The village where America’s Arts and Crafts movement began over a century ago continues to embrace a creative vibe today. Located 20 minutes from downtown Buffalo, East Aurora is full of distinctive attractions, from the only house built by a U.S. president with his own hands to a family owned 5 & 10 store and a variety of cafes, boutiques and restaurants. It’s easy to see why so many visitors stay an entire day or a weekend in the village.
If you’re planning an hour, a day or a weekend to visit the historic village of East Aurora, do not – repeat – do not make Vidler’s 5 & 10 your first stop. It will be tempting, especially when you see the “Vidler on the roof” politely waving you in. But stay strong and take in the rest of East Aurora first. See, Vidler’s is the largest variety store in the world. So beyond the nostalgia of a five and dime shop, you’re going to be hit with 75,000 items across four connected buildings and over two levels. Once you step in, it’s as if you can’t leave.
So here are some things to consider before you go to Vidler’s.
East Aurora prides itself on being a quaint and charming village. So park along Main Street and start exploring. Grab a coffee and a creative breakfast at Taste or Elm Street Bakery. Then pop in and out of the many food, clothing and antique stores.
Lucky for you, East Aurora is also home to chicken wings that rival the famous Anchor Bar and Duff’s. The Bar Bill Tavern has concocted a variety of the best sauces for its luscious wings, and will serve them to you in such a fashion you’ll think to yourself “these look too good to eat.” Then you’ll devour them.
Ever hear of the American Arts and Crafts Movement? It was kind of a big deal; basically a revolt against the Industrial Revolution to ensure quality craftsmanship lived on. And it all began in East Aurora in the late 1800s.
The Roycroft Campus, National Historic Landmark and vanguard of the creation of the uniquely American “Arts and Crafts” style, sits largely preserved today and is a must for anyone with even a casual appreciation for hand crafted mastery.
Conclude your time at the campus with a proper meal at the Roycroft Inn. Four dining areas, vaulted ceilings, beautiful woodwork, relaxing ambience and incredible food will accompany your experience.
Once you’ve enjoyed these fine allures, head to Vidler’s. You’ll need the rest of the day.
Cole Porter didn’t realize he was perfectly describing Buffalo Bites Food Tours’ “Epicurean East Aurora” when he wrote the lyrics “It’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s de-lovely” but nothing could be more accurate. It was a (de) lovely day in this delightful village south of Buffalo, with nothing but deliciousness at every stop.
Elm Street Bakery
We met Laura, our very well informed tour guide, at our first stop, the Riley St. Station gastropub. This restaurant charmingly invokes its history as the town’s former train station, with train motifs and nods to the Union Pacific Railroad that used to run through town. Here we were treated to a generous “taste” indeed of a wonderful slider sized burger and salad with a creamy house peppercorn dressing.
Next we strolled up the storybook Main Street to the All-American Aurora Theatre, where they are now selling gourmet flavored popcorns. We sampled everything from parmesan rosemary to apple pie (my favorite) while admiring the original 1930’s murals in the lobby.
Next stop, Taste, a Main Street bistro with a hip coffee shop vibe. Their signature chicken salad was a generous portion which just left room enough for a cup of creamy chocolate with whipped cream topping. Thankfully our next stop gave us a bit of time to digest! At Purrfect Teas we got an interesting lesson on how different teas are grown and harvested and walked away with an ice cold raspberry tea to refresh us until our next stop.
The Roycroft Inn
This lead us on a wonderful stroll through the historic Roycroft Campus. Laura was very knowledgeable abut the history of this important center for the American Arts and Crafts movement and the wonderful restoration of the Roycroft Campus, which certainly whetted our appetites for our next stop, the Roycroft Inn.
Here on the expansive veranda of this restored National Historic Landmark we were treated to their signature French Onion soup (with a side of homemade truffle oil potato chips—amazing!) while Laura explained the fascinating history of the Roycroft movement and its remarkable and charismatic founder Elbert Hubbard.
We then wandered up Elm Street to the Elm Street Bakery, a restaurant devoted to locally sourced food which is centered on a huge brick oven. Imagine our faces when they produced an entire brick oven pizza for us to share. (A brief recap for those not keeping track: burger, salad, popcorn, chicken salad, chocolate, tea, french onion soup and potato chips) It was as light and crispy as a gooey cheesy pizza could be.
Were we done yet? One more stroll up Main Street past the famous Vidlers five and ten, and we ended our Epicurean Afternoon at Firefly Cupcakes, where we each got to choose whatever one we wanted. I chose red velvet and brought it home!!
We all agreed that it was the most fun day ever AND that we would never eat again. (I have). Buffalo Bites also does a tour of the Elmwood Village, which I’m certain would be equally fun and delicious. If you are going GO HUNGRY!!!
Quaint, authentic, charming, and trend-setting. These words perfectly describe the village of East Aurora, less than 30 minutes southeast of downtown Buffalo. As Buffalo has undergone a transformation, East Aurora has seemingly been a microcosm of that evolution.
Spend a day or two walking the idyllic sidewalks of East Aurora’s historic Main Street and you may never want to leave. Here are our favorite reasons to take a trip to East Aurora:
Get creative at MUSEjar
Arts & Crafts, Alive & Well Because of the legacy built by the Roycroft Campus, East Aurora could be renamed Arts & Crafts, U.S.A. Nearly 120 years later, art is still a vital characteristic of this community. Several fine art galleries, such as Meibohm Fine Arts and redFish Art Studios & Gallery, call East Aurora home. The Copper Shop Gallery and West End Gallery offer gifts and crafts for every taste. And if you’re looking for inspiration to create, MUSEjar will supply your hands and heart with everything you’ll need to fill a canvas.
Perfectly presented wings at Bar-Bill Tavern
Yum! Whether you’re looking for made-from-scratch baked goods and dishes or classic Buffalo-style fare, East Aurora is always cooking. Bar Bill Tavern may very well have the best chicken wing presentation in the area. Fanned out perfectly on a lovely green and white checkerboard plate, Bar Bill even takes the time to give you the perfect wing to drumstick ratio. Opened in 2011, Elm Street Bakery is the total package, offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner. From freshly baked muffins, scones, and cakes to wood-fired pizzas and cast-iron culinary creations, just the scent of Elm Street Bakery is like heaven on earth.
Delicious Drafts With a booming craft beer scene emerging in nearby Buffalo, it’s no wonder East Aurora has grown fond and taken up the mantle. 42 North Brewing Company, lovingly named for the geographical latitude on which East Aurora lies, opened in 2015 to much fanfare and praise. Committed to brewing authentic lagers and ales through collaboration, 42 North is making waves on the local brew scene. At the other end of town, Aurora Brew Works offers you the opportunity to try before you buy. With hundreds of craft bottles and cans for sale, you can even have them flash chill a bottle to taste in-store.
Hometown Heritage While the legacy of Elbert Hubbard, the Roycroft and Arts & Crafts movement is paramount in East Aurora, the history of the village goes even deeper. On Shearer Avenue, just a couple houses in from Main Street, lies the home of our 13th President, Millard Fillmore. Built in 1826, the home is only existing Fillmore residence, aside from the White House, left standing. On Main Street, in the heart of the village, the Aurora Theatre was the vision of Irving Price, founder of Fisher-Price toys and Elbert Hubbard II. Opened in 1925, the theatre was considered state of the art and still shows current run movies to this day. Fun Fact: The first movie shown on its screen was Madame Sans Gene starring Gloria Swanson.
A treasure trove of candy at Vidler’s
Kid In A Candystore No visit to East Aurora is complete without a trip to Vidler’s 5 & 10. From the signature red and white awning, seeing the antique coin-op mechanical horse, smelling the fresh popcorn, and gazing upon a sea of candy and sweets, this classic five and dime will have you feeling nostalgic. Vidler’s is pure Americana and a timeless institution that is not to be missed. You could spend hours perusing both floors of Vidler’s; housing everything from vintage toys, knick-knacks and craft supplies, decorative items and, honestly, anything you can think of.
Author’s note: If I could have written this entire post in the Roycroft font, I would have.
