Small town courtesies still exist in Medina, a village with a population of 11,700. Locals say "hello" when they meet you on the streets. They even wait for the pedestrian sign at the crosswalk to change before crossing.
When you walk the historic downtown the main street echoes from the nineteenth century. Tucked side by side are clusters of aging Medina Sandstone buildings that have changed little since they were constructed during the boom times of the 1830's -1900's. There's even free parking on an exceptionally wide Main Street.
The village was founded due to the building of the
Erie Canal in the early 1820's. A hotel and tavern was first built to accommodate labourers and travelers who visited by stagecoach. When the canal
was finished the village flourished, but it was Medina Sandstone that put it on the map. The men who dug the canal discovered the famous sandstone, able to withstand crushing loads of up to 22,000 lbs to the square inch. Medina sandstone can be found all over the world in remote places such as the streets of Havana, Cuba and Buckingham Palace in England.
Don't pass up the Oak Orchard River Gorge and Medina Falls (it's hard to find so ask one of the locals) It's not as large as Niagara, but it's still impressive.
On the outskirts of town is the
Culvert Road Tunnel. It's the only arched roadway running under the Erie Canal. The single lane tunnel has a clearance of only seven feet, six inches and it's like going through the eye of a needle.
The 120-year old
St. John's Episcopal Church which splits Church Street and east Center Street demands to be photographed. It's in Ripley's Believe it or Not as, "the church in the middle of the road." Explore other handsome sandstone buildings with bell towers, gables and steeples and cupolas. The restored 1864 Bent's Opera House is especially lovely. Hang out on the upper level of one of the steel bridges that pass over the canal.
The Medina Railroad Museum is a crowd pleaser. The museum occupies a single story wood frame, freight depot built in 1905-06. There are exhibits galore, including everything from tools used in the construction of the railroad, to china used on lavish dining cars. The star of the attraction is dozens of operating model trains that wind through amazing miniature villages throughout the building. Kids of all ages will love it. Marty Phelps, a retired firefighter and museum founder, has also gathered an extensive collection of firefighting memorabilia.
At the station you can also take a 25-minute round-trip ride on a full-size train. The "Day Out With Thomas" train ride takes place May 6, 7 and 8 and also May 13, 14, and 15,2011.Tickets range from $14.00 to $18.00.Check the web site for exact prices and times.
I've always had a weakness for diners and Rudy's Diner at 118 West Center Street, downtown Medina is as good as it gets. It's in a converted old 1940's Sinclair Gas Station. The staff is laid-back (some readers might remember the Alice's Diner TV show-it has that feel to it) and the prices and portions are reasonable. This leaves room for one of their scrumptious home-made desserts. Owner, Kelly Russo, told me, "Everything is made from scratch and we change our menu twice a day." You can't go wrong here. Rudy's Diner is open every day, except Sundays from 7am until 9pm.
To get here, I took Highway 31 East from the Niagara border. When I returned home, I took a different route. I've learned to love the journey as well as the destination. I travelled the lazy 63 North (it's part of Medina's Main Street) passing through small villages like Ridgeway and Lyndonville (check out the magnificent churches, old cemeteries, and century old homes) until I came to Highway 18 West. This road hugs the shoreline of Lake Ontario.
It's one of my favorite drives from Niagara and better still it's only a shade over an hour to reach. Take this trip with the one you love.
George Bailey contributes to Sun Media's 43 paid-circulation newspapers across Canada as well as numerous magazines. George has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, Canada AM, The Discovery Channel, and Live with Regis and Cathy Lee. He has published five books on Niagara Falls.
If you go
Medina Railroad Museum: www.RailroadMuseum.net ; 530 West Street;
Adults are $7.00, Seniors (60 plus) $6.00, Students (13-18) $4.00,
Kids (2-12) $3.00 and under 2 free.
Open daily, except Monday and major holidays 11-5pm.