crunch as it cools. It’s then encased in creamy chocolate. As good as the candy is, we particularly liked the new Sponge Candy Perry’s ice cream. Try to turn this one down: caramel sugar flavored ice cream with caramelized sugar swirls and sponge candy pieces.

9) Tour an open-air museum of architecture

Buffalo City Hall

The National Trust for Historic Preservation selected Buffalo for its annual convention in 2011. They were attracted by one of the best collections of Art Deco architecture in the country. During the 1920s the city was riding an economic boom and it shows in the buildings. One of the best is City Hall, billed as the 2nd-tallest in the country, which offers free tours at noon.

10) Of Presidents and Superfreaks

rick james headstone Buffalo

Buffalo provided the country with two presidents, Millard Fillmore and Grover Cleveland, and was the inauguration spot of another, Teddy Roosevelt. The house where TR was sworn in is a National Historic Site. But here’s a great trivia contest question: What do Millard Fillmore and Superfreak singer Rick James have in common? They’re both buried at Forest Lawn cemetery in Buffalo.

11) Where else can you find Burmese, Peruvian, Thai, Japanese and Ethiopian food under one roof?

buffalo west side bazaar

Buffalo participates in a United Nations program that resettles refugees to the United States. The result has been a dynamic impact on the burgeoning food scene. The above cuisines can all be found in the West Side Bazaar, a pilot program that assists entrepreneurial efforts. Stop by to taste these foods and make sure you also try locally produced Koop’s Kitchen, his barbecue sauce is one of the best we’ve found anywhere.

Bonus Pick:

12) Attend the school of hard Knox

Jackson pollack albright knox gallery

Learn about contemporary art at The Albright-Knox Art Gallery which houses one of the most exciting collections in the world. See if you can spot Larissa in this wall-sized Jackson Pollock.

Interested in seeing more of the region? Check out these Niagara Falls area tours with Viator!

Like it? Share it . . . Pin it!Buffalo, NY is a wonderful city with plenty of unique things to do

At first we thought Buffalo would be just a side trip from Niagara Falls, but the more we explored the city the more we stuck around and the Falls became the side trip. For more visit Buffalo Niagara tourism.

Oh, and did we mention that Buffalo might be the hot dog capital of the world? Here’s our review of Buffalo hot dogs.

We found so many things to do in Buffalo that we wrote another one: More unique things to do in Buffalo Part 2.
28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Sign up for Airbnb through our referral link and you'll get at $35 on your first stay (& so will we :)

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There are so many free things to do in New York it’s tough to know where to begin. Here are a few involving entertainment, nature and culture.

1. Watch a TV show or movie being filmed

 

Golden Boy tv show taping New York

This realistic looking press conference at the Manhattan courthouse is actually a taping for the upcoming TV series Golden Boy.

If you have a favorite show that films in NYC, you can find daily filming locations info on http://www.onlocationvacations.com/ (look a the once-a-day locations post). Their twitter @olv also posts updates throughout the day.

Stars I’ve stumbled on filming include: Julia Roberts, JLo, Pierce Brosnan, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and the cast of Gossip Girl. If you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll also see celebrities just walking around. I always do.

 2. Attend a free taping of The View

 

The view TV show studio

Wait on line outside the studio.

Going to TV show tapings is a combination of fun and torture. There’s a lot of waiting and you’re likely to be cramped and hot. But, it’s exciting to see how TV is made. My favorite taping was seeing the ladies of The View. (I don’t recommend going to a taping of a half hour TV show because the ratio of waiting time to action isn’t worth it).

For The View, you can request tickets in advance or try standby tickets. Since I live outside the US, I can’t sign up for advance tickets, so I ended up going standby. I’ve tried 4 times and got tickets twice. Both times I got up very early to be first, or close to first, in the standby line. I got there by 6am. The studio is 320 W 66th St.

If you’re trying standby, you can increase your chances by doing the following: go on a day with a less popular guest, when it’s raining, or a day they are taping two shows (you’ll need to swing by the studio at the beginning of the week to ask which is their two show day as it changes from week to week). The View typically tapes 4 days a week. And you know never what free gift they might be giving out that day.

3. Attend a free reading by your favorite author

I love seeing authors on book tour. Since NYC is the publishing capital of the world, there’s always an author event scheduled.

The best location for big name authors is the flagship Barnes and Noble on Union Square. Sometimes independent bookstores also host big names or authors who have a cult following. Try McNally Jackson (see their event calendar) or Brooklyn’s Greenlight Bookstore. The Skint  lists author events, and lists many other free or cheap activities that well off the tourist trail.

4. Take a moonlight bike ride around Central Park

An environmental group called Times Up organizes a free 10PM nighttime ride around Central Park.  It’s only held once a month but it’s an amazing experience! Check their calendar here. If you’re not in NYC at the right time for the moonlight bike ride, you can take various free walking tours of sections of Central Park. Details here.

5. Bryant Park

Bryant Park New York CityBryant Park is on 42nd street, just a few blocks from Times Square. In winter there’s an ice skating rink that’s free if you bring your own skates. Any time of year Bryant Park is just a lovely place to sit out and people watch. If you need to do any work, you can also step inside to the reading room at the next door NYC public library (ye,s the famous one). Hundreds of desks are equipped with laptop points and free wifi, all in a historic setting. Authors, and aspiring ones too, often go there for inspiration.

6. Free Friday nights at the Museum of Modern Art

Admission to MOMA is free on Fridays from 4pm till 8pm.  It’s better to go later as it’s less crowded. The normal adult rate is $25 so this is a great saving. It’s the perfect way to start your weekend in the city that never sleeps!

Kate of 30traveler writes a blog about travel beyond backpacking, featuring short and long trips with a focus on  vegan/vegetarian travel. Check it out or follow @30traveler onTwitter orFacebook.

What free activities do you recommend in New York?