From breweries and beaches to water parks and family farms, this lakeside city has more to offer than most people know. Whether you’re here to find some family fun, party with your friends, or a mix of both, Port Farms is highlighting 14 things to do in Erie, PA.
1. Presque Isle State Park
Soak up some sun, hike some trails, catch some fish, or get some good eats—Presque Isle State Park has just about everything. Established in 1921, Presque Isle is a 3,200-acre peninsula with beautiful beaches, scenic lagoons, and lush forests.
With all of these features, more than 4 million people visit Presque Isle every year (Fun fact: that’s more visitors than Yellowstone National Park!). If you’re heading to the “PI,” here are a few must-dos:
If you’re visiting in the winter, be sure to visit the Tom Ridge Environmental Center Foundation website for more ideas. They have information on hunting, cross-country skiing, ice skating, and more!
2. Tom Ridge Environmental Center
Speaking of the Tom Ridge Environmental Center (TREC)—If you wanted to go to the Presque Isle, but the weather didn’t hold up, pop into the TREC to still get a taste of the peninsula!
The center combines hands-on interactive exhibits, educational programming, conservation efforts, and indoor and outdoor trails to create an engaging experience for those interested in science and earth education. It also provides educational resources for teachers who wish to incorporate environmental education into their teaching curriculums.
3. Waldameer Park & Water World
If you and your family enjoy a little adrenaline rush, then you should consider visiting Waldameer Park & Water World. The amusement park has over 100 rides, slides, and attractions for kids of all ages. Waldameer is also home to the Ravine Flyer II, the 8th Best Wooden Coaster in the World!
Not feeling the rides but still want to take the kids? Waldameer offers free admission into the amusement park
After your day of wicked fast rides, wet and wild water slides, and action-packed arcade games, be sure to grab some grub from their 17 food stands. The funnel cake is a rollercoaster for your taste buds!
4. Erie Zoo & Botanical Gardens
The Erie Zoo is a classic pitstop for any family. It only takes a couple of hours to walk through, and you’ll see nearly 400 animals and 11 breathtaking botanical gardens. The zoo includes some crowd favorites such as African Lions, Amur Leopards, Southern White Rhinos, and Eastern Gray Kangaroos.
Complete your trip to the Erie Zoo with relaxing rides on the Safariland Train and Wildlife Carousel. If you have time, be sure to drop into the Gift Shop for someone plush, toys, and souvenirs!
5. Erie Art Museum
Museums are an excellent place for learning more about a location’s rich history. The Erie Art Museum, one of Erie’s landmarks, is located right in the heart of downtown Erie and has been inspiring visitors since 1949. With over 7,000 square feet of gallery space, the Erie art museum showcases some of the city’s finest collections. These collections include local, regional, and traveling artists’ work.
The Erie Art Museum also exhibits stoneware pottery, paintings, and metal sculptures. If you want to be more of a creator than an observer, the museum also offers workshops to teach people how to make their own art.
6. ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum
Bringing your kids to Erie on vacation but don’t know where to begin? Try the ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum! While the museum is geared towards children, it doesn’t mean adults won’t have fun too! The museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 AM to 5 PM and Sunday from 1 PM to 5 PM, and admission is just $8 per person (children two years old and under are free).
ExpERIEnce features over 25 hands-on exhibitions and various programs for children of all ages. With three floors of fun and an outdoor classroom, there are plenty of opportunities to learn more about math, science, art, culture, literacy, and wellness.
7. Presque Isle Downs & Casino
If you’re looking for a night of live entertainment and want to win big, Presque Isle Downs & Casino should be on your list! Since opening over 20 years ago, Presque Isle Downs has become a staple in Erie’s entertainment scene. Attracting people from all around Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York, many have traveled to enjoy live horse races and gaming options featuring hundreds of slot machines.
Today, Presque Isle Downs & Casino is recognized as one of Pennsylvania’s best gambling destinations. The casino has more than 30 table games, including Blackjack, Roulette, and Craps; 7 poker tables; 50 sports betting kiosks; 1,500 video reel slots; live horse racing; and entertainment every night of the week.
8. Port Farms
Port Farms is one of your go-to sources for family fun in Erie, PA. Established in 1897, we’ve become so much more than a pumpkin patch and source of local produce. From concerts and corporate events to weddings and seasonal festivities, there’s always something happening on the farm!
In addition to our seasonal event passes, we offer general admission to the public that includes access to over 37 attractions! In addition to our attractions, we regularly hold seasonal events for people of all ages, such as:
- Flower Festival
- Fall Harvest Festival
- School Tours
- Live Music
- Scout Day
- Corporate Events
- Christmas Fun
9. Erie Playhouse
What better way to end a romantic dinner date than with a show? Founded in 1916, the Erie Playhouse is one of the oldest community theatres in the United States. The Erie Playhouse has been home to various types of productions in its early years, including drama, comedy, and vaudeville shows.
However, throughout its history as a live performance venue, there have been many changes to how it operates, including community outreach initiatives and arts education. In fact, Strand Theater, a former movie house, was once at its current location.
Today, the Playhouse hosts all sorts of events, from ballet to musicals to plays! With over 12,000 square feet available, the theater can accommodate up to nearly 500 people. Make sure to check out their schedule for upcoming shows and events!
10. Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park
From pools and slides to arcade games and surf machines, there are many different attractions that Splash Lagoon has to offer. But people come to Splash Lagoon for more than just the fun and games! Splash Lagoon is an 80,000 square foot Polynesian-themed indoor water park composed of slides and games for families with young children.
If you’re interested in water park fun but want to stay indoors, plan a visit to Splash Lagoon! You can even ditch the admission lines and long wait times with Splash Lagoon’s super simple check-in process.
11. Lake Erie Speedway
Ready to put the pedal to the metal? Look no further than the Lake Erie Speedway! Built in 2002, the speedway is a racetrack located in Erie County, Pennsylvania. The track hosts both stock car and motorcycle racing events throughout the year, as well as monster truck rallies, with most of them occurring during the summer months.
In addition to hosting these types of competitions at speeds up to 150 mph, other activities take place at the speedway like camping, wine tours, and miniature golf! With so many different ways to have fun after an event—or if you get bored while waiting for one to start—there’s no reason not to take advantage of the events held at Lake Erie Speedway!
12. Erie County Historical Society
Yet another significant museum showcasing Erie’s history, the Erie County Historical Society at the Hagen History Center, includes over 40,000 artifacts and objects that citizens of the county donated. The exhibit takes up six floors, displaying different aspects of life from decades past: farmlands to railroads; industry to education; military affairs to public works projects like roads and bridges.
The Historical Society is an independent nonprofit organization that maintains archival materials related to Erie County’s past: photographs, paintings, maps, scrapbooks, and more than 150 years’ worth of local newspapers from across Pennsylvania. If you want to learn everything you can about Erie’s history, this is the place to visit.
13. Erie Maritime Museum
Located near a plethora of bars and restaurants, the Erie Maritime Museum is a nautical museum with displays that feature the history of Great Lakes sailing freighters and steam-powered tugboats. The museum is perfect if you’re looking for something free and educational to do or need an activity to wait out the rain one afternoon.
First established in 1998, the museum also serves as a port for the recreated model of the U.S. Brig Niagara, a ship used in the War of 1812. The museum features exhibits regarding other types of watercraft, including canoes, kayaks, rowboats, motorboats, and model ships and shipbuilding techniques.
Erie, PA is becoming a go-to location for craft beer lovers. With over a dozen breweries, you can make a whole day out trying this lakeside city’s finest brews. If you want an ever-growing list of breweries, check out the Lake Erie Ale Trail site.
Many breweries have implemented new ideas into their beers, making them popular among people who want to experiment with different brews, like:
- Using non-traditional ingredients
- Decreasing water content
- Increasing nutritional value and alcohol by volume (ABV) content
Visiting Erie, PA
If you live near Erie, PA, or are visiting soon, be sure not to miss out on these gems in the Gem City! With plenty of beautiful parks, lakeside trails, museums, theaters, and other attractions, this city has something for everyone. If you’re ready to dive into your next Erie activity, head on out to Port Farms to kickoff vacation or your weekend!