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Spotlight: Erie

History washes ashore in this charming port city

Erie Pennsylvania shares a vibrant mix of history and modernity with visitors, and there’s plenty to explore in this lakeside community. With roots that stretch back to the Colonial era and a culture that’s fed by the steady traffic of the lake that shares its name, there’s no end to the discoveries that visitors can make in this charming waterfront town.

Museums Galore

The Erie County Historical Society is a great place to start your tour of the city. The Hagen History Center, housed in historic buildings, displays regional history and Victorian-era furnishings as well as archival resources.

From American artists to ancient tribes of other lands, the artifacts and art on display at Erie Art Museum fascinate and educate guests year-round. Every year, as many as 20 traveling exhibitions make their way to the museum, ensuring a new experience on every trip. Five historic buildings make up the museum, including the Old Customs House and the Old Pumper House, which is the oldest surviving firehouse in Erie, originally established as a marble works in 1850.

Young family members will welcome the more hands-on approach found at ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum. Imaginations are inspired by opportunities to play and learn about the world around us through interactive displays for children of all ages.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Wartime Triumphs

Once controlled by the French, Erie was seized by the British prior to the Revolutionary War. It fell into American hands after that conflict, but during the War of 1812 with Britain, the area was hotly contested during the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie. The struggle ended in America’s favor and ensured that the U.S., commanded by Oliver H. Perry, had control over the region. The Perry Monument is found on Presque Isle State Park and is open to the public during the summer months.

But don’t just visit Presque Isle State Park for Perry. This is a sandy, sunny getaway for summer-loving visitors to Erie. The 3,200-acre peninsula is an ideal destination for bike tours on the Karl Boyes Recreation Trail.

At the base of the peninsula, the Tom Ridge Environmental Center is a resource for explorers of all ages. The center teaches visitors about the life inhabiting the peninsula and its importance to the region. Guests are invited to climb the center’s 75-foot observation tower.

More tales of American naval might are collected into interactive displays at the Erie Maritime Museum. Erie’s native daughter, the U.S. Brig Niagara, is ported here. Other exhibits include a steam generator, lighthouse memorabilia and several ship models.

Fishing is grand in Erie, with walleye in the lake during summer months, and steelhead trout in streams both east and west of the city, from spring to fall. Presque Isle Bay is a hot spot for bass, perch, northern pike and muskellunge. Sheltered lagoons around Presque Isle Bay provide calm waters for leisurely boating, and there’s enough room for sailboats, jet-skis and speedboats as well.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Erie’s Wild Side

Just blocks from Lake Erie lies the serene Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier Park. More than 225 varieties of trees grow here, and a stone labyrinth invites visitors to wander around its intricately curved paths. At the Erie Zoo, the animals are the star attraction, and rightly so. See primates, wild cats, tropical birds and more in habitats designed to closely mirror their homes in the wild.

Satisfy your sporting side with a game courtesy of Erie’s minor professional teams. The Erie Seawolves are the AA affiliate for baseball’s Detroit Tigers; the Erie Otters are a major junior hockey team under the Ontario Hockey League; the Erie Bayhawks keep the ball moving as part of the NBA Developmental League, the professional association’s official minor-league organization; and the Erie Explosion and Illusion are both a touchdown for football fans—the Illusion shine as a professional women’s team in the Independent Women’s Football League, while the Explosion dominate the professional indoor football circuit.

Get a little wild—and wet—on hot summer days at Erie’s Waldameer & WaterWorld. This dual-attraction amusement park first came to life as a picnic spot overlooking Lake Erie, then evolved into a turn-of-the-century amusement destination, complete with wooden roller coasters, a carousel and even a pre-Prohibition beer garden. Today the park offers a combination of thrilling rides and aquatic refreshment.

Asbury Woods provides another expansive nature experience, with multiuse trails and a nature center with live animal habitats and a live honeybee-hive exhibit. Younger visitors are encouraged to visit the Little Woods play area for some back-to-nature fun. Brown’s Farm Barn shows guests what a working farm in the 1800s and 1900s might have looked like, with a focus on agriculture and the responsible use of natural resources.

Enjoy the arts and culture scene at a production of the Lake Erie Ballet or a show at the Erie Playhouse. All Act Theatre Production is one of Erie’s gems, promising a rousing good time for everyone. Warner Theater is a visual stunner of a movie house, reminiscent of Hollywood’s Golden Age of cinema. The theater opened in 1931 and today hosts the Erie Philharmonic and Broadway productions.

For More Information

Visit Erie
Pennsylvania Tourism