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Buffalo’s ranking in travel magazine may be manufactured, but it’s got truth on its side

Buffalo as a travel destination? Absolutely.

For those who missed the news, our fabulous city has been crowned as the tops: No. 1 on the list of Travel+Leisure magazine’s list of “America’s Favorite Cities.”

This old Rust Belt town has definitely gotten its groove back, and thanks to the kind of publicity that money cannot buy, the word is spreading near and far.

Visitors to the Queen City will be pleasantly surprised, as they find a diverse range of activities from music to sports to culture, and within a stone’s throw of Niagara Falls. There’s so much to recommend that it sometimes comes as a surprise to visitors-turned-Buffalove supporters.

Buffalo-as-the-place-to-be-and-see prevailed over such destinations as Nashville, New Orleans and Denver. All are great places with a lot to recommend, but for us and, apparently a good number of fans, not nearly as special as the one that topped the list. Some of that may be because Buffalo is relatively unknown, but the format of the competition helped, too.

Online voters were asked to rank their favorite destinations according to 65 criteria such as architecture, restaurants, craft breweries and public parks. Visit Buffalo Niagara launched a smart campaign promoting the survey on social media, and persuaded its followers to cast ballots in favor of Buffalo. The survey ran online from October through April. It worked.

So did efforts by Visit Buffalo Niagara to host travel writers in the region. The city ended up with 230 mentions in travel publications around the globe. The agency determined that those mentions were equal to $4.1 million in free advertising.

Readers took note of how “wildly underrated” the city is, and raved about its affordability and high-end dining: Marble + Rye, CRaVing, Canalside, RiverWorks and the Curtiss Hotel gained particular notice.

Buffalo can brag about a number of attributes that make it a worthwhile trip: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House, the Richardson Olmsted Complex; Babeville (formerly Asbury United Methodist Church); the E.B. Green-designed Albright-Knox Art Gallery; the art deco beauty of City Hall; and several architectural points in between.

Besides the gallery, visitors can check out the Buffalo Zoo, the Buffalo History Museum, Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens and Pierce-Arrow Museum.

Patrons of the arts can catch any number of shows in the Theater District at Shea’s Performing Arts Center, Irish Classical Theatre or Kavinoky, or head to Kleinhans Music Hall to listen to the world-renowned Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, or check out Shakespeare in Delaware Park. Don’t forget the grass-roots Buffalo Infringement Festival and First Friday gallery walks through Allentown.

For visitors who want a laid-back experience on Lake Erie, there is finally a developed waterfront from which to launch. To all those who used to joke about this once-deserted land mass – we’re looking at you, Bette Midler – it is now the place to be for outdoor summertime concerts, vendors, boaters, canoes and kayaks and, during the winter, for ice bikes and ice skates.

One trip to Buffalo may not be enough. Two, three, four – it isn’t hard to get hooked on this City of Good Neighbors.

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