Quick Facts about Buffalo, New York
Perched on the banks of the roaring Niagara River, between the frigid waters of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, Buffalo has used its powerful waterways to transform from a tiny French trading post to an international port city, attracting industry and residents, alike.
As New York state’s second-largest city — one in immediate proximity to Canada — Buffalo plays a vital role in the economy of the Western New York region and the state and country as a whole. Buffalo’s booming trade and transportation industries are bolstered by the city’s manufacturing sector, producing goods for aerospace & defense, electric vehicles and alternative fuel engines.
Buffalo may be in one of the most expensive states in the U.S, but the cost of living in this Rust Belt city is lower than the state and national averages. And it pales in comparison to New York City and other big cities on the Great Lakes, like Chicago.
Affordability doesn’t mean that the city doesn’t have plenty to recommend it, though. From a cultural standpoint and an environmental one, the Queen City lives up to its royal name.
Niagara Falls, of course, is one of the nation’s greatest natural treasures, one that also supplies much of the power in the Buffalo-Niagara area. It’s how the city earned another of its nicknames, the City of Lights. The numerous city parks and state parks in the area will keep you busy with hiking, biking and cross-country skiing long after the initial wow of the falls has worn off.
The Buffalo AKG Art Museum has been a presence since 1862, but its recent expansion has cemented its importance for centuries to come. And thanks to the AKG, the museum’s collections are hardly the only art that will catch your eye in Buffalo. The AKG’s Public Art Initiative has brough vibrant murals to practically every solid surface in the city, from Hertel Avenue to Allentown. Keep your eyes peeled for architectural gems, too, like the skyscraper by Adler and Sullivan and the Martin House by Frank Lloyd Wright. Historic establishments are not scarce in the City of Good Neighbors, either, like the historic Colored Musicians Club and Jazz Museum, where you can still hear performances. And if any of this isn’t quite up your alley, there are dozens of other venues in Buffalo dedicated to history, science and, well, just plain fun.
If you think this chilly city might be your next home, consider all the things that Buffalo has going for it below…and maybe a few things to watch out for, like lake effect snow.
What It’s Like Living in Buffalo
The climate of Western New York bears little resemblance to that of the southern metropolitan core, where the ocean air often tempers the worst of what winter can bring. Unlike New York City, Buffalo is only a stone’s throw from the Canadian border, and with its position on the northeastern tip of Lake Erie, Buffalo is subject to the capricious temperature shifts that the Great Lakes can bring, along with harsh winds and lake effect snow, which sometimes accumulates in unfathomable amounts. More than half the city’s snowfall is caused by the lake effect, and the southern half of the city is inundated more heavily than the north side.
Spring is late to arrive, and fall comes early to this blustery region. Don’t expect to pack your parka away until May and expect to don it again by mid-October. These short-lived but glorious times bookend the best season (and reason) to live in Buffalo — the summer. Sure, you’ll face some hot and humid days, but those are rare. Most of what you’ll be treated to are mild days of endless sunshine—more than any other big city in the region — and very few thunderstorms.
If you’re moving to Buffalo, summer may be the best time to move.
Affordable Cost of Living
If you can handle the cold, Buffalo is an affordable city in the Northeast to call home. Housing costs are roughly half the national average and only a third of the state’s. The median home value in Buffalo between 2017 and 2021 was only $112,900, compared to $244,900 in the U.S., $340,600 in the state of New York and $660,000 in New York City. The median rent in Buffalo is only $849 per month — $300 less than the U.S. average, and thrifty compared to the $1,390 average in New York state and the $1,579 in New York City. Prices everywhere have skyrocketed since these tabulations were made, but Buffalo’s market is still a night-and-day comparison to larger metropolitan areas.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that Buffalonians also earn far less than their U.S. and state counterparts. The average household income in Buffalo is only $42,186, compared to a state average of $75,157. This may be one reason that poverty levels in the city are sky-high, something Buffalo shares with its near neighbors, like Rochester and Syracuse, and even Albany isn’t far off. Nationally, 11.5% of the population lives in poverty, but in Buffalo that rate is a whopping 27.6%.
According to the Tax Foundation, New York State ranks only 10th in the nation for its local and state sales tax rates. Like most states, New York imposes a graduated individual income tax rate, and while the highest rate of 10.9% is higher than most, it applies only to those earning $1,000,000 or more. Buffalonians filing jointly with a combined income of $161,500 or less would only pay a rate of 6%.
Note: We are not tax experts and are not offering tax advice, other than you should consider obtaining additional information and advice from your legal and/or financial advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances.
Jobs in Buffalo
The economic development task force in the city of Buffalo has invested mightily in diverse projects to energize the city and create new jobs, revitalizing urban areas, like Canalside, which is now a popular destination for residents and visitors, alike.
Buffalo is home to a diverse array of businesses, from healthcare to finance to manufacturing. Several corporations have their headquarters in the city, including Kaleida Health, Rich Products, Emedco and M&T Bank. The University at Buffalo, Buffalo State University, Canisius University and other area schools help prepare a ready workforce from diverse academic fields.
Unemployment in the Queen City has kept pace with the U.S. market as well as the state average, and the unemployment rate in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metro area between March and August of 2023 averaged only 3.3% and sat at 3.8% in August. By contrast, New York City, whose market is far more competitive, has an unemployment rate of 5.3%, up nearly a point since August 2022.
The city’s biggest employment sectors outside the government are trade, transportation and utilities (95,200 employees), education and health services (91,600 employees), and professional and business services (78,200 employees). Leisure and hospitality has seen an 8.8% year-over-year jump, and it now supplies 61,700 jobs in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area.
Getting Around in Buffalo
Commuting in Buffalo is easier if you have a car, but the NFTA light rail and bus services make navigating the city easy for the auto-less commuter. Public transportation is fairly affordable, too. A standard, one-way fare on either the bus or the train/subway is $2.00. Another plus: the average commute time in the city is under 20 minutes — a stark contrast to most cities its size.
Don’t have a car (or a big budget) but want to get out of town on the weekends? Buffalo gets it! The city’s free Park Adventure Bus operates eleven times throughout the year and travels to a different destination each time.
Getting to and from Buffalo is also straightforward. The Buffalo Niagara International Airport is served by several large carriers, and Amtrak offers daily service to major cities, from Albany to Syracuse to New York City. The I-90 Thruway wraps around Lake Erie through Cleveland and Toledo, while the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) will take you northwest to Toronto.
Cyclists can take advantage of the Queen City Bike Ferry, which departs from Canalside and travels to the Outer Harbor, where trails, beaches and a beer garden awaits. The ride costs only a dollar each way.
The City of Good Neighbors also happens to be a city of great neighborhoods, which range from artsy to historic to homey. One thing all Buffalo residents enjoy is the nation’s best city park systems. Buffalo was designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, so you’ll find plenty of outdoorsy things to do in the Buffalo-Niagara area even outside the famous falls.
A visual and performing arts hub, Downtown Buffalo is also full of architectural treasures. The massive Ellicott Square Building impresses with its full-block footprint, but this 1896 Italian Renaissance revival is best known for its atrium, where a sloped glass roof illuminates elaborate mosaic floors and two grand staircases. New residents will want to take a tour of the Art Deco masterpiece that is City Hall. And Adler & Sullivan’s Art Nouveau beauty — the Guaranty Building — is one of the finest early skyscrapers in the country. Living downtown means easy access to fun activities in the Canalside district, like the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and great nightlife, too. Living downtown can be great for renters and owners, alike, with well-appointed condos on the waterfront, loft-style apartments, and charming brick single-family homes.
With dozens of galleries and eclectic shops and restaurants, Allentown has a vibrant energy all its own. This artsy enclave on the north edge of downtown will welcome you in with quirky-cozy spots like Betty’s — both a diner and an art gallery — and fine dining establishments, like Mothers. Art spaces like El Museo, Rivalry Projects and K Art Gallery showcase diverse work from the region and beyond, while larger institutions like the Karpeles Manuscript Library archive the documents of some of the most consequential moments in history, like the Apollo 11 spaceflight to the surrender agreement from Germany that ended WWII. Real estate in Allentown can be just as offbeat as its establishments. You might find a cool live-work space in a historic, two-story brick building — perfect for restauranteurs or small business owners. Or, maybe a clapboard Victorian is more your style. You’ll find those in Allentown, too.
The heart of Buffalo’s historic African American neighborhood is the Michigan/Jefferson Avenue district. Home of the Michigan Avenue Baptist Church, which was built in 1845, the church was a vital sanctuary on the Underground Railroad. The Colored Musicians Club and Jazz Museum preserves and celebrates the history of the longest-running Black-owned music venue in the country. They sponsor the annual Queen City Jazz Festival, and you can hear concerts at the club every week. Learn more about the neighborhood’s history at the Nash House Museum, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Trendy and friendly, Elmwood is one of the most sought-after neighborhoods in Buffalo. Indie outlets and alluring bars, walkable streets that ping you from record shops to grocery co-ops, and fitness clubs and art galleries in between. Homes in Elmwood are expensive for the city, though. You’ll find that modern amenities and historic charms have an easy affinity in Elmwood’s clapboard colonials, renovated Victorians and the occasional updated farmhouse. On the weekends, you’re sure to bump into your neighbors at the farmer’s market, shopping for local produce, crafts and craft beers. When you need a break, nearby Delaware Park is an oasis, where you can peddle swan boats in Hoyt Lake, see a Shakespearean play or stroll around the rose garden.
Note: If you’re thinking of moving to the Buffalo area, it’s important to thoroughly research neighborhoods you might be interested in living. Before you decide where you are going to live, make sure you understand the area’s cost of living, commute time, tax rates, safety statistics and schooling information.
Unique Experiences in Buffalo
Buffalo has an active cultural scene, where residents know how to get out and have fun — regardless of the weather.
