Erie Canal Cruise
Leave the car behind at Macedon’s Mid-Lakes Erie Macedon Landing where you can learn to drive one of the gleaming wooden canal boats that are waiting for visitors to come relive a bit of history. These simple-to-pilot boats can be driven by anyone with a few lessons. Check out Longacre Farms, a family farm with Scandinavian jumping pillow (for all ages), gemstone panning, and the Amazing Maize Maze, or the town’s annual, mid-September Lumberjack Festival which lets even amateurs unleash their inner Paul Bunyan with log rolling and team “greased pole” climbing, courtesy of Crisco, before steering the boat on west.
Start at the bustling canalside community of Fairport, just a 1.5-hour cruise west of Macedon. Dock and explore with RV&E bicycle and roller blade rentals or Erie Canal Boat Company kayak rentals. Stock up at the Red Bird Market for baked goods and coffee before a quick cone at Lickity Splits or a pit stop at Donnelley’s, an excellent pub with 22 taps and good food.
Cruisers should seize the opportunity to pick a top Dockmaster’s brain about the area before requesting him to initiate the very unusual, Slanted Lift Bridge,, the only one of its kind on the canal system.
En route to Pittsford, one hour west of Fairport, Bushnell’s Basin is a charming spot to dock just outside of the village. Here you will find Richardson’s Canal House, fine dining with outdoor seating at the canal’s edge.
Pittsford itself is loaded with unique shops and restaurants, and has redefined the use of old buildings like the Coal Tower right along the canal. Pittsford’s Lock 32 has a unique attraction: white-water kayaking in the spillway bed.
Live music also rocks the locks here, with Summer Concert Series,Positively Pittsford, and Pittsford Celebrates at the Port of Pittsford, all filled with family entertainment and the occasional fireworks display.
From Pittsford, head out to Rochester. This cultured city is loaded with things to do and taxi service is readily available to venture out to see the Strong National Museum of Play, George Eastman House, and High Falls, which features a 96-foot “metropolitan” waterfall. Mid-May, Lilac Festival, or early-June Rochester International Jazz Festival are fun add-ons.
From Albion, featuring the Canalway Trail, head west towards the village of Medina (1.5 hours west of Albion). Stop for a few minutes at Culvert Road to take in a car passing right under the canal, the only place on the NYS Canal System where this happens. Beyond Culvert Road, the Erie Canal crosses an aqueduct that takes the canal over Oak Orchard creek. The Erie Canal is approximately 42 feet above Medina Falls.
In Medina, check out the Railroad Museum, with its 100-year-old freight terminal and huge collection of railroad memorabilia and model trains. The Locktender is on hand in Lockport, two hours west of Medina, to recommend best of several places in town to tie up. Locks 34 and 35, are one of two sets of double locks on the canal system and will raise you a total of 50 feet over the Niagara Escarpment, the same geological formation that creates Niagara Falls. Spend the night in Lockport.
Adjacent to the modern locks, explore the stonework from the set of five locks that took the original Erie Canal through Lockport. Be sure to visit the museum located at the base of the locks. Additional attractions in this historic canal town include: Lockport Cave and Underground Boat Rides, where former underground hydraulic tunnels are now used for a unique cave attraction; The Kenan Arts Center; and the Erie Canal Discovery Center, which highlights Lockport’s role in the opening of the Erie Canal through interactive exhibits.
Lockport Trolley Tour offers easy, narrated transportation to all of the Lockport attractions. The late-June 35th Annual Lockport Outdoor Arts & Crafts Festival and a Wednesday Front Porch Concert Series add to seasonal fun.
From Lockport, drive 2.5 hours west to Tonawanda, the midway point between Buffalo and Niagara Falls. In Tonawanda, a landscaped Heritage Trail connects the Herschell Carousel Factory Museum with the Railroad Museum. The trail continues, by means of signage, to the Riviera Theatre, on the Erie Canal where water bikes can be rented. CanalFest of the Tonawandas and the Tonawanda Folk Festival make for a great end to a trip up Erie’s historic canal towns.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition