7 Spots Along the Erie Canalway Trail to Stop and Smell the Flowers

Spring has sprung (finally!) – so we made a list of some of the state’s finest gardens accessible from an easy trip off the Erie Canalway Trail. What better way to celebrate spring than with a ride to a park or garden bursting with blooms? And with Mother’s Day just around the corner, we’ve got you covered with the perfect day out! Check out the list below for just a few of our suggestions to catch the best blossoms on the trail. Don’t forget to use our interactive map to find the best routes to each of these stunning spots.

1. Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens

Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. Photo by Lisa Boulden.

Distance from trail: 5 miles

Location: Buffalo

The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens are bursting with color. The outdoor seasonal gardens are always free and open to the public and a great place to check out the blooming bulbs, orchids and more. If the weather’s not looking so good you can always reserve a ticket for a time slot to amble through the Conservatory to discover the botanical wonders of the fully interconnected system of greenhouses. Don’t forget to check out the events calendar to see what’s going on throughout the spring and summer!

It’s also a Bike Friendly New York certified business!

2. Japanese Garden at Delaware Park

Japanese Garden at Delaware Park. Photo courtesy of Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.

Distance from the trail: About 3 miles via Jesse Kregal Pathway

Location: Buffalo  

Take a few steps off the Jesse Kregal Pathway to soak in the serenity of the Japanese Garden at Delaware Park. From flowering cherry blossoms to an arched stone bridge between landscaped islands on Mirror Lake, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported across the world. While you’re in Delaware Park, the largest in the Buffalo park system designed by Olmsted, take some time to explore the Buffalo History Museum or take the gentle rolling paths to the Rose Garden across the lake.

3. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House

“Floricycle” in front of the Martin House. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko.

Distance from trail: About 4.5 miles via Jesse Kregal Pathway

Location: Buffalo

Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built between 1903 and 1905, the Martin House and landscape were designed in tandem with each other. As part of the original design, Wright included what he called a “floricycle,” a semi-circle of flowering plants and bushes that would bloom continuously from April through October. Recently restored, this spring is the perfect time to check out this amazing feat of landscape and design. Although it’s free to take in the scene from the sidewalk, if you want to dive into the intricacies of the unique grounds, the house offers seasonal landscape tours from late-May to October. 

4. Warner Castle Estate Gardens at Highland Park

The Sunken Garden at Warner Castle. Somebleu, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Distance from the trail: 1.6 miles

Location: Rochester

Home of the Rochester Lilac Festival, Highland Park is another one of Olmsted’s gems in upstate New York that you won’t want to miss. Nestled in the heart of the park you’ll find Warner Castle, an historic home designed in the style of a Scottish Castle boasting spectacular gardens full of roses, irises, ferns, and more. For some respite from the crowds, venture down into the Sunken Garden for a peaceful stroll back in time.

5. Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park

Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion

Distance from the trail: About 14 miles

Location: Canandaigua

A longer detour from the trail will treat you with nine formal gardens and majestic trees to picnic under. Sonnenberg, meaning “Sunny Hill,” was originally the summer home for Frederick Ferris and Mary Clark Thompson. Today, it is one of just two public gardens in the NYS Parks system. From the Moonlight Garden to the Roman Bath to the Peacock House, a visit to this 50 acre estate is sure to make an impression. Before your visit, you can even check out what will be blooming by clicking here.

6. E.M. Mills Memorial Rose Garden at Thornden Park

E.M. Mills Memorial Rose Garden. Photo by Deborah Holihan.

Distance from trail: 1 mile

Location: Syracuse

This isn’t just any ordinary rose garden. Named for the president of the Syracuse Rose Society and American Rose Society E.M. Mills, this garden was designed with three things in mind: harmony of color, hardiness for the climate, and enough variety as to be educational for rose enthusiasts from around the world! Visit this garden in June for peak blossoms.

7. Washington Park

Tulips in bloom at Washington Park.

Distance from trail: 2 miles

Location: Albany

Albany rings in spring with with 100,000 tulips in Washington Park. The Tulip Festival celebrated here every May (and this year going virtual), stems from when the tulip was declared as Albany’s official flower on July 1, 1948. Take a stroll through the historic park and take in the dazzling beds of tulips all around you! 

Where to find them:

What are your favorite gardens to check out when you’re on the trail? We’d love to hear them!

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