16 top things to do with kids in Buffalo, NY

If you're traveling to Buffalo, NY, with kids, there is a lot for your family to look forward to on the trip. Located on the eastern end of Lake Erie in upstate New York and about an hour from Niagara Falls, this lovely destination has undergone revitalization citywide, including the Canalside waterfront. As for Buffalo kid activities, children will have a blast at the Explore & More – The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Children’s Museum, and discovering delightful attractions like The Buffalo Zoo. When planning a vacation, keep these 16 things to do with kids in Buffalo on your radar.

1. Take in the scenery on one of the Buffalo Harbor Cruises

Going on a sightseeing tour on the water is one of the first Buffalo kids' activities that families should experience. Buffalo Harbor Cruises offers a 1.25-hour experience starting at the Erie Basin Marina dock downtown and traveling on the Buffalo River and through Lake Erie. Passengers will get a stellar view of an 1833 lighthouse, learn about the Peace Bridge, and get a glimpse of a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed boathouse, among other notable points of interest. Lunch is available on select dates only. Other cruises, such as the Historic River Cruise and Brunch Cruise, are also available throughout the year.

2. Wander the Canalside Buffalo waterfront

Set on the Buffalo River waterfront, Canalside Buffalo is an awesome place for Buffalo kid activities. The area, which is located at the 1825 terminus of the Erie Canal, is a place where families can go for fun events throughout the year, including festivals, the Creators on the Boardwalk open-air farmers market, bike and walking tours, and children’s programming. Along with museums, the area is home to several sports venues, including KeyBank Center and the LECOM Harborcenter rinks. During your visit, be sure to look out for the Shark Girl sculpture for fun selfies.

3. Go wild over the animals at the Buffalo Zoo

As far as traveling to Buffalo with kids, no trip is complete without visiting the Buffalo Zoo. What began as the donation of 2 deer in 1875 now stands as the third-oldest zoo in the United States and features amazing animals across nearly 24 acres. From the tiniest creatures at the Amphibian and Reptile Center to the majestic polar bears at the Arctic Edge, plus lions, meerkats, and more, there is incredible wildlife from the far corners of the earth. Encounters are exhilarating, and there are opportunities to meet with giraffes, sloths, and rhinos in an intimate setting.

4. Discover the power of play at Explore & More

In terms of Buffalo kid activities, Explore & More – The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Children’s Museum is a pretty special place for discovery. The world-class organization features 7 themed play zones, including Moving Water, Building Buffalo, Farm to Fork, and Being Good Neighbors. Each zone reveals fascinating stories about the region’s history, geography, culture, and other topics through the use of colorful displays and hands-on activities children and parents can enjoy together that encourage building, exploring, and creating. There are also other enriching experiences at the museum’s studios, such as the Cooking Galley, Art Studio, and Tinkering Tank spaces.

5. Hike and take in the surroundings at Tifft Nature Reserve

Outdoor adventure awaits at the serene Tifft Nature Reserve. About a 5-minute drive just outside downtown Buffalo, the 264-acre nature refuge has been welcoming visitors to the serene sanctuary since 1972. Part of the Buffalo Museum of Science, which is on the premises, the scenic destination boasts 5 miles of nature trails and 3 boardwalks, indoor programming, and Herb and Jane Darling Education Center. Admission is free. Among the other possibilities for fun are bird-watching, fishing, and observing wildlife in their natural habitats. Seasonal guided tours are available that provide interesting insight into the beautiful surroundings.

6. Take the kids out to a Buffalo Bisons ball game

Nothing beats the excitement of watching baseball in person. When traveling to Buffalo with kids, parents should make it a point to bring them to Sahlen Field, home of the Minor League Baseball team the Buffalo Bisons. The team is also the Triple-A East affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays and fun to watch. The venue itself, Sahlen Field has the distinction of being the first classic retro park and offers the Consumers Pub at the Park restaurant as well as vendors selling concessions, including kid favorites such as the ballpark classic Sahlen’s Hot Dog, pizza, sandwiches, and ice cream.

7. Explore the enchanting Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum

The quintessential attraction for kids, the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum is a rare find. Located 20 minutes from Buffalo, this unique attraction in North Tonawanda is housed in the National Register-listed Allan Herschell Carrousel Factory building. The museum is home to 2 vintage carousels as well as enchanting exhibits and carving demonstrations. Highlights include the Children’s Gallery, featuring a kiddie carousel and arts and crafts, and the Lockman Gallery with hand-carved wooden animals and photographs. Finally, the Wurlitzer Music Roll Department showcases the technology behind the distinctive carousel sounds. Also on the premises are rides for young children and a gift shop.

8. Browse artifacts and military vessels at Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park

One fascinating thing to do in Buffalo with kids is to visit one of the largest inland naval parks in the country. The Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park is on the waterfront and boasts 4 decommissioned Navy vessels along with attractions like a Monuments Garden and a Maritime Simulator that teaches you how to sail a Navy vessel. You'll find plenty of photo opportunities at the Outdoor Exhibit Yard with aircraft, a tank, and a PTF-17 boat on display. Inside the museum, you get to see artifacts from the U.S. Armed Forces, such as uniforms and a P-39 Airacobra.

