For the past 200 years, the Erie Canal has served as an essential waterway connecting the state of New York.

In more recent years, it's been made easier for people to travel along the canal by foot or bike thanks to new pathways.

This year marks the 20th year of the Cycle the Erie Canal tour, where hundreds of cyclists spend a week making their way across New York along the canal.

"Just actually seeing everything slow on your bicycle, you can take your time, you can stop when you want, take a look at what's along the canal. A lot of stuff you can't see as you're driving along it," said Charlie Morgante of Buffalo.

According to Parks and Trails New York, a recent study shows the Erie Canalway Trail annually receives close to 1.6 million visits and generates an economic impact of $253 million. And this cycle tour draws in people from all over the world. One couple came all the way from Australia to take part for a second time.

"Two years ago we came over and did it, and we really liked it and we wanted to come back and do it again," said Robin Weston.

After their first visit they said they knew there was even more to see throughout New York and along the canal.

"All the museums and the history, and the friendly riders as you can see everyone is out enjoying themselves and the weather is beautiful, it's our winter back home, so we're enjoying the summer," said his wife Caroline.

And even for locals, it's an opportunity to explore their own backyard.

"It's just nice being able to do this with family, and we have our cousin and her husband here too so it's a nice family vacation to do together," said Anne Gaca of Lancaster.

By 2020, the statewide 750-mile Empire State Trail will be complete, giving people even more of an opportunity to see the state by bike.