We’re continually on the hunt for experiences that add richness to our lives. In the spirit of the revival of road trips, we are proud to feature a monthly section featuring destinations within driving distance of Charleston. We feel that our smart and savvy readers will find these trips interesting and entertaining.
Driving five hours northeast of Charleston takes you to Erie, Pennsylvania. The city of Erie has exceptional scenery, decadent wines, and tasty eats. Presque Isle (the most visited place to see in Pennsylvania) will surprise you with its vast offerings for outdoor fun and activities.
WHAT TO SEE & DO IN ERIE, PA
Presque Isle (also known as PI) is one of the best freshwater beaches in the country and sits on a 13-mile stretch of natural beauty. Also a Pennsylvania state park, this scenic wonder is used for hiking, kayaking, water trikes, boating, diving, hunting, skiing, and biking. Fishing is hugely favored, and you can fish for trout, walleye, or bass. PI, a National Natural Landmark, is also a top spot for world-class bird watching. Beach 10 (between Gull and Sunset Points) is a favorite for family fun and swimming. You can also rent houseboats to enhance your visit and stay in Erie.
A collection of all things water and amusement-related are found at Waldameer & Water World Park, a 120-year-old attraction with 11 thrill rides, roller coasters, kiddie rides, water slides (19 to be exact), an endless river, heated relaxing pool, and a 500,000-gallon wave pool. It is the 10th oldest amusement park in the country.
Erie’s North Pier Light is the often-photographed 34-foot high black and white metal beacon at the end of the Erie Harbor Channel, one of three lighthouses in the area.
A fun indoor thing to do in Erie is to test your wits in The Niagara Room at Escape Game Erie. You’ll need to use your math and reasoning skills to get out of the locked room to win the game. Kids will appreciate the Erie Zoo for a nice collection of red panda, rhinos, lions, penguins, monkeys, and even farm animals. Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park and Experience Children’s Museum (with a water table and mini-Wegman’s grocery store) are also things they would enjoy in Erie.
The whole family will love learning at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center. The three-level whimsical hand-carved wooden whirligigs grab your attention at the entrance while climbing to the top of the glass-enclosed tower offers incredible panoramic views of Presque Isle. Tom Ridge has interactive exhibits, a Big Green Screen Theatre (IMAX), cafe, and gift shop.
Fall brings a most exciting festival to Erie when 10+ tall ships come for a three-day maritime celebration. An off-the-beaten-path find is Schaefer’s Auto Art, a local landmark, with sculptures made from recycled metal and car parts.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN ERIE
Dave’s Diner is a nostalgic eatery with plenty of neon and delicious breakfast (and lunch) dishes. From sausage gravy and biscuits to pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, eggs Benedict, and omelets, you will find all the breakfast classics at Dave’s. Another morning option is Ember + Forge, for a great cup of coffee or tea and fresh-made pastry.
Erie’s second retro joint, Sara’s, is one you definitely won’t want to miss– the jukebox plays non-stop 50s music and is a real crowd-pleaser. Sara’s Restaurant features American eats and sweets and is at the entrance of Presque Isle. Whether eating hotdogs, hamburgers, thick-sliced onion rings, fried zucchini, or drinking thick and creamy milkshakes, you are sure to love this lively and picturesque restaurant.
Enjoy a delectable dinner in a sophisticated setting from Cloud 9 Wine Bar, complete with a vast list of artisanal wines from around the globe. The farm-to-table menu includes appetizers, like loaded deviled eggs and walnut crusted Brie, and a smoky Delmonico steak for dinner. Pineapple Eddie’s Southern Bistro is another tasty choice with Southern and Caribbean cuisine. The crabmeat hushpuppies are billowy and full of flavor, and the Southern fried chicken is fantastic. Save room for the homemade desserts.
Enjoy a cold beer or creative cocktail from Molly Brannigan’s modern Irish pub. You can also watch sporting events and partake in a great happy hour there. If you are not familiar with ice wine (made from grapes harvested by hand at 17-degree temperatures), try a glass of this regional specialty at the award-winning Mazza Vineyards. It is delicious!
WHERE TO STAY IN ERIE
The Courtyard by Marriott Erie Bayfront, on the waterfront at Sassafras Pier, is in the most desirable location in town. It is within walking distance to many attractions and has lovely appointed spacious guest rooms. Highlights of the Courtyard include a fabulous bed, couches with ottomans, flat-panel TVs, and free Wifi. There is also a Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel nearby.
Check out the Spencer House or Victorian Inn B&Bs for something more romantic or intimate. Both feature free breakfast and Wifi and offer a great alternative to traditional lodging.
ERIE: A GREAT LAKES CITY YOU MUST SEE
Erie is a delightful city with spectacular Lake Erie views and access, outdoor attractions, beaches, and history. There are plenty of fun things to see and do that can work for all ages. Enjoy your time in the Flagship City, Pennsylvania’s main access point to the gorgeous Great Lakes.