One Tank Trips: Experiencing the excitement of Rochester, NY

photo courtesy of visit rochester

photo courtesy of visit rochester

What’s a One Tank Trip? It’s a worthwhile destination within a tank of gas radius of Mississauga. So if you’re looking for something to do on a lazy Sunday or even a long weekend, be sure to check out our ideas.
This One Tanker takes us just south of the border to experience lovely Rochester, NY.

Though this city in upstate NY is only 3 hours from Mississauga, we had never visited. But we’ll definitely be back. This engaging and family-friendly metropolis has a thriving music scene, a full festival roster and a surprising number of attractions, including these one-of-kind adventures.

image courtesy of National Museum of Play at The Strong

image courtesy of National Museum of Play at The Strong

 Strong National Museum of Play

We started off at the Strong National Museum of Play. “Look, it’s the Oscar the Grouch trash can,” I excitedly pointed out to my two kids. They shrugged, clearly not impressed. They had never watched Sesame Street growing up, unlike their mother, who had watched it religiously. A wave of nostalgia hit me as I looked around the set of my beloved show, and I cajoled my kids to take a picture with me on the green steps in front of the red door, beside which the famed trash can stood.

The kids were considerably more enthusiastic when we were exploring the History of Electronic Games exhibition, where the second wave of nostalgia almost knocked me over. Here were the games I had wasted many a lunch hour playing as a teenager -- Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Pac-Man and Centipede, my all-time favorite. “Hey, you’re actually good at video games,” my very surprised son said, after watching me play. He was also shocked that we used to play a game called Pong. 
Other exhibitions at this museum, dedicated entirely to play, included an extensive doll collection, a kid-sized supermarket and a 1918 carousal.

All that playing worked up an appetite, so we headed over to nearby Dinosaur BBQ.  “Best ribs ever,” my son declared. The fun, honky-tonk décor and toe-tapping music made for a mighty fine atmosphere to enjoy them in, too.

House Boating on the Erie Canal

Connecting the Atlantic Ocean to inland cities and ports of the Great Lake system, the Erie Canal catapulted Rochester into prosperity in the early 19th century. Though it no longer transports much freight, it remains an engineering marvel and is one of the most scenic ways to explore the region. We climbed aboard a charming red and green, wooden canal houseboat supplied by Mid-Lakes Navigation to do just that.
Our adventure started with a lesson, where we learned the ropes. “It’s not difficult,” said owner Sarah Wiles, explaining that quite a few of her customers are first-time boaters. We quickly found out the number one rule of house boating – waving. As we cruised down the canal at a relaxing 5 miles an hour pace, bicyclists and other boaters waved and our family happily returned the greeting. 
“It really doesn’t matter what your destination is,” said Wiles. “It’s all about enjoying the moment.”

The woods and countryside that we passed were tranquil, and wildlife sightings have included bald eagles, king fishers and deer. The vessels also come with bikes, so house boaters can explore the land as well as the water, including the scenic Erie Canal Trail that runs 360 miles from Buffalo to Albany.
The most interesting part of our boating lesson was going through one of the Canal’s 57 locks.  Completely authentic and using the original 19th century technology, these ‘water gates’ are capable of raising and lowering boats up to 50 feet at a time. The lock keeper opened the gate for us, and under Wiles’ command, the kids went to work, grabbing the ropes along the sides to hold the boat in place while the water level lowered. It didn’t take long for us to sink far below the banks, and it seemed as though we were at the bottom of a giant well. Then, we were lifted back up and once again were cruising on the canal, basking in the sunshine.
The beauty of a house boat is that your hotel room is wherever you happen to be. We moored in the center of the historic village of Fairport, located about nine miles east of Rochester. Here we enjoyed a hearty pub meal at Donnelly’s and ice cream at Moonlight Creamery, before we retired back to the boat. We were docked beside the Lift Bridge on Main Street, an architecturally unique, 10-sided structure, with no two angles the same. However, the 1913 steel bridge clanged and rattled loudly whenever a vehicle crossed it, so although the berths were comfortable, we didn’t get much sleep. Next time, we’ll dock a little further down the canal.

We would have loved to continue our cruise, and perhaps explore the “It’s a Wonderful Life” bridge and 50-foot double locks in Seneca Falls, or just lazily float down the canal enjoying the views. But our time was up. We’ll be back, though.

Enjoy the full gallery below: