What to do in Niagara/Buffalo for a day?
September 2, 2009 7:46 PM   Subscribe

We're driving down to Niagara Falls tomorrow--other than the falls, what should we do there or in Buffalo?

On a whim, we're going from Toronto to Niagara for one day. We want to soak up the rumoured gaudiness and kitsch of Niagara as well as the falls, but what else in that area should we check out? Any kitschy upstate NY towns to explore? Cool cafes or stores in Buffalo? We're vegetarians and relatively poor, but otherwise, anything goes. Please--bombard us with recommendations, and fast!
posted by Beardman to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
It's not upstate NY, but Niagara-On-The-Lake is relatively close and wonderful. Beautiful little town with lovely flowers and probably enough kitsch to satisfy. If you're a fan of either theatres or wineries, you probably are well aware of it already, but I figured I'd point it out.
posted by ilana at 7:51 PM on September 2, 2009

The Elmwood area of Buffalo is cute and fun to window-shop in. Seeing the original Spot Coffee probably isn't that exciting, though. Unless it IS. If I had the time, I'd check out the zoo, which is relatively cheap (US$9.50 for adults). If you'd rather see architecture, there's a Frank Lloyd Wright house you can tour for $15. There are other FLWs in the area, too. Somebody else who knows the area better can suggest where to drive around, but there are some gorgeous non-FLW houses to be seen, I think near the art museum?
posted by knile at 8:06 PM on September 2, 2009

Be sure to cross the border and see the Horseshoe falls from the Canadian side. It really is a much prettier view than from the US side.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:11 PM on September 2, 2009

The Butterfly Conservatory was my favorite thing around Niagara.
posted by BlooPen at 8:12 PM on September 2, 2009

If you like wine, go to some of the wineries in Niagara on the Lake. If you go to some of the smaller ones, you will get wines that you cannot get in Toronto. My wife and I go once or twice a year and it's always great and different.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 8:13 PM on September 2, 2009

Are you going to stay for the weekend? It's the National Buffalo Wing Festival! Complete with wing eating contest, 0.5K fun run, and the crowning of Miss Buffalo Wing. Come early -- the winning wings sell out.

Also the Albright-Knox Art Gallery is pretty solid. And the zoo isn't bad.
posted by meta_eli at 8:15 PM on September 2, 2009

Oops, missed the vegetarian part. Sorry ;)

It's pretty fun to just walk down Elmwood in Buffalo, though.
posted by meta_eli at 8:17 PM on September 2, 2009

nthing Elmwood. It's very nice, very relaxing. In addition to the Albright-Knox, there's also the Burchfield-Penney gallery across the street! If you like casinos, there's both the Seneca Niagara casino and the Fallsview casino.

If you guys are into beer/drinking, I'd recommend checking out Pearl Street Grill and Brewery. Good drinks, nice atmosphere. Love ittttt.
posted by Verdandi at 8:26 PM on September 2, 2009

just a heads up: there's some construction happening along the QEW, all through St. Catharines. once you pass the exit for the 406, things slow down a fair bit (especially at rush hour). just thought i'd point it out - it sucks to be "almost there!" (especially if you have to pee) and then get stuck for a while.

i drove from Hamilton to St. Catharines today, and the traffic started just after the 406. this was at about 4 pm.
posted by gursky at 8:26 PM on September 2, 2009

If you appreciate the tackier things in life, you have to check out Rock Legends wax museum. (warning, autoplaying Nirvana MIDI loop) Sure there's a Madam Tussaud's (sorry, Louis Tussaud's) right down the block, but theirs actually resemble the people they're supposed to. Rock Legends is a constant game of "Who the fuck is that supposed to be?" and that's the way I likes it.
posted by yellowbinder at 8:31 PM on September 2, 2009

Have lunch or dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, Niagara Falls Canada. Its well worth it if you like rock instruments.
The drive from Niagara on the Lake to Fort Erie is nice. Some large homes along the route, especially from Niagara Falls to Fort Erie.
The floral clock.
Lots of shops in Niagara On the Lake. Free parking on some side streets.
Never been to the American side.
posted by Taurid at 12:04 AM on September 3, 2009

The Maid of the Mist excursion is pretty awesome.

The sole advantage of the American side is the ability to get close to the falls and the Niagara Gorge, with its whirlpool and mighty rapids. You can take an elevator down at the Prospect Point observation tower in the park, and clamber alongside the American Falls. Because of the mist, a sunny day often means a rainbow overhead, and a pretty nice picture.

A little further downriver, accessible from the Niagara Discovery Center area, are trails leading down to the gorge. If you're careful, nimble, and don't mind some scrambly bits, there's also the wreckage of the Schoellkopf Power Plant, which collapsed into the gorge in 1956.
posted by sacre_bleu at 4:11 AM on September 3, 2009

If you like the Arts and Crafts movement, East Aurora is about twenty minutes away...
posted by Lucinda at 4:54 AM on September 3, 2009

Second the Butterfly Conservatory. I've never been, but everyone who has has great things to say, so it is on my list the next time I am entertaining visitors.

If you're up for a bit of light hiking, check out Niagara Glen (pictures) - it's fairly close to the Butterfly Conservatory.

The Aviary is having a sale this weekend (looks like you need to buy tickets online).

Lastly, there are a lot of wineries in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region. Peller Estates is one of the most impressive.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:56 AM on September 3, 2009

You're quite close to 'Niagara Wine Country'.
If you make the trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake, there are a bunch of stops along highway 55. (Hillebrand, Pillitteri, Jackson Triggs, etc)

Out Vineland way, there's gaggles more, like Vineland estates, Kacaba, Willow Heights...
posted by csmason at 6:17 AM on September 3, 2009

The Butterfly Conservatory was my favorite thing around Niagara.

Seconding this. It doesn't take long, and it's quite an experience to be surrounded - and landed on - by butterflies.
posted by lholladay at 1:44 PM on September 3, 2009

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