Buffalo is the second most populous city in the state of New York, after New York City. Located in Western New York on the eastern shores of Lake Erie and at the head of the Niagara River across from Fort Erie, Ontario, Buffalo is the seat of Erie County and the principal city of the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metropolitan area, the largest in Upstate New York. Buffalo itself has a population of 261,310 (2010 Census) and the Buffalo–Niagara–Cattaraugus Combined Statistical Area is home to 1,215,826 residents.
Originating around 1789 as a small trading community near the eponymous Buffalo Creek, Buffalo grew quickly after the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, with the city as its western terminus. By 1900, Buffalo was the 8th largest city in the United States, and went on to become a major railroad hub, and the largest grain-milling center in the country. The latter part of the 20th Century saw a reversal of fortunes: Great Lakes shipping was rerouted by the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, and steel mills and other heavy industry relocated to places such as China. With the start of Amtrak in the 1970s, Buffalo Central Terminal was also abandoned, and trains were rerouted to nearby Depew, New York (Buffalo-Depew) and Exchange Street Station. By 1990 the city had fallen back below its 1900 population levels.
Today, the region's largest economic sectors are health care and education, and these continue to grow despite the lagging national and worldwide economies.This growth has been maintained, in part, by major expansions of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. The retail sector of Buffalo's economy has remained strong throughout the economic recession due to additional revenue from Canadian shoppers who wish to take advantage of lower prices and taxes on the American side of the border. A recent study found Buffalo's August 2011 unemployment rate to be 7.3% In 2010, Forbes rated Buffalo the 10th best place to raise a family in America.
Buffalo is located on the eastern end of Lake Erie, opposite Fort Erie, Ontario, and at the beginning of the Niagara River, which flows northward over Niagara Falls and into Lake Ontario.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 52.5 square miles (136 km2), of which 40.6 square miles (105 km2) is land and 11.9 square miles (31 km2) is water. The total area is 22.66% water.
Buffalo has a reputation for snowy winters, but it is rarely the snowiest city in New York State. The region experiences a fairly humid, continental-type climate, but with a definite maritime flavor due to strong modification from the Great Lakes (Köppen climate classification "Dfb" — uniform precipitation distribution). The transitional seasons are very brief in Buffalo and Western New York.
Winters in Western New York are generally cold and snowy, but are changeable and include frequent thaws and rain as well. Winters can also be quite long in Western New York, usually spanning from mid-November to mid-March. Snow covers the ground more often than not from late December into early March, but periods of bare ground are not uncommon. Over half of the annual snowfall comes from the lake effect process and is very localized. Lake effect snow occurs when cold air crosses the relatively warm lake waters and becomes saturated, creating clouds and precipitation downwind. Due to the prevailing winds, areas south of Buffalo receive much more lake effect snow than locations to the north. The lake snow machine starts as early as mid-November, peaks in December, then virtually shuts down after Lake Erie freezes in mid-to-late January. The most well-known snowstorm in Buffalo's history, the Blizzard of '77, was not a lake effect snowstorm in Buffalo in the normal sense of that term (Lake Erie was frozen over at the time), but instead resulted from a combination of high winds and snow previously accumulated both on land and on frozen Lake Erie. Snow does not typically impair the city's operation, but can cause significant damage as with the October 2006 storm.
Buffalo has the sunniest and driest summers of any major city in the Northeast, but still has enough rain to keep vegetation green and lush. Summers are marked by plentiful sunshine and moderate humidity and temperature. It receives, on average, over 65% of possible sunshine in June, July and August. Obscured by the notoriety of Buffalo's winter snow is the fact that Buffalo benefits from other lake effects such as the cooling southwest breezes off Lake Erie in summer that gently temper the warmest days. As a result, the Buffalo station of the National Weather Service has never recorded an official temperature of 100 °F (37.8 °C) or more. Rainfall is moderate but typically occurs at night. The stabilizing effect of Lake Erie continues to inhibit thunderstorms and enhance sunshine in the immediate Buffalo area through most of July. August usually has more showers and is hotter and more humid as the warmer lake loses its temperature-stabilizing influence.
The highest recorded temperature in Buffalo was 99 °F (37.2 °C) on August 27, 1948, and the lowest recorded temperature was −20 °F (−28.9 °C) on February 9, 1934 and February 2, 1961.
Buffalo was the quintessential 19th Century boomtown. Its position at the western end of the Erie Canal made it the Gateway to the West - the departure point for immigrants on their way to the heartland. You can experience this history at the newly revived and restored Erie Canal Harbor. Buffalo was also one of the last stops on the Underground Railroad, a beacon for runaway slaves seeking freedom on the far side of the Niagara River. Battles were fought here, the city put to the torch by British loyalists during the War of 1812. Fortunes were made here by the likes of a young William G. Fargo, founder of American Express and Wells Fargo. A President was assassinated here - William McKinley at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition - and another inaugurated - Theodore Roosevelt at the Wilcox Mansion on the city's grand boulevard, Delaware Avenue. Buffalo also sent two of its sons - Millard Fillmore and Grover Cleveland -to Washington as Presidents.
Today, you can step back in time to the War of 1812 on the battlements of Old Fort Niagara; experience 19th century life on the Niagara Frontier at the Amherst Museum; travel 15 miles on the Erie Canal with the help of Lockport Locks and Erie Canal Cruises; tour the Civil War graves at beautiful Forest Lawn Cemetery; explore Buffalo's pivotal role in America's rise to industrial preeminence at the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society; or sample a real slice of Americana at the Colored Musician's Club where jazz legends like Louis Armstrong jammed. Presidential history buffs can even stand where Teddy Roosevelt stood when he took the oath of office at the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site or visit the Millard Fillmore House in historic East Aurora. And the kids are sure to love the Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park, the country's largest inland floating history museum. In between it all, stop in at Founding Fathers, a presidential-themed pub in a former 19th century livery.
History buffs will also be taken with the antique cars at the Buffalo Transportation/Pierce-Arrow Museum. Rich neighborhood history can be found at the Iron Island Museum. Dedicated to preserving the history of the Lovejoy District, the museum chronicles the railroad history, the schools and churches, and its military men and women. Nearby, you'll find the Chautauqua Institution, a National Historic Landmark, renowned for its Victorian architecture and summer-long cultural activity, and the Genesee Country Village and Museum, the largest collection of historic buildings in the eastern United States.