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The winters may be long and cold, but Buffalo stays warm with a vibrant creative community and strong local pride. Settled by the French in 1758, the city is believed to derive its name from beau fleuve (beautiful river). With power from nearby Niagara Falls, it boomed in the early 1900s; Pierce-Arrow cars were made here, and it was the first American city to have electric streetlights. One of its nicknames – Queen City – was because it was the largest city along the Great Lakes.

Those rosy economic times are long over, leaving many abandoned buildings in their wake. But revival is in Buffalo's air. Masterpieces of late 19th- and early-20th-century architecture, including designs by Frank Lloyd Wright and HH Richardson, have been magnificently restored. There's a park system laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted, of NYC's Central Park fame, great museums, and a positive vibe that's impossible to ignore.

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