Snow, the Buffalo Bills, and the gateway to Niagara Falls are just some of the things that come to mind when most people think of Buffalo. While it is true that the city is hit by at least one to four memorable snowstorms a year, Buffalo doesn't actually receive a great deal of snow compared to many other cities in New York. Buffalo is indeed a great sports town with tough professional teams, but it is also the home of Buffalo wings, beef on weck (thin-sliced roast beef and fresh horseradish on a hard roll crusted with salt and caraway seeds), and sponge candy (a confection of chocolate-covered caramelized sugar with a slight molasses flavor that is at first crisp, then melts in your mouth). The city also boasts world-class architecture, a leading cancer-research institute, and one of the four research universities of the State University of New York.
The city's growth began in the early 1800s, when ships from the Great Lakes transported millions of bushels of grain from Midwest farms to Buffalo. The Erie Canal, completed in 1825, connected Buffalo to Albany (and Lake Erie to the Hudson River), allowing the grain to be distributed along the East Coast, and Buffalo became known as the "Queen City on the Lake." Railroad tracks laid alongside the Erie Canal continued the great migration of products. Laborers were needed to handle the boats, grain, and, later, the steel mills. Thousands of immigrants came to fill those jobs, bringing rich ethnic diversity to the city.
At the turn of the 20th century, Buffalo had a booming economy, and majestic mansions sprang up along Delaware Avenue, known as Millionaires' Row. Ornate structures erected during these boom years included some of the world's first skyscrapers, such as the 13-story steel-and-terra-cotta 1896 Guaranty Building (28 Church Street), designed by Louis H. Sullivan.
Today, Buffalo has a rich cultural scene that includes contemporary art at the Albright-Knox Gallery and free summer Shakespeare performances in Delaware Park—one of several Buffalo parks designed by noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The city's six institutions of higher learning infuse youth into neighborhoods like Elmwood, whose eponymous main avenue is known for its boutiques, used-book stores, hip bars, and eateries; historic, bohemian Allentown district; and Chippewa Street (or the Chippewa District), known for its nightclubs and jazz bars. Far from mere university crawls, these neighborhoods are frequented by Buffalonians of all ages.
Though it is the state's second-largest city, Buffalo is definitely "small town" when compared to its glamorous downstate big sister. Still, the city has a distinct style, a product of its rich ethnic, cultural, and architectural history. Friendliness and affordability are also selling points. Distances aren't great, and it's easy to get around.