Buffalo's magnificent downtown architecture deserves more than just a drive-by; do yourself a favor and check it out on foot. Start at the E. B. Green and William S. Wicks-designed Market Arcade at 617 Main St., just north of Chippewa Street. London's Burlington Arcade served as an inspiration for this Beaux Arts-style precursor to the modern, indoor shopping mall. Sunlight streams through the frosted glass skylights of the building, which now houses shops, cafes, and the Buffalo Niagara Visitors Center. Staying on Main Street, just south of Chippewa is Green's neoclassical Buffalo Savings Bank Building (1901) -- known as "Gold Dome," but officially the M&T Center. Continue down Main to the Soldiers and Sailors monument in Lafayette Square. Imagine the great 19th-century orators Daniel Webster and Henry Clay speaking there -- or check out the live music on summer Thursdays from 5 to 8:30pm. On your right is the 352-foot Liberty Building, adorned with two reduced-scale replicas of the Statue of Liberty, and across the square is the French Renaissance-style Lafayette Hotel, designed by Louise Blanchard Bethune -- the country's first female professional architect. At Church Street, face right to see the gorgeous St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral. On your left is the Ellicott Square Building; with 500,000 square feet, it was the world's largest office building for 16 years after it opened in 1896. Step inside to see the majestic interior courtyard with its glass roof and Italian marble mosaic floor. It's also a good place to stop and have a Beef on Weck -- Buffalo's signature roast beef sandwich -- from Charlie the Butcher Express, right in the lobby. Cut over Swan Street to Pearl Street, and on your left is E. B. Green's Dun Building, named for Robert Dun, founder of the nation's largest credit-reporting agency, Dun & Bradstreet. Walk north on Pearl Street, and on your left just before Church Street is Louis Sullivan's stunning Guaranty Building from 1895, dressed up in ornate terra-cotta tiles. Turning left on Church and right on Franklin, you'll find the late-Victorian Romanesque Old County Hall. Head farther north on Franklin and you can't miss the massive Buffalo City Hall, an Art Deco gem with a brightly colored crown to your left. Go up to the 28th-floor observation deck (free) for a great panoramic view of the city (tel. 716/851-4200; Mon-Fri 8am-5pm). Turning left out of City Hall, walk north on Delaware Avenue, and take a break for a coffee at Spot, 227 Delaware Ave. (tel. 716/332-2299), at the corner of Chippewa, where people flock at all times of the day and night.
Walking the Waterfront -- Buffalo's ambitious waterfront revitalization project (www.eriecanalharbor.com) -- an attempt to transform 12 1/2 acres of the harbor into a tourism destination -- has made some significant progress. The restored Erie Canal Harbor opened to the public for the first time in summer 2008, and there's still a lot more to come. For now, take a walk around the harbor and the rebuilt Commercial Slip (the passage that joined the canal to the Great Lakes). Read all about the Erie Canal's heritage on the interpretive exhibits, and then pay a visit to the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, One Naval Park Cove (tel. 716/847-1773; www.buffalonavalpark.org), where you can explore a submarine, a missile cruiser, and USS The Sullivans, a destroyer named after the five brothers who died when their ship was sunk by a Japanese torpedo.
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