There are many incredible things to do in Buffalo, New York. However, if you want to see plants that can’t be found naturally in the outdoors in western New York, there’s one particular spot to check out: the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens.
The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, also known as the Buffalo Botanical Gardens or the Buffalo Gardens, is located at the southern tip of Buffalo near the city of Lackawanna. The gardens opened to the public in 1900, the year before the city hosted the Pan-American Expo.
The botanical gardens are housed within an incredible glass structure that was designed by Lord & Burnham, one of the preeminent conservatory designers of the late 19th century. Today, it is one of the few Victorian-era conservatories to survive.
Inside the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, you’ll find a wide assortment of tropical plants, cacti, and other plants from warm climates. It’s quite amazing to walk through these gardens in one of the snowiest places in the country and see tropical plants and even fruits like bananas and pineapples growing.
That makes the Buffalo Botanical Gardens a fantastic spot to escape the cold of winter (after checking out the Christmas lights at the Festival of Lights), though they are open throughout the year. However, just be aware that on a hot summer day, like the one on which I visited, the gardens are almost always warmer than the outside temperature.
So, while it’s still beautiful, don’t visit this spot to escape the summer heat.
There are a total of 12 gardens or “houses” as the gardens’ map calls them. These are located not only in the three large domed rooms but also among the small greenhouses that connect them together.
Each of these houses offers a different type of garden and represents a unique environment from around the world.
The most grandiose room is the Palm Dome, which is where you both enter and exit the gardens from. At 67 feet in height, this area is known for its large palm trees. Even within such a space, it’s a bit hard to envision that palm trees could be grown in Buffalo.
This room is quite beautiful and light-filled as the ceiling is entirely made of glass panels. This gives that space a very bright and airy feel and is a joy to explore.
Self-guided tours of the Buffalo Botanical Gardens go in a counter-clockwise direction, starting and ending in the Palm Dome.
From this central dome, the gardens flow into two areas filled with beautiful rainforest plants and waterways. You’ll find both ponds with koi and even a small waterfall within these gardens.
As you continue to pass through the rest of the gardens, you’ll pass incredible cacti, bonsai, carnivorous plants, and many more incredible display areas.
Most of the plants have their species affixed onto them or nearby. There are also some information signs scattered throughout the space, as well, for those that want to learn more general about the garden and the habitats featured in the houses.
In the back portion of the gardens, you’ll find some interesting exhibits on the history of the space as well as some artwork featuring plants from around the world.
There is also both an indoor and outdoor children’s garden in this area with some really fun-looking interactive elements and colorful displays. Unfortunately, during my visit, these gardens were closed to the public, but peering into them, I know they are places that my children would have enjoyed, so hopefully, they will be open during your visit.
I also really enjoyed the third domed room, which is the Florida Everglades House.
This space was one of the most heavily themed and featured a neat boardwalk through the space, a large fish pond, and some really neat alligator sculptures.
In addition to the indoor exhibit areas, there are also several outdoor spaces at the Buffalo Botanical Gardens. These are great to enjoy in addition to (or in lieu of ) visiting the indoor spaces. However, because they are outdoors, these gardens are filled with the types of native plants that you’d normally see at other spots within the Greater Niagara Region.
Overall, the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens is a beautiful spot to visit, and the chance to see tropical plants, especially if you visit in the winter, is really neat in western New York.
That being said, if I had one criticism, the gardens are a bit on the small side. All told, even going slowly and reading a lot of the signage, it only took me about 45 minutes to get through the entire space.
While it might take you longer if you are really interested in plants or have kids playing in the children’s garden, others might make it through the space a bit more quickly.
Because of that, this is definitely more a destination for those that really love plants or those looking for a warm and unique spot to explore on a cold day.
However, if you love botanical gardens, you are sure to enjoy this beautiful and historic spot in Erie County, New York.
Buffalo Botanical Gardens
Hours: Daily: 10am-4pm
Cost: Adults: $15.50, Children: $8.50
Address: 2655 South Park Ave