I am a city person, through and through. The sound of sirens, cars going by, and people out on the streets actually gives me a sense of comfort. But even I can enjoy the quiet, serene and easy pace of beautiful and historic East Aurora, a suburb about 20 miles southeast of downtown Buffalo.
The Roycroft Inn, East Aurora, NY
East Aurora is known for its Norman Rockwell-esque Americana lifestyle, with a picture-perfect village, walkable streets, quaint local shops, and beautiful historic homes. Off Main Street in the village lies Roycroft Campus, a center for artisans and craftspeople that encourage entrepreneurship, creativity and learning. Within the campus is the Roycroft Inn, built in 1905 to welcome and accommodate visitors and artisans looking to experience the emerging community and style generated from the campus. The Inn was—and is still today—a center of activity for the village of East Aurora.
Lunch at the Roycroft Inn, East Aurora, NY
Until recently, I had never had the pleasure of eating at the famous Roycroft Inn. The weather was perfect on the afternoon we chose to have lunch, which added to the delightful ambiance of eating on the Peristyle—outdoor dining at its finest. We started with some afternoon libations, and enjoyed warm baked bread and homemade blueberry muffins served with sweet whipped butter. We indulged a bit and partook in having crab cakes before our meals, which were light, delicate, and honestly some of the best crab cakes I’ve had outside of New England.
Onto the main lunch course: I enjoyed one of the specials that afternoon, roasted tomatoes stuffed with shrimp and parmesan risotto with toast points, while my dining companion enjoyed the more traditional lunch choice with the southwestern chili sausage sandwich. The chef did an excellent job with both of our meals, and we left feeling highly satisfied and relaxed. While eating al fresco on the Peristyle, we enjoyed the pleasantries of other diners, watching visitors to the campus go by, and the easy pace of which we sampled the Roycroft’s food.
The city was 20 miles away, and we let ourselves be swept up in a slower pace. It was the perfect way to wind down from a crazy week as the weekend lay before us. Visitors and guests of the Roycroft Inn may enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner, Sunday brunch, and even special occasion meals on holidays. It’s the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of your life, or just have an enjoyable meal.
Ladies and gentleman, step right up and witness the almighty Vidler’s 5 & 10! Come one, come all, to this legendary variety store located in East Aurora. Witness the bizarre, the charming, the colossal, the family-owned destination. Stories of this landmark are all true…just pick a door under the red and white awning and step right into a wonderland of shopper’s bliss!
Celebrating 87 years in business, this 5 & 10 dominates EA’s charming Main Street. With 4 connected buildings, Vidler’s offers twelve departments of fun. A visit is like walking back in time, where the lineup of penny candy jars is never-ending and you can buy Christmas ornaments year-round.
What I love most about Vidler’s is the wacky and wild things you can buy. If you’re looking for something for yourself or need a gift, you will find the perfect one for your mother who takes gardening to another level, your father who loves anything camo, your sister who loves to cook, and your brother who loves anything with a Buffalo on it. This is the place to find everything, and anything you’ve ever wanted, and didn’t even know existed!
You could spend hours in this haven of happiness, and I’m not exaggerating. Every corner you turn puts a smile on your face, and there are a multitude of corners, nooks and crannies too. Could you use some bacon-flavored floss or a mini Hello Kitty frying pan? It’s like every dream you’ve ever had woke up and sat on a shelf. The straightforward but vintage department names alone should help paint the picture: candy, school supplies, bath & body, specialty foods, retro & collectables, seasonal, home décor, crafts, toys, “take a look nook,” kitchenware, and fabrics & yarns. From room to room the sheer size of this store is incredible, and there’s even a basement jam-packed with gourmet and home-spun kitchenware and sundries. I would recommend packing a snack and bringing a water bottle in case you get lost amidst the aisles (perhaps a GPS visitor tracking system would help?), but why not just buy while you are there and taste along the way.
If this hasn’t gotten you into your car and driving towards East Aurora, I don’t know what will. You can’t miss the spot. Look for the GIANT smiling “Vidler on the roof”. It’s family owned and now run by the 3rd generation. So, stop in and play. Even just purely for an epic Instagram photo. This circus of fun is awaiting your visit!