10 Ways to Spend a Day

Erie, Pennsylvania, offers miles of beaches, a park full of thrills, festivals, great wine and food, history and more. 
There’s something special about Erie, Pennsylvania, in the summer. It’s as if the locals in this Great Lakes city want to soak up each and every day of warm weather they can. That means there’s never a shortage of things to do in the summer, whether you’re looking for thrills or want a getaway to explore the region’s natural wonders.

1. Hit the beach at Presque Isle State Park. Presque Isle is at the top of everyone’s list when they visit Erie — and for good reason. You can hike trails to search for birds, climb to the top of the Presque Isle Lighthouse for amazing views (presqueislelighthouse.org), go kayaking in the interior lagoons (presqueisleboatrental.com), bike the 13.4-mile flat loop around the peninsula (presqueisleyellowbikerental.com), or go swimming at one of its 13 sandy beaches … or all of the above!

2. Take a spin at Waldameer Amusement Park & Water World. Waldameer, the 10th oldest amusement park in the nation, is certainly not showing its age. Its family owners have been investing in the park each year with impressive new rides and attractions. This year is no different: Water World is racing into summer 2020 with a 6-lane Rally Racer waterslide, while a new family spinning coaster, Whirlwind, will offer pint-size thrills for kids on the amusement park side. waldameer.com

3. Bet on a horse. Presque Isle Downs horse racing happens Monday through Thursday nights throughout the summer, along with four Sunday nights in August. You can get up close to the thundering hooves outside, or score a table overlooking the mile-long track inside at Churchill’s Bourbon and Brew. presqueisledowns.com

4. Enjoy nonstop festival fun. There are festivals or free concerts every week during the summer months in Erie. Two can’t miss favorites: The Erie Blues & Jazz and Arts Festival, a free 3-day celebration that brings together local and internationally-known artists in Frontier Park July 31-Aug. 2 (eriebluesandjazz.com); and Beer on the Bay, the region’s largest craft beer festival held on Erie’s picturesque bayfront July 25. (eriebrewingco.com/pages/beer-on-the-bay)

5. Wine-d it up. Make your way along the Lake Erie shoreline to visit more than two dozen wineries, distilleries in Erie County and Western New York. (lakeeriewinecountry.org). Beer more your thing? Set out for an adventure along the Lake Erie Ale Trail. Erie is home to more than a dozen breweries. (lakeeriealetrail.com)

6. Dine al fresco. Many of Erie’s favorite establishments have outdoor patios where you can soak up the summer warmth. Some local favorites are Plymouth Tavern (plymouthtavern.com) and Calamari’s Squid Row (calamaris-squidrow.com), both casual bars and eateries along State Street downtown, while in nearby Millcreek Township the Cork 1794 (cork1794.com) offers upscale al fresco dining. This summer look for the opening of the Bay House Restaurant & Rooftop Bar on Erie’s bayfront, which will feature panoramic views of the lake. 

7. Visit the Erie Zoo. The Erie Zoo is home to nearly 400 animals and 11 beautiful gardens. Located on a walkable 15 acres, you can spend a pleasant few hours here observing orangutans, walking through the kangaroo exhibit, or feeding rainbow lorikeets. Don’t miss the carousel and the train ride, both perennial favorites of Erie kids. eriezoo.org

8. Learn history … on the water. Experience the War of 1812 on Erie’s newest ship, the U.S. Ariel (usariel.com). You’ll tour historical locations and feel like a sailor on a tall ship at war, though the cannons just shoot water. You can also venture out on the U.S. Brig Niagara and the Lettie G. Howard, both docked at the Erie Maritime Museum (flagshipniagara.org). Or, for more kid-friendly fun, set sail on a swashbuckling Scallywags pirate adventure (scallywagspirateadventures.com).

9. Take me out to the ballgame. Minor league baseball is something special, and the Erie SeaWolves don’t disappoint. There’s always something fun happening at games, like inviting kids to run across the field during the 7th inning stretch. The park just completed a $16 million renovation, making it a minor league park that is a standout in its field (Ha! See what we did there?) milb.com/erie

10. Go fishing. Whether you fish from the end of Dobbins Landing, wade into a stream, or charter a boat to take you onto Lake Erie itself, you’ll find world-class fishing in Erie. In fact, an estimated 1.5 million fish are caught every year in the lake, Presque Isle Bay, and tributaries. fisherie.com