Seneca Falls and Lake Seneca
The town of Seneca Falls was a highlight on our cruise. Docking here offers free hookups, showers, bathrooms and laundry machines. Docks are easy access to key museums, boutiques and restaurants on Falls Stree. To get here leave the Erie Canal and head south on the Cayuga - Seneca Canal and then go west on the Seneca Canal after the lock. Seneca Falls claims the start of the woman’s rights movement with the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. The Woman’s Rights National Historical Park (https://www.nps.gov/wori/index.htm) is a must-see museum. It starts with life size statues of notable people as if they are going to the convention. A ranger walked us around the statues giving us a who’s who of them. There are two floors of exhibits and the original meeting building next door. Down the block is the Woman’s National Hall of Fame (www.womenofthehall.org). This small storefront is wall to wall with plaques having pictures and biographies of its honorees dating back over 200 years. Other places to visit should include the Seneca Museum of Waterways and Industry; the It’s a Wonderful Life Museum (www.wonderfullifemuseum.com) dedicated to the movie and the old mansion at the historical society (www.sfhistoricalsociety.org). For dinner, we recommend a very good Mexican place called El Bajio. After dinner stroll the Ludovico Sculpture Trail.
From Seneca Falls we headed into Lake Seneca and spent a night at the dock at the Belhurst Castle (www.belhurst.com). Their dock below this majestic looking inn offered no services but was a nice place to take a swim off the boat. At Belhurst we enjoyed their paired wine tasting in their wine and beer showroom. We also had an excellent dinner at the castle with a nice view. For the afternoon we strolled 10 minutes down the road to the boutique resort, Geneva on the Lake (www.genevaonthelake.com) for lunch and a dip in their pool. Both of these resorts are first class inns. Consider a night ashore at either place. If you have time we recommend going south 35 miles to stay a few nights in Watkins Glen. Before arriving in this area make sure you are fueled up so you can avoid Stivers Seneca Marine diesel fuel prices that were $2 a gallon over the rest of the Erie Canal.
The Tonowanda’s (The End)
Tonawanda marks the end of the Erie Canal today. Here we cruised passed the entrance and did a victory circle in the Niagara River picking up a ceremonial bucket of water that we used to dump into New York City’s water on our return. We docked on the south wall for four days because we were in a good location and it was nice not to move for a change. The docks here are an easy walk to anything a boater will need and a fun place on the weekends. Tonawanda is also a 20-minute drive to either Niagara Falls or Buffalo in which we toured both places. It is not worth taking your boat to Buffalo.
To learn about the area, we met Ned from the Historical Society of the Tonawandas (www.tonawandashistory.org). He walked us around while showing us where the old canal used to turn and explaining the booming history of the past. Back in the day, this place was one of the major ports in America. Ned also took us to nearby streets with beautiful homes dating back 170 years. Afterward, we visited the restored Benjamin Long Homestead built in 1829 that was just steps from our boat. When here don’t miss the Herschel Carrousel Factory Museum and take a ride on a 100-year-old carrousel amongst other worthy exhibits. This area produced over 3000 carousels. (www.carrouselmuseum.org) Docking on the south wall has you minutes from supermarkets, drugstores and nearly half a dozen restaurants worth dining at. For a throwback experience go to Lou’s diner for breakfast or old comfort food weekly specials.
Using Tonawanda as a base we reserved a dockside pick up with Enterprise car rental. Having a car allowed us to visit one of America’s oldest tourist destinations, Niagara Falls. We also decided to visit Buffalo and to our surprise, we realized that the city is a lot more than snowstorms and wings!
When driving to the Falls park at Goat Island, leave your car and buy the trolley ticket that shuttles you all over the American side. Goat Island’s biggest paid attraction is the Cave of the Winds Tour. This awe-inspiring walk at the base of the falls will have you see, hear and feel the power Niagara Falls up close and personal. Visitor are given a rain poncho and water sandals to offer some water protection. Don’t even think about taking a selfie unless your phone is water resistant! While on the island take the stroll over the footbridge to tiny Luna Island. Below the footbridge, you can look down and see millions of gallons of water rush over the side. From here you can see the American Falls on your right, and the smaller but impressive Bridal Veil Falls on your left. Another must-see viewpoint on Goat Island is from Terrapin Point to view the curve of Horseshoe Falls. Terrapin Point has a nice restaurant for lunch. Further up the road is Three Sisters Islands where you can take a footbridge for an up-close look at the rapids.
Let another captain drive a boat by taking the Maid of the Mist ride. (www.maidofthemist.com).
Here the thunder and feel the spray with a one hour cruise giving you a river view of the American Falls before going directly in front of Horseshoe Falls. The top deck will give you a wet open sky view. The lower deck keeps you fairly dry. Each passenger gets a poncho. After disembarking take the stairs to view the falls up close. Consider this is a mini version of the Cave of the Winds tour mentioned above.
Steal a two-country kiss by walking across Rainbow Bridge to Canada. From the bridge you can view both falls and stop in the middle for a two-country kiss. To cross over make sure you have a proper ID to get into Canada and back. Passing through Customs is easy and fast. Clifton Hill near the bridge is family friendly and full of kitschy things to see and do. It has its share of fast food, fudge and ice cream shops. (www.cliftonhill.com).
End your day with diner at Savor (www.nfculinary.org/savor) which is run by the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute. After dinner walk across the street to the Hyatt Place and enjoy the nightly fireworks from the rooftop patio. After the fireworks make your way to see the falls which is all lit up. For information on Niagara Falls go to www.niagarafallsstatepark.com.
Buffalo (Who Knew?)
While in the area we were curious to know what Buffalo was all about. We visited it using a tour bus, tour boat, feet and our mouth.
Start your visit with a with a narrated two-hour Nickel City bus tour. (www.nickelcitytours.com). Our guide passionately told us about the architecture and history of the city while driving through vibrant neighborhoods, parks, the waterfront, theatre district and past the Anchor Bar. Seating on the bus is stadium style with big views and a roof. During the tour, our guide augmented his stories with photos on a large monitor that we found interesting. We departed the bus pleasantly surprised by what we saw.
Our next stop was Canal Side for the Buffalo River History tour. Here we boarded a boat for a narrated 90-minute cruise on the Buffalo River and out to the entrance of Lake Erie. (www.buffaloriverhistorytours.com). On board we learned that Buffalo became the largest grain port in the world because of the Erie Canal that started here originally. The tour cruise by the largest collection of grain elevators in the world with the biggest at 3.47 million bushels. Some are still in use. During our boat ride we saw some revitalization of the river banks taking place in the form of housing or entertainment. After this informative cruise, consider visiting the Buffalo Naval Park next door (www.buffalonavalpark.org)
For fans of architecture and Frank Lloyd Wright, a visit to The Martin House is a must. (www. martinhouse.org) Completed in 1905 this unique residential complex is considered one Mr. Wright’s finest achievements in the Prairie design and one of his best homes in the Eastern United States. During our one hour tour the guide explained the nuances of the property and how the rooms and corridors flowed into each other in classic Wright design.
Our sightseeing ended with an Explore Buffalo walking tour (www.explorebuffalo.org) They offer different tours of downtown that spotlight the city’s architecture and history.
After years of eating Buffalo wings (called wings here), we went to the Anchor Bar where it all started. (Click www.anchorbar.com on why this spicy dish was created). The Anchor Bar is a normal looking pub with the exception of old motorcycles looking down on patrons. We ordered their classic wings and some cold drafts and were not disappointed. Between the bar and tables is store to buy sauce and souvenirs. Many locals snub them for a place called Duff’s Famous Wings. For events, tours and more on Buffalo go to www.visitbuffaloniagara.com
Tab Hauser is a U.S. Coast Guard Certified Captain and has been writing about cruising for over ten years. You can find some of his cruising stories by web searching “Long Island Boating World Tab Hauser” or go to www.tabhauser.com. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.