Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Erie, PA

  • Published 2022/04/24

Home to the beautiful Lake Erie, the city of Erie has no shortage of sights to see or things to do.

This place is treasured as it easily ranks among the most beautiful American tourist attractions.

The landscapes in this Pennsylvanian city are gorgeous and diverse.

You can easily plan your next vacation in Erie.

Here are the best things to do in Erie, Pennsylvania:

Go Hiking at Presque Isle State Park

Scenic view of a lake at Presque Isle State Park

Zack Frank /

Presque Isle State Park is Erie’s prime attraction.

One of the top reasons tourists flock to this park is because it provides access to the breathtaking Lake Erie.

There are different kinds of activities that you can try out, depending on what time of year you happen to visit.

If you come in summer, the weather is pleasant, and you can go hiking or cycling around the lake.

People swimming at Presque Isle State Park's waters

Jill Lang /

Love water-related activities?

You can go scuba diving, boating, or fishing, too.

If you visit during the winter, the options are entirely different.

The snow falls and it becomes ice, creating the ideal surface for ice skating.

You can even try skiing with the gorgeous Lake Erie as your backdrop.

Autumn trees surrounding Presque Isle State Park

Patrick baehl de Lescure /

Revisit History at the Erie Maritime Museum

Exterior of the Erie Maritime Museum

Jeffrey M. Frank /

Visiting the Erie Maritime Museum is like stepping back in history.

Some of the display items in the museum date back to 1812, while others are from pretty recent times.

Sculptures in Erie Maritime Museum

Jeffrey M. Frank /

The permanent collection is vast and will truly blow you away with its diversity.

The museum mainly focuses on Lake Erie and the city’s maritime history.

All the news and documents regarding Lake Erie can be found here.

Big Niagara ship in front of Erie Maritime Museum

Zack Frank /

Pay a Visit to the Erie Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Erie Zoo

Pat Noble, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Do you love animals?

Head over to the Erie Zoo, which is unlike any zoo that you’ve visited before.

Almost 400 species of wildlife can be seen walking around, and you’re welcome to interact with some of them.

The zoo isn’t only home to native animals but also those from different parts of the world.

The best way to see everything is to ride a train through the zoo.

Make sure to visit the botanical garden after exploring the zoo, as it is a beautiful place filled with colorful plants and flowers.

Catch Stunning Scenes from the Bicentennial Tower

Night lights of Port Erie Bicentennial Tower

Carrie’s Camera /

Want to go up and catch some scenic views?

The Bicentennial Tower overlooks the entire city of Erie and has some splendid scenes to offer you.

Port leading to the Bicentennial Tower

Zack Frank /

It was constructed back in 1996 and stands at almost 187 meters, making it one of the tallest and most impressive towers in the city.

From atop the tower, you can see all of Lake Erie and the city’s downtown area.

Sunsets are particularly breathtaking here—you can see the golden rays turning red and the sun setting on the horizon.

Silhouette of Bicentennial Tower

Carrie’s Camera /

Be One with Nature at the Asbury Woods Nature Center

Do you love the great outdoors?

Be sure to add the Asbury Woods Nature Center to your itinerary.

The area is massive, spanning about 205 acres.

There are several wetlands found amid the fields, too.

It’s a wonderland for nature lovers, and you can enjoy various activities such as hiking, biking, or fishing.

This place also has an amphitheater for tourists.

Are you visiting in the winter?

Go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in the powdery snow that decorates the gorgeous location.

Appreciate the Erie Art Museum

Exterior of Erie Art Museum

Erieartmuseum20, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Erie Art Museum first opened its doors in 1898 and was originally known as The Art Club of Erie.

Its permanent collection is incredible, boasting several displays that are famous all over the world.

Paintings in front of Erie Art Museum's customs house

Erieartmuseum20, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can find almost 7,000 displays in the exhibits.

There are more than 20 shows held in the museum every year, so you can definitely join in the lively crowds during your visit.

Have a Breath of Fresh Air at the Lake Erie Arboretum

The Lake Erie Arboretum is home to a diverse collection of over 1,000 trees.

The site was constructed in 1998 with just a few samples, but now there are almost 250 species.

Maples, oaks, willows, dogwoods, and olives are just some of the trees you’ll find here.

For flowers, you may come across some pretty tulips.

There are a lot of trails here where you can go hiking.

Several events take place here during the summer, and the place looks particularly enchanting during the winter.

Unleash Your Inner Child at Waldameer &Water World

Mega vortex ride at Waldameer & Water World

Michael A. Orlando, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Waldameer & Water World will make you feel young once again.

What was once nothing more than a popular spot for a picnic now happens to be one of the most entertaining attractions in Erie.

Ravine flyer ride at Waldameer & Water World

Jeremy Thompson, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The site used to be called Hoffman’s Grove, but it is now a tourist spot for both kids and adults.

With more than 100 rides, visitors certainly won’t run out of activities to enjoy.

Water World is a fantastic place to hang out if you are into water rides.

Walk around Downtown Erie

Aerial view of Erie Downtown

AndreCarrotflower, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you are an experienced tourist, you might know for a fact that a city’s downtown area is usually one of the best places to explore.

This is true in the case of Erie, too.

Downtown Erie is truly phenomenal, with a lot of naturally beautiful scenes.

A street at Downtown Erie

Andre Carrotflower, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Boutiques, shops, and restaurants are found in plenty here.

The sunsets here are picturesque, and you won’t want to miss out on the chance to witness such this sight.

The entire downtown is pedestrian-friendly and is filled with beautiful scenes to take in.

Buildings along Downtown Erie

Andre Carrotflower, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Explore the Erie County Historical Society

The Erie County Historical Society is not a single place that can be explored in just an hour.

It’s actually the combination of three different significant houses in Erie’s history: the Hagen History Center, the White House, and the Yellow House.

You can find a lot of information related to the city’s old days here.

Other than that, you can browse through old photographs and newspaper cuttings as well.

Go Shopping at the Millcreek Mall

In addition to its natural sights and fascinating museums, Erie also has places that welcome you to shop till you drop.

The Millcreek Mall is home to plenty of shops where you can shop to your heart’s content.

There are almost 180 boutiques and branded shops that offer a wide variety of items.

You’ll find some department stores here, too.

Enjoy Locally Handcrafted Chocolate at Pulakos Chocolates

Have you ever watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?

If you’ve ever fantasized about a world like that, Pulakos Chocolate is the place where your dreams will come true.

Pulakos Chocolates’ very first candies date back to 1889.

However, the owner didn’t start the company in Erie right away.

Pulakos Chocolates started as a home-based business, and George Pulakos eventually made his way here in 1903.

The store grew popular in no time, and today, it is one of the biggest chocolate shops in the United States.

Their delicious chocolates are handcrafted with locally sourced ingredients.

The French Truffles are especially well-renowned.

Catch a Game at UPMC Park

A baseball game at Jerry Uht Park

Trey at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Are you a sports freak?

Want to catch a good game in a lively stadium?

After all, live sports matches are always exciting to watch.

Erie did not have a positive history in sports before 1995—but after the construction of UPMC Park, formerly known as Jerry Uht Park, it became pretty important in the field of sports.

The entrance of UPMC Park

Jamesmiko, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can avail of a private viewing area here.

There is also a beer garden.

Imagine watching a live game with a cold beer in your own private lounge!

Of course, there are also several stands from where you can watch a game.

Scoreboard of UPMC Park

Milbpics, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Enjoy Nature at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center

Exterior of Tom Ridge Environmental Center

RacheeLynn /

The Tom Ridge Environmental Center at Presque Isle is a wonderland for those interested in biology.

Presque Isle encompasses an area of more than 3,200 acres, and there are a lot of unique lifeforms that inhabit it.

You can interact with origami birds and possibly spot a flying saucer here.

The place is interactive and has a learning center which you’re more than welcome to explore.

Daytime view of Tom Ridge Environmental Center

Jeffrey M. Frank /

The Tom Ridge Environmental Center comprises four floors filled with different exhibits.

