Published: Friday, May 1, 2020
Erie, Pennsylvania’s fourth largest city, is on beautiful Presque Isle Bay, one the world’s best-protected harbors, surrounded by a seven-mile peninsula. As Pennsylvania’s only Great Lakes Port City, Erie has an extensive maritime history. Central to the Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo triangle, Erie is within 500 miles of more than half of the U.S. population and is accessible by automobile, boat, plane, train, or bus.
Erie is best known for its water so what better way to experience this destination than ON THE WATER?! From the sandy beaches of Presque Isle State Park and Lake Erie to the various streams and creeks, you'll find plenty of watery adventures. Get in the waters of Lake Erie for swimming, surfing, boating, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and more at Erie’s largest outdoor playground, Presque Isle State Park, on the shores of Lake Erie. Take a ride on any one of our sightseeing cruises - Scallywags Pirate Adventures, Victorian Princess Cruises, Canadian Sailor, The Lady Kate, U.S. Brig Niagara, Lettie G. Howard, U.S. Aerial, or the Port Erie Water Taxi. We also have boat rentals and more at Port Erie Sports.
Fish from shore or stream, bring your boat or hire a charter! Marinas, boat launches, and bait and tackle concessions dot Erie’s Bayfront. Northwest Pennsylvania is one of the country’s greatest angling destinations and Lake Erie, Presque Isle Bay, and the surrounding creeks, streams, tributaries and ponds are the places to land your big catch!
Presque Isle State Park
Presque Isle (French for “almost an island”) has been designated a National Natural Landmark due to its unique ecological composition and diversity with rare and endangered species of wildflowers and over 325 bird species. With its seven miles of sandy beaches and world-class sunsets, Presque Isle State Park is regarded as one of Pennsylvania’s top vacation destinations. More than four million visitors a year travel here to enjoy its unique blend of natural beauty and recreation, year-round. Cool off on a hot summer day at one of 13 designated swimming areas. Explore the lagoons, Gull Point, and Presque Isle Bay on pontoons, kayaks, or narrated boat tours. Walk, jog, bike, or skate along the 13-mile paved multi-purpose trail. Spend a leisurely day fishing, birding, boating, windsurfing, water skiing, or picnicking. Don’t forget about the fall and winter activities such as nature hikes among the dazzling fall foliage, ice-skating and ice fishing, ice kitesurfing, ice sailing, or cross-country skiing.
Erie Maritime Museum and Flagship Niagara
Unlock the past and sail into the future at the Erie Maritime Museum! From the War of 1812 through present day, the museum takes you through the people and the events surrounding Lake Erie. The main exhibits range from a former steam-powered electricity generating station and a reconstruction of a mid-ship section of the USS Lawrence to a separate section of the Lawrence replica that has been blasted with live ammunition from the current USS Niagara’s own carronades.
When in homeport, the U.S. Brig Niagara is the premier exhibit. She is a replica of the relief flagships of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. Berthed within yards of the museum, the Niagara is visible from the museum’s bayside picture window. Day sails, special events, and other activities take place year-round and in-season.
Erie’s Bayfront District
Located on the southeast shore of Lake Erie in a natural bay formed and protected by Presque Isle, Erie’s Bayfront District has evolved from shipyards and railroad tracks to a bustling recreational playground. Erie’s Bayfront District is a popular stop for both visitors and the local community. The Bayfront Parkway connects Interstates 79 to 90, providing easy accessibility to Liberty Park, the Bicentennial Tower, Erie Maritime Museum/U.S. Brig Niagara, waterfront restaurants and hotels, family-friendly attractions, and the Bayfront Convention Center. The Bayfront District and Bayfront Parkway are part of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail—a nationally designated America’s Byway™.
Erie Arts, Culture, Entertainment, and Outdoor Recreation
Once you’ve docked in Erie, there are plenty of places to explore! Travel south on State Street to visit the Erie Art Museum, Glass Growers Gallery, expERIEnce Children’s Museum, or Molly Brannigan’s Irish Pub & Restaurant. Downtown’s UPMC Park is home to the Erie SeaWolves, the Division AA farm team of the Detroit Tigers. Adjacent to the park is Erie Insurance Arena, home to the Ontario Hockey League Erie Otters and the Erie Bayhawks NBA G-League basketball team.
Across from the arena is the historic Warner Theater, built by the famous Warner Bros. and currently being restored to its original splendor. Home to the Erie Philharmonic, it is the only active Warner Theatre left in the nation still in its original form. Downtown and around town there’s always something going on at the Erie Playhouse, Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park & Resort, Presque Isle Downs Casino & Racetrack, Erie Zoo and Botanical Gardens, JR’s Last Laugh Comedy Club, Asbury Woods Nature Center, Lake Erie Wine Country, and the Lake Erie Ale Trail.
Calendar of Events – Highlights of Major Events for Summer 2020
May 27-30, 2020 - 30th Annual Erie’s Wild Rib Cook Off & Music Festival
Downtown Erie, Perry Square. Numerous vendors compete in Best Ribs competition. Food, musical entertainment and family fun. Performance and Event management, (814) 899-5177. www.ErieRibFest.com
June 20, 2020 - Erie’s Downtown Food Truck Festival
State Street between 12th and 13th. Fun for the whole family! Local food trucks will line the block along with local bands, entertainment, local vendors and more! 814-452-3000, www.facebook.com/ErieFoodTruckFestival
June 10-July 15, 2020 - UPMC Sunset Music Series at Presque Isle – Food Truck Wednesday
Presque Isle State Park, Beach 1. Free concerts on the beach every Wednesday. 814-838-5138 www.discoverpi.com
June 24-26 2020 - B.A.S.S. National Northeast Region Championship
The top anglers from 11 states will compete over three days in Bassmaster’s B.A.S.S. Nation Northeast Region Championship. www.bassmaster.com/bass-nation
July 7, 14, 21, 28, August 4, 11, 18, 25, 2020 - Eight Great Tuesdays
Live music every Tuesday evening, each week a different artist at Highmark Liberty Park Amphitheater. (814) 455-7557 www.porterie.org
July 14-19 - 2020 Erie Bikefest
Nine days of rides, music, giveaways, vendors, entertainment and much more! Harley Davidson of Erie/Liberty Park/Highmark Amphitheatre. (814) 838-1356 www.HDErieBikeFest.com
July 24-26, 2020 - Discover Presque Isle Days
Always on the last full weekend in July. Presque Isle State Park, Beach 11. Art area, children’s games and activities, beach volleyball, various music locations, bon fire and much more. Presque Isle Partnership (814) 838-5138. www.discoverpi.com
July 25, 2020 - 13th Annual Beer on the Bay
Liberty Park/Burger King Amphitheater, Region’s largest craft beer festival held on picturesque Erie Bayfront. www.eriepa.com/beer-on-the-bay (814) 454-7191
July 31 – Aug 2, 2020 - 27th Annual Blues, Jazz and Arts Festival
Always the first weekend in August. At Frontier Park. Various Blues and Jazz bands will perform. 1pm - 11pm each day. National, regional, local blues and jazz entertainment in a beautiful outdoor, family-friendly setting. Erie Arts and Culture (814) 452-3427.
This article first appeared in the Launch Issue (May/Jun) 2020 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.