20 Things To Do In Erie

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Erie is a city on the southern shore of Lake Erie in Northwestern Pennsylvania, with a picturesque lakefront of beaches, trails and parks. The city is known as the Flagship City because it was the home port of Oliver Hazard Perry’s Flagship Niagara during the War of 1812. The fourth largest city in the state has a small-town feel but there’s plenty of things to do in Erie to keep you busy.

Erie has a population of nearly 100,000 people and is located 430 miles (690km) from Pennsylvania’s largest city, Philadelphia. With so much to offer – from history, relaxation and recreation – it’s easy to understand why Erie has become a favourite destination amongst travellers seeking adventure or relaxation in Northwest Pennsylvania. Here are 20 of the top things to do in this great city.

Erie, Pennsylvania

20 Things To Do In Erie

1- Go Fishing or Ice Skating at Presque Isle State Park

presque isle state park things to do in erie
Exploring Presque Isle State Park is one of the things to do in Erie, PA .

Presque Isle State Park is an expansive 3,200-acre (1294 ha) state park located on the peninsula of Presque Isle along the shores of Lake Erie in Erie.

The park offers year-round recreation and activities for visitors of all ages.

There are several sandy beaches, lagoons and marshes to explore, and more than 15 miles (24km) of hiking trails with spectacular views overlooking the lake.

Visitors can also participate in various water sports, such as swimming, boating, and fishing (check out this charter)

In the winter, the park becomes an enchanting snowy wonderland with cross-country skiing and sledding activities.

Presque Isle State Park’s main entrance is at 301 Peninsula Dr, Erie, PA.

2- Beat the Heat in the Wave Pool at Waldameer & Water World

This family-friendly park has something for everyone, from thrill-seekers to little ones.

The thrilling rides include the Ravine Flyer II, a wooden roller coaster with an 85-foot (25 m) drop and speeds of up to 50 mph (80 kmph) that offers plenty of thrills and chills.

For a more mellow experience, try one of the many water attractions like the Wave Pool, Riptide Run or Rapids Ride.

For smaller children and toddlers, there are many gentle attractions like The Little Toot Train Ride and Kiddyland Carousel.

Open seasonally from May to October, Wave Pool at Waldameer & Water World is at at 220 Peninsula Drive, Erie, PA.

3- Pet the Animals at the Erie Zoo

The Erie Zoo is home to more than 400 animals from all over the world.

The best part of the Erie Zoo is the children’s petting zoo, where kids can get close to friendly animals.

In addition to the animal exhibits, the Erie Zoo also has a 10-acre botanical garden with more than 2,000 different plant species.

The gardens are beautiful in any season and are worth a visit.

After exploring the zoo and gardens, stop by the on-site café for a refreshing drink or snack.

4- Explore the Expansive Grounds of Frontier Park

erie pa
Enjoying an aquatic lifestyle is one of the top things to do in Erie Pennsylvania.

Frontier Park is a beautiful place for those looking for a tranquil escape.

Nestled along the shoreline of Lake Erie, it boasts breathtaking views of the lake.

With plenty of open space to explore and relax, visitors can stroll through lush green lawns, admire flourishing flowerbeds, and bask in the warm sunshine.

Frontier Park has plenty of recreational activities for those seeking an adrenaline rush too.

Choose between biking or rollerblading around the trails that meander throughout the park, running or jogging across picturesque paths on a sunny day or taking a dip in the lake during the summer months.

Kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and sailing are also popular activities. Check out this fishing charter.

Frontier Park is at 1501 W 6th St, Erie, PA.

5- Embrace History at the Erie Art Museum

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The Erie Art Museum is an excellent place to explore art from the past, present, and future.

Located in downtown Erie, it has been a staple of the local arts community for decades.

The museum houses an impressive collection of over 8,000 works of art from all over the world, spanning many centuries and artistic styles, including paintings, sculptures, prints and photographs.

Today, the museum features three floors of galleries with art from around the world, a dance studio, classrooms, and an outdoor sculpture garden.

