Do you know the history of the Erie Canal? Well, if not, no worries! Here’s a quick recap:
The Erie Canal literally opened up the western United States to expansion in 1825 when the canal was built and Rochester became the country's first "boomtown." The Erie Canal is credited for creating New York City as a major port and thus, one of the world’s foremost cities. Today, the Canal presents a fascinating story of an almost forgotten commercial waterway emerging as a major tourist destination and recreational resource.
Here’s how you can have an educational and leisurely experience throughout Rochester’s canalside villages and hamlets, including Pittsford, Fairport, Bushnell’s Basin, Spencerport and Brockport:
Colonel Caleb Hopkins, who was a leading citizen who had been supervisor and a hero of the War of 1812, named Pittsford after his hometown of Pittsford, Vermont. When the Erie Canal opened in 1825, the village became a busy shipping port with produce being sent to the eastern markets. The arrival of the Auburn and Rochester railroad in 1842 also contributed to the village’s growth.
- Get on the water: Cruise the Sam Patch, departing Wednesday through Monday from 12 Schoen Place, beginning in May.
- Fun things to do: Visit Schoen Place for a great selection of shopping and dining. Looking to coast the trails along the canal? Stop into Towpath Bike to shop for or rent a bike.
- Restaurants: Grab a sweet treat at the Pittsford Dairy, enjoy a great meal at Simply Crepes, or savor a brew or taste of the vine at Via Girasole Wine Bar.
- Lodging: Treat yourself to a suite at The Del Monte Lodge Renaissance Rochester Hotel & Spa.
The Village of Fairport is located within the Town of Perinton. From its earliest days, the presence of the waterway helped transform what had once been known as Perrinsville into a very "fair port” for an overnight stay by passing travelers. Fairport also benefitted from the railroad’s arrival in 1853, making this growing community one of the leading centers of transportation and industry of its time in all of Upstate New York.
- Get on the water: Hop aboard the Colonial Belle for a cruise along the Erie Canal.
- Fun things to do: Shop and dine at Fairport Village Landing, and mark your calendar for Fairport’s Canal Days in June. Need a way to get around? Stop into RV&E for bikes, gear and more.
- Restaurants: There’s something for everybody in Fairport: Lulu when a taqueria’s where you want to go, The Porterhouse when you’re craving a good cut of meat, Iron Smoke Distillery for a bourbon or craft cocktail, and Branca when you’re in the mood for an Italian masterpiece.
- Lodging: The Woodcliff Hotel & Spa is the perfect place to rest your head after an adventurous day in Fairport.
Also located in Perinton is Bushnell’s Basin. The surrounding neighborhoods are almost evenly split between Fairport and Pittsford. The Basin is within close proximity to various businesses and eateries, as well as outdoor activities such as Kreag Road Park and a public boat dock area on the Erie Canal.
- Get on the water from location: Bushnell’s public dock area is perfect for parking your boat.
- Fun things to do: Admire the beauty of Powder Mills Park and enjoy outdoor recreational activity, such as hiking.
- Restaurants: Restaurants in the area include the canal-front Richardson’s Canal House, Seven Story Brewing that specializes in local craft beer, and the beloved Abbott’s Frozen Custard shop.
- Lodging: Catch some zzz’s at the nearby Hilton Garden Inn.
Originally called “Spencer’s Basin,” Spencerport started out as a farm that thrived as commerce on the Erie Canal prospered. The town became bustling canal center with warehouses, hotels, various stores and shops that encompassed every trade.
- Get on the water: Walkways surrounding the canal make for a peaceful stroll.
- Fun things to do: Visit the Spencerport Depot & Canal Museum to view historical items from the Erie Canal, Ogden Telephone Company, Village of Spencerport and Town of Ogden.
- Restaurants: Go for Italian cuisine at Grandpa Sam’s, classic BBQ at Texas Bar-B-Q Joint, Irish delights at McColley’s or a twist on neighborhood sports bar fare at Clutch.
- Lodging: After a day of sightseeing and dining, call it a night at the Home2 Suites by Hilton Rochester Greece.
Brockport – “The Victorian Village on the Erie Canal" – was incorporated in 1829, four years after the completion of the Erie Canal. Its name derives from one of its founders, Heil Brockway, who operated a packet line between Rochester and Buffalo and had a boatyard that, at one time, built more canal packet boats than any other in the world. Fun fact: Brockport celebrates its 193rd birthday this year!
- Get on the water: Take a walking tour through Brockport – go for a continuous stroll or walk one of the trail’s “segments.”
- Fun things to do: Celebrate the dynamic presence of African culture in America through performances by the Sankofa African Dance and Drum Ensemble. Performances run throughout April at SUNY Brockport.
- Restaurants: Enjoy some casual dining and great conversation at the Brockport Diner, Custom House, or Stoneyard Brewing.
- Lodging: Recharge with a good night’s rest at the Hampton Inn Brockport.