Erie, Pennsylvania is located on the shore of its namesake, Lake Erie. It's a hot spot for water sports, fishing, and home to the only sandy shore in the state. Erie a great city for outdoor lovers, no matter what season it is. In addition to playing in and on the water, there are miles of trails to explore, whether you want to hike, bike, or cross country ski. Don't worry, there's plenty to do downtown, too.
Presque Isle State Park juts into Lake Erie and is the best place for outdoor lovers in Erie. The park is home to Pennsylvania's only sandy shore and is home to 13 swimming beaches. A paved trail covers most of the park and is made for biking, walking, running, and rollerblading. There are also plenty of places with lake access for waterskiing, boating, fishing, and canoeing. This park is also a winter destination where people come to cross-country ski, ice skate, or ice fish.
The Tom Ridge Environmental Center is located near the entrance of Presque Isle State Park and is aimed at studying and preserving the ecology of the peninsula. The center covers more than 7,000 square feet and features interactive activities that the whole family will enjoy, including origami birds, steel trees, and flying saucers. There's also an enormous four-story-high movie screen used to show films about the history of Presque Isle.
Another place to experience the unique ecology of the Erie area is the Asbury Woods Nature Center. There's a surprising amount of activities to do here. Visitors can enjoy cross-country skiing, mountain biking, hiking, running, then relax with a visit to the sugar shack, nature play area, craft workshop, or amphitheater. The center also hosts multiple camps, classes, festivals, and events where people can learn more about native animals in the area.
If you're looking for the perfect photo-op, stop by the Port Erie Bicentennial Tower. Visitors can stop at the first observation deck located at 17 feet or head up to the top to take in the stunning view. On a clear day, you can see up to 27 miles away, all the way to Ontario, Canada. Bring your camera for some amazing panoramic shots of Lake Erie, Presque Isle, and downtown Erie.
Waldameer Park can be traced all the way back to the late 1800s when it was just a picnic grove overlooking the lake. Erie Electric Motor Co. began to develop the space and by the 1920s, it was an honest-to-goodness amusement park. Obviously, a lot has changed since then. Waldameer Park & Water World is one of the biggest draws for families in the Erie area. It's home to more than 100 rides, including four roller coasters, 19 waterslides, a giant wave pool, and classic attractions like a Ferris wheel and merry-go-round.
Erie has a deep maritime history, and there's no better place to explore it than the Erie Maritime Museum. Here, you can learn all about the lake, from the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812 all the way up to the present day. There are plenty of historical artifacts on display, interactive exhibits, and short films to enjoy. Some of the most popular permanent exhibits are the reconstructed mid-ship from the Lawrence and an original steam-powered generating station.
If you love architecture, you have to stop by the Warner Theater. Commissioned by the Warner Brothers, the theatre opened to the public in 1931 with a grand gold-gilded lobby that included a solid bronze ticket booth, French mirrors, and gorgeous tapestries. Glass and crystal chandeliers still decorate it today. The Warner Theater once served as an important part of vaudeville back in the 1930s and, believe it or not, still hosts movie screenings and other shows today.
Another way to experience the outdoors in Erie is to stop by the Lake Erie Arboretum. Walk around and take in a wide range of tree species, including Douglas firs, Ginkgoes, Honey Locust Maples, and the Tulip tree. No matter what the season, the arboretum is a great place to get moving. In the warmer months, it's perfect for hiking and biking; when it gets cold, you're welcome to sled ride.
No visit to Erie is complete without a stop downtown. While Erie is the fourth largest city in Pennsylvania, the downtown area remains quite quaint and walkable. The Bayfront District is home to several museums, bars, and restaurants as well as multiple marinas. Center City is the banking center and features parks, restaurants, night clubs, bars, and retail shops. There are stunning views of the water from downtown and it's one of the best places to catch a Lake Erie sunset.
Believe it or not, Lake Erie Wine Country is the largest grape-growing region in the country outside of California. One of the best ways to see the many vineyards and wineries is to go on a winery tour. There are several guided and self-guided options available but one of the most unique ways to see the region is to take a bicycle tour that follows the lakeshore.