10 reasons to visit Erie, Pennsylvania in the summer

State Street

When my sister told me 20 years ago that her husband got a job and they were moving to Erie, Pennsylvania I had the same reaction as I get now when I tell people that’s where I’m headed for vacation… Eww! Erie? I know the name sounds dreary. And don’t get me wrong – Erie is indeed dreary in the winter time (especially when there’s no snow) but I think it’s the complete opposite in the summer. Here are 10 reasons why you should visit Erie in the summer.

1. Location
Erie is located in Northwestern, Pennsylvania right on Lake Erie. They have an airport that several domestic airlines – US Airways (Philadelphia), United (Cleveland) and Delta (Detroit) – all have flights to and from. My airline of choice on this route is Delta since they fly regional jets and not prop planes and the flight time to and from Detroit is just 30 minutes. On top of that Detroit’s airport is arguably the best in America.

Good to know: Sometimes flying into Erie is usually more expensive than the alternate airports: Buffalo (105 miles away), Cleveland (112 miles) and Pittsburgh (134 miles). The only way it pays off is to have someone pick you up as one-way rental cars are expensive.

2. Presque Isle State Park
Presque Isle is a state park on an arching sandy peninsula that juts into Lake Erie. It has 13 miles (21 km) of roads, 21 miles (34 km) of recreational trails, 13 beaches for swimming, and a marina. There are 3,112-acres (1,259 ha) in total and popular activities include swimming, boating, hiking, biking, rollerblading and bird watching.

Erie sunset

3. Sunsets
I was told years ago National Geographic Magazine named Lake Erie as having one of the best sunsets in the world (I believe it was third on the list). I thought that was rubbish until I visited – almost every night no matter what time of year the sunsets are ridiculously beautiful. It’s now my pick for one of the best sunsets in the world. 

Thunderstorm

4. Thunderstorms
I live in Southern California and it is very rare to have a thunderstorm. I think in the 21 years I’ve been here I’ve seen and heard four. Therefore, I love a good thunderstorm (especially when I’m not traveling) and Erie in the summer has never let me down. 

5. Shopping
Of course, Erie can’t compete with cities that have every shop (including mainstream designers) imaginable but what Pennsylvania does have that the others don’t is no sales tax. That’s why so many Canadians make day trips across the border to stock up. My favorite stores are TJ Maxx and DSW.

Wegmans Umbrellas

6. Wegmans
There’s over 80 Wegmans grocery stores in the U.S. (MA, MD, NJ, NY, PA, VA) so there’s nothing that crazy special about two being in Erie but what they do have is everything you can imagine which makes for great picnics and BBQs. Grab some goods and head to the beach.

Sara & Sally’s

7. Sara’s And Sallys
Speaking of food, Erie doesn’t have many great restaurants but the good news is most of them are very reasonable priced. One of my favorites (and it’s just for the atmosphere and location) is Sara and Sally’s near the entrance of Presque Isle. When you pull up you immediately feel like you stepped back in time. Tip: Their website has coupons.

8. Waldameer
Waldameer & Water World is a fun amusement park that’s like a miniature Six Flags. What I love about it is they have free parking and free admission. If you go during the week you rarely have to wait in a line. It’s also in a great location at the gateway of Presque Isle. Note: It’s only open in the summer.

9. Splash Lagoon
One place to have a little fun that is open year-round is Splash Lagoon. It’s an indoor water park with a bunch of water slides. My favorite is the Hurricane Hole which is a giant slide where you go up to 40 mph and it torpedoes you into the huge bowl where you get “funneled” into six feet of water. Every time I do it I feel like I got shrunk and flushed down a toilet.

10. Presque Isle Downs & Casino
I’m not normally a gambling man so I wouldn’t recommend Presque Isle Downs but my dad loves it – we went as a family and everyone had a great time. My niece loved watching the horses get ready for the race and I liked the thrill of winning a race (I only bet $2).  They have 100 days of live racing from May to September and parking and soda is free. It’s located on I-90; Exit 27.

Helpful Erie Websites: Visit ErieErie, PAErie on Wikipedia

If you are wondering where my hotel/motel recommendations are – I don’t have any since I’ve always stayed with my sister. But there are plenty of places to stay – keep in mind that you will probably need reservations for summer weekends.

Comments

  1. Small town America is amazing if you give it a chance. Never been to Erie but you never know!

  2. Grew up in Erie. Live in Boston. Presque Isle is tremendous! As good or better than most beaches on the Cape with little or no traffic problems like we experience on the Cape. Fresh water for Lake Erie with water temperatures 10-20 degrees warmer than the Atlantic and Nantucket Sound! And the only sharks near lake Erie are playing pool at Andy’s Pub at 39th and Liberty. Beaches in Erie are a little rough. They should import sand from the Cape or Bermuda. Smith hotdogs are better than the New Fenway Franks(tied with the original Fenway Franks)!

  3. I haven’t been to Erie but what I always hear about my friend who used to live there is that “perfect sunset”. I’d love to see that for myself and take a good picture of it cause there’s nothing more perfect than a romantic sunset by the beach.

  4. Dianne Pritchett says:

    When I was a child living in Ashtabula, Ohio, we used to go to Erie every year to buy school clothes. We used to go out on the peninsula, now known as Presque Isle. There wasn’t much there but we still enjoyed it and always had a picnic there. My grandparents lived in Albion, Pa and lived in one of the homes that was totally destroyed in the Tornado in the 90′s. But it was always a treat to go to Erie. We knew we were going to get new clothes!!

  5. David J. Brown says:

    Thanks for the positive review of Erie. I was born and raised in Erie – fortunately during the city’s “glory days” when decent manufacturing jobs were available and downtown was a vibrant commercial center. While the winters are atrocious, summer in the city can be quite enjoyable. Erie has much to offer history buffs. Erie will always have a large piece of my heart.

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