Buffalo/East Side

Sourced from Wikivoyage. Text is available under the CC-by-SA 3.0 license.
Andre Carrotflower

If you're a visitor in Buffalo and you ask a local for advice, one of the things you'll almost certainly be told is to stay away from the East Side. "You take your life in your hands when you cross Main Street", so they might say, perhaps punctuating their warning with lurid tales straight out of a pulp magazine about the trouble a friend of a friend ran into there, or half-remembered news headlines about street gangs and drive-by shootings. And for that certain type of person whose curiosity is piqued enough to take a look for themselves, at first they might think the stories are true: with boarded-up storefronts, garbage-strewn vacant lots, and run-down houses all over the place, the East Side's socioeconomic problems are plain to see. What could this place possibly have to offer visitors?
Plenty, actually.
The first thing you need to know is that the East Side's reputation as a crime-infested hellhole is largely hype. The poverty in which many East Siders live doesn't always translate to high crime rates: yes, the most dangerous neighborhoods in Buffalo are found within this district, but it has its share of quiet areas too. And as in any American city, with just a modicum of common sense and advance planning, the crime around here is quite avoidable. The second thing to know is that the East Side is one of the most interesting and historic parts of Buffalo, populated since the dawn of its history by wave after wave of hardworking immigrants who came in search of a better life in the factories, railroads, and stockyards of what was then one of America's top industrial centers. First came the Germans, then the Poles and the Italians, then Russian Jews and an assortment of Eastern Europeans, then the African-Americans who migrated up from the South starting in the early 20th Century and were the East Side's dominant group by the '60s and '70s. Many vestiges of that rich tapestry of the past still soldier on, like the old Polish district along Broadway, and the vicinity of Michigan Avenue where many of the pivotal events in the history of Buffalo's black community came to pass.
But that's just the beginning of the story. The East Side also has the Buffalo Museum of Science that's been dazzling visitors in the midst of the Olmsted-designed greenery of Martin Luther King, Jr. Park since 1929; architecture buffs will be bowled over by the palatial majesty of the huge old churches that pepper the streetscape; jazz lovers will be — well — jazzed by the neighborhood's summer festival calendar. And the East Side isn't finished as an immigrant haven either: today thriving communities of Yemenis, Bangladeshis, and Southeast Asians call the district home.
Yeah, the locals will think you're nuts, but the joke's on them. The rich variety of experiences that this part of town has to offer is unfamiliar even to most people who've lived in Buffalo all their lives. In fact, if you do your homework, the time you spend on the East Side might even be the highlight of your visit — especially if you're looking for an experience that is truly unique, miles away from the same old cliché Buffalo tourist attractions that the guidebooks all rave about. Either way, the East Side is an undiscovered treasure that's worth discovering.


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