Hey there all you autumn joy-riders and open road fanatics! If you’re looking to take a pleasant fall drive to peep the fall foliage at any one of our local destinations, this is the guide for you. Enjoy views of the Lake Erie shoreline, explore the keystone of Buffalo’s local renaissance or traverse the winding back roads that will bring you some of our favorite autumnal vistas, lookouts and natural wonders – with some of our favorite eateries and watering holes along the way. Hit the road, get in gear and enjoy all of the remarkable views and the fresh breeze that Buffalo has to offer.
The Waterfront Route
From downtown Buffalo, take the Skyway over the Buffalo River and past the Outer Harbor. From the top of the skyway you’ll see the rolling waves of Lake Erie. There’s quite a bit to discover as you head South, so you have plenty of options whether you’re looking for a short trip or an all day excursion.
Head South on Route 5 along the shoreline. About 11 miles down the road, merge onto Old Lakeshore Road. Another 3.5 mile stretch will bring you to Graycliff, one of Buffalo’s Frank Lloyd Wright structures. Enjoy a tour of this masterpiece of American architecture and learn about the restoration process that’s bringing Graycliff back to its days of glory.
As you head North on your way back to Buffalo, take Route 5 past Woodlawn Beach until you reach the exit for Tifft Nature Preserve. Make a left to get to Fuhrmann Boulevard where you’ll ride alongside Gallagher Beach and the Buffalo Small Boat Harbor. Stop by any of these locations around sunset to get an awe inspiring view over Lake Erie. Further up Fuhrmann Boulevard is the Buffalo Outer Harbor and Wilkeson Pointe. Turn off of Fuhrmann to get to Ohio Street where you’ll ride along the Buffalo River. Stops along the way include Buffalo Riverworks, Riverfest Park and saloons such as Ballyhoo and Swannie House. From there, a left on Perry brings you to the front door of Canalside, our one-of-a-kind waterfront destination hosting loads of entertainment.
The Scenic Byway
From downtown Buffalo take South Park Avenue South for about 7.5 miles. A left onto Big Tree Road will bring you to Route 20A. After 3.5 miles, 20A will deliver you to the heart of the beautiful Village of Orchard Park. In the village, make a right onto Route 277 for 6.5 miles. You’ll pass by Chestnut Ridge Park and find yourself in North Boston. Make a left onto Boston State Road and enjoy a relaxing ride for 15 miles to the Village of Springville, close to the geological wonder of Zoar Valley. A left on Springville’s idyllic Main Street will bring you to another left on US-219. Head South for 19 miles to Ellicottville where you can enjoy a seasonal Pumpkinville Latte beer at Ellicottville Brewing Company.
To close the Scenic Byway loop you’ll head back north along Route 242 for 3.5 miles and make a left on Route 240 in the Hamlet of Ashford. Cruise the dips and waves of 240 for 30 miles and make a right on Route 47/Mill Road. This leads you right into the quaint village of East Aurora. Chow down on a plate of saucy wings at Bar-Bill Tavern, grab a freshly brewed beer at 42 North Brewing, and shop for trinkets and knick-knacks at the world-famous Vidler’s 5 & 10. Head back West on Route 20A, once more through the Village of Orchard Park and along to South Park which will lead you right back into the city.
The World Wonder
Buffalo has a natural world wonder right it its backyard! Taking the I-190 North from downtown Buffalo leads you along the Niagara River, over the bridge to Grand Island and to the Robert Moses Parkway after about 20 miles. The Robert Moses Parkway winds along the upper Niagara River all the way to Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Niagara Falls State Park. Stretch your legs and enjoy the beautiful views of the Niagara Gorge as you take in the power and majesty of Niagara Falls.
The roads continue North, winding along the beautiful green spaces that brighten the lower Niagara Gorge. From here, you can stop at favorite hiking trails within Whirlpool State Park and Devil’s Hole State Park (check for accessibility here). Keep cruising North and you’ll find yourself on the charming streets in the Village of Lewiston. Grab a coffee or a meal, peruse the shops and boutiques along Center Street and walk right to the shores of the lower Niagara River as the colorful foliage on the walls of the gorge reaches high into the sunny blue sky. Back down Center Street, hop back on the I-190 South and you’ll be ushered directly back into the city of Buffalo.
The Road to Letchworth
On this calming drive, we’re heading back to East Aurora. But we can’t stay long… Ok, ok, you can get one more order of wings from Bar-Bill, but then it’s on Letchworth State Park – lovingly dubbed the Grand Canyon of the East. From EA, take Route 20A East for about 30 miles through the small countryside towns and villages, like Wales Center, Varysburg and Warsaw, that dot the path. Past the farms and orchards, beyond the towering wind turbines and over the rolling hills of Erie and Wyoming counties will bring you to Route 246. Make a right from 20A, through the Town of Perry and follow the signs that lead to the entrance of Letchworth State Park.
You’ll be astounded by incredible views of the upper, middle and lower falls that flow through the massive, naturally carved canyon. Listen for the sound of the train chugging along the tall bridge that spans the gorge hundreds of feet above upper falls. If you’ve come equipped with camping gear, pitch a tent for the night to maximize your adventure. As day breaks, a lovely morning drive back West down 20A awaits.