The urge to visit Erie, Pa., tends to be strongest in the fall, mostly because there’s splendor in the park—the 3,200-acre Presque Isle State Park, that is. In fact, there’s plenty to do here year-round—though in winter, be prepared for plenty of snow.
The Presque Isle peninsula was formed as sand and sediment accumulated on a glacial moraine. There's a well-developed road system of about 13 miles that loop around the park, and paved hiking/biking trails wind their way around Lake Erie. Across Presque Isle Bay, which creates a harbor for the port city of Erie, is a wonderful view of the downtown skyline.
Erie boasts three lighthouses; arguably the most notable is the picturesque Presque Isle Lighthouse in the park. Built in 1872, it’s the second lighthouse to be built on Lake Erie's American shores. The first also is on Presque Isle: the Erie Harbor Pierhead, also known as the Presque Isle North Pier, on the north side of the entrance to Erie Harbor. This black-and-white cast iron tower is far from spectacular, but it is the only remaining US lighthouse in this design.
The third, the 49-foot sandstone Erie Lane Lighthouse, is on the other side of town on Lighthouse Street in Dunn Park. Entered into service in 1818, this lighthouse shares the distinction, with the original lighthouse in Buffalo, NY, of being the first on Lake Erie.
There’s a another reason to visit Erie—the new Tom Ridge Environmental Center near the park entrance. This 65,000-square-foot center features a 75-foot glass-enclosed tower with a deck that offers a great view of Lake Erie, plus a theatre and a nature shop. When the weather cooperates, pick up a box lunch at the center’s Sunset Café for munching at a picnic table on one of the park’s soft-sand beaches.
For those with youngsters in tow, there’s Waldameer Amusement Park Water Park, located at the entrance of Presque Isle State Park.
Be sure to head downtown to the Bayfront and the top of the Bicentennial Tower for a panoramic and color-filled view of the city’s skyline, Presque Isle, and Lake Erie. This summer marks the opening of the new Bayfront Convention Center, a maritime-style meeting hall and ballroom.
Peek in the Erie Maritime Museum next door where, from September through May, the US Brig Niagara—a fully reconstructed version of the vessel Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry sailed during his victory at Put-in-Bay in the War of 1812—is docked for public viewing. She’s quite a magnificent lady.
Dinner might be Lake Erie perch or walleye at Smuggler’s Wharf back in the Bayfront area on State Street. Or, head to Peach Street to Quaker Steak & Lube, one of our all-time favorite restaurant chains that’s headquartered in Sharon, Pa., about 15 minutes from our northeastern Ohio home (I highly recommend the parmesan pepper wing sauce).