Western New York
Tourism in this region revolves around Buffalo, New York State's second-largest city. After being the largest and most prosperous metropolis along the Great Lakes at the turn of the 19th century, Buffalo fell on hard times in the 20th, but is bouncing back in the 21st. Its amazing stock of heritage architecture is being restored and reinvented into hotels, museums and other businesses.
The area first developed thanks to the hydroelectric power of Niagara Falls and the Erie Canal, which linked the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. The falls are now better known as a tourist destination, with millions of visitors flocking here annually.
Rochester, about an hour northeast, shares a similar economic trajectory but has long been buoyed by its rich history of activism. The city was home to the famed suffragette Susan B Anthony and civil rights pioneer Frederick Douglass, among other 19th- and 20th-century iconoclasts.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Western New York.
Although she was born in Adams, Massachusettes, Susan B Anthony lived in Rochester for 40 years in a modest house at 17 Madison St with her mother and sister. You can visit her sitting room where she entertained guests like Frederick Douglass and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, her now famous alligator purse and many other artifacts from her extraordinary life. Entrance includes an excellent hour-long tour of the house which provides plenty of information and insights about her work.
This 15,000-sq-ft house, completed in 1905, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for his friend and patron Darwin D Martin. Representing Wright's Prairie House ideal, it consists of six interconnected buildings, each meticulously restored inside and out. Two tour options (book online) offer different levels of detail on this elaborate project.
The gallery's superb collection, which ranges from Degas and Picasso to Ruscha, Rauschenberg and other abstract expressionists, occupies a neoclassical building planned for Buffalo's 1905 Pan American Expo. Its temporary exhibits are particularly creative and compelling.
This 32-story art deco masterpiece, opened in 1931 and beautifully detailed inside and out, towers over downtown. It's worth joining the free tour at noon that includes access to the mayor's office, the council chamber and the open-air observation deck.
George Eastman, founder of Kodak Eastman and one of the forefathers of modern photography, lived as interesting a life as they come. His Rochester estate has been turned in a museum that hosts exhibits on photography's glorious past and exciting future that feature both restored technology and photo exhibitions. The on-site Dryden Theater has screenings of classic films throughout the week (adult/child $10/free).
There are few family-friendly activities that are as much a slam dunk as the Strong Museum of Play. This massive museum dedicated to toys and games is like one big playground with something new to interact with around every corner. Grown-ups will appreciate the fully functioning arcade that has a decent collection of newer and retro game machines (you can buy tokens with cash or a credit or debit card).
On the northern corner of Goat Island, don a souvenir rain poncho and sandals (provided) and take an elevator down to walkways just 25ft from the crashing water at the base of Bridal Veil Falls. (Despite the name, the platforms run in front of the falls, not into a cave.)
This narrow, 400-acre strip of land between the Buffalo River and Lake Erie serves as the city’s Central Park. The heart of the space is Wilkeson Pointe, which features a small beach. Nearby, the Pointe Beer Garden serves up suds and other refreshments alongside lawn games like cornhole. At the other end of the island is Buffalo Harbor State Park, which includes a marina and restaurant, as well as a nautical-themed playground.
Completed in 1896 for the Guaranty Construction company, this gorgeous piece of architecture has a facade covered in detailed terra-cotta tiles and a superb stained-glass ceiling in its lobby. The interpretative center provides details of how groundbreaking this Adler & Sullivan–designed building was when it was built, when it was the tallest building in Buffalo.