The award-winning "Unexpected Buffalo" marketing campaign created by Visit Buffalo Niagara draws attention to this Western New York city's broad -- and often under-appreciated -- appeal. In a two-day exploration of the city, I said "wow" aloud at least 40 times. Cast aside any preconceived notions of this storied destination and prepare to experience architectural wonders, cultural attractions, delicious meals, sprawling parks, waterways and a deep sense of civic pride.
If time-pressed, tick off as many of these to-dos as possible:
1. Eat Wings
Do not call them chicken wings, Buffalo wings or Buffalo chicken wings -- here, the norm is just wings. For the full experience, come hungry and take the Wing Trail, savoring along each of its 12 stops. People from all walks of the globe have made the pilgrimage.
2. Go Wright
Take a guided tour of the Martin House designed by the late Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) as a unique residential complex for wealthy Buffalo businessman Darwin D. Martin and his family between 1903 and 1905. As the most substantial and highly developed of Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie house in the Eastern U.S., The Darwin D. Martin House was named a National Historic Landmark in 1986. The house is considered Wright's finest achievement of the period -- and of his entire career.
3. Soar Over Silos
Riverworks, a waterfront dining and entertainment venue along the Buffalo River, is a year-round destination for sports, concerts and special events, offering total property buyouts for groups with more than 1,000 attendees. See Riverworks from 110 feet in the air via a quirky zipline course that includes a plummet into the open jaws of a cardboard shark.
4. Tour the River
Start with a 90-minute narrated Buffalo River History Tour. While enjoying refreshments from the bar, groups of up to 145 will learn the story of the Erie Canal and Buffalo's history as the largest grain port in the world. Catering can be arranged.
5. See a Show
Buffalo has a thriving and diverse downtown theater district. More than 20 locations are members of the Theatre Alliance of Buffalo, a consortium dedicated to promoting the city's rich theatrical offerings. These video highlights will inspire you to buy tickets.
6. Get Committed
The Henry Hotel is a former insane asylum so beautiful you'd be crazy to stay anywhere else. The palatial building is a National Historic Landmark, now offering 88 guest rooms and a conference center with 20,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. Set on 42 acres within the city's cultural corridor, Hotel Henry is surrounded by parks, lakes and museums.
7. Get Jazzed
Step into the Colored Musicians' Club, the stomping grounds of Buffalo Local 533, formed in 1917 by African American musicians who were not permitted to join the only other musicians' union in Buffalo. It's still an active jazz club where musicians of all ethnicities practice and play. Stroll through history at the adjacent Colored Musicians Club and Museum.