Take a day trip to Lock­port, N.Y.

His­tory, lo­cal cui­sine and wine await

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - LORNE OPLER

Think about Ni­a­gara U.S.A., and what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?

The Amer­i­can falls? Out­let malls? Maybe a gro­cery run to Top’s or Weg­man’s for foods that are im­pos­si­ble to find north of the bor­der, like Swiss Miss Co­coa or Cookie Crisp ce­real (now banned in Canada).

Well, think again. Only an hour from the Golden Horse­shoe, just be­yond Ni­a­gara’s crash­ing cataracts and clang­ing cash reg­is­ters, is the pic­turesque town of Lock­port, N.Y.

Named af­ter the im­pos­ing se­ries of locks that flank the his­toric Erie Canal in the city’s down­town, Lock­port makes for a per­fect day-away road trip that com­bines his­tory, re­gional cui­sine and some of the best ice cream in western New York.

The canal it­self, this year cel­e­brat­ing two cen­turies since its ini­tial con­struc­tion, was one of the first man-made wa­ter trans­porta­tion routes in the United States that con­nected port cities along the At­lantic Coast through the Great Lakes to the fledg­ing fron­tiers of the western ter­ri­to­ries. Where boats once car­ried man­u­fac­tured goods, farm pro­duce and even im­mi­grants bound for a new life in Amer­ica, tourists can en­joy a leisurely two-hour canal cruise cul­mi­nat­ing in a trip through the mas­sive steel gated locks to ex­pe­ri­ence first­hand the rise and fall of lock op­er­a­tions.

Mak­ing this at­trac­tion dou­bly unique is the re­cently com­pleted restora­tion of two of the five man­u­ally op­er­ated locks — a.k.a. the “Flight of Five”— dat­ing back to 1842. The wooden gates, used to open and close the locks, weigh 10,000 pounds each, and are brought back to life twice weekly dur­ing tourist sea­son through the sheer brute strength of eight vol­un­teers who demon­strate how the gates op­er­ated be­fore the ad­vent of elec­tric­ity.

Ad­ja­cent to the canal is the unique Lock­port Caves and Un­der­ground Boat Ride, where vis­i­tors are treated to a 70minute guided walk­ing tour and Amer­ica’s long­est un­der­ground boat ride through a 2,100-foot wa­ter tun­nel blasted out of the solid rock used from canal con­struc­tion. In­ter­est­ing ge­o­log­i­cal for­ma­tions in­ter­spersed with 150-yearold ar­ti­facts used dur­ing canal con­struc­tion, make this a unique ex­pe­ri­ence to com­ple­ment the boat cruise.

A trip to Lock­port is not com­plete, how­ever, with­out sam­pling some of its finest re­gional cui­sine. This starts at the locks with a visit to the aptly named “Flight of Five” Win­ery, part of the Ni­a­gara Wine Trail. Housed in the circa 1864 City Hall, the win­ery show­cases wines made from grapes grown on the Ni­a­gara Es­carp­ment, avail­able for sam-

pling in its canal themed tast­ing room.

A good drink de­serves a good meal and Lock­port serves up a va­ri­ety of ed­i­bles at af­ford­able prices, in­clud­ing at the pop­u­lar Scripts Café, a short walk from the locks tour boat launch. Per­fect for a light lunch be­fore or af­ter the canal cruise, Scripts is known for its de­li­cious soups, sal­ads, sand­wiches and panini and home­made desserts.

“We’re a fam­ily run shop,” says Nicole Kong, the café’s owner. “We pride our­selves on the qual­ity of our food and the friendly, relaxed vibe we strive to cre­ate.”

Try their pop­u­lar Matthew Panini (grilled chicken breast, ap­ple­wood smoked ba­con, ched­dar, sweet chili mayo) or one of their quinoa bowls — the new­est ad­di­tion to the menu.

For fine din­ing with a ca­sual vibe, head to Shamus Restau­rant, a lo­cal favourite since 1950, where owner Ann Mur­phy and chef Dave Stoll have teamed up to cre­ate a lunch and din­ner menu that is at once so­phis­ti­cated yet Lock­port laid-back.

“Smoked Braised Short Ribs are a favourite spe­cial along with But­ter­milk Fried Chicken,” says Mur­phy. Other favourites in­clude Lob­ster Bisque, Black­ened Scal­lops over Carmelized Onions, and Pan Seared Duck Breast, she says.

In­side, the restau­rant ex­udes an old world pub feel, while the sea­sonal pa­tio is the per­fect spot for al fresco din­ing.

But wher­ever you choose to break bread, leave enough room for Lock­port’s favourite frozen treat — ice cream from Lake Ef­fect, named Western New York’s best Ice Cream Par­lor for 2016. Their top sellers: Paula’s Donuts Ice Cream, and the Blue Ta­ble Trio Sun­dae. The Blue Trio is three scoops of ice cream made with ar­ti­sanal choco­lates from Blue Ta­ble Choco­lates of Buf­falo, says co-owner Ja­son Wulf. That would ex­plain the long line­ups in peak sea­son.

Af­ter a leisurely day on the wa­ter, a trip back home should be just as relaxed. Route 31 (Saun­ders Set­tle­ment Road), starts in Lock­port, qui­etly wind­ing through farm fields and open spa­ces, and ends near the bor­der half­way be­tween the Rain­bow Bridge and Queen­ston-Lewis­ton bridge.

Lock­port’s unique at­trac­tions, its charm and down-home friend­li­ness make it a great des­ti­na­tion for a wind-down week­end.

SCRIPTS CAFE

A good drink de­serves a good meal and Lock­port serves up a va­ri­ety of ed­i­bles at af­ford­able prices, in­clud­ing at the pop­u­lar Scripts Café.

LAKE EF­FECT ICE CREAM

Lake Ef­fect was named Western New York’s best ice cream par­lour for 2016. Their top sellers: Paula’s Donuts Ice Cream, and the Blue Ta­ble Trio Sun­dae.

LAKE EF­FECT ICE CREAM

Lake Ef­fect’s Blue Ta­ble Trio Sun­dae: three scoops of ice cream topped with ar­ti­sanal choco­lates from Blue Ta­ble Choco­lates of Buf­falo.

DEN­NIS STIERER, LOCK­PORT CAVES AND UN­DER­GROUND BOAT RIDE

Ad­ja­cent to the canal is the unique Lock­port Caves and Un­der­ground Boat Ride, where vis­i­tors are treated to a 70-minute guided walk­ing tour and boat ride.

PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF LAKE EF­FECT ICE CREAM

Lake Ef­fect, named Western New York’s best ice cream par­lour for 2016. Their top sellers: Paula’s Donuts Ice Cream, and the Blue Ta­ble Trio Sun­dae.

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