Take a day trip to Lockport, N.Y.
History, local cuisine and wine await
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.
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 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’s Blue Table Trio Sundae: three scoops of ice cream topped with artisanal chocolates from Blue Table Chocolates of Buffalo.
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.
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.