We often get the question “What is there to do in Erie?” Let us say that one of the nicest surprises about a vacation in Erie, PA is just how much there is to do here any time of the year.
Attractions & Things to Do
In the summer, there is Presque Isle State Park with its 13 beaches and multiple paved and unpaved nature trails. Presque Isle Bay and Lake Erie offers many boating and world class fishing opportunities. There are free concerts, including 8 Great Tuesdays on the bayfront and the Sunset Music Series on the beach, featuring music from big band to country to jazz to blues, etc. and on Friday, Saturday and Sunday there are often festivals.
For example, Celebrate Erie, Jazz and Blues Festival, Presque Isle Days, Tall Ships Festival, Beer on the Bay, Wine Festival, Rib Festival, Cherry Festival, Greek Festival. The list goes on and on.
In the winter, there are events and activities like Downtown D’lights, skiing at one of the ski areas, ice fishing on the bay, concerts at the Warner Theatre and much more.
You may have to come back sooner than you think! There is a comprehensive listing of things to do and see at the Visit Erie website.
The Erie area has a number of great museums that honor the history and artistic talents of the area. Explore the rich and diverse history that surrounds us here at Spencer House Bed & Breakfast by visiting one of these great museums!Read More...
- Erie Art Museum – If you enjoy art in various forms from paint to sculptures, then you owe yourself a visit to the Erie Art Museum, located in downtown Erie and an easy walk from Spencer House Bed & Breakfast, where there is a mix of over 8,000 pieces of local and regional artwork.
- Erie Maritime Museum – An important part of the history of Erie certainly involves the waters of Lake Erie. Whether that entailed naval battles or commerce transported to and from the port, the Lake was and is an important part of Erie. The Maritime Museum does a great job of capturing the military heritage side of this history and is worth a visit to see the museum and both the Brig Niagara and the Schooner Lettie G. Howard, which are both home ported right outside. If sailing is your thing, then you can also go on a day sail on either of them during the summer months.
- Hagen History Center – The Hagen History Center has become an historical campus encompassing 3 buildings, 2 of which are beautiful mansions, in which there are a number of exhibits such as rooms of the original owners, Griswold Ironware, Victorian fashions and the Erie Extension Canal to name a few. Frank Lloyd Wright’s San Francisco Office and his 17’-long Butterfly Wing Bridge model will please fans of his unique architecture. Located less than 2 blocks from Spencer House Bed & Breakfast, the Hagen History Center is an easy addition to the must-do list while staying with us.
(Museum Photo Courtesy of Hagen History Center)
Being on Lake Erie provides for many outdoor-related activities to enjoy all year round.Read More...
- Presque Isle State Park – When it comes to outdoor activities in Erie, Presque Isle State Park is the crown jewel. The most visited state park in Pennsylvania, the beauty of this state park is unsurpassed and truly the best place to watch the Lake Erie sunsets, which have been rated among the best in the world. Being a Peninsula between Presque Isle Bay and Lake Erie, it provides numerous outdoor activity opportunities no matter what time of year. Summertime offers sunbathing, swimming and beach glass hunting on its 13 freshwater beaches, kayaking in the lagoons, fishing, boat tours and walking, running, hiking and biking on its over 20 miles of paved and unpaved trails. It is also considered a top birdwatching destination because of its location on the Atlantic Flyway. Wintertime offers cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing and ice skating. For those that like lighthouses, it is also home to two of the three lighthouses in Erie. There is no fee to enter or use the park.
- Asbury Woods – Located a short 15-minute drive from Spencer House Bed & Breakfast, Asbury Woods is an outdoors oasis featuring over 200 preserved acres with over 5 miles of trails with opportunities to hike, run, mountain bike, cross-country ski and snowshoe. Trails include a handicap accessible .33-mile boardwalk.
- Wintergreen Gorge – Wintergreen Gorge is a canyon on the east side of Erie formed by Four Mile Creek. 250’ deep at its highest point, it features a mainly creek-side trail that is just over 1 mile in length. In addition to the creek-side views and the Devils Backbone overlook, it also has some small waterfalls. It mainly offers opportunity for hiking and photography.
