It’s summertime, which usually means people are traveling, heading to the water and flying to various destinations. And in Buffalo, that often means crossing the border into Canada for the day to enjoy Ontario’s beautiful beaches.
But summer 2020 is certainly different than any other. As COVID-19 continues to spread, we all have to continue to follow mandated social distancing — which means forgoing a lot of our usual summer activities. And the Canadian border remains closed.
But that doesn’t mean this summer can’t be a fun one. That’s why we’ve put together a list of places that make for fun day trips from Buffalo.
You can drive to and from all of these places in a day, meaning you won’t have to stay in a hotel, fly on a plane or make frequent stops. So get out this summer and enjoy the sunshine and warm weather — just don’t forget your mask.
Best Day Trips From Buffalo
Niagara Falls, NY (about 30 minutes each way) – You don’t have to cross the border to enjoy beautiful Niagara Falls, a group of three waterfalls at the southern end of Niagara Gorge. Located on the Niagara River, the three falls have the highest flow rate of any waterfall in North America that has a vertical drop of at least 160 feet. It’s truly awe-inspiring, and you can get amazing views without a passport. From the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Niagara Falls State Park, you can partake in the popular Maid of the Mist attraction, which takes you on a breathtaking boat ride around and behind the falls, providing views unlike anything you’ve seen before. If you’re feeling less adventurous, the Top of the Falls Restaurant in Niagara Falls, NY offers delicious food and amazing views of Niagara Falls from its outdoor dining deck, a safer option for those worried about COVID-19. And don’t forget to explore the village and surrounding area, which features an aquarium, farm-to-table restaurants, a popular wine trail and shopping opportunities.
Zoar Valley (45 minutes each way) – A little known treasure not far from Buffalo, the 3,014-acre Zoar Valley is one of the most scenic and ecologically diverse environmental areas in Western New York, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation. Zoar Valley features an area of deep gorges along the Main and South branches of Cattaraugus Creek. There are old forests, dramatic views and waterfalls to explore, providing an incredible escape into nature. This scenic gorge is known for its challenging hiking trails, with cliffs and waterways posing difficulties for less advanced hikers, as well as great bird-watching opportunities, including eagle sightings. It’s also a popular destination for whitewater rafting, hunting and fishing activities.
Letchworth State Park (about 1 hour and 15 minutes each way) – Called the “Grand Canyon of the East,” this incredible state park makes for an easy day trip from Buffalo. Located in parts of Livingston County and Wyoming County, the park spans 14,427 acres. Enjoy some time in nature and hike along the Genesee River, admiring the deep gorge (the rock walls rise up to 550 feet), lush forests and several waterfalls. With 66 miles of hiking trails, you can visit multiple times and never get bored. You can also drive through the majority of the park and pull over for views of the waterfalls as desired. Keep in mind that many state parks have reduced parking by 50%, and popular parks will fill to capacity by noon and close early to incoming visitors to reduce congestion. So be sure to get there early to enjoy a full day at the park.
Rochester, NY (about 1 hour 15 minutes each way) – Rochester is an awesome city offering a wide variety of cultural, entertainment and nature activities. Key attractions include The Strong Museum of Play, the only collections-based museum anywhere devoted solely to the study of play; Highland Park, an arboretum that is one of many parks in the city designed by Frederick Law Olmsted; Seneca Park Zoo, a large zoo located in the Olmsted-designed Seneca Park featuring an extensive variety of animals; and the George Eastman Museum, a Historic Landmark and the world’s oldest museum dedicated to photography and one of the world’s oldest film archives. Not only that, Rochester features an abundance of high-end restaurants headed by top chefs, including Good Luck, The Owl House and Lento, so you can get a delicious meal before heading back to Buffalo. And don’t forget to grab a drink at the rooftop bar and patio at TRATA.
The Finger Lakes (about 90 minutes to 2 hours+ each way) – While they’re a bit farther away from Buffalo than the other places we’ve mentioned, the Finger Lakes are definitely worth the drive. The Finger Lakes are a group of eleven long, narrow, roughly north–south lakes in Western and Central New York. The region is known for its award-winning wineries, farm to table restaurants, craft beer and gorgeous scenery. It is New York’s largest wine-producing region, with more than 100 wineries and vineyards are around Seneca, Cayuga, Canandaigua, Keuka, Conesus, and Hemlock Lakes. Depending on which area you visit, you’ll find all sorts of activities, from bike trails and to white water rafting and kayaking. If you don’t mind driving a little further south (about 2 and a half hours from Buffalo), the Seneca Lake Wine Trail is well worth the visit, featuring a community of 31 wineries to visit and sample delicious local wines while enjoying breathtaking scenery.