The Great American Getaway Guide to Erie

With its rich maritime heritage, storied beaches, and vibrant culture and food scene, Erie offers a Great American Getaway to explore and enjoy. Known as the “Gem of the Great Lakes,” the city is less than a two-hour drive from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Buffalo, and just a four-hour drive from Toronto and Ontario, perfect for a long weekend getaway. We have put together a 48-hour getaway guide that maps out some of our favorite and top picks to see, do, and devour to help you pack the most into your trip to this Pennsylvania gem.

Please note, this itinerary is meant to serve as a general guide. Before you depart on The Great American Getaway to Erie, we highly recommend you check the websites of our suggested places to visit for any seasonal hours of operation and available offerings.

Day One

Afternoon — Arrive in Erie and check into your choice of accommodations (keep scrolling for our picks at the bottom of this page).

Once you’ve settled in—or if you have time for a pit stop before check-in—enjoy a diverse selection of award-winning brews, from refreshing IPAs to robust stouts, paired with tantalizing contemporary American bites at the Lavery Brewing Company located in the heart of downtown Erie.

a glass filled with beer and bread, celery, cukes and dip on side
Lavery Brewing Company | Credit: Jason Lavery

If your getaway is a family affair, strap everyone in for an afternoon of fun and excitement at Waldameer Amusement Park and Water World! With more than 100 thrilling attractions, your whole crew can slide and ride on award-winning experiences including the Rocket Blast and Ravine Flyer II coaster. From May 4 through Labor Day, enjoy wet n' wild fun at the park’s Water World, complete with a half-million-gallon wave pool.

a family posing for photo enjoying a ferris wheel
Waldameer Amusement Park and Water World

If visiting Erie during colder months, check out Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park and Resort. A year-round Polynesian paradise for visitors of all ages and featuring one of the biggest indoor wave pools in the eastern U.S., it’s easy to see why the water park has been ranked among the nation’s Top 10 Water Park Resorts by USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards in 2023 and 2024 and also by Budget Travel.

a girl sliding down a water slider
Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park and Resort

If you’re on an adults-only excursion, sip your way through 50 miles of Lake Erie Wine Country. Stretching along the picturesque shores of Lake Erie, this renowned wine region boasts a variety of vineyards and wineries producing exquisite wines, from crisp whites to robust reds. Embark on a leisurely wine tour and sample handcrafted vintages while soaking in breathtaking views of the vineyard-draped landscape. With inviting tasting rooms, warm hospitality, and lasting flavors, Lake Erie Wine Country provides an enchanting wine-tasting adventure for enthusiasts and novices alike.

Evening — Before dinner, ascend to new heights and enjoy unparalleled panoramic views of the Great Lake and the surrounding cityscape when you climb to the top of the Bicentennial Tower! Built in 1996 to celebrate Erie’s 200th anniversary, this iconic landmark provides a perfect backdrop for memorable photos and unforgettable moments. Take the scenic elevator ride to the top observation deck, which is open seven days a week (weather permitting) from May through September and on Saturdays and Sundays the rest of the year.

After snapping some sunset photos, walk 15 minutes to the Bay House Oyster Bar & Restaurant where you can savor fresh oysters and soak up even more waterfront views. Whether you choose to dine indoors surrounded by vintage modern charm or opt for al fresco seating with panoramic bay vistas, you can indulge in succulent seafood, juicy steaks, or delicious Argentine braised lamb, or opt for their more casual fare of handhelds, soups, salads, and street tacos, accompanied with a handcrafted beverage or two from their full bar.