- Erie Bluffs State Park – Erie Bluffs State Park is located about 12 miles west of Erie and provides mainly hiking and fishing opportunities. With trails atop 90’ bluffs, it provides scenic vistas over Lake Erie, and it also boasts a world-class steelhead fishery along Elk Creek, which runs along its eastern edge.
- Biking – There are many opportunities in the Erie area for those who enjoy biking. Presque Isle State Park has a 13.5-mile paved trail that is always a popular destination for riders as it is level, and being a loop, you can start anywhere and easily end back at that same point. For those looking for a little more of a challenge the Bayfront Connector Trail runs from Frontier Park on the west side of Erie to the Penn State Behrend campus on the east end. The Bayfront Trail is about 9 miles long one way and varies from flat along the bayfront to mostly gentle grade (less than 5%) when heading east toward the Penn State campus. For those who don’t mind riding on the road, the Great Lakes Seaway Trail runs within ½ mile of Spencer House Bed & Breakfast. The Seaway trail stretches 518 scenic miles from Northeastern New York to the Ohio/Pa Border with about 50 of those miles being across Erie County. Erie is also home to a Lake Erie Cyclefest, which is a 4-day event held in late July each year. This event features 5-7 different organized rides of different lengths through various parts of Erie County.
- Fishing – Lake Erie is known as the Walleye sportfishing capitol of the world but the lake, tributaries and Presque Isle Bay are also known for quality fishing opportunities for perch, lake trout, bass, bluegill, crappie, and in fall, the steelhead fishing can’t be beat. Whether you prefer to fish from land or from a boat, there are opportunities for everyone. From May – October there are several fishing charters available. For those that are not part of a group, or if the cost of a private charter is out of reach, there is also a head boat. The Captain John provides 2 daily fishing trips for walleye and perch that are reasonable. For those who enjoy “hard water” fishing, once the Bay freezes over there is plenty of opportunity for getting out on the ice, but there are a number of smaller lakes in the area as well that often freeze over first. Ice fishing on Lake Erie itself is considered dangerous and not recommended.
- Amusement Park – Erie is home to the 10th oldest amusement park in the US, Waldameer Park and Water World. With a great mixture of both older and newer rides, a top-10-ranked wooden roller coaster, a large Ferris wheel overlooking the lake and an ever-expanding water world with a 500,000-gallon wave pool and 10 different water slides, Waldameer is a fun experience for both young and old. Admission to the amusement park area is free with a pay per ride set-up, while admission to Water World requires a day or combo pass.
- Jet ski and Boat Rentals – There are several options when it comes to renting motorboats and jet skis for having a fun time on Presque Isle Bay. Located on the bayfront – Port Erie Sports provides regular motorboats of various sizes, pontoon boats and jet skis. Hidden Harbor Rentals provides pontoon boat rentals only. If you are visiting Presque Isle State Park, you can find small motorboats, pontoon boats, row boats, canoes, regular and fishing kayaks and paddle boards at Presque Isle Boat Rental. Note: Due to the sometimes challenging and occasionally dangerous nature of operating watercraft on the lake, each of these providers limit operation of their watercraft to the bay.
- Boat Tours – To get a different perspective of Presque Isle State Park from the water, taking a tour on the Lady Kate is a must. Offering both 90-minute sightseeing tours as well as sunset cruises, the crew of the Lady Kate do a great job of providing you with a “boatload” of information on the history of Presque Isle, the bay and the lake. Enjoy a leisurely cruise through the bay and, weather permitting, into Lake Erie to a lakeside view of the Presque Isle Lighthouse where they pause for pictures before turning around for the return trip. To get an “inside” tour of Presque Isle and its many lagoons, check out the various guided kayak, canoe and paddleboard tours provided by Presque Isle Boat Rental.
