36 Hours in East Aurora

Art and antiques, eclectic cuisine, historic five-and-dime and craft beer attract visitors to a classic small town

East Aurora, founded in 1804, and incorporated 1874, boasts a delightful blend of historical preservation, natural beauty and iconic character while also acknowledging that times, indeed, have changed. It’s so iconic, in fact, that movie productions—both local and national—use it as a stand-in for “Small Town, USA.” It’s a great spot for a quick weekend jaunt when in Buffalo.

Guests share laughs and drinks during a spacious stay in East Aurora near Buffalo, NY.

On Friday, check in to The Roycroft Inn (40 South Grove St.). The original Roycrofters helped put East Aurora on the map—late 19th century salesman, thinker and artist Elbert Hubbard founded the Roycroft Press, which morphed into an American Arts and Crafts community, known simply as the Roycrofters. Today, the Inn’s Arts and Crafts architecture and décor preserve the Roycroft aesthetic and the history.

For the evening, head to 42 North Brewing Company (25 Pine St.); the barrelhouse, taproom and brewery is a destination for locally crafted brews, a farm-to-table menu, convivial atmosphere and a good taste of the EA nightlife.

A family sits outside and laughs while eating food at Elm Street Bakery in East Aurora.

In the morning, try breakfast at the Elm Street Bakery (72 Elm Street). The charming barn-like structure with a warm wood interior offers fresh baked pastries, hearty bread and breakfast options. (At lunch and dinner time, wood-fired pizzas, homemade dishes fill the belly and soul. It’s all locally sourced and seasonal when possible.)

After breakfast, visit the Roycroft Campus and the Copper Shop Gallery across from the Inn, to see workshops and artifacts from the Roycrofters. In addition to books, they produced wood furniture, metal and decorative items.

A plate of Bar-Bill Tavern buffalo wings with celery and blue cheese dip, a classic in East Aurora.

Head a few blocks down Main for lunch at Bar-Bill Tavern (185 Main St.)—this low-key joint always makes both local and national “best Buffalo wings” lists. They specialize in the regional treat, and have made them their own with both expected and unique sauce choices, including zesty honey pepper, Cajun and honey butter BBQ. There may be a wait—see the bartender to get a table or on a list. No reservations. Cash only.

Amongst East Aurora’s many boutiques and shops, there are a few standouts. Before heading back across town to the main commercial area, check out Four Honey Bees Cottage (306 Main St.)—owner and local personality Anne Marie Biron will be happy to show you her justifiably vaunted selection of Mackenzie-Childs giftware.

Visitors stroll along historic roads as they peruse the shop front of Vidler's 5 and 10 in East Aurora.

Will Faller Antiques (21 Elm St.) is a destination for well-curated art, antiques and curios. In the same funky building (a former creamery) is RedFISH Studios, a space highlighting artists working in a variety of media. Mud Sweat n’ Gears (669 Main St.) is the place for ski and snowboard gear. Fowler’s Chocolates, which claims to be the originator of Buffalo’s famous sponge candy, has an outpost here. Vidler’s 5 & 10 is a must-see. If the red awnings spanning almost an entire block don’t tip you off to the location (676-694 Main St.), look for the “Vidler on the Roof.” A five-and-dime store on steroids, this nearly 90-year-old emporium features more than 75,000 items of kitsch (and some stuff you might really need) and is endlessly entertaining.

For die-hard Roycroft fans: take a short drive to the Schoolhouse Gallery (1054 Olean Rd.), where juried modern-day Roycroft artisans offer handcrafted wares like plaques, prints, paintings, tiles and wooden furniture for viewing and sale.

A delicious plate of fish and chips sits next to a stack of menus at Wellenwein's Hotel in East Aurora, near Buffalo NY.

Dinner at Rick’s on Main (687 Main St.) is always a treat; the cozy nooks, friendly service and varied menu are welcoming to all. For an after-dinner drink, try the Griffon Gastropub (634 Main St.) or Wallenwein’s Hotel, a local institution that’s been serving cold beer and good food since the late 1800s (641 Oakwood Ave).

Get some shuteye! In the a.m., try the sumptuous brunch at the Roycroft Inn, then check out.

On your way out of town, stop by Knox Farm State Park (437 Buffalo Road). The rolling 633-acre property was donated by one of the area’s most philanthropic families—their name graces many locations, most notably the Buffalo AKG Museum. Take a hike or a walk, and explore the Visitor Center for a bit of history.

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