Discovering the Best Indoor and Outdoor Adventures in Erie, Pennsylvania
Plan an entire year around dozens of outdoor activities and indoor attractions located around one of Lake Erie's favorite coastal towns.
Don’t let the miles of magnificent waterfront fool you — Lake Erie is a year-round destination filled with exciting activities for all ages. Rain, snow or sunshine, the region offers a variety of ways to celebrate the good life on a great lake, from festivals, beaches and trails galore to dozens of museums, shops and restaurants featuring unforgettable views and experiences.
“A lot of people assume that, because we’re just around the lake, we’re a seasonal destination. We have four seasons of outdoor recreation and indoor activities,” says Christine Temple, director of communications for VisitErie, highlighting Presque Isle State Park, the city’s top attraction featuring 7 miles of beaches perfect for bird watching, fishing, hiking, swimming and biking. “There’s a lot to do year-round, and it separates us from a lot of other areas. Most of them are just beaches, but Presque Isle State Park offers so much more.”
When it comes to the outdoors, Asbury Woods’ (asburywoods.org) 200+ acres of fields, forests and wetlands, 5 miles of trails, award-winning environmental education center and plethora of programs and festivals offer all kinds of year-round fun, from hiking and biking in the spring, summer and fall to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.
During warmer weather, climb aboard the Lady Kate and venture onto the open waters during Erie’s only narrated sightseeing cruise (piboattours.com), offering unique views of the city’s skyline, historic lighthouses, nature preserves and more. Or, discover more than 100 rides, slides and other attractions at Waldameer & Water World (waldameer.com) — Erie’s destination for family fun for more than 125 years.
If cooler weather is keeping you indoors, take the kids to Splash Lagoon (splashlagoon.com), an indoor water park resort, or Play Port Arcade & Family Fun Center (playporterie.com), where more than 100 video arcade games, laser tag and virtual reality games will keep everyone busy for hours. For some adults-only gaming and drinks, enjoy BYOB nights every Friday from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
When rain delays your plans, head indoors to browse the city’s local shops, where you’re sure to find a special treat or unique gift for friends or family. The Shops at the Colony, on West 8th Street, offers more than a dozen locally owned shops specializing in everything from popcorn, embroidery and toys to jewelry, clothing, coffee, yarn and more.
Youngsters and kids-at-heart will appreciate the three floors of fun available at Actiontoyman (actiontoyman.com), which specializes in action figures, comics and collectibles. Pick out a piece of Presque Isle-inspired pottery or sign up to make your own masterpiece during a class at Allen Stoneware Gallery (allenstonewaregallery.com). For handcrafted gifts from local and regional makers, visit Epiphany’s Emporium. At Glass Growers Gallery (glassgrowersgallery.com), discover paintings, photography, sculptures, jewelry, pottery, glassware and more. For more local flare, don’t miss Painted Finch Gallery (paintedfinchgallery.com) or Presque Isle Gallery & Gifts (presqueislegalleryandgifts.com), which, in addition to showcasing area artists, offers souvenirs and apparel.
Dine Any Day
Regardless of the season, dine with a beautiful backdrop at waterfront destinations that include Smugglers Wharf, a pirate-themed seafood restaurant; Bayfront Grille, an upscale hotel eatery featuring breakfast, lunch and dinner with American fare; Sloppy Duck Saloon (sloppyducksaloon.com), an alehouse featuring live bands and pub grub; Shoreline Bar and Grille, a cocktail bar and eatery with dishes made from fresh, regional ingredients; or Bay House Oyster Bar & Restaurant (bayhousepier6.com), a Sunday brunch hot spot and the city’s only fresh oyster bar and Argentine grill.
“A lot of people say Erie has all of the amenities of a large city packed into a small-town feel,” Temple says. “The atmosphere is casual chic. We’re laid back, but we also have some really upscale attractions.”
The Wright Stuff
The newest Frank Lloyd Wright attraction can be found at the Hagen History Center in Erie, where the famous architect’s office has been meticulously reconstructed.
The office originally was on the second floor of a building in San Francisco, where it was used from 1951 until Wright’s death in 1959. It was sold to a collector, spending years (behind glass) at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh before finding a home in Erie (where it’s open for the public to walk through).
Known for its “hands on” approach, the Hagen History Center (eriehistory.org) includes the Watson-Curtze Mansion, built in 1891, boasting 12 fireplaces and a ballroom.