July 22, 2019

48 Hours of Family-Friendly Fun in Buffalo, New York

When you think of Buffalo, New York, what comes to mind?

I’ll admit, for the longest time I associated it with two things - the airport and shopping.

Only 2 hours from Toronto, Buffalo is often the destination for just that - cheaper flights out of the Buffalo airport and shopping and dining that you can’t find in Canada (Target, Trader Joe’s, Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden, to name a few).

BUT, let me tell you - as we discovered on our recent 48 hours in the city, there is SO MUCH MORE to see and do!

Bison statue Canalside Buffalo New York

Earlier this summer, Visit Buffalo Niagara reached out and invited our little family for a two night stay to explore all of the family fun the city has to offer. Of course, we couldn’t wait to go!

So, what did we get up to?

Check out our itinerary below to plan your own family adventure in Buffalo, New York!


We left Toronto around 11:00am, after the morning rush. With a bit of traffic at the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge in Niagara Falls, the drive took us just over 2 hours. Before our first stop, we did have to make a token pitstop at Trader Joe’s to stock up on some yummy snacks for the whole family. (Toddlers run on snacks.)

Our first stop was to the Buffalo Zoo, for a self-guided tour. This Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited facility (meaning it maintains the highest standards in animal care, education and conservation), is the only place in town to observe a wide variety of exotic and domestic animals year-round in naturalistic habitats. Think polar bears, lions, giraffes, rhinos, gorillas and more! The Zoo is situated in Delaware Park, which is located in a residential neighbourhood. Slightly jealous that these people can look out their front window every morning and see giraffes and rhinos. 

My favourite part of the Zoo was easily Arctic Edge, which opened in 2015 and is home to the polar bears, lynx, bald eagle and Arctic fox. I could sit and watch the polar bears for hours. (Fun fact, when I worked at the Alaska Zoo, we cared for an orphaned polar bear cub named Kali that left us to be a partner for Luna at the Buffalo Zoo. He now lives at the St Louis Zoo.) If you were to ask Morley, her favourite animal to see was the zebra because "it was walking in the sun". And Berkley got to practice her new word, calling every animal that walked on all fours a "dog dog". 

Location: 300 Parkside Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14214

Buffalo Zoo map
feeding the birds at the Buffalo Zoo
sea lion underwater viewing at Buffalo Zoo
kids looking at gorillas at Buffalo Zoo

After our visit to the Zoo, it was time to check in to our hotel. We stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites Buffalo Downtown, located (as the name suggests), downtown Buffalo just minutes from great restaurants and attractions. 

The hotel is a short walk to the Buffalo Metro Rail. This public transit system consists of a single, 6.4-mile (10.3 km) long light rail line that runs for most of the length of Main Street from the KeyBank Centre at the waterfront, north to the University of Buffalo. The great thing about this transit system is that travel is free on the above ground portion of the system.

Location: 220 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14202

After checking in and resting our feet for a few minutes, it was off to dinner at Big Ditch Brewing Company, just a few blocks from the hotel. This craft beer microbrewery is dedicated to providing quality, delicious, innovative and drinkable craft beer for the Buffalo area. Their beer is so good they won New York State’s Best Craft Brewery aware at TAP Festival in 2016. If you love beers on the hoppier side (which we do), than you’ll love Big Ditch. My favourite was the FC (Fantastically Crushable), a Session Wheat IPA (ABV 4.1%) brewed in collaboration with FC Buffalo, Buffalo's professional soccer team. Steve’s favourite was Deep Cut, a Double IPA (ABV 8.2%). This beer won a gold medal in the Strong IPA category at the TAP NY craft beer festival in 2017. Besides their tasty beer and great atmosphere, they also have a delicious food menu with a variety of American-style, pub-inspired food. 

Location: 55 East Huron Street, Buffalo, NY 14203

Buffalo's Big Ditch Brewing Company beer flight


We were up bright and early, and filled our bellies with a delicious complimentary breakfast at the hotel before heading out for another fun-filled day. Their breakfast was one of the better complimentary hotel breakfasts I’ve had - make your own waffles, smoothies, yogurt, cereal, oatmeal and a hot bar with eggs and sausage. A big shout out to Connie, the employee working the breakfast bar. She went above and beyond, offering to watch the girls so that Steve and I could get everyone something to eat (and a hot coffee for ourselves). 