9. See what’s in bloom at the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens

Situated within South Park, the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens attracts 140,000-plus visitors each year, including families looking for things to do with kids in Buffalo. Along with the gorgeous grounds is the impressive architecture, the vision of landscaping architect Frederick Law Olmsted of Central Park fame, greenhouse designers Lord & Burnham, and other collaborators. Since opening in 1900, the destination has continued to captivate with remarkable displays of horticulture indoors and out, including the Palm Dome with tropical fruit trees and the Asian rainforest with orchids and a decorative teahouse. Self-guided tours take anywhere from 45 to 120 minutes.

10. Get tickets to a show at Shea’s Performing Arts Center

Depending on when you're visiting Buffalo with kids, you might plan a fun night at the theater and see what’s on stage at Shea’s Performing Arts Center. Set in the Buffalo Theatre District, the complex is now home to 3 state theaters, including Shea’s Buffalo Theatre, originally opened in 1926 as The Wonder Theatre to screen silent movies. Today, the performing arts center presents touring Broadway musicals and other performances in Western New York. Notable productions that are part of its Broadway series include Disney’s "Frozen," "Hamilton," and "Riverdance." Tours of the historic venue are available by appointment only.

11. Order from the kids' menu at the legendary Anchor Bar

Buffalo is the place that put Buffalo wings on the culinary map, and it all started at the family-friendly dining establishment Anchor Bar. While spicy food may not be the first thing that comes to mind when figuring out which family restaurants in Buffalo to go to, parents don’t have to worry since there’s a kids menu with choices like chicken tenders, pizza, and fries. On the other hand, grownups who love hot food can choose from different sauces ranging from mild to extreme heat as well as chipotle and spicy garlic.

12. Go crazy for grilled cheese at Buffalo Melting Point

Billed as "Buffalo’s premier grilled cheese eatery," the Buffalo Melting Point happens to be one of the standout family restaurants in Buffalo for a good reason. Namely, everyone knows kiddos love the cheesy comfort-food goodness found between two slices of bread. While the menu features the Classic Grilled Cheese, which consists of American cheese on white bread, there are other creative variations, such as the No. 12 Aged Farmhouse Cheddar with Apple-Bacon Jam, as well as scratch-made soups like tomato basil.

13. Go back in time at the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village

History lovers will appreciate exploring the Buffalo Heritage VillageBuffalo Heritage Village. Less than 30 minutes away from the city of Buffalo, the open-air museum in Amherst, New York, will pique children’s interest in the agricultural and rural heritage of the region. Set on 35 acres, the family-friendly site features 10 historic buildings dating to the mid-to-late 1800s as well as enriching programming, such as costumed interpretation, a working farmstead, artisan workshops, and more. Fascinating things to see include the Schmitt Log House, The Woodwright's Shop showcasing woodworking, the Blacksmith Shop, and the Williamsville School #9 featuring original student desks.

14. Unwind with the family at the serene Buffalo Harbor State Park

When it comes to budget-friendly Buffalo kid activities, Buffalo Harbor State Park makes a great pick. Adjacent to the Tifft Nature Preserve, this outdoor destination and the first state park in the city looks out to Lake Erie and features a marina with 1,100 slips as well as launches for boats and other watercraft. Along with a beach, there is a colorful nautical-themed playground for kids to slide and climb. Other amenities include a fish-cleaning station and 3 pavilions. For those who want to grab a bite, Charlie’s Boat Yard restaurant features a selection of sandwiches, seafood, and more.

15. Check out cool vintage vehicles at The Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum

Housed in a former Mack Truck showroom and repair shop, The Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum will make your kids' day if they love cars and other cool rides. Along with showcasing several vehicles made in Buffalo, the collection is a reminder that the Western New York city used to be a producer of fine vehicles. Today, that legacy lives on with vintage vehicles and memorabilia. Car buffs can easily spend an hour or 2 here with interesting things to see, such as a 1927 Buffalo Filling Station by Frank Lloyd Wright, a Jello Wagon, and several Corvettes, as well as bicycles and motorcycles.

16. Dig up fossils and go bird-watching at Penn Dixie Paleontological & Outdoor Education Center

Ranked among the top fossil parks in the U.S., Penn Dixie Paleontological & Outdoor Education Center is one of the unique things to do with kids in Buffalo, or rather, just 20 minutes away in Blasdell, New York. Budding geologists will have a blast unearthing surprises like trilobites, which are ancient arthropod fossils. Spanning 54 acres, the park, which happens to be a former rock quarry, offers helpful guides who will help kids identify their findings. Bird lovers can also catch a glimpse of beautiful winged creatures that visit the nature reserve, including American robins, Eastern bluebirds, and Northern mockingbirds.