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Contact: Deborah Williams

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Ten top New York year-round canal attractions


Although the Erie Canal and three connecting canals close to boat traffic from mid-November to May, the vast majority of attractions welcome visitors year-round.


“Many people think that when the canal closes for the season many museums and parks are also closed,” explains Deborah Williams, author of The Erie Canal Exploring New York’s Great Canals. “In fact, the cooler weather makes the perfect time to explore the rich resources along the canals. Many museums and architectural treasures were made possible because of the canals.”


Here are Williams’ recommendations for off-season canal travels including several free museums and attractions:


  1. The Erie Canal Museum, Syracuse, in a former canal weigh lock building is the world’s premier canal museum and its free exhibits include a replica of a canal boat, a canal tavern, the weighmaster’s office and a uniquely Syracuse room. During December the museum is filled with gingerbread houses made by local bakers and offered for auction.


  1. Seward House, Auburn, invites visitors to step back in time in this home owned and occupied by four generations of family members from 1816 to 1951. The most famous was William H. Seward who served as New York governor, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State in the Lincoln and Andrew Johnson administrations. He was an ardent abolitionist and the home was part of the Underground Railroad.


  1. Safe Haven Museum, Oswego, is celebrating the 65th anniversary of the rescue of 982 refugees who were allowed into the U.S. during World War II as “guests” of FDR. They were housed at Fort Ontario from August 1944 until February 1946.


  1. Museum of the Earth, Ithaca, features massive skeletons of the Hyde Park Mastodon and Right Whale #2030. Bring home a fossil. Discover what life was like in ancient times in New York.


  1. George Eastman House International Museum of Photography & Film, Rochester, is the home of the city’s most celebrated resident and businessman who shipped his Kodak cameras via the Erie Canal. The grand 50-room house is filled with original furnishings and connects with the photography museum that houses one of the world’s premier collections of photography and film. Regular programs showcase the film collection.


  1. Medina Railroad Museum, Medina, is the largest freight depot museum in the country and houses a HO scale layout that is the longest all-on-one-floor display in the nation, an immense 14 feet by 204 feet. Take a train excursion from the museum to Lockport and back.


  1. Darwin D. Martin House, Buffalo, is the largest Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie style house complex in existence and is nearing the end of its more than $50 million renovation. It now boasts six buildings plus an award-winning visitors center. It is the best documented building in American architectural history and Wright considered it his “opus.”


  1. The Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, Utica, is the city’s cultural centerpiece and was made possible through the enormous fortune Albert Munson made in his 19th century canal shipping business. Today it is a celebrated free art museum, a performing arts center, an historic Fountain Elms house museum and a school of art.


  1. New York State Capitol, Albany, sits majestically atop State Street hill, and free tours are offered daily. The tales of its construction and the happenings since the 1880s are legendary and often quite mind-boggling. There’s gold leaf, Mexican onyx, Scottish granite in one of the country’s most expensive buildings.


• National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, Saratoga Springs, invites an exploration of three centuries of          racing history and visitors can even learn how to bet and explore the unique physiology of the thoroughbred.


The Erie Canal: Exploring New York’s Great Canals, published by Countryman Press, is available in bookstores nationwide.


© Deborah Williams