Erie, Pennsylvania Presque Isle State Park
Photo: Zack Frank - Fotolia

The fourth largest city in Pennsylvania, Erie offers a diverse choice of things to see and do, including museums, nature centers, thoroughbred horse racing, shopping and theaters. Visit the Erie Maritime Museum, the Tom Ridge Environmental Center and enjoy panoramic views from the Port Erie Bicentennial Tower. Best things to do in Erie, PA with kids include the Erie Zoo & Botanical Gardens, Presque Isle State Park, and ExpERIEnce Children's Museum.

»Presque Isle State Park

Presque Isle State Park


Presque Isle State Park is a 3,200-acre sandy peninsula filled with recreational trails, a marina, and numerous beaches for swimming. Jutting into Lake Erie, the beautiful, romantic coastline is great for a fun-filled day of swimming, fishing, boating, bicycling, hiking, or in-line skating. The marina gives visitors the opportunity to partake in a variety of water sports including water skiing, scuba diving, canoeing, or simply enjoying a scenic boat tour.

In the winter, visitors are invited to try out cross country skiing on the trails of the park, or ice fishing, ice skating, and iceboating. The park is a favored spot for ornithologists as many birds migrate through the Presque Isle.

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»Erie Zoo & Botanical Gardens, Erie, PA

Erie Zoo & Botanical Gardens, Erie, PA


A trip to the Erie Zoo and Botanical Gardens is not like a visit to any other zoo. You can get up close and personal with over 400 animals from around the world. You can enjoy seeing rhinos, warthogs, and cheetahs amongst other exotic wildlife from Africa and Madagascar at the Kikoba Outpost.

Train rides and carousels are available to take a ride and watch the animals play and eat. Though visitors mainly come for the zoo, the botanical gardens are a beauty of their own; here visitors can explore different plant species and gardens filled with colorful flowers. The Erie Zoo & Botanical Gardens is one of the best things to see in Erie, Pennsylvania.

423 W. 38th St., Erie, PA 16508, 814-864-4091

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»Erie Maritime Museum

Erie Maritime Museum

From the war of 1812 to present day, the Erie Maritime Museum takes visitors on a journey through time of the many people and events surrounding Lake Erie. Focus is given to the events of the Battle of Lake Erie on September 10th, 1813, and visitors are able to see historical artifacts, interactive exhibits, and dramatic videos that bring the battle to life.

Some of the museum’s permanent exhibits include a reconstruction of the mid-ship section of the Lawrence and an original GE steam-powered electricity generating station. There are also many artifacts, models, and pieces of art in the museum gallery for visitors to better appreciate Erie’s extensive maritime history.

150 East Front Street, Erie, PA 16507, 814-452-2744

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»Tom Ridge Environmental Center

Tom Ridge Environmental Center


The Tom Ridge Environmental Center (TREC) is dedicated to teaching visitors of all ages about the unique 3,200 acres of Presque Isle and the many different forms of life that inhabit the peninsula. Visitors will love this free learning center where there are more than 7,000 square feet of interactive exhibits from flying saucers and steel trees to origami birds. The center promotes environmental awareness in a way that excites people of all ages.

There’s a four-story high, 45-foot wide big screen that puts visitors right in the middle of the action. Visitors can learn about the history of Presque Isles while enjoying a fun-filled interactive experience. Next read: water parks in PA

301 Peninsula Dr. #1, Erie, PA 16505, 814-833-7424 Photo: rufar/Fotolia

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»Asbury Woods Nature Center

Asbury Woods Nature Center

The Asbury Woods Nature Center consists of 205 acres of wetlands, forests, fields, streams, and historic properties that create outdoor recreational opportunities for visitors. Visitors can enjoy fishing, hiking, running, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and other outdoor activities. There are also many animal exhibits, the picnic pavilion, a craft workshop, an amphitheater, the sugar shack, a native plants garden, the Little Woods Nature Play area, or the Otto Behrend Celebration Garden.

Additionally, the award-winning center has numerous programs, events, festivals, and nature camps for people to participate in and safely explore natural places. Some of the center’s events include Fantasy Forest, where children can safely engage in a variety of activities to learn about animals and plants in the nature center, or the Tracks in the Snow program, which acquaints kids with native animals in the area.

4105 Asbury Road, Erie, PA 16506, 814-835-5356 Photo: Asbury Woods Nature Center

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»Port Erie Bicentennial Tower

Port Erie Bicentennial Tower


The Port Erie Bicentennial Tower offers amazing panoramic views of Lake Erie, Presque Isle State Park, and downtown Erie.

The tower was built to signify the city's bicentennial year: 1996.

It is 187 feet (57 m) tall and has two observation decks that visitors can visit, one at 17 feet and the other at 138 feet, making it one of the tallest structures in Erie.

Visitors can get souvenirs at the tower’s gift shop before taking in the beautiful sights of Erie, and on a clear day, visitors can see 27 miles away to Long Point in Ontario, Canada.

1 Holland St, Erie, PA 16507, 814-455-7557

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»Erie Art Museum, Erie, Pennsylvania

Erie Art Museum, Erie, Pennsylvania


The Erie Art Museum came into existence in 1898 as The Art Club of Erie. It has since then moved locations and changed names and is now a part of the Discovery Square Corporation, the development block in downtown Erie filled with museums, educational centers, and history centers. Visitors to the art museum can admire over 8,000 objects such as American ceramics, Tibetan paintings, Indian bronzes, contemporary baskets, and many other artifacts.

The museum hosts 18 to 20 visiting exhibitions annually and shares parts of its collection with national and international partners through traveling exhibits. Visitors can also see how Erie supports the local folk artists, as the museum raises awareness for the traditional arts through installations and events.

411 State St, Erie, PA 16501, 814-459-5477

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»Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier

Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier


The Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier showcases more than 250 varieties of trees. Take a stroll around the arboretum that was established in 1998 and admire trees like the Hawthorn, Ginkgo, Scarlet Oak, Russian Olive, Corkscrew Willow, Dogwood, Douglas fir, Honey locust Maple, Alder, and the Tulip tree, just to name a few.

During winter or summer, there are numerous activities at this venue. Hiking and biking trails, sled riding hills, and the labyrinth are sure to impress the whole family. Walk to the virtual tree gazebo and experience a serene ambiance seated under the canopy of the trees that are in bloom during the spring.

1501 W 6th Street Erie, PA 16505, 814-453-5323

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»ExpERIEnce Children's Museum

ExpERIEnce Children's Museum


Giving children between toddlers to ten years old an opportunity to be inspired, get creative, and to let their imaginations run free, the ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum is non-profit organization in the historic cultural district of downtown Erie. Visitors are invited to bring their kids down to an environment that lets them engage in a broad range of topics from math, health, and science to culture, art, and literacy.

Three floors with over 50 hands-on exhibits allow kids to go wild with activities like boat racing, imagining a career, or producing a play. There are also many events that the museum hosts, from visiting authors to outdoor play areas. A visit to the ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum is a memory that will stay with children for years to come.

420 French Street, Erie, PA 16507, 814-453-3743

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»Downtown Erie

Downtown Erie


Downtown Erie presents stunning views of the sunset on Lake Erie. It is home to landscaped parks, numerous restaurants and boutiques, and an exciting nightlife. Over 500 merchants and property owners created the Downtown Improvement District in 2004 to revive Erie’s historic and economic district.

With a pedestrian friendly ambiance and excellent transport option, many prefer to leave their vehicles at home when heading to work, while others are attracted to downtown living with an option of modern condos, apartments, or lofts in historic buildings.

140 East Fifth Street Erie, PA 16507, 814-455-3743

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»Waldameer Park & Water World

Waldameer Park & Water World


Waldameer Park and Water World originally started as a popular picnic spot called Hoffman’s Grove – it is now an exciting adventure and water park with over 100 rides, slides, and attractions. Visitors can enjoy thrilling rides such as the Ravine Flyer II or the XScream Drop Tower, or more toned down classics such as the Ferris wheel or Merry-Go-Round.

Water World, which is a water park full of rides, slides, and pools, provides a great way for families to cool off on a hot summer day. Waldameer is family-owned and family-friendly, so visitors can be assured that there’s something for everyone. Ensured to give visitors the full adventure park experience, Waldameer also offers many games, food stalls, and entertainment.

220 Peninsula Drive, Erie, PA 16505, 814-838-3591

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»Splash Lagoon, Erie, Pennsylvania

Splash Lagoon, Erie, Pennsylvania


For over 13 years, the Splash Lagoon water park resort has been entertaining visitors in its 84-degree tropical Polynesian atmosphere. The lagoon boasts numerous water slides, pools and hot tubs, a 12-level interactive tree house, a rope course, a Lazer tag facility, and a 6,500 square foot arcade with over 100 games. Visitors can cool off in the 200,000 gallon wave pool – the largest of its kind in the eastern United States.

Visiting guests can stay at one of the three luxury hotels connected to the lagoon: the Holiday Inn Express, the Comfort Inn & Suites, and the Residence Inn.

8091 Peach Street, Erie, PA 16509, 866-377-5274

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»Presque Isle Downs and Casino

Presque Isle Downs and Casino

Presque Isle Downs and Casino is a popular gambling destination with thoroughbred horse racing at their racetrack. Visitors can try their luck at over 1,700 games, including casino favorites such as Bally Quick Hits, Wheel of Fortune, and Wizard of Oz.

If slot machines don't interest you, you can get in on the action in the newly renovated poker room or at the craps or blackjack table. Those who aren’t a fan of gambling can enjoy the live entertainment, award-winning cuisine, and shopping, or relax in the adjacent newly opened hotel.

8199 Perry Hwy, Erie, PA 16509, 814-860-8999 Photo: otaraev74/Fotolia

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»Millcreek Mall, Erie, Pennsylvania

Millcreek Mall, Erie, Pennsylvania

Since 1975, Millcreek Mall has been giving visitors an array of shops, kiosks, and restaurants to spend the day at. There are over 175 stores and restaurants within the mall as well as in the surrounding vicinity; visitors can shop at department stores such as Macy’s, Sears, and JCPenney or at stores such as Old Navy, Michaels, and the DSW Shoe Warehouse.

Visitors can take advantage of tax-free clothing, one of the main reasons many people from surrounding states visit PA malls. Those who are looking to re-energize during their shopping trip with a good meal can visit one of the many restaurants there such as Smokey Bones Barbeque and Grill, the Outback Steakhouse, Red Lobster, Arby’s, or the Aoyama Japanese Steakhouse.

654 Millcreek Mall, Erie, PA 16565, 814-868-9000 Photo: Millcreek Mall

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»Warner Theatre, Erie, PA

Warner Theatre, Erie, PA

All visitors will enjoy a visit to Warner Theatre, but for architecture, interior design, history, and, of course, theatre aficionados, the Warner Theatre will provide a memorable experience unequalled by any other. Commissioned by Warner Bros., the theatre opened its doors in 1931 with a solid bronze ticket booth, a luxurious gold-gilded grand lobby, rich tapestries, and French gold-backed mirrors.

Filled with Czechoslovakian glass and crystal chandeliers, the theatre has hosted various ‘pictures’ traveling shows, major film releases, and was an important link the vaudeville circuits of the ‘30s. Now, visitors can enjoy varying shows and concerts from a stage show of Annie to a musical performance by John Mellencamp.

811 State Street, Erie, PA 16501, 814-453-7117 Photo: Warner Theatre

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»All an Act Theatre Productions

All an Act Theatre Productions

All an Act Theatre Productions, or A3 as the locals call it, is a community theatre that aims to expose more people to the arts while continuing live theatre, and it has been doing so since 2004. The production company is also home to The Footlights Theatre Program. The program has been running every summer for 41 consecutive years and has offered children of all experience, background, and social status a free first-hand theatre experience through the production of a full-length musical.

It is one of the longest running and most successful programs that Erie offers its youth. Visitors are invited to view shows put on through the program, as well as a number of other musicals and live theatre events.

652 West 17th Street, Erie, PA 16502, 814-450-8553 Photo: All an Act Theatre Productions

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»Erie Insurance Arena

Erie Insurance Arena


Erie Insurance Arena is a foremost sports and entertainment center. Inaugurated in 1983, it recently underwent a $47 million expansion and renovation that included new luxury suites and a club level. This sports facility has over 9,000 seats and is home to the SIFL Erie Explosion, OHL Erie Otters, and the NBA-D League Erie BayHawks.

It is also a popular venue for hosting concerts, graduations, family shows, and other events. The modern ambience adds to the viewing pleasure. Celebrate with family and friends or connect with clients from the privacy of the suites while catching an exciting game or concert.

809 French St Erie, PA 16501, 814-453-7117 Photo: Erie Insurance Arena

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»Erie Playhouse

Erie Playhouse

The Erie Playhouse is the place to be for visitors who enjoy diverse plays and musicals. One of the oldest and largest community theatres, the Erie Playhouse is recognized as one of the top ten community theatres in national competition. Visitors from all over love catching a show whether it be a concert, musical, play, or any of the other special events the playhouse holds.

Some of the shows scheduled for 2016 are Nice Work If You Can Get It, Peter and the Star Catcher, and Rapunzel: A New Musical. Visitors can also partake in a number of classes starting from kids in pre-k to adults who want to take advanced acting classes. Read more

13 West 10 Street, Erie, PA 16501, 814-454-2852 Photo: Erie Playhouse

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»Pulakos Chocolates, Erie, Pennsylvania

Pulakos Chocolates, Erie, Pennsylvania


Founder George P. Pulakos began selling his delicious handmade candies in 1889 in Philadelphia before moving to Erie in 1903. Using only the freshest ingredients, he created masterpieces like the incredibly popular sponge taffy. Savor the molded chocolates that come in intriguing shapes like a ballerina, baby days set, or even a cell phone.

The elegant box of specialty chocolates have French truffles, cherries coated in chocolate, assorted creams, fruit jelly slices, peanut butter cups and clusters of nuts, and caramel delight. Take a tour and discover the secrets of chocolate making at the Pulakos factory. Witness the creation of their specially blended chocolate recipes that have been perfected over four generations.

2530 Parade St., Erie, PA, 814-452-4026 Photo: Pulakos Chocolates

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»The Historical Society of Erie County

The Historical Society of Erie County

The Historical Society of Erie has an impressive collection of archival material that is available for viewing. The society boasts 809 separate collections, 3,750 historic maps, 321,775 photographic images, 5,529 rare books, and 4,880 architectural drawings that are sure to make the visit a memorable experience.

The three historic landmark properties, the Hagen History Center, the Yellow House, and the White House known as the Battles Estates Museum, have fascinating exhibits and manicured landscapes. Organized tours are available.

356 West Sixth Street, Erie, PA 16507, 814-454-1813 Photo: The Historical Society of Erie County

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»Mercyhurst Institute for Arts & Culture

Mercyhurst Institute for Arts & Culture


The Mercyhurst Institute for Arts and Culture was established in 2011 to oversee the planning and execution of cultural and artistic events in several of the modern venues on campus. With an ambition of developing future patrons of arts among the Erie community, the institute showcases different plays and musicals from around the country.

Visitors are encouraged to interact with the performers and artists during the pre-show and after show discussions. Independent and classic films are screened catering to the diverse audience.

501 East 38th Street Erie, PA 16546, 814-824-3000 Photo: Mercyhurst Institute for Arts & Culture

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»Scallywags Pirate Adventures

Scallywags Pirate Adventures


Scallywags, an impressive wooden ship, is 62 feet in length. Pirate Captain Tiny Tim will take the whole family on an adventure. Children will enjoy dressing up as pirates with a tattoo painted on their body, and they will learn to sing and dance like a pirate, becoming enthralled with tales of Lake Erie and buried treasures.

Create a memorable day as the crew guides you into battle with Scallywags’ 16 water guns along the pirate hangouts. Adults can have fun in the evening on the Seasoned Seadogs cruise.

2 State Street Erie, PA 16507, 814-453-2627 Photo: Scallywags Pirate Adventures

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»Jerry Uht Park, Erie, PA

Jerry Uht Park, Erie, PA


Jerry Uht Park became an icon of the Erie sports history from the inception of SeaWolves in 1995. Visitors have a choice of six luxury suites, five main concession stands, and two picnic areas on either side of the field or a beer garden for private viewing.

The raised upper decks of seats over first base make this park unique. It can be rented for birthday parties and group outings, and the SeaWolves offer several VIP experiences for groups at the park.

110 E 10th St, Erie, PA 16501 Photo: mtsaride/Fotolia

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»Firefighters Historical Museum

Firefighters Historical Museum


The Firefighter Historical Museum was inaugurated in 1976, and it stands on the site of the first fire station, which was commissioned in 1873. Explore this fascinating museum and learn about the tools that they used.

Visitors can see the hand-pulled apparatus, the ancient four-wheel hose cart, and the steam fire engine that were deployed. On display are different types of helmets, uniforms, medals, and safety gear, and the memorial to the firefighters who gave their lives in the line of duty is sure to touch your heart.

428 Chestnut Street, Erie, PA 16507, 814-456-5969 Photo: Firefighters Historical Museum

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»Erie Philharmonic

Erie Philharmonic

Over 100 years old, Erie Philharmonic began in 1913 with a 50 piece ensemble of “Sacred Music.” Today, world-renowned vocalists like Jasmine Muhammed and Michael Redding present classics like Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris.

Some of the other presentations of Erie Philharmonic are Spielberg Scores, Musicolympics, and Come Home for the Holidays. For a truly cultural experience, witness acclaimed pianists entertain the public with music from Mozart, Ravel, Chopin, and Stravinsky. The annual Youth Concerts specifically targets elementary students.

23 West 10th Street, Erie, PA 16501

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25 Best Things to Do in Erie, PA