13 Historical Places in WNY Worthy of a Visit (That Won't Put You to Sleep)

City Guide, Culture & Arts, History


Written by Morgan Culhane

Published on August 24, 2017

Forest Lawn Cemetery // Photo x Lauren Spoth

History is not boring… if you’re a Buffalonian.

History class wasn’t your favorite, you say? That’s okay because Buffalo’s history isn’t boring. Our city’s past is full of compelling stories, and the ways to explore are actually fun! It may be time to head back to school, but we say forget textbooks, exams, lectures, and SUNDAY SCARIES, and choose your own explorations. Here are 13 historical places in Western New York that will spark your curiosity instead of put you to sleep (in no particular order).

Water Bikes in Tonawanda

Erie Canal meets Ellicott Creek in Tonawanda // Step Out Buffalo

1. Erie Canal

The Erie Canal’s been around forever. Well since 1825, to be exact. But as of December 2016, it’s the area’s newest National Historic Landmark. Pretty cool, right? Experiencing the Erie Canal is a one-of-a-kind experience, wherever you are in WNY. From the Canalside District to the Lockport Locks, there are lots of ways to learn and explore right here in our backyard.
More Info:

Richardson Olmsted Complex AKA Hotel Henry  //  Photo x Christopher Lestak

2. Richardson Olmsted Complex

We’re in love with the reuse of the Richardson Olmsted Complex, and also super interested in the stories that shaped this landmark into the iconic building it is today. If you are curious about the rebirth of one of Buffalo’s architectural treasures, add this tour to your list. The architecture alone is absolutely incredible.
Address: 444 Forest Ave, Buffalo
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Silo City  //  Step Out Buffalo

3. Silo City

Who knew abandoned grain elevators would someday transition from an eyesore to a super successful revitalization project. If you are intrigued by this piece of the Queen City’s industrial history, you’re not alone. There are a few ways to tour the towers. Travel to the top of the grain elevator complexes, stay grounded and explore the work areas, or travel up the river by boat. Thanks, Explore Buffalo, and Buffalo River History Tours!
Address: 120 Silo City Row, Buffalo
More Info:

Central Terminal

Central Terminal // Step Out Buffalo

4. Buffalo Central Terminal

Thousands of passengers arrived and departed the Buffalo Central Terminal for 50 years, but the last passenger train left the station almost four decades ago. Memories and history were made in those rails, and today the art deco masterpiece is headed toward redevelopment. Visit this historic site for a fact-filled historical tour, spooky ghost tour, or special event. If you are more of a beer lover than a history buff, save the date for Oktoberfest on Sept. 30.
Address: 495 Paderewski Dr., Buffalo
More Info:


5. Electric Tower

The Electric Tower is hard to miss since it shines all day and night. But have you been inside?! The tower originally opened in 1912, and its historical significance is definitely a big deal. If you’re wondering why, we challenge you to find out for yourself. Schedule your own tour, or grab a ticket to the upcoming Spotlight Tour on Sept. 19. Pro Tip- If you want the behind-the-scenes off-limits tour, this is it. Plus, there’s beer. Count us in!
Address: 535 Washington St., Buffalo
More Info:

TR Site // Step Out Buffalo

6. Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site

Did you know presidential history was made in Buffalo in 1901? More importantly, do you know why? Step up your Buffalo trivia game by visiting the inaugural site. Guided tours are happening almost every day, and the details you’ll learn during your visit are far from boring.
Address: 641 Delaware Ave. Buffalo

Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo

Forest Lawn Cemetery  //  Step Out Buffalo

7. Forest Lawn Cemetery

When describing a cemetery, history, art, and natural beauty aren’t usually the first words to come to mind. But, that’s exactly what you’ll find at Forest Lawn Cemetery. The stories of those who rest in peace in Buffalo are meant to be shared. Explore on your own, or sign up for a walking or trolley tour.
Address: 901 West Delavan Ave., Buffalo

8. Shea’s Performing Arts Center

Shea’s is a beautiful architectural treasure with an equally beautiful history. Since opening in 1926, the building has continued to be maintained and restored. Visit for a show or a guided tour, and prepare to be amazed by the theatre’s elegance and rich history. There’s more than meets the eye here.
Address: 646 Main St., Buffalo

9. Old Fort Niagara

Travel back in time to the 18th century when you visit Old Fort Niagara. You’ll tour buildings with 300 years of stories. If you prefer a more interactive experience, plan to visit during a special reenactor event and watch the history of years past come alive.
Address: Old Fort Niagara, Youngstown, NY

Edward M. Cotter fireboat // Photo courtesy of Ron Endle

10. Edward M. Cotter Fireboat

Did you know, the world’s oldest working fireboat docks right here in Buffalo? Go Buffalo! The Edward M. Cotter fireboat arrived in 1900, and is still breaking up ice jam in Lake Erie to this day. You may have seen this boat out on the waterfront. Public tours don’t happen often, but when they do clear your calendar for an unforgettable touring experience. Or for more info on how to just get on this boat, read this.
Address: 155 Ohio St., Buffalo


11. Millard Fillmore Museum

If visiting presidential homes is on your bucket list, add East Aurora to your list of stops. This national historic landmark was once home to the 13th president of the United States. Plus, East Aurora is already a super awesome area to visit, and the Millard Fillmore House only adds to its awesomeness. Pro Tip- Visit again during Christmas time, we hear the decorating is #goals.
Address: 24 Shearer Ave., East Aurora

Buffalo Lighthouse, Step Out Buffalo

Buffalo Lighthouse // Step Out Buffalo

12. Buffalo Lighthouse

Did you know the Buffalo Lighthouse was first lit in 1833? Years later its presence is an iconic sight to see on the Buffalo Harbor. So, you’ve seen it. But have you been inside? Guided tours are a thing, and the panoramic waterfront view alone makes this tour worth it. Plus, you’ll learn cool lighthouse facts, too.
Address: 1 Fuhrmann Blvd., Buffalo
Email: (for tour inquiries)

The Broadway Market in Buffalo, NY

Butter Lambs at the Broadway Market // Photo by Jessica Kelly

13. Broadway Market

The Broadway Market first became a community meeting place in 1888. Fast forward to 2017, and it is still is. Even today, you can experience the old world shopping experience from many years past. Plus, now they are hosting cool events like Up on Roof Barbecue and Brews. History, barbecues, and brews? We’re there!
Address: 999 Broadway, Buffalo
Phone: (716) 893-0705
We love Buffalo history, too aka share your photos by using #hashtagstepoutbuffalo. Think we’re missing a historical place that’s worthy of being on this list? Email us at!

Written by <a href="" target="_self">Morgan Culhane</a>

Written by Morgan Culhane

Morgan is a storyteller with a passion for exploring Buffalo's food and beverage scene. She enjoys drinking craft beer so much that she started a business dedicated to promoting this industry. As the co-founder of Content on Draft, she develops social media marketing strategies for craft beverage companies in Buffalo and beyond… and she loves it!
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