Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Buffalo, NY

  • Published 2022/10/30

For more than 1,000 years, Buffalo started as a small trading nation in about 1789, where the Seneca Indians lived.

It developed quickly and became the quintessential 19th-century municipality ascending to industrial pre-eminence and sovereignty.

Following an impressive transformation in recent years, Buffalo evolved into a cultural hotspot.

It became a location for fascinating art galleries, a flourishing craft beer scene, and distributed architectural gems across its old neighborhoods.

As the seat of Erie County, Buffalo is the second-largest city in New York State, with many beautiful museums and great outdoor spaces, especially Niagara Falls.

Bring along your family and discover the excellent and free things to do in Buffalo, New York.

Explore the Historic Buffalo City Hall

Exterior of the Historic Buffalo City Hall

Wangkun Jia /

Located on Niagara Square is the Buffalo City Hall, which is the municipal government’s seat in New York.

This 398-foot-tall structure is one of the biggest municipal buildings in the U.S. and is likewise one of the highest buildings in Western New York.

The city hall’s lobby is like a museum where several paintings line the walls and statues mark the room’s four corridors.

Namely, these statues represent Virtue, Diligence, Good Citizenship, Service, and Fidelity.

Side view of the Historic Buffalo City Hall's exterior

Wangkun Jia /

Each signifies a distinctive quality of Buffalo’s community.

These paintings and murals characterize Buffalo’s history, exhibiting a dedication to production and industry with airplanes, machines, and other artifacts.

You’ll find the Common Council Chambers on the 13th floor, while the observation deck is on the 28th, giving you a 360-degree panoramic view of the beautiful city.

John W. Cooper Company built Buffalo City Hall in 1932, designed by the chief architect John Wade with the help of George Dietel.

Top part of the Historic Buffalo City Hall

Felix Lipov /

Walk, Run, or Ride a Bike at Outer Harbor

Located on Fuhrmann Boulevard, Outer Harbor features over 200 acres of green space, including Wilkeson Pointe and the Lakeside Bike Park.

Besides accommodating events and festivities, it also hosts free summer fitness classes and kayak and bike rentals.

Outer Harbor is also handicapped-accessible, so they can also have fun.

Friends and families can enjoy many exciting activities you won’t forget.

You can walk, run, ride a bike, play, and have a splendid picnic.

Skate at Canalside Buffalo

Ice skating at Canalside Buffalo

JoanneStrell /

Previously known as Canal Side and Erie Canal Harbor, Canalside is the amusement of the western 1825 terminus of the Erie Canal in Buffalo.

This 21-acre popular park hosts concerts, kids’ shows, water sports, and lounging in Adirondack chairs.

Located on Prime Street, Canalside Buffalo presents over 1,000 free or inexpensive events each year, including outdoor yoga and children’s games, to name a few.

Every winter, its 35,000-square-foot rink, Ice at Canalside, welcomes myriads of visitors to skate, curl, play pond hockey, or ride ice bikes.

Additionally, Erie Basin Marina highlights an observation tower with incredible views of Canada and Buffalo.

Join the Slow Roll Buffalo

Founded in 2014, Slow Roll Buffalo started as a free and embracing approach to gathering different types of people from different levels of society.

A Wheel B Herd, Inc.’s social group bicycle ride program makes bikers meet every Monday evening and spread into a worldwide network of community rides.

Other Slow Roll cities include Chicago, Berlin, Stockholm, Cleveland, Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis.

As a bicyclist, you must follow the code of conduct set by Slow Roll Buffalo: respect for the community and safety.

These rules will fulfill the group’s goals and maintain a positive impact on Slow Roll Buffalo.

Experience Tranquility at the Japanese Garden at Mirror Lake

The waters of the Japanese Garden at Mirror Lake

JoanneStrell /

Initially incorporated in 1970, the Japanese Garden at Mirror Lake finished its construction in 1972.

Its objective was to build a place of elegance and tranquility and honor the sister city relationship between Kanazawa, Japan, and Buffalo, New York.

In 1996, the place underwent renovation through a grant from the Commemorative Fund.

Cherry blossom trees at the Japanese Garden at Mirror Lake

JoanneStrell /

The original design consisted of more than 1,000 plantings and three small islands joined to the mainland by bridges.

Visit the Japanese Garden at Mirror Lake and experience serenity with free admission.

