By Yashy Selvadurai Murphy
My guess is that you think you’ve explored all there is to do in Western New York. Outlet shopping, catching a Buffalo Bills game, exploring Niagara Falls and even dining at the famous Anchor Bar – all done right? How about the Erie side of Western New York, conveniently located less than thirty minutes from Niagara Falls New York? There’s plenty to do that is off the beaten path that will take the kids and adults on an adventurous and educational journey. I’d recommend this area especially for history, nature and engineering buffs as there’s things to explore that are outside of the usual repertoire of attractions. Most attractions in the area run from spring to fall so it’s perfect for a last minute escape this fall or as you plan ahead for the warmer weather next year.
Located half an hour from Niagara Falls is the manmade Lockport Cave where kids and parents can tour through the water tunnel that was blasted out of solid rock to create the Erie Canal in the 1850s. Through a 70 minute guided tour in a group setting you get kissed by stalactites, touch various geological formations and peek at artifacts left behind in the underground caves by the men who built the tunnel in the early days of the Erie Canal.
If you’re visiting with infants, keep in mind that strollers are not allowed due to the stairs and dark narrow paths in the cave. The highlight of the tour happens towards the end of the tour when you embark on America’s longest underground boat ride along the Erie Canal. An experience like no other, kids will love gliding over the still waters in the dark .
Named a ‘Modern Marvel” by the History Channel the Lockport Locks are definitely a feat of engineering. The Erie Canal was originally built to create a water route from New York City and the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. The canal rises 570 feet in elevation from the Hudson River to Lake Erie and 57 locks help boats navigate the high and low waters. Each lock gradually helps lift and lower boats so that they can combat the 570 feet rise in water level as they cruise along the waterway.
There’s no better way to relax in the Erie area than by riding through the 19th-century engineering marvel which opened the American Frontier. The guided two hour cruise offers plenty of room for kids to play, parents to enjoy a beverage and for all to be amazed at the 20-foot high stone walls and foliage that surrounds the canal.
Old Fort Niagara
The past comes to life at Old Fort Niagara as everything is as it was in the 1700s when France and Britain controlled Niagara. The oldest building on the Great Lakes can be found here and kids will get a history lesson as they watch enactments, meet staff dressed in period clothing and spot the War of 1812 flag.
This is an excellent spot for kids to roam around and explore the site of historic battles. Between musket and artillery firing demonstrations, artisans working and guided tours, visitors can learn about life on the Niagara Frontier during the 18th and early 19th centuries. An hour or two here will definitely have the little ones tired out and ready for a nap!
The next time you head towards a Buffalo shopping spree or take in the marvel that is Niagara Falls, think about exploring the Erie side of New York for some travels off the beaten path. There’s plenty to explore on the Western side of New York, have you visited other sites in the area?
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