Fun things to do in Erie, PA

This post may contain affiliate links. Click here to see what that means.

If you’re looking for a fun road trip for the family this summer, consider a vacation in Erie, PA! Situated on the Lake Erie shore, this town has lots of wide open spaces to explore. There are so many fun things to do in Erie, PA, it’s one of our favorite vacation recommendations for families! They even have a surfing beach.

Fun attractions in Erie, Pa

There are so many fun things to do in Erie, PA making this a great destination for a family road trip getaway.

The best outdoor attractions in Erie, PA

Erie, Pennsylvania’s location on the southern shore of Lake Erie lends itself to outdoor adventure. The city and surrounding areas have several parks to explore. There’s also lots to do on the water.

Presque Isle State Park beach with lifeguard, umbrellas and lots of people
  • Presque Isle State Park — With seven miles of beach front, 13 designated swimming areas, 13 miles of paved trails and water sports like boating, wind surfing, kayaking and water skiing, Presque Isle State Park is an adventurer’s playground. The park is also well-known for its spectacular sunsets, fall foliage and winter activities. It might come as no surprise that more than 4 million people visit each year.
  • Asbury Woods Nature Center — The nature center, geared toward kids and families, has been completed after 10 years of planning and development. It offers a wide boardwalk that’s fully ADA accessible, a teaching pavilion at the edge of the wetlands and other unique outdoor experiences for kids and their adults.
  • Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier Park — The LEAF Arboretum grew from a wrong turn, and became a beautiful park with trails through the trees, learning kiosks and so much more. This is a great spot to learn while having fun.
  • The Fishing Pier at East Dobbins Landing — The fishing pier at the foot of Holland Street will be available later this summer to give people someplace new to fish the waters of Lake Erie.

Fun family attractions in Erie, PA

There are lots of fun things to do in Erie, PA with the kids from museums to indoor water parks.

  • Erie Art Museum, 20 E 5th St, Erie, PA 16507 — The museum collection includes more than 8,000 objects including American ceramics, Tibetan paintings, Indian bronzes and comic book art.
  • expERIEnce Children’s Museum, 420 French Street, Erie, PA 16507 — Geared for children up to age 8, the museum is located near the Art Museum and only 5 minutes from the waterfront. Exhibits focus on fun learning experiences for math, science, art, culture, literacy and health. There’s a dedicated Tot Spot for kids aged three and under that has soft mats, soft blocks, interactive felt board, activity panels and a sensory wall. Sensory backpacks are available as well — just ask at the front desk.
  • Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park, 8091 Peach Street, Erie, PA 16509 — Whether staying at a partner hotel or purchasing a day pass for the water park, there’s fun for the whole family at Splash Lagoon. There’s a flow rider, slides and pools, a ropes course, kids’ water play area, food and shopping all in one place. Day ticket prices start at $39.95 for kids under 42 inches and vary by season. Evening tickets and other discounts are available.

Unique attractions in Erie, PA

When looking for fun things to do in Erie, PA, consider some activities that are unique to the area. These are some can’t miss attractions in Erie, PA.

Tall ships, Lettie G. Howard, in Lake Erie for the Erie Tall Ships Festival.
  • The Erie Maritime Museum, 100 Blasco St, Erie, PA 16507 — Learn the important role Lake Erie has played in American History. Discover the people and events that define this region, including the fishing industry and the War of 1812. When in port, the US Brig Niagara becomes part of the museum as well.
  • Bicentennial Tower, 1 State St, Erie, PA 16507 — For a $5 admission fee (some days offer free admission), visitors can head to the top of Bicentennial Tower for great views of Lake Erie and the town named for it.
  • The Tall Ships Festival. Every three summers, the Tall Ships come to Erie for a festival celebrating these iconic sailing vessels. Some ships offer day sails for festival guests. Other festival highlights include live music and entertainment, children’s activities, a festival marketplace, food vendors, a beer garden and much more. The next festival is in 2021 — a great event to plan for!

Places to eat in Erie, PA

There are lots of great places to eat in Erie, PA offering regional cuisine, food tours and even wine and beer tours. Here are some of the best places to eat in Erie, PA — or to enjoy a drink! Some on this list would make a great date night dinner. But, Erie isn’t a fussy place.

Erie Food Tours group enjoying a storyteller.
  • The Downtown Erie Food Tour — One of my favorite ways to explore a new place is through a food tour. This walking tour of historic downtown Erie, PA includes stops at some of the city’s best places. Everything on the food tour is taken care of in your ticket price, which at this time is $32. I do recommend gratuities for the guide, though! Make reservations before travel using the link in this post.
  • The Cork 1794, 900 West Erie Plaza Drive, Erie, PA 16505, 814-651-0332. The Cork 1794 prides itself on upscale dishes served with perfect cocktails in a warm, inviting setting. For a romantic dinner, consider dining at the Chef’s Table. For a more relaxed evening, enjoy dinner outside.
  • Smuggler’s Wharf, 3 State Street, Erie, PA, 814-459-4273. For fresh fish and seafood, there’s no better place to eat in Erie than at Smuggler’s Wharf. Its waterfront location is the perfect setting to enjoy their famous langostino-crab cakes, fresh perch and walleye from the Great Lakes.

Hotels in Erie, PA

All the major hotel chains have a presence in Erie, so when looking for hotels in Erie, you’ve got lots to choose from.

One option is to stay at the Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel. Situated on the Lake Erie shore, the views from many rooms, the restaurants and other public spaces are simply breathtaking.

PRO TIP! If you have a hotel brand loyalty card, choose a hotel from that brand’s collection to earn points toward free nights and upgrades, especially if hotel perks beyond breakfast matter to you.

Here’s a map of hotels in Erie to help you pick the best one for your budget and the attractions you plan to visit.

Pin it for later

If you’re not ready to plan an Erie, PA road trip, pin this post for later so you can find it when you are ready to go!

Tall ship on Lake Erie in Erie, PA with title below of "Top things to do in Erie"