I would have never guessed I would have visited Upstate New York so many times. But marrying someone from North Tonawanda brought this surprise to my life.
This is a beautiful part of the country, either under a metre of snow, a metre or dead leaves or under the boiling sun of the hard summers.
This time we flew into Toronto and took a one hour taxi drive to the border. Having boarded the plane in London, carrying our luggage over the bridge and over Niagara Falls was definitely an experience. In fact, I’d rather do this than taking a connecting flight from Chicago or NYC.
Buffalo is not a huge city, but a city full of history. This was once a buoyant place, heaving with commerce, lumber trade and home of wealthy businessmen. After decades of nothing happening, there is a new movement trying to revamp the old city and bring it back to its lost vibrancy. So this time, my fourth time around, I decided to explore more, visit buildings and to absorb as much information as possible.
A good start was Buffalo Botanical Gardens and its impressive glasshouse that opened in 1900. It is currently under renovation and I can’t wait to see it when this design masterpiece is finished.
North Tonawanda is only 20 minutes away from Buffalo, and here is where my wife’s family lives. It is located right by the Niagara River and any clear day you can see the mist of the falls from the river banks. During the winter there is so much snow that nothing really happens, but in the summer time we had ice creams enjoyed a vintage car show and strolled along the river.
Another must see in Buffalo is the Darwin Martin House by Frank Lloyd Wright (famous for the Fallingwater House or Kauffman Residence in Pittsburgh), one of the most influential American architects of all times.
This house is simply stunning. It is also under renovation funded by the guided tours. It was a fantastic experience and you can’t miss it if you are ever visiting Buffalo. The tour was really informative and it gave me the perspective of this groundbreaking architect building such a thing while people were still using horses as their main transportation.
Buffalo City Hall is a huge building that dominates the skyline. It is simply massive and I felt like I was in a 1930’s American movie. Once you walk into the lobby, the atmosphere is really weird, the foyer is majestic but gloomy and dark at the same time. There are art deco details everywhere. What I didn’t know is that you can take the lift to the viewing point at the top, and it is free.
And what a view! I was really lucky and it was so clear that I spotted Niagara Falls in the distance. If you look carefully in the following picture, you can see the buildings and a white mark which is the mist from the falls nonetheless.
I didn’t manage to visit some of the most iconic buildings like the following one, the Liberty Building from 1925. It has two replicas of the Statue of Liberty, one facing east and one facing west. There was a third one that no longer exists on top of the main entrance.
Another building with stunning terracotta facade is the Prudential Building from 1896. It is hard to appreciate the details from close up, and my neck hurt after a while. I had a sneak peek inside as it is an office building, but it has a small museum in the lobby for curious passersby like myself.
But the Richardson Olmsted Complex is the real deal. This building caught my eye from the very first time I visited Buffalo. It is currently closed and part of it will be turned into a boutique hotel very soon. Sadly the guided tours were fully booked, but I enjoyed a good hour walking around it and taking pictures.
It was built in 1870 and was a very spooky (it still is) mental institution. It is said to be haunted, and I am not surprised. It is indeed the perfect setting for a horror movie.
The building is so big that it makes me wonder how many people were treated here at its peak, and how terrifying it must have been for them.
If you visit Buffalo you can’t miss Elmwood Village. This part of the city is full of cafes and quirky shops. It is the trendy neighbourhood, full of students and very lively. It must be the place I have visited the most times.
The main museum in town has to be the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. It is home to a very important permanent collection, but they also have a temporary sculpture exhibition in the grounds.
Not far is the small town of East Aurora. This charming little village has amazing buildings and quite a bit to unfold. We walked around, had lunch and coffee and did some interesting shopping.
You can tell that this place is quite affluent; the best finding was a small art shop where I was very tempted to buy a painting. But the flight back and the rest of the travelling put me off.
Steph and myself really enjoy taking pictures of derelict and run down buildings.
When in Rome…. I had to taste the 1ft hotdog! Tim Horton’s is an institution in Canada and Upstate New York; just a bit of advice don’t ask for sugar in your coffee unless you like it really really sweet.
The mornings and the evening in North Tonawanda are meant to be enjoyed on the porch with either coffee in the morning or a proper drink in the evening.
During this trip we flew from London into Toronto and crossed the border into the States at Niagara Falls. So I got two stamps in my passport and got to use three currencies. All in one day.