In the wintertime, kids will beg to go tobogganing at Chestnut Ridge or skiing at Kissing Bridge — both are within an hour of Buffalo. Within the city, the Buffalo Harbor State Park Marina is an ice fishing haven in cold weather and a beach in the summer months.
At the nearby Tift Nature Preserve and Buffalo Museum of Science, you can hang out with dinosaurs, travel through outer space or explore the collection of 5,000 glass micrographs of snowflakes…just to see if any two are exactly alike.
When the weather is nice, Artpark is one of the best places to be in the entire region. The view of the Niagara River alone makes the 30-mile trip worthwhile, but the massive, interactive art installations and the summer concert series make this spot a must-visit every year.
Buffalo’s biggest claim to fame, of course, is Niagara Falls. Unlike many postcard-worthy places, this spot does not disappoint, and there are so many spots to experience the beauty of the cataract. Reserve a ticket to see it from the observation deck at Cave of the Winds or take a ferry ride on the Maid of the Mist to see the towering feature from the water — if you dare. At the less-crowded Devil’s Hole State Park, you’ll be eye-to-eye with the Niagara River’s whirling rapids and ensconced in the surrounding forest, which puts on an unbelievable show of color in the fall. The park is popular for fishing, and it’s also a great spot for cross-country skiing.
Buffalo has invested a lot in its waterfront district, and Canalside, which marks the end of the Erie Canal, now welcomes visitors to a host of attractions. In the warmer months, kayaking, bicycling and roller-skating are popular outdoor activities, along with stopping for some soft serve on the boardwalk to refuel. When the temperatures drop, ice skating season is in full effect, but that’s not all. You’ll also find ice bikes and even ice bumper cars on the waterfront. Curling enthusiasts will find their kind, too.
Along the canal, you can explore the monuments and watercrafts at Veterans Park and the Buffalo Naval Park, where you can climb aboard WWII-era vessels, including a destroyer and a submarine, and see historic aircraft and tanks in the outdoor exhibit yard.
Nearby, kid-friendly destinations like the Explore & More Children’s Museum will beckon you indoors during the most frigid months. At the Buffalo Heritage Carousel – for only a buck — kids can ride palominos, pintos, wild beasts and bucks. What could be a more perfect (and affordable) winter escape?
If you’re looking for some higher-stakes action, Buffalo has got serious game. The city has pro teams for lacrosse (the NLL Bandits), minor league baseball (the Bisons), women’s hockey (the Beauts) and even roller derby. But the teams that draw the biggest crowds are the NHL Sabres and the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.
Hockey is a serious thing in Buffalo, so if it isn’t your thing yet, you might want to at least brush up on the lingo, so you’ll understand what Buffalonians are talking about from October-April (and that’s only the regular season). Just don’t let anyone call you a hoser.
Buffalo residents are equally committed to football fandom, though, and the Bills are set to get a new stadium in 2026, designed to be loved by the home crowd and loathed by rivals.
Speaking of beloved homes, Buffalo has long been proud to be the site of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House, a Prairie style marvel with elegant gardens and two additional buildings on site, one for Martin’s sister and the other for the gardener, who would have had his work cut out for him with Wright at the creative helm.
Locals’ Favorite Eat and Drinks
Buffalo has made a culinary name for itself in both sweet and savory categories. Peanut-encrusted doughnuts, chocolate-covered “sponge candy,” and Johnnie Ryan soda, which comes in classic flavors from orange to birch beer, all originated in this snowy city. But salty American favorites — like spaghetti parmesan and fried fish — are such city staples, the people of Buffalo might not make it through the winter without them.
Buffalo has its German immigrants to thank for establishments like Schwabl’s, a tavern founded way back in 1837. This popular public house is one of the area establishments where you can get the famous “beef on weck,” a sandwich that piles hand-carved roast beef on a freshly baked Kummelweck roll — a tender bun flecked with caraway seeds and coarse salt. Schwabl’s also makes a mean Hungarian goulash and other sundry stick-to-your-ribs dishes that will be a warm welcome when the snow arrives.
If you’re looking for the best pizza in Buffalo, you’ll have your work cut out for you scouting all the decadent pie joints in town. Plusher than its New York City cousin, Buffalo pizza has its own unique style — an almost focaccia-like crust with a sweeter sauce an indulgent amount of cheese and toppings that screams weekend movie night. Several spots stand out on the Buffalo pizza scene. Bocce Club Pizza (est. 1946) will pack you a half-baked pie to take on the road with you (get the Lizzy’s Chicken Finger Pizza with hot sauce and blue cheese), while Bob and John’s La Hacienda will hook you up with the classic cup-and-char pepperoni, where the slices form crispy-tender bowls pooling with spicy oil. Save room for an apple pie log for dessert.
All these menus feature Buffalo’s most famous contribution to the culinary world: Buffalo wings. Hot and spicy, sweet and tangy, blue cheese or ranch, the tradition that began in the 1960s at the Anchor Bar — which now has locations from Oswego, Illinois, to Kennesaw, Georgia — has become the must-eat snack of every post-scrimmage party and the favorite dance partner of American lagers.
Prepare for Your Move to Buffalo, NY
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