The New York town that will host FMCA’s 70th International Convention serves as the hub for a region filled with plenty of attractions that will amuse the entire family.
By Kara Lynn Dunn
When you think of Buffalo, New York, the words “snow,” or “bison,” or “Buffalo wings” may also come to mind.
Yes, Buffalo receives its share of snow in the winter, but frozen precipitation won’t be a factor when FMCA members’ motorhomes roll into the Erie County Fairgrounds in Hamburg, 11 miles south of town, for the association’s “Shuffle Off To Buffalo” convention. By July 18, 19, and 20, when the convention takes place, temperatures are likely to top out near 80 degrees, moderated by pleasant breezes from nearby Lake Erie. According to the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau, Buffalo is one of the most comfortable places in the United States in the summer.
Regarding bison, there is no evidence that the large, shaggy beasts ever inhabited this area. The city’s name may have derived from a mispronunciation of beau fleuve “” “beautiful river” in French. Nevertheless, you can find cute, stuffed buffalo toys in souvenir shops.
As for the Buffalo wings, stay tuned, because we’ll get to them soon.
Buffalo began when a small French settlement was built there in 1758. More development took place after a land company purchased the area in 1800, and the planned settlement was to be named New Amsterdam. But the new name was never accepted by locals, who continued to call it Buffalo. The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 secured Buffalo’s importance as a trade and transportation center along the Great Lakes.
Before you begin exploring town, obtain tourism information by contacting the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau (see “Further Info” below). While in town, you can gather information at the visitors center at the Market Arcade (617 Main St.).
Many of the 19th-century homes near downtown Buffalo were built or commissioned by wealthy settlers and immigrants, and they are preserved along Delaware Avenue, also known as Millionaire’s Row. This area is only a few blocks north of the visitors center. Continue down Delaware Avenue to the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, where the United States’ 26th president was sworn in following the assassination of President William McKinley during the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo. The home is administered by the National Park Service and is open year-round.
Buffalo also is nationally notable as the only United States city with five residences designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright’s most extensive Prairie Style home is part of the Darwin D. Martin House Complex (125 Jewett Parkway). Although the home is in the process of being restored, it is open for daily tours. You must phone ahead (716-856-3858) or make an e-mail request (www.darwinmartinhouse.org/tours/tours.html) for reservations. It’s convenient to park at the Buffalo Zoo and then walk two blocks to the house, which is in a residential neighborhood.
Visitors can combine the admission fee for the Martin House with admission to Graycliff, which is 10 miles south of Buffalo and is the precursor to Wright’s renowned Fallingwater. In 1927 Graycliff was built as the Martins’ summer retreat, high atop a 70-foot cliff overlooking Lake Erie. The home is at 6472 Old Lake Shore Road in Derby. Contact the Martin House via the Web site address or phone number listed above for more information about the lower-priced admission fee.
Other important buildings in town include the 13-story Guaranty Building (28 Church St.), designed by the “father of American skyscrapers,” Louis Sullivan; Buffalo City Hall, designed by John Wade (1931), with fine Art Deco styling; and Kleinhans Music Hall, an elegant and simple building designed by Finnish father-and-son duo Eliel and Eero Saarinen.
The last remaining building from the 1901 Pan-Am Exposition in Buffalo houses the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society. Inside is the Historical Society’s museum, which offers exhibits about important events and extraordinary people. A new display focuses on the use of Niagara Falls to generate electrical power.
Take a tour
If you’re more inclined to let someone else do the driving, try Gray Line’s four-hour “Buffalo’s Best” tour, which offers a thorough orientation of town. It departs from the Historical Society museum parking lot five days a week (Wednesday through Sunday) at 12:30 p.m. and travels past sites such as the Martin House, the Buffalo Zoo, Forest Lawn Cemetery, the Buffalo Museum of Science, and Tri-Main Center, where Model Ts and the nation’s first jet aircraft were produced. The tour also includes a ride through downtown; the Theater District; the waterfront; and numerous Art on Wheels sites (more than 50 wheel-themed sculptures and cool art cars in the Buffalo-Niagara area; www.artonwheels.org). Make reservations at least one day ahead by calling (800) 695-1603 or (716) 695-1603.
You also may want to drive yourself through the 270-acre Forest Lawn Cemetery, home to beautiful monuments and statues, as well as the gravesites of U.S. presidents Millard Fillmore and Grover Cleveland; Seneca Indian orator Red Indian; and Pony Express partner William D. Fargo. Follow the self-guided driving tour map (only passenger cars are allowed in the cemetery), or call (716) 885-1600 to reserve a Sunday guided tour by trolley. Groups of 10 or more can call to reserve other tour times. To preview the cemetery’s art and architecture, visit www.forest-lawn.com.
Amusements and museums
Buffalo offers quite a list of other attractions.
- Giraffes you can feed, rain forest gorillas, and some 270 species of exotic wildlife live at the Buffalo Zoo (300 Parkside Ave.), which is open daily. Admission and parking fees are charged. Phone (716) 837-3900 or visit www.buffalozoo.org for more information.
- Classic carriages, automobiles, and motorcycles made in western New York are showcased at the Buffalo Transportation/Pierce-Arrow Museum (263 Michigan Ave.). Exhibits include “Women and the Automobile” and a 1936-38 Pierce-Arrow car and camping trailer combo. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 5:00 p.m., and admission is charged. (Phone 716-853-0084; www.pierce-arrow.com.)
- The Iron Island Museum (998 Lovejoy St.) shares memorabilia from the New York Central Railroad and is housed in an 1895 building. It also offers local artifacts and military armaments. It’s open on Monday afternoons from 2:00 to 6:00, Thursday evenings from 5:00 to 9:00, and Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Phone (716) 892-3084; www.ironisland.com.
- The history of the Buffalo Fire Department from 1817 to the present is preserved at the Buffalo Fire Historical Society Museum. See such artifacts as an 1850 hand-pumper, an 1865 soda/acid cart, a 1907 steamer and hose wagon, and even toys. The museum offers free admission and is open only on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (1850 William St.; 716-892-8400; http://rin.buffalo.edu/c_erie/comm/cult/muse/agen/bfhs.html). The small parking lot there is best suited for cars.
- Have you ever wanted to ride on a Harrier Jump Jet or an F-16 Viper? For a few bucks, visitors can try simulators at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park that enable them to do that. The park is the largest of its kind in the United States, with such vehicles as a guided missile cruiser; a World War II submarine; the destroyer USS The Sullivans; and land units as well. The museum is open daily from April to October. Admission is charged, but parking is free. Phone (716) 847-1773 or visit www.buffalonavalpark.org for more details.
- The Buffalo Museum of Science (1020 Humboldt Parkway) is full of hands-on learning for kids and adults. Dinosaurs will be spotlighted in “Dinomania!,” a special exhibit on display there throughout the summer. Other exhibits focus on subjects such as ancient Egypt and insects. Phone (866) 291-6660 or visit www.buffalomuseumofscience.org for more information.
Just wing it
One evening in 1964, wanting to make good use of some chicken wings that were left from that day, Teressa Bellisimo made a snack for patrons at the Anchor Bar on Main Street in Buffalo. The rest is tasty history. Today Buffalo wings are served in restaurants across the country. At the Anchor Bar, Teressa’s son Dominic carries on the tradition, as the establishment serves 36,000 pounds of wings each month. They offer wings with mild, medium, or hot sauce, accompanied by celery, carrots, and blue cheese dressing. The bar is at 1047 Main St. and is open daily beginning at 11:00 a.m. (Phone 716-886-8920.)
You also may hear and wonder about “weck” as you visit area restaurants. Several establishments serve “beef on weck,” which is thinly sliced roast beef served on a German kaiser roll (called kummelweck) that is sprinkled with caraway seeds and pretzel salt. The sandwich is dipped in beef juice and served with fresh horseradish. Another popular local favorite is the “white hot” frankfurter, charbroiled with a crisp exterior. At the Broadway Market (999 Broadway), one of America’s oldest public markets, you’ll find old-world treats such as pierogis (Polish stuffed dumplings) and chrusickis (powdered pastries).
