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Introducing Buffalo

This often maligned working-class city does have long, cold winters and its fair share of abandoned industrial buildings, but Buffalo also has a vibrant community of college students and thirty-somethings living well in cheap real estate and gorging on the city's affordable and tasty cuisine. Settled by the French in 1758 – its name is believed to derive from beau fleuve (beautiful river) – the city's illustrious past as a former trading post and later a booming manufacturing center and terminus of the Erie Canal means there's a certain nostalgia and hopefulness to ambitious revitalization plans (one calls for a massive expansion and relocation of the University of Buffalo medical school to downtown). Buffalo is about an eight-hour trip from New York City through the Finger Lakes region and only a half hour or so south of Niagara Falls.

The very helpful Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau located in a light-filled beaux arts–style shopping arcade c 1892 has good walking-tour pamphlets and a small gift shop.