East of Niagara County lies Orleans County, one of the flattest and quietest areas in the state. Agriculture is the number one industry here, and enormous truck farms raising fruits and vegetables spread out all along the highways and byways. Route 104, which cuts through the center of the county, is peppered with pick-your-own farms.
Albion, the county capital, and Medina, the main commercial center, are small historic villages along the Erie Canal. To the north lie Lake Ontario and Point Breeze, a harbor known for its world-class salmon fishing. Orleans County is also the best place in the state to learn about cobblestone architecture, a building style that is all but unique to New York.
The New York State Canalway Trail System
The Canalway Trail is comprised of a network of more than 260 miles of existing multi-use, recreational trails across upstate New York. Major segments follow remnants of the historic original canals of the early 1800s that have since been replaced with the working canal systems of today. The 100-mile asphalt Erie Canal Heritage Trail (518/434-1583, www.nypca.org/canaltour, cycling maps available)connects with trails leading throughout New York State, providing one of the country’s most extensive trail networks.
The main attraction in Medina is its wide, old-fashioned Main Street, flanked by mid-19th-century buildings. Many were built of local red sandstone and still house thriving small businesses such as bakeries, variety stores, and clothing shops.
Along East Center Street just east of Main reigns St. John’s Episcopal Church (200 E. Center St., 585/798-3219) once listed in Ripley’s Believe It or Not as “the church in the middle of the street.” At the north end of Main Street find the Erie Canal, and a boat basin in which the canal boats once turned around. While driving through town, be sure to keep an eye to the sky when on Culvert Road, where the road crosses underneath the canal.
The Medina Railroad Museum (530 West Avenue, 585/798-6106, www.railroadmuseum.net, Tue.–Sun. 11 a.m.–5 p.m., $6.50 adults, $3 children), a century-old New York Central freight depot, houses an interactive exhibit based on HO scale trains. Admission is included with any of the many themed railroad trips aboard a 1947 vintage Budd passenger coach. Fall foliage, winery excursions and family-friendly Santa and Day with Thomas trips depart from the museum (adults $19, students 13–18 yrs $15, Children 2–12, $13, under 2 free).
Medina hosts the mellifluous New York State Duck Calling Championship and Wildlife Festival (585/798-4287) every September. The event attracts hunters from all over the region.
Farther east along the Erie Canal lies quiet Albion, centered around a 34-building Historic Courthouse District (Rte. 98 off Rte. 31). The handsome 1858 Orleans County Courthouse (3 S. Main St., 585/589-4457), Greek Revival in style, sports a silver dome visible for miles around and an old-fashioned courtroom crowded with polished wooden pews.
Another interesting stop is the elongated 1904 Pullman Memorial Universalist Church (10 E. Park St. at Rte. 98, 585/589-7181). The old English Gothic edifice was built by the manufacturer of railroad sleeping cars, George M. Pullman, who grew up in Albion before moving to Chicago and becoming a millionaire.
The Cobblestone Society Museum (14393 Rte. 104, at Route 98, 585/589-9013, www.cobblestonesocietymuseum.org, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Sat. and 1–5 p.m. Sun. June–Sept., adults $3, children 6–12 $2) is housed in the basement of one of the oldest (dating back to 1834) and best preserved of New York’s 25 cobblestone churches. Simple exhibits explain the masonry’s history and technique, while upstairs is an intimate sanctuary lined with wood. Next door stand two more cobblestone buildings—an 1849 schoolhouse and an 1840 house filled with Victorian-era furnishings. Also on-site are reconstructed blacksmith and print shops.
Across from the museum is one of the county’s best restaurants, Tillman’s Village Inn (Rtes. 98 and 104, 585/589-9151). A former stagecoach stop, built in 1824, the inn serves various sandwiches and salads for lunch, and meat and fish entrées for dinner.
Continue about five miles north of Childs to reach Brown’s Berry Patch (14264 Rte. 18, 8 a.m.–8 p.m. daily Apr.–Oct., 585/682-5569). A barn-size country store run by the same family since 1804, Brown’s sells everything from raspberries and green beans to sandwiches and ice cream; out back you can pick your own berries and other fruits in season.
On the shores of Lake Ontario, directly north of Childs, lies Point Breeze Harbor, centered around a busy marina. The County Marine Park (Rte.98 at Point Breeze Rd, Kent 585/682-3641, www.orleanscountytourism.com, 7 a.m.–10 p.m., April 15– Nov. 1) is a good spot to have a picnic.
For easy hiking and biking, head a few miles west of Point Breeze to Lakeside Beach State Park (Route 18 Waterport, 585/682-4888, daily 6 a.m.–10 p.m., $6 per vehicle).
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition