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Buffalo’s image is maligned by weather, areas of urban decay, rabid sports fans, and a strong working-class element. New York’s second largest city is a major port and “rust belt” manufacturing center, although its industries are in various stages of decline. Heavy lake-effect snows make Buffalo the fifth snowiest metropolitan area in the country. Downtown is unremarkable but clean and improving, although there are many gritty areas around the city. But positive qualities do exist: lake effects bring notably pleasant weather in spring, summer, and early fall, and there is a strong assortment of cultural amenities, historic districts, and architectural highlights with few crowds.
Buffalo has better than average shopping supported in part by Canadian citizens traveling across the border to avoid local taxes and high prices—although this comes and goes with fluctuations in the dollar. Recently, the strength in the Canadian currency has expanded this influx. A number of old-economy industries have been lost; others like auto parts maker Delphi have been struggling. Yet, community spirit and strong state economic development programs have brought in some newer-economy businesses, notably biotech and medical technology companies; we’ll see if these “stick.” The strong community feel spreads into the suburbs, and some, particularly north and east towards Amherst, offer excellent values. The city is fanatical about major-league sports, with the Buffalo Bills, Sabres, and a few minor-league teams as focal points. Niagara Falls is a special attraction, and there is a large wine-growing area to the east and another to the west. For a real cosmopolitan getaway, Toronto is 100 miles away. Bottom line: Buffalo is a city of tradeoffs; for those able to take the winters and economic malaise it offers numerous amenities at a reasonable cost, and while today’s overall ranking is weak, its fortunes may at last be on the upswing.
Buffalo is located on the coastal plain of Lake Erie, where the Niagara River connects north to Lake Ontario. The climate is continental with a definite Great-Lakes marine effect. The reputation for bad weather comes from heavy localized lake-effect snows, but summers are among the sunniest, driest, and most pleasant in the Northeast. Winters are generally cloudy, cold, snowy, and changeable with frequent thaws and rain. Snow covers the ground more often than not from Christmas into early March. Lake-effect snows taper off when the lake freezes in January. The lakes modify extreme cold, minimizing below-zero temperatures. Because of the water, Buffalo warms more slowly in the spring, but the lake also inhibits spring and early summer thunderstorms. Temperatures seldom reach 90[dg] F. First freeze is late September, last is May, but inland conditions are more extreme.