A couple enjoying evening sun near lake front holding drink glasses
Bay House Oyster Bar & Restaurant

Day Two

Morning – Grab coffee and breakfast at Brew Ha Ha at The Colony and then take a short drive to explore the beauty of Asbury Woods. With more than 234 acres of natural woodland, including five miles of scenic trails, this destination is perfect for hikers and expeditioners. Unwind in nature's embrace as you meander through lush forests, spacious fields, and alongside tranquil streams, offering a serene escape for both two-legged and four-legged visitors, as Asbury Woods is pet-friendly. With additional amenities including playgrounds, tennis courts, and a nature center offering educational programs and events throughout the year, there's endless adventure at this idyllic park.

family walking on a trail bridge
Asbury Woods

Afternoon – Swing by Sara’s for lunch. A retro diner located at the gateway of Presque Isle State Park, it’s a must-stop hot spot for great Erie food and a great time, with their ice cream and milk shakes considered some of the best in the area.

Spend the rest of your afternoon exploring the expansive Presque Isle State Park. With its stunning sandy Lake Erie coastline, the park is filled with wonder, fun, and learning and is a true gem of Pennsylvania's 124 state park system. This National Natural Landmark attracts upwards of 4 million visitors each year who visit the park to swim, boat, fish, sight-see, and enjoy the great outdoors throughout the year. Hike, bike, jog, and even skate on a variety of trails throughout the State Park, including the 13.5-mile paved, ADA-accessible Karl Boyes Multi-Purpose Trail where you’ll find spectacular lake and bay views along the way. Whether you're lounging on the beaches, exploring ecological diversity, or delving into the historical significance of the peninsula, your time at Presque Isle will be a shining point of your PA getaway.

And you won’t want to miss the Presque Isle Lighthouse, which for more than 150 years has served as a navigational beacon, landmark, and one of Erie’s most picturesque spots. From April through October, visitors can climb the lighthouse’s 78-step circular staircase for breathtaking views of Lake Erie and the surrounding area. No worries if you find the thought of climbing 78 steps a bit daunting; there are six platforms along the climb where you can catch your breath. Take a self-guided tour of the lighthouse and grounds, or you can opt for the 40-minute fully guided lighthouse tour providing deeper insights into this iconic landmark's fascinating past.

light house building
Presque Isle Lighthouse

Evening – For dinner, Cloud 9 Wine Bar & Restaurant offers a memorable fine-dining, gastronomic experience with their meticulously crafted dishes. Whether you're relishing a romantic dinner or gathering with friends, Cloud 9's carefully curated menu and charming ambiance will ensure an exceptional night out in Erie. If you’d like to continue the fun after dessert, make the short walk to Voodoo Brewing for live music to end the evening.

food served on table with a drink glass
Cloud 9 Wine Bar & Restaurant

Day Three

Morning — For your final morning, pick up coffee at woman-owned Ember + Forge in the downtown and pair it with a baked good from retail partner baked AF. Fully fueled with your morning caffeine and sugar fix, journey to the Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier Park, affectionately known as LEAF. Discover a host of attractions, from tennis courts and the intricate labyrinth maze to innovative features including the green roof and captivating willow art structures from living fences to arbors to tunnels and domes. Admire the abundance of diverse trees, many of which have been lovingly planted by the LEAF program, adding to the park's natural charm. For families, don't miss the delightful jungle gym and slides nestled into the hillside at Frontier Park, offering plenty of playtime for kids of all ages.

a person walking a dog in park
Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier Park

Afternoon — No trip to Erie is complete without a late breakfast or lunch at the Lawrence Park Dinor. Transport yourself back in time and embrace feelings of nostalgia at this beloved Silk City Dinor that’s been serving Lawrence Park and beyond since 1948. Named one of Tripadvisor’s Travelers' Choice Best of the Best in 2023, here you can treat yourself to freshly made breakfast bites and mouthwatering lunches from Tuesday to Sunday. Don't miss out on the homemade soups and pies crafted daily in-house. With its family-friendly atmosphere and retro diner car setting, the Lawrence Park Dinor is a must-visit for all ages and cravings.

Add A Day

Not ready for your Great American Getaway to Erie to end? Extend your stay to explore even more fun in western PA. Pittsburgh is just a two-hour drive from Erie, and you can learn more about all the exciting things to see and do in this major metