Caves are big fun. You never know what you'll find. Treasure? Bears? The ruins of a 19th-century industrial complex?
The LockportCave and Underground Boat Ride's cave is actually a remnant of America's industrial age. In the mid-1800s, Birdsill Holly --- who held almost as many patents as his buddy Thomas Edison --- employed Irish immigrants to blast a 1700-foot tunnel through the Niagara Escarpment, a ridge flanking the Erie Canal at Lockport.
Why? So he could harness the hydraulic power generated by the Flight of Five, a series of five canal locks that function as an escalator for boats.
Nowadays, guides lead 70-minute tours across the canal, along the impressive Flight of Five, and past an upside-down railroad bridge. Some of those 19th-century industrialists were quite the merry pranksters. Then you hit the tunnel --- now a cave complete with baby stalactites --- leading to an underground boat dock.
The boat ride itself is similar to Howe Cavern's. The eerie stillness of the water, the ultra low level of lighting, the occasional spritzing. "I feel like I'm at a water park all of a sudden!" says 10-year-old Julia.
"I'm glad we came here. It's mostly fun, but I learned stuff, too, like the factory of the guy who invented the fire hydrant burned down," says 13-year-old Mike. What teenager can resist irony cloaked in darkness?
Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Labor Day. Tours on the hour starting at 2 Pine Street, near Main Street in Lockport, about an hour-and-a-half west of Rochester. Hours vary after Labor Day. Haunted Cave tours in October. Admission is $8.50 for adults, $5.75 for children 4-12. Wear sensible shoes and a light jacket. Get more info and coupons at www.lockportcave.com or (716) 438-0174.