Take in the falls
Most savvy travelers know that Buffalo is situated near Niagara Falls. It’s only 20 minutes south of the famous spot where 40 million gallons of water spill every minute. Travel north of Buffalo and then turn west on Robert Moses Parkway to reach Niagara Reservation State Park, the Rainbow Bridge to Canada, and dozens of other attractions. A short list of places to see, in addition to the falls, includes the Aquarium of Niagara, with sea lions, sharks, penguins, and countless fish; the Prospect Point Observation Tower in Prospect Park; and popular boat tours that take you close to the falls.
A bonus awaits visitors each evening as the falls are beautifully illuminated with colored lights. From May through August, this display takes place from 9:00 p.m. to midnight (different hours apply during other months). To obtain a free visitors guide with information about attractions at Niagara Falls, contact the Niagara County Tourism Office at (800) 338-7890 or visit www.niagara-USA.com.
While you’re at Niagara Falls, you may wish to travel 10 minutes farther north to Lewiston, which has one of the most historic square miles in the United States. The downtown district was designed circa 1835. It includes Frontier House, a former 1824 stagecoach stop and tavern that is said to be the only national landmark that houses a McDonald’s restaurant.
Tempting aromas will entice you into 419 Center St. where the Village Bake Shoppe’s scrumptious treats drew raves from a New York Times reporter. Pecan pie bars, “Margy” bars, strawberry jam bars, and raspberry crumb bars are now called “NY Times Bar Cookies.” The bakery is open daily.
Lewiston is home to Artpark, the only New York state park devoted to the arts, which is located along the Niagara River Gorge. A Hopewell Indian-style burial mound dating to A.D. 140 is part of the Lower Landing Archaeological National Historic Landmark there. Lewiston also is the launch point for Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours, which enable passengers ages 6 and up to enjoy an hour-long white-water adventure through the Niagara River Gorge, including Devil’s Hole Rapids. (Phone 888-438-4444 or visit www.whirlpooljet.com.)
Visitors also can make a pilgrimage to the National Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima (1023 Swann Road), just 5 miles from downtown Lewiston. The complex includes an awe-inspiring basilica; statues, gardens, and fountains; and a replica of Portugal’s original Fatima chapel.
Shufflin’ south of Buffalo ….
Several attractions are located south of town, nearer to the Hamburg fairgrounds and FMCA’s convention site. Orchard Park, a few miles east of Hamburg, is home to the Pedaling History Bicycle Museum (3943 N. Buffalo Road). A high-wheeler bike; paratrooper and pontoon bikes; and bicycles built for two, four, and more are among more than 300 rare and one-of-a-kind bicycles at the world’s largest all-bicycle museum. It is open daily and admission is charged; phone (716) 662-3853 or visit www.pedalinghistory.com for more information.
Continue the old-fashioned theme by traveling east of Orchard Park a few more miles to East Aurora. There, you’ll find Vidler’s 5 & 10 Store, which occupies four 1890s-era buildings. (Yes, its candy counter is well-stocked.)
Next, park your motorhome or towed car at Toy Town Museum (636 Girard Ave.) and enjoy free admission for a fascinating look at how Fisher-Price toys changed from 1930 to 1970. Other exhibits there include “America’s Treasures,” a new display with baseball, train, and Disney toys; and a display of hand-carved carousels and tin wind-up toys. Everyone will love a visit to the gift shop, which carries a variety of collectibles. The Toy Town Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; phone (716) 687-5151 or visit www.toytownusa.com.
East Aurora also is home to the interactive “Explore & More … A Children’s Museum” (300 Gleed Ave.), designed to please youngsters ages 1 to 10. Exhibits give kids a chance to construct their own house, complete with plumbing and bricks; tackle games from around the world; and grow, cook, and plant “produce.” The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. Phone (716) 655-5131; www.exploreandmore.org.
The renowned Roycroft Inn and Shops attract plenty of visitors. In 1895 Elbert Hubbard founded an arts and crafts community in East Aurora, modeled on Britain’s medieval guilds. Fourteen buildings once housed hundreds of people making pottery, paintings, copperware, leatherwork, jewelry, sculpture, and all manner of fine art. Today Roycroft Shops artisans make reproductions of these works, including Mission-style furniture. Look for the back-to-back Rs trademark.
The Elbert Hubbard-Roycroft Museum, housed in a 1910 bungalow, offers a sampling of art glass, furniture, metalware, and leather crafts.
You also may want to stop at the National Landmark Roycroft Inn (40 S. Grove St.), established in 1905, which offers a variety of cuisine. Reservations are recommended; phone (716) 652-5552.
A National Historic Landmark house built and occupied by President Millard Fillmore, and furnished and decorated to fit the 1826 era, is at 24 Shearer Ave. in East Aurora. It’s open Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons; phone (716) 652-3280 for more information.
RVers willing to take a longer drive out of town “” and especially those who have fond memories of the antics of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz “” will want to travel approximately 60 miles south of Hamburg to Jamestown, Lucille Ball’s birthplace. Try taking the scenic Seaway Trail (State Route 5) south to Dunkirk; then, turn inland on State Route 60 for 25 more miles.
Thousands of people from around the world have come here to pay homage to the famed redhead. This year, the 1954 comedy film The Long, Long Trailer is featured in a “Lucy & Desi at the Movies” exhibit at the Lucy-Desi Museum (212 Pine St.). The museum contains a wide array of exhibits highlighting the lives of Lucy and Desi Arnaz. Photos, trivia quizzes, and one of Lucy’s red wigs are among the displays. The museum is open daily and admission is charged; phone (716) 484-0800 or visit www.lucy-desi.com.
Lucille Ball is one of many famous former residents of Jamestown, which also was home to naturalist Roger Tory Peterson, political humorist Mark Russell, and singer Natalie Merchant. Visitors learn all this and more at the Fenton History Center, located in the beautiful 1863 Fenton Mansion at 67 Washington St. An admission fee is charged; phone (716) 664-6256 or visit www.fentonhistorycenter.org for more information.
Buffalo, Hamburg, and their neighbors will be ready to welcome FMCA members when they begin arriving this July. Plan now to explore as much as you can of western New York either before or after the convention.
Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau
617 Main St.
Buffalo, NY 14203-1496
Greater East Aurora Chamber of Commerce
431 Main St.
East Aurora, NY 14052-1783
This list encompasses most of western New York, so some facilities are farther away from Hamburg and Buffalo than others. It may not be a complete list, so please consult your favorite campground directory or FMCA’s Business Directory, found in the January and June issues of Family Motor Coaching and online at FMCA.com. Please note that other campgrounds may be listed at the New York State Parks’ Web site: www.nysparks.com/reserv and at the Campground Owners of New York’s Web site: www.nycampgrounds.com.
2797 Grand Island Blvd.
Grand Island, NY 14072-1210
Colden Lakes Resort
9504 Heath Road
Colden, NY 14033
Evangola State Park
Irving, NY 14081
Reservations: (800) 456-2267
Lei-Ti Campground, C9124
9979 Francis Road
Batavia, NY 14020
Leisurewood Campgrounds Inc., C9226
5720 Cummings Road
Akron, NY 14001
Mountain Meadows Resort
13500 Parker Road
Holland, NY 14080-9794
Niagara Falls KOA
2570 Grand Island Blvd.
Grand Island, NY 14072-0509
Reservations: (800) 562-0787
Niagara Hartland RV Resort, C6446
2383 Hartland Road
Gasport, NY 14067
Point Breeze RV Resort
9456 Lake Shore Road
Angola, NY 14006
Skyline Resort, C7833
19033 Townline Road
Darien Center, NY 14040