The Erie Canal is a 200-year-old modern engineering marvel that runs right through Rochester in different canalside villages and hamlets including Fairport, Pittsford, Bushnell’s Basin, Spencerport and Brockport.
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.
A visit to the Erie Canal (or getting on the canal!) is an opportunity to experience history, while also enjoying all that the canal offers today. Experience the thrill of riding a boat in a canal lock, view historic buildings, float along calm waters and stroll picturesque village streets. Visit sites that have survived unchanged and savor a slower pace while traveling through canal side communities. Taste freshly harvested produce at a local farmer’s market. Enjoy the fun of a lively canalside festival or concert.
One of the most popular features of the Erie Canal today is the Erie Canal towpath, part of the Empire State Trail. The towpath runs alongside the Erie Canal, with multiple access points throughout Monroe County. The Erie Canal towpath is ideal for a leisurely bike ride or walk with wide, flat, safe and open paths that run along the canal side through parks and villages.
Get on the waters of the Erie Canal with a kayak, canoe or even on a houseboat! Erie Canal Adventures offers houseboat rentals for an once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Another fabulous option for getting on the water of the Erie Canal and discovering some of the canal’s rich history is on a tour boat like the Sam Patch (departing out of Pittsford, NY) or the Colonial Belle (departing out of Fairport, NY). Both offer interpretative cruises and a chance to enjoy the natural beauty and rich history of the Erie Canal.
The canalside communities of Fairport, Bushnell’s Basin, Pittsford, Spencerport and Brockport are also destinations to add to your Rochester itinerary. Visit these communities and see how the Erie Canal is embraced as a second “Main Street'' in these small towns. As an added bonus, most canal towns have two things in common: an ice cream shop and a brewery!
To learn more about the history of the Erie Canal check out the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. To explore the “100 Must See Miles” of the Erie Canal found throughout Monroe, Orleans and Wayne counties, see the 100 Must See Miles Guide here.