Admission to the Erie Art Museum is free though donations are accepted at 20 E 5th St, Erie, PA.

6- Tour the City on the Flagship Trolley

things to do in erie modern hall
Exploring the lakefront is one of the things to do in Erie to get a feel for this city in Pennsylvania.

Hopping on the Flagship Trolley in Erie is an iconic way to explore the city and its surroundings.

The trolley offers a convenient, reliable, and affordable option for commuters and sight-seekers.

It’s a great way to get around town and see spectacular city views from its elevated tracks.

From the hilltop, there’s a panoramic view of Erie’s downtown skyline, its vibrant neighbourhoods, and the beautiful Lake Erie in the distance.

You can join a wine tour once every month from May to October for something extra special (check the website for the upcoming schedule.

The Flagship Trolley departs the Millcreek Mall area at 5800 Peach St, Erie, PA.

7- See a Show at Warner Theatre

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Nestled in the centre of downtown Erie, this historic theatre is a grand reminder of the elegance and opulence of days gone by.

The theatre opened in 1931 and has been home to many world-renowned performers, including Bob Dylan and Frank Sinatra.

As one of the nation’s oldest continuously operating theatres, the Warner Theatre hosts various live shows year-round, including music concerts, dance performances, plays, comedy acts and much more.

The building is an attraction by itself and boasts some of the best acoustics.

Warner Theatre is at 811 State St, Erie, PA.

8- Take a Haunted History Tour at the Brewerie at Union Station

The Brewerie at Union Station is Erie’s best microbrewery and restaurant.

Located in downtown Erie, it offers an impressive selection of over 35 beers on tap and food options ranging from classic pub grub to delectable gourmet dishes.

Guests can enjoy the brewery’s family-friendly restaurant area’s welcoming atmosphere or venture onto the large outdoor patio for some stunning views of the city skyline.

Not only is it a great brewery, but it is also one of Erie’s most haunted places.

So a must-do is the Haunted History tour to hear stories of strange happenings and encounters from locals who visited throughout its history.

You’ll be captivated by these tales of mysterious figures lurking in dark corners and mischievous ghosts playing games with unsuspecting guests.

The Brewerie at Union Station is at 123 West 14th Street, Erie, PA.

9- See the U.S Brig Niagara at the Erie Maritime Museum

Visiting the Erie Maritime Museum is a great way to learn more about Lake Erie’s long and storied history.

Conveniently located downtown, this museum features many exhibits related to the early naval history of the region.

You can explore artifacts from ships that sailed on the lake, such as cannons, anchors, bells, and rigging.

There are also fun, interactive displays that allow visitors to learn about different aspects of navy life in the 1800s.

Additionally, there are educational demonstrations that depict life aboard a 19th-century ship.

The museum also houses one of America’s most well-preserved vessels from this era: The U.S Brig Niagara.

Visitors can explore this impressive vessel up close and learn more about its importance to American naval history.

Erie Maritime Museum is at 100 Blasco St, Erie, PA.

10- Shop ‘Till You Drop at Millcreek Mall

Millcreek Mall is the largest shopping mall in northwestern Pennsylvania, with over 1.1 million square feet of space spread across two levels.

Featuring more than 150 stores and services, there’s something to satisfy every shopper’s needs.

For a break from shopping, take a stroll around the food court, where you’ll find delicious options from fast food favourites like McDonald’s to sit-down restaurants, including Red Lobster or Olive Garden.

The mall also features fun attractions such as an indoor carousel and an outdoor fountain plaza.

Millcreek Mall is at 5800 Peach St, Erie, PA.

11- Visit the Observation Deck at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center

Tom Ridge Environmental Center is at the Presque Isle State Park, which sits on a peninsula that juts out into Lake Erie.

It features a museum, classrooms and learning centres, an outdoor amphitheatre and an observation deck that gives visitors stunning views of the lake.

Visitors can explore the museum’s interactive exhibits about the weather, climate change, conservation efforts, wildlife preservation and other environmental topics.