Display at the Japanese Garden at Mirror Lake

JoanneStrell /

Catch Free Shows at Shakespeare in Delaware Park

To enjoy a different outdoor theatre experience, visit Shakespeare in Delaware Park at Lincoln Pkwy.

It’s the second oldest and one of the biggest outdoor Shakespeare companies in the region, playing free shows to more than 40,000 people every year throughout New York and Canada.

These fantastic shows usually happen on Shakespeare Hill next to Hoyt Lake and at the back of Rose Garden.

You can use blankets only at the bottom of the hill, closest to the stage, while the top of the mountain allows chairs and blankets.

You may bring a picnic blanket, lawn chairs, food, water, or beverages but don’t forget to respect the park by disposing of your garbage correctly.

Catch a free show at the Shakespeare in Delaware Park.

Pay Respects to Famous People at Forest Lawn Cemetery

Entrance gate of Forest Lawn Cemetery

Zack Frank /

Charles E. Clarke established Forest Lawn in 1849.

Since then, the place has become a cemetery, arboretum, outdoor museum, park, and crematory.

Located on Main St., it stretches to 269 acres of land, accommodating mausoleums, monuments, and unique sculptures that have attracted visitors for more than 150 years.

Several people come to Forest Lawn to see different tombstones and peculiar epitaphs that stand out from the rest.

Seneca Indian chief Red Jacket grave at Forest Lawn Cemetery

Andre Carrotflower, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Forest Lawn Cemetery isn’t just a beautiful resting place for those who passed away and offers incomparable natural comeliness, including valleys, streams, lakes, and sculptural masterpieces.

Moreover, Buffalo Niagara’s biggest arboretum is filled with twisted and turned landscapes and flourishing wildlife, not to mention alluring art and architecture.

There are also several gardens, like the Gratitude Garden in front of the Rosewood Mausoleum.

A cemetery walking tour allows you to see the grave of famous people buried there, including Seneca Indian chief Red Jacket, Millard Fillmore, and Rick James.

Millard Fillmore gravesite at Forest Lawn Cemetery

Yoho2001 Toronto, ON, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Tour the War of 1812 Black Rock Historic Trail

Don’t miss the War of 1812 Black Rock Historic Trail if you love history.

The event might be a lesser-recognized episode within the bigger timeline of American history.

However, for the people of Buffalo and its surrounding region, the war of 1812 remains a place of attraction and reflection.

The War of 1812 Black Rock Historic Trail commemorates the sites, including historical records during the War of 1812 in Black Rock in the City of Buffalo.

The trail starts at Niagara and Tonawanda Streets adjacent to Scajaquada Creek and then proceeds toward the Scajaquada bike trail to Grant Street.

Then,rewindsback to Niagara Street, continuing to Squaw Island (Unity Island) along the River Walk.

You can access nine markers on a bike or walking tour on the War of 1812 Black Rock Historic Trail.

Behold the Historic Neighborhood of Allentown

Buildings along the Historic Neighborhood of Allentown

Andre Carrotflower, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As with other cities and communities, the historic neighborhood of Allentown illustrates actual history, including the people who influenced the area.

Allentown got its name after an early Buffalo resident and farmer, Lewis Falley Allen.

Another landowner invited Allen to graze his cows on his land, currently a part of modern-day Allentown.

Shops along the Historic Neighborhood of Allentown

Buffaboy, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Allen Street appeared from the tracks Allen and his cows made when getting to the pasture land.

Today, Allentown flourishes with Victorian houses, live music bars, shops, restaurants, and galleries.

You can also join tours of President Theodore Roosevelt’s Inaugural Site, an 1800 mansion, history exhibits, and the library where he surrendered the office.

Enjoy Activities at Wilkeson Pointe

Scenic sunset at Wilkeson Pointe

Andre Carrotflower, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you want to see or enjoy scenic water views and sunsets, visit Wilkeson Pointe, located on Fuhrmann Boulevard at the Outer Harbor.

This remarkable 15-acre public space allows you to wander on the water, ride a bike, attend complimentary fitness classes, or play beach volleyball.

You can visit Wilkeson Pointe from sunrise to sunset with free admission. However, there are some rules you need to follow.

You can’t enter the park after sunset, use motorized vehicles on lawns, pathways, or outside specified parking areas, and don’t smoke cigarettes, use drugs, or carry firearms.

Moreover, although there’s a beach, no one must swim there due to water conditions and quality.

You can bring the whole family with your dog if your pet is always on a leash.

Enjoy a 30-minute stroll around the park, and don’t forget to bring fishing poles and go fishing with the kids.

See Free Movies in the Meadow

Do you want to watch a movie without buying any tickets?

That’s possible at Movies in the Meadow located at Parkside Avenue.

Bring your chairs and blankets to relax under the stars and moon.

Movies are free and usually start after dusk.

The Parkside Community Association sponsors the Movies in the Meadow every Friday night.

Meet the Animals at Buffalo Zoo

Entrance to the Buffalo Zoo

CiEll /

The Buffalo Zoo is the third oldest zoo in the U.S. and shelters a few of the world’s most exotic and endangered wildlife, including local animals.

This 23.5-acre amazing zoo offers programs to kids of all ages with opportunities to enjoy and improve their understanding of animal behavior and conservation through interactive and engaging learning experiences.

Located on Parkside Ave, the zoo allows animals to move freely in huge and proper enclosures with trees, pools, streams, and other features representing their natural habitats.

Animals inside the Buffalo Zoo include reindeer, rhinos, bison, lion, and different species of birds, fishes, reptiles, and amphibians.

A lion cub in the Buffalo Zoo

Wirestock Creators /

Also, don’t forget to visit the M&T Rainforest, modeled after the typical habitat in the Amazon basin in Venezuela’s Canaima National Park.

Its wholly enclosed M&T Bank Rainforest Falls exhibit contains a two-story waterfall, ramps, and observatories, letting visitors experience a spectacular view of dozens of colorful birds flying freely.

You’ll see squirrel monkeys, giant river turtles, white-faced sakis, vampire bats, an anaconda, piranhas, and armadillos.

Swimming sea lions in the Buffalo Zoo

Kathleen Struckle /

Come Over to Garden Walk Buffalo

You’ll find the colossal free garden tour in the U.S. at Delaware Ave., Buffalo, New York.

It’s a self-guided tour, so there’s no need to buy a ticket.

Pick up a map and begin touring the beauty of the Garden Walk Buffalo.

Currently, the garden features over 300 parks, which makes it the biggest event of its kind in America.

During summer, thousands of visitors enjoy fanciful and innovative ideas and understand more about flowers, rock gardens, water gardens, native plants, and more.

Garden Walk Buffalo aims to promote neighborhood ornamentation and boost community pride.

Discover Tifft Nature Preserve

Mallard duck on Tifft Nature Preserve's pond

Pierre Williot /

Make Tifft Nature Preserve your next adventure.

You can find this nature preserve on Fuhrmann Boulevard.

The preserve is open to the public, providing visitors free access to the grounds, trails, and boardwalks.

However, donations are much welcomed.

Fall scene at Tifft Nature Preserve

Pierre Williot /

It only takes minutes to drive there from downtown Buffalo.

Likewise, the area spans 264 acres of reestablished habitat with trails and boardwalks that run five miles.

This urban sanctuary keeps a natural setting allowing animals to benefit from its marshes, woodlands, and ponds.

Established in 1972, Tifft Nature Preserve became the urban refuge several people projected more than two decades ago.

Pretty butterfly at Tifft Nature Preserve

Pierre Williot /

Other Things to Do Nearby

Explore Niagara Falls State Park

Scenic view of Niagara Falls State Park

TRphotos /

Niagara Falls is a natural treasure with a history that dates back thousands of years ago when massive rapids of water melted and drained into what is now called the Niagara River.

Located in Niagara Falls, New York, the Niagara Falls State Park offers many adventures and activities for the family to remember and enjoy.

The park is the oldest state park in the U.S. and consists of several islands, including the well-known Prospect Point area.

People at Niagara Falls State Park's overlook

quiggyt4 /

You can trek into the Niagara Gorge, discover the Schoellkopf Power Plant ruins, or set up a camp beside the lake.

The park is open to the public all year, and it is always free to walk into the place and experience the astonishing falls.

The state park is 26 minutes from Buffalo, New York.

A person climbing up to Niagara Falls State Park

James Kirkikis /

Final Thoughts

Are you planning a trip but short on a budget?

Don’t worry.

You can still enjoy the things you love even without spending money.

Bring your family and friends to enjoy the free things to do in Buffalo, New York!

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