Our first stop of the day was the NEW Explore & More - The Ralph C Wilson, Jr Children’s Museum, located on the Buffalo waterfront. From the hotel, we were able to get there (for FREE) by riding the Metro Rail just a few stops south. All four of us were in awe over this place, and could have easily spent the majority of the day there (if time allowed). Unlike a traditional museum, Explore & More has built an environment for creative play and learning that’s one-of-a-kind as every child who walks through the door. They aim to provide the best-in-class play experiences where all children, families and the community can explore, learn and develop together. The different child-led play stations encourage kids to use their imaginations - Morley had the chance to be a doctor and a (construction) “worker”. But her favourite part was Sketch Town - where she had the chance to draw a car and see it come to life on a big screen. Such a cool technology!

Location: 130 Main Street, Buffalo, NY 14202

outside of Explore & More, Buffalo New York
Explore & More Buffalo New York
Explore & More Buffalo New York

After dragging the girls out of the museum (literally, it was a struggle), we took a walk along Canalside before lunch. Canalside is the jewel in Queen City’s crown. The result of over $300 million in new development, the area hosts over 1,000 annual events. I would love to go back in the winter to check out Ice at Canalside, a 35,000 square foot rink on the recreated Erie Canal that features skating, curling, ice hockey and ice bikes. The waterfront is also home to America’s largest inland Naval park, the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park. Also a place we have added to our list for next time.

Location: 44 Prime Street, Buffalo, NY 14202

Buffalo Metro Rail light rail transit

After hopping back on the Metro Rail, and then walking a few blocks north, we made our way to Frank & Teressa’s Anchor Bar for lunch - home of the original Buffalo wings. This is where the chicken wing reportedly started thanks to a combination of left over chicken, hot sauce and a group of kids who wanted some late night eats. It’s been over 50 years, and this restaurant hasn’t slowed down. It is also one of the 12 stops on the “Buffalo Wing Trail”. We walked out of there with satisfied bellies after sampling the mild (kid-approved), medium and hot wings, as well as their famous chicken wing soup. So good!

Location: 1047 Main Street, Buffalo, NY 14209

Frank and Terresa's Anchor Bar Buffalo New York

Before an afternoon siesta, we took a trip down to the lake shore to work off some of the girl’s energy. We stopped at the state-of-the-art playground in Buffalo Harbor State Park. Boasting beautiful views of Lake Erie, the park is home to a 1,000 slip marina, a restaurant, boat launches, a beach and more. The park is also adjacent to Tifft Nature Preserve, a great place to go for a hike and view local wildlife. 

Location: 1111 Fuhrmann Boulevard, Buffalo, NY 14203

After running around at the playground, we decided to go back to the hotel to take a break from the heat before dinner.

Every Tuesday night from May to October, Larkin Square plays host to over 30 area food trucks, live music and more. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to stay long as the girls were getting a bit squarely (and we were still quite full from our wings at lunch), but could easily tell Food Truck Tuesday is definitely our type of scene. With Morley in charge of picking dinner, we settled on a delicious Mac & Cheese, followed by beers at Flying Bison Brewing Company, just down the street. Steve tried their Rusty Chain, a medium bodied Vienna-style amber beer (ABV 5.2%), and the #1 best selling local craft beer in Buffalo. I went for a pint of the Beer Garden Party, a citrus wheat ale (ABV 5.4%). Before we called it a night, we also stopped at Buffalo Distilling Company, makers of One Foot Cock(TM) Spirits (Bourbon, Vodka, Brandy, Moonshine and Krupnik), for a delicious cocktail. They are a true New York State Farm Distillery - 100% local grain to glass!

Larkin Square Location: 745 Seneca Street, Buffalo, NY 14210
Flying Bison Brewing Company Location: 840 Seneca Street, Buffalo, NY 14210
Buffalo Distilling Company Location: 860 Seneca Street, Buffalo, NY 14210

Larkin Square Food Truck Tuesday, Buffalo New York


After packing up and eating a quick breakfast, the last stop on our adventure in Buffalo was the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. The tri-domed glass, wood and steel building was built in the late 1890s, and at the time, was one of the largest public greenhouses in the country. Today, they are on a mission to inspire curiosity and connect people to the natural world through its historic living museum. And as a nature nerd myself, I could definitely appreciate wandering through the beautiful indoor gardens filled with flora from around the world. 

Location: 2655 South Park Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14218

Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens building
Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens koi pond

And with that, our time in Buffalo had come to an end and it was time to head back across the border and home to Toronto. 

Our 48 hours in the Queen City definitely opened our eyes to the family-friendly fun that upstate New York has to offer. However, I know we only scratched the surface of what there is to see and do in Buffalo. Guess we'll just have to plan a trip back!

Want to see more? Check out my Story Hightlight --> #intheBUF on Instagram

Have you been to Buffalo, New York? What was your favourite part? I’d love to hear!

*Disclaimer: This trip was in partnership with Visit Buffalo Niagara and their wonderful partners. All opinions are 100% that of To & Fro.


What to see and do in 48 hours in Buffalo, New York

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