You’ll be awed once you find out how many different species can live in the same peninsula.

A visit to this environmental center will also remind you that these animals must be protected at all costs.

Try Your Luck at Presque Isle Downs and Casino

Night lights of Presque Isle Downs and Casino's exterior

Nycerie, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most popular casinos in Erie, Presque Isle Downs and Casino lives up to its hype.

Want to bet on horse racing?

There is actually a race track here.

Try out your hand at Wheel of Fortune if you aren’t interested in gambling on races.

Featuring more than 1,700 games, Presque Isle Downs and Casino will blow you away when it comes to the slots.

The poker room and blackjack table are quite impressive, too.

Join in on the Events at Erie Insurance Arena

Exterior of Erie Insurance Arena

Jfvoll, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In the world of sports and entertainment, Erie Insurance Arena is unsurpassed.

It was opened in 1983 but took decades before completing a $47 million expansion and restoration that included the addition of premium rooms and a club floor.

The Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League, the Erie Explosion of the SIFL, and the Erie BayHawks of the NBA-D League are all based here.

Interior of Erie Insurance Arena

Jfvoll, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Additionally, it serves as a popular site for concerts, graduations, family performances, and many other events.

The sleek, contemporary setting enhances the viewing experience.

Enjoy a thrilling sporting event or a live performance with loved ones or business associates in the comfort of your own suite.

Take Your Kids to the ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum

The non-profit ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum is located in the historic downtown Erie.

It serves children between the ages of 2 and 10.

They can be inspired, get creative, and let their imaginations run wild here.

Visitors are encouraged to bring their children to participate in various activities ranging from math and science to art and literacy.

The museum has three levels and over 50 hands-on displays that allow children to engage in activities such as boat racing, visualizing a profession, and staging a play.

The museum presents many activities from author visits to outdoor play spaces. This museum is an unforgettable experience for children.

Pay Tribute to Fallen Heroes at the Firefighters Historical Museum

The Firefighters Historical Museum is perfect for your young ones aspiring to be firefighters.

It first opened in 1976 on the city’s original fire station site, which dates back to 1873.

Look around and discover the tools they utilized in this historical museum!

Visitors may observe an example of hand-pulled equipment, the four-wheeled hose wagon, and a steam fire engine used in the event of a fire.

With a tribute to the firefighters who lost their lives for the sake of others, you’ll never forget your time at the museum.

See Stellar Productions at the Warner Theatre

Bright night lights illuminating Warner Theatre's exterior

Carrie’s Camera /

The Warner Theatre is a must-see for anybody interested in interior design, architecture, history, or live theater.

The theater is unlike any other place you’ve ever been.

With a bronze ticket booth, a gold-gilded grand foyer, sumptuous tapestries, and French gold-backed mirrors, it opened its doors in 1931.

Beautiful marquee of Warner Theatre

Carrie’s Camera /

The theater has held several touring acts and big film premieres and was an essential link in the 1930s vaudeville circuits.

It is filled with Czechoslovakian crystal and glass chandeliers.

From stage productions to musical performances by John Mellencamp, tourists may now enjoy a wide variety of events and concerts.

Entrance doors of Warner Theatre

Don O’Brien, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Witness a World-Class Performance by the Erie Philharmonic

The Erie Philharmonic was founded in 1913 with a 50-piece “Sacred Music” orchestra.

Classics like An American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue are performed by world-renowned singers like Jasmine Muhammed and Michael Redding today.

The Erie Philharmonic also puts on shows, including Musicolympics and Spielberg Scores.

To witness world-renowned pianists perform works by Mozart, Chopin, Stravinsky, and Ravel is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Students in grades K to 5 may attend the Youth Concerts.

Final Thoughts

Erie is more than just Pennsylvania’s gateway to the Great Lakes waterways.

There are parks, museums, and lively entertainment onshore, not to mention the stunning sunsets.

Relax on the sand and admire the lovely scenery while you take in the colors of the ocean.

© All rights reserved.