The observation deck makes this attraction so special as it’s perched atop a fabulous bird-watching area.

Here visitors have an opportunity to marvel at panoramic views of Lake Erie while spotting various species of migratory birds in their natural habitat.

You can find the Tom Ridge Environmental Center at 301 Peninsula Dr, Erie, PA.

12- Enjoy Play-Based Learning at the ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum

Hundreds of interactive exhibits allow children of all ages to learn about science, technology, engineering, math, arts, and more in a safe, brightly lit environment.

The expERIEnce children’s museum is full of fascinating interactive displays that use hands-on activities to educate and entertain.

Kids can explore a variety of themed rooms such as the Tech Zone, where they will learn about robotics and coding; the Art Gallery, where art history comes alive; the Kid’s Castle for pretend play; the dinosaurs exhibition featuring animatronic dinosaurs; and more.

It’s full of engaging exhibitions designed to promote exploration and encourage creativity through play-based learning that makes learning fun.

The expERIEnce Children’s Museum is at 420 French St, Erie, PA.

13- Go Bird Watching at Asbury Woods

This pristine natural area is home to abundant wildlife and plants just off the Lake Erie shoreline.

Explore two miles (3.2 km) of trails along the wooded ravines and ridges, with opportunities to catch glimpses of many species of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles as they traverse around Asbury Woods’ multiple habitats.

The nature centre also provides various educational programs and activities throughout the year, including interactive talks with naturalists, guided hikes, bird walks and animal tracking.

From its picturesque Waterfowl Pond equipped with observation decks to its winding boardwalk through dense hardwood forests teeming with life, Asbury Woods offers an unforgettable opportunity to explore the wonders of nature while learning about conservation efforts throughout northwestern Pennsylvania.

Asbury Woods nature preserve is at 4105 Asbury Rd, Erie, PA.

14- Have Fun No Matter the Weather at Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park Resort

Travelling in Erie in the winter or on a rainy day and worried you can’t have fun? You’ll be thrilled to hear about Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park Resort, where it is always 84 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius).

No matter the weather outside, Splash Lagoon is the largest indoor water park in the eastern United States, with over 100,000 square feet of aquatic entertainment.

There are 17 exhilarating slides ranging from family-friendly rides to thrilling high-speed options like the Vampire Falls and the Sky Screamer.

For those looking for a more leisurely pace, there are various interactive pools, including a recreation pool with basketball hoops and volleyball nets.

Kids can play with two giant tipping buckets while parents relax in one of three hot tubs spread throughout the facility.

In addition to all that watery fun, Splash Lagoon also features a large arcade with over 85 games, a mini bowling alley, an indoor ropes course, and a trampoline zone.

You can find the fun and games at Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park Resort, 8091 Peach St, Erie, PA.

15- Take a Lighthouse Tour at the Iconic Presque Isle Lighthouse

best things to do in erie pa
Visiting the Presque Isle Lighthouse is another thing to do in Erie.

On the western shore of Lake Erie, the lighthouse has been protecting sailors since 1872.

Standing 50 feet (15 m) tall with a view out over the lake, it’s one of the most iconic landmarks in the area.

Lighthouse tours are available year-round, offering visitors a unique glimpse into life by the lake.

Guests can explore the grounds and even climb to the top of the tower for stunning views.

Along with its impressive height and beautiful architecture, two sets of Fresnel lenses remain preserved in their original location within the walls.

As you explore, learn about early 19th-century technology and how lighthouses helped guide ships through treacherous waters.

Presque Isle Lighthouse is at Presque Isle State Park, 301 Peninsula Dr, Erie, PA.

16- Check Out the View at the Port Erie Bicentennial Tower

things to do in erie, pa Port Erie Bicentennial Tower
Climbing Port Erie Bicentennial Tower is one of the top things to do in Erie.

The Port Erie Bicentennial Tower is a stunningly tall structure, standing at an impressive 250 feet (76 m) tall.

It was constructed in 1976 to commemorate the bicentennial of the United States of America and is a symbol of national pride.

This iconic tower offers incredible views of Lake Erie, as well as downtown Port Erie and the surrounding area.

It’s made up of two observation decks, connected by a spiral staircase that takes you up to the larger second deck.

On your journey up the stairs, you’ll see plenty of interesting sights, such as intricate brickwork and steel rods that support the tower from the inside out.

Atop this impressive structure stands a large American flag waving proudly.

If you visit on a clear day, you can even catch sight of islands off the coast and historic lighthouses dotting the horizon.

Port Erie Bicentennial Tower is on State St, Erie, PA.

17- Learn the Rich History of Erie at the Hagen History Center

Located in downtown Erie, the centre is housed in the former home of Dr William P. Hagen, an influential civic leader who served as mayor of Erie from 1906 to 1909.

The museum houses various exhibits and artifacts that tell the story of life and work in Erie from its earliest days through today.

From Native American artifacts and tools to tools used by early settlers, visitors can explore how people lived and worked for centuries.

In addition to its permanent collection, the centre hosts special events throughout the year, such as lectures, workshops, films, and other educational programs related to local history and culture.

Hagen History Center is at 356 W 6th St, Erie, PA.

18- Join a Tour at the Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier

The arboretum is home to over 140 acres of lush greenery and wildlife in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Visitors may explore the grounds independently or join one of the many guided tours offered by knowledgeable staff.

Over 100 species of trees, shrubs, and flowers can be found within the boundaries of this amazing outdoor space.

The Arboretum is also host to an extensive variety of bird species making it a popular destination for birdwatchers.

Among the epic avian fauna, one can find perched atop tree branches are bald eagles, warblers, hawks, finches, and cardinals.

Other creatures like foxes and deer inhabit this peaceful sanctuary as well.

Its breathtaking scenery provides visitors with much-needed peace and tranquillity, while its diverse flora and fauna provide opportunities for discovery and education.

Lake Erie Arboretum is at 1501 W 6th St, Erie, PA.

19- Watch a Game of Ice Hockey or Basketball at Erie Insurance Arena

Even if you’re not an ice hockey or basketball fan, you can’t miss the opportunity to participate in the action.

From the moment you step inside the arena, you can feel the electricity from being part of a live sporting event.

The arena is a sight to behold, with its massive seating bowl and state-of-the-art video and sound equipment.

It’s no surprise that this facility is a premier sports venue in the region.

The crowd at Erie Insurance Arena is always lively and energetic on game day.

Fans come dressed in their favourite teams’ jerseys or t-shirts, showing support for their team of choice.

Additionally, there are usually plenty of activities going on before tipoff or puck drop, such as contests and giveaways for prizes like autographed memorabilia or gift cards.

Erie Insurance Arena is conveniently located at 809 French St, Erie, PA.

20- Learn About the History at the Firefighters Historical Museum

The museum houses a wealth of artifacts and memorabilia from all periods of firefighting, from its beginnings in the 19th century to the present day.

It’s a great place to learn about different fire departments, their histories, and the tools and equipment used throughout the years.

You can also learn about some of the most famous incidents across America involving fires and how they were fought, including the Great Fire of 1916, which destroyed much of downtown Erie or the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City.

Aside from the interactive exhibits and artifacts, there is also an educational room where visitors can participate in activities such as colouring books or building their own paper models of older machines like horse-drawn pumpers.

Firefighters Historical Museum is at 428 Chestnut St, Erie, PA. 

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emma denning
Emma is an Aussie writer and travel enthusiast. Born and raised in Adelaide, South Australia, she has lived in Philadelphia, USA for the past three years and is preparing for her next big move to The UK in 2023. A University graduate in Supply Chain Management, she decided to break away from the corporate 9-5 after only a couple of years to pursue freelance writing. Emma has travelled to over 30 countries and hopes to visit at least 30 more in the next 10 years. Her favourite travel destination is Southeast Asia (Thailand in particular), and hopes to live there one day near an elephant sanctuary.