- Sail Cruises – For those who enjoy sailboats, there are some good options for 2-4 hr. cruises on both large and small boats. The smaller of the options is on the 33’ Sotto Voce with Captain Scott and Your Sailing Adventure. You will find options of afternoon, sunset and the unique Sommelier wine pairing cruises lasting 2 hrs., for a maximum of 6 people, on most days from Memorial Day through October. For those that are staying at Spencer House Bed & Breakfast, we offer a discounted cruise package with Your Sailing Adventure. The two largest Erie sailing ships would be the US Brig Niagara and Lettie G Howard. The Niagara is the largest being a reconstruction of Oliver Perry’s flagship for the battle of Lake Erie in 1813. A warship with a hull length and 2 masts of over 100’, it is really something to be on. The Lettie G Howard is a 74’-long fishing Schooner believed to be the last surviving of example of its type. While much smaller than the Brig, it is just as exciting. Note: The Lettie G Howard generally offers multiple sail times each day, including a sunset sail, with each lasting approximately 90 minutes. When in port the Niagara only offers a 4-hour sail starting at 2:00 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Both cruises can accommodate 20+ people
- Zoo – Lions, Tigers and Orangutans Oh My….The Erie Zoo is a must for those who appreciate animals and botanical gardens. Enjoy a leisurely walk through the 15-acre zoo while viewing nearly 400 animals and 11 beautiful gardens. The zoo is open for your enjoyment from March through November.
- Golf – For those who enjoy the fun, challenge and sometimes frustration of golf, be sure to bring your clubs along as Erie is blessed to have over a dozen golf courses. Each has various levels of challenge, but all have beautiful landscapes to include some with views of Lake Erie. Some of the more popular open to the public are Whispering Woods Golf Club, Scenic Heights Golf Club, Green Meadows Golf Course and Harbor Ridge Golf Course.
- Skiing, Snow Boarding, Snow Shoeing and Snow Tubing – Cross-country skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts can often enjoy any of the parks already mentioned, but a short 30-minute drive from Erie will provide around 26 miles of trails at The Wilderness Lodge, which is a rustic lodge with a number of trails groomed specifically for cross-country skiing. For downhill skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing, a visit to Peek’n Peak Resort or Mount Pleasant of Edinboro, both about a 30-minute drive, will provide a fun time in the snow. Peek’n Peak features 7 tubing lanes and 26 trails/slopes with something for all levels of skill in addition to ski and snowboard instruction. Mount Pleasant of Edinboro features 8 tubing lanes and 10 trails for all levels as well as instruction.
One of the great things about our location is how close we are to a number of great local restaurants, some of which are within walking distance. We make our recommendations based on personal experience and guests’ reported experiences.Read More...
Restaurants – Within Walking Distance (1/2 – ¾ mile)
- Flagship City Food Hall – Don’t let the name Food Hall turn you away because this is not a mall food court with national chain vendors. There are 9 unique and 100% local vendors in various locations throughout the food hall providing for a unique menu from a variety of bagel creations to pizza to Middle Eastern shawarma, and you can end it all with an ice cream sundae. Pick your preference and eat it at one of the common seating areas or at a table in the park across the street. Hours vary by vendor, so be sure to check the website for up-to-date hours for the one(s) of your choice.
- Molly Brannigans – A modern Irish Pub located in Downtown Erie with a beautiful hand-hewn bar straight from Ireland. Of course they have typical Irish fare such as Bangers and Mash, Corned Beef and Cabbage, Glazed Salmon, and Shepherd’s Pie but also have some very good non-Irish dishes including pub A beautiful stone double-sided fireplace separates the main pub area from a small dining area. Open Monday – Saturday for Lunch and Dinner. Reservations recommended for dinner and during downtown events.
- Tap House – Located within walking distance of Spencer House Bed & Breakfast, this craft beer pub features over 20 craft beers on tap for the craft beer connoisseur. A fun atmosphere, great menu, and simply the best stone-cooked bar pizza and flatbreads along with a full menu that won’t disappoint. It’s definitely worth a Open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner.
- Bricks at the Cashiers House – Erie’s newest downtown restaurant is located in the historic 1800’s Cashiers House. Serving an upscale menu including dry aged steaks and seafood, guests will enjoy great food in the warm atmosphere of a wonderfully restored historic building.
- Virgil’s – If pizza is your desire, then Virgil’s is a top option. Virgil’s unique pizza allows you to order any number of 4-inch squares and top each one however you want, satisfying each person without pizza compromises. Open Wednesday through Saturday.
- Pineapple Eddie Southern Bistro – One of our top dining recommendations, our guests always enjoy the great food, friendly service and value at Pineapple Eddie. Boasting one of the top chefs in Erie, their combination of southern and Caribbean cuisine made with fresh ingredients makes this one of Erie’s top dining spots and a must try. Open Wednesday thru Saturday evenings with reservations recommended.
- Brewerie at Union Station – A play on the words “brewery” and “Erie,” this is the city’s very first craft brewery opened in 2006 in the historic Union Station in downtown. For those that like historic buildings, trains, good beer and good food, a visit to this grand building, built in 1927, is in order. Whether you choose to eat in the expansive rooms, sit at the bar or outside along the tracks, it’s a unique setting. There are also rumors that it is haunted by a young girl who passed tragically many years ago in a fall down the stairs. We have never seen anything and neither have our guests, but you are welcome to see if you sense anything. Open Monday – Saturday for lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended on weekends.
- Federal Hill Smokehouse – If its lunchtime and BBQ is your thing, then Federal Hill Smokehouse has the best BBQ in Erie and is worth the visit. One of the ways they ensure quality is that they make a set amount each day and serve it until it is gone. Being the best means it is also very popular, so they usually sell out between 1:00 – 3:00 PM making Federal Hill a lunch option. Their eat-in area is small, so they also offer take-out service. Open Monday – Saturday 11:00 until 3:00 or sell-out.
- Bob’s Steak House – Located close to Presque Isle State Park, Bob’s has quickly grown a reputation as a great local option for steak. From their house-made salad dressings to their from-scratch dishes and high-quality steaks, this is a place to try if you’re looking for steak. Open Tuesday – Saturday evenings. Reservations recommended on weekends year round and any night during summer months.
- Smugglers’ Wharf – Located on the bayfront, the Wharf is a great place to casually enjoy steaks and seafood with a fantastic view of Presque Isle Bay right outside the windows. Open Tuesday – Saturday afternoon and evenings.
- Pier-6 Rooftop Bar and Restaurant – Located on the top level of the parking garage for the Marriott Hotel, Pier 6 is one of Erie’s newer restaurants and is quickly becoming the go-to place to get good food and drink while enjoying fresh air and a great view of Presque Isle Bay and State Park. Open seasonally first come – first served.
- Bay House Oyster Bar & Restaurant – Located in the bottom level of the parking garage for the Marriot Hotel, Bay House Oyster Bar & Restaurant is another newer restaurant in Erie that is getting great reviews. If you like oysters, this is the place with a great selection of different types. But even if oysters aren’t your thing, don’t get scared by the name because they also have a number of other very good seafood and non-seafood items on the menu. Their location along the bayfront provides great views of Presque Isle Bay. Open 7 days for lunch and dinner.
- Mi Scuzi – Wonderful Italian food – homemade and delicious! Simply stated but perfectly describes what to expect when dining at this neighborhood restaurant located in the Little Italy section of Erie. Open Tuesday – Saturday for dinner and Sunday 1-5. Reservations recommended.
- Colao’s – Like their menu says, “Italian cuisine the way it should be.” Authentic family recipes from the “old country” made with the freshest ingredients are what you will enjoy while experiencing great ambiance and service. Open Monday – Saturday evenings. Reservations recommended.
- Oliver’s Rooftop – As the name implies, this restaurant is on the top floor of the Hampton Inn on the bayfront. With a wall of windows that face Presque Isle Bay and State Park, the view while dining is hard to beat. From seafood to steaks and pasta you won’t go away hungry or disappointed. Open Monday – Friday for Lunch and Dinner, Open on Sunday for Brunch and Dinner. Reservations recommended.
- Like My Thai – One of Erie’s best featuring authentic made-from-scratch Thai, Vietnamese and Korean food. Like My Thai started as a Kickstarter campaign to fund their pop-up restaurant and soon became everyone’s favorite place for creative and delicious choices. Many dishes can be adapted to Gluten Free, Vegetarian, Vegan and most allergy-restricted diets as well as spice levels. Open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended on weekends or when events are at the Warner Theatre, which is next door.
- Cloud 9 Wine Bar and Restaurant – Casual chic restaurant with house-made everything including locally sourced cheeses, farm-to-table meats cured on site, New American tapas, and a refined menu of both small and large plates to tempt every palate and pocketbook. Open Tuesday – Saturday for Dinner. Reservations Recommended on weekends or when events are at UPMC Park, Erie Insurance Arena or the Warner Theatre.
- Sara’s – Casual dining located at the entrance to Presque Isle State Park. A very popular spot to grab American fare, like a perch basket, hot dogs, hamburgers, French fries, onion rings and ice cream, while enjoying a day at the park or getting ready to enjoy a famous Lake Erie sunset. You know it’s summer when Sara’s is open! Open April 1 – October 30 for Lunch and Dinner.
- Calamari’s Squid Row – With food that is always fresh and made to order combined with 150 craft beers in stock, Calamari’s is always on the list of dining options. Located downtown with a welcoming, friendly atmosphere that combines with the food to add up to an enjoyable dining experience. Open 7 days a week.
- Whippy Dip – While they have hotdogs, hamburgers and other small drive-in fare, this is our recommendation for soft serve ice cream to end your day in a sweet and tasty way. About 5 min. away.
Wine and Ale Trails
Erie County is home to both a wine trail and an ale trail where you can visit one or more of the 20 local wineries and/or 15 craft breweries to try out their products.Read More...
- Lake Erie Wine Country – With the largest grape-growing region east of the Rocky Mountains, Lake Erie Wine Country features 20 wineries along a 51-mile span stretching from just north of Erie into New York State. Whether your preference is sweet or dry, red or white you will find a number of award-winning wines of all types produced along the shores of Lake Erie. We are happy to provide recommendations if you would like. For those who prefer not to drive themselves, we offer a wine tour package that includes transportation for 5 hrs. See our Stay and Tour package for more information.
- Lake Erie Ale Trail – With over 15 craft breweries in Erie County, you are likely to find a craft beer or two that you like. Nine of those breweries are right in Erie and four of them are withing a few blocks of each other, making it easy to try out different ones using a ride service and/or walking, so you don’t have to worry about driving.
Day Trip Ideas
Make Spencer House Bed & Breakfast your homebase for your vacation as you explore Western PA, Northern Ohio and Northwestern NY! While there are plenty of things to do here in the Erie area, one of the other great things about our location is that it is an easy daytrip to a number of other great attractions to visit.Read More...
Chatauqua Lake/Jamestown Area
- Chautauqua Institution – located along the shores of Chautauqua Lake, this 750-acre educational center includes parks, buildings with beautiful architecture and a large amphitheater. Open year round but known mainly for its 9-week summer season featuring lectures, religion, top entertainment, shopping and recreation. Travel Time – Approx. 45 min.
- Panama Rocks – If you enjoy nature, then Panama Rocks is a place you will want to visit. You can make the adventure what you want, a nice relaxing walk on the 1-mile trail enjoying the unique towering moss-covered rock formations or be more adventurous off the trail climbing on, through and between the rocks. Note: This is not a good trail for people who may have trouble walking on uneven terrain. Open Spring – Fall. Travel Time – Approx. 50 min.
- National Comedy Center and the Lucy Desi Museum – From silent film to modern day stand-up, the National Comedy Center has something to make everyone laugh. While most museums are filled with static displays, this one is also very interactive giving you the opportunity, if you choose, to be part of some of the funniest comedy bits of the past. Visitors are given high-tech wristbands that help guide them through the exhibits providing a personalized experience along the way. Opened in 2018 in Lucille Ball’s hometown of Jamestown, NY, the center features 50 exhibits and showcases some of the best comedy shows and stand-up comics. The Lucy Desi Museum features recreations of sets from the I Love Lucy show as well as costumes, scripts and props. In early August, the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival is held over a 1-week period featuring all things comedy. Combination tickets that provide admission to both museums are available. Travel Time – About 1 hr.
- Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – Located along the Lake Erie Waterfront in Cleveland, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame features unique exterior glass architecture that is worth a visit for that alone. Inside you will find displays and memorabilia including handwritten drafts of hit songs, outfits and instruments of some of the all-time best musicians from Rhythm and Blues to Heavy Metal. Travel Time – About 1 hr. 30 min.
- Cleveland Metroparks Zoo – Encompassing 165 acres in Cleveland, the Metropark Zoo features exhibits of over 3,000 animals representing 600 species including one of the largest collections of primates in North America. A nice-size zoo with exhibit areas divided by continents and the animals that would be found there. Parking is free, and you can take a picnic lunch along if you would like to avoid the food concessions. Plan on 3-4 hrs. to see the entire zoo. Travel Time – About 1 hr. 35 min.
Buffalo/Niagara Falls Area
- Frank Lloyd Wright’s Graycliff – Built on a bluff overlooking Lake Erie between 1926 and 1931, as the summer home for Darwin Martin, Graycliff features views of Lake Erie, downtown Buffalo and Ontario. A complex of 3 buildings with the main building having glass walls allowing you to see through it to the lake. Graycliff also features one of the few landscapes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright himself. Travel Time – About 1 hr. 25 min.
- Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House – Built between 1903 and 1905, for Buffalo business executive Darwin Martin, using pier and cantilever construction with natural colors and materials. It is considered one of the great achievements of Wright’s Travel Time – About 1 hr. 45 min.
- Niagara Falls – A very popular destination and on many a “bucket list”, Niagara Falls is a natural wonder that is worth experiencing at least once. Well known throughout the world, its demonstration of the beauty and power of water is just part of its lure. From adventurers trying to survive a plunge over the falls in a barrel to a tightrope walker traversing his rope above them, it is a true sight to see the falls up close and personal. Whether standing on the hurricane deck of Cave of the Winds while Bridal Veil Falls splashes around you or standing on the deck of the Maid of the Mist looking up at the 187’ face of Horseshoe Falls, the excitement of the experience makes it an opportunity not to pass up. Combine the trip with a visit to the nearby Aquarium of Niagara , where you can touch a shark or stingray, and this a full-day trip that will be remembered for a lifetime. Travel Time – About 2 hrs.
- Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens – An historic complex of buildings, grounds and beautiful metal and glass Victorian greenhouses, in Pittsburgh’s Schenley Park, housing displays of elaborate gardens and exotic plants. In addition to the plants, it also has two waterfalls, several bridges, a stream and several stunning installations by renowned artists. Note: Requires advance ticket purchase. Travel Time – About 2 hrs.
- Duquesne Incline – No visit to Pittsburgh would be complete without an 800-foot ride up the side of Mount Washington on the historic Duquesne Incline. The view from the top platform of Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle, where the 3 rivers meet is hard to beat. Originally designed in 1877 to carry cargo, it later carried passengers tired of walking up the steep slope. Today it is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. Note: Cash only for fares. Travel Time – About 2 hrs.
- Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium – The Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium is one of only 6 major Zoo and Aquarium combinations in the US providing the ability to see both with one admission. Home to more than 8,000 animals representing over 600 species, the zoo is divided into 8 themed sections with the animals that would be found within that habitat. Travel Time – About 2 hrs.
With a number of event venues such as the historic Warner Theatre, Erie Insurance Arena and the Bayfront Convention Center, there are concerts, plays, sports and other events going on year-round.Read More...