Covering 19 square miles, the city of Erie is located on Presque Isle Bay and ringed by Buffalo, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, each neatly accessible by an interstate highway. The strategic location of the city helped secure Erie’s place as a leading industrial center from the mid 19th century to the mid 20th century. Today, approximately 102,000 people live and work in a community that mindfully preserves the past while evolving towards the future.
The capital of Erie tourism is Presque Isle State Park, a peninsula covering more than 3,000 acres. The park has a 14-mile paved trail for biking, skating and walking, and a beach open for seasonal swimming and sunbathing. Other highlights include a marina and a boat tour that cruises past a trio of historic lighthouses and Gull Point Nature Preserve, an established throughway for migrating birds.
Head to downtown and climb to the observation decks of Bicentennial Tower for grand views of the city and Lake Erie. Built to commemorate the city’s bicentennial in the mid 1990s, the industrial-looking landmark reaches 187 feet into the sky above Dobbins Landing at the start of State Street, a major thoroughfare in Erie.
Things to do in Erie’s downtown include touring the Maritime Museum and Flagship Niagara, responsible for the city’s nickname, the “Flagship City.” The regal, square-rigged vessel was helmed by Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry during the War of 1812 and won a crucial victory in the Battle of Lake Erie. The Museum of Erie County History, also in downtown, features a collection of exhibits and artifacts focused on local history, including the rich maritime past.
Among the city’s cultural attractions is the Erie Art Museum, an institution founded over a century ago. Its permanent collection highlights photography, ceramics and paintings from Pop to Abstract Illusionist.
Abundant vintage landscape and structural architecture adds to the number of things to do in Erie. One of the most inviting of well-designed spaces is Perry Square. Dividing the east and west sides of the city, the neatly manicured public square is adorned with trees and greenery, plus statues and monuments commemorating local historic figures and military veterans.
Near Lake Erie sits Millionaires Row, ideal for walks. The area is lined with historic homes, the bulk of them built in the late 19th century by prosperous city residents. This Erie neighborhood’s attractions include the Watson-Curtze Mansion, a stone-front Richardsonian Romanesque home open for tours, and the John Hill House, an elegant structure integrating Greek Revival and Italian Villa architectural notes.
Visitors looking for leisure can head to the Boardwalk Complex in downtown, with nightlife options ranging from an indoor tiki bar and dance club to a neighborhood tavern and martini lounge. Notable shopping stops in Erie include the stores of Peach Street and the Millcreek Mall, both located near interstate highways. All Seasons’ Market Place, adjacent to Millcreek Mall, houses an eclectic array of vendors selling items such as candles, collectibles, antiques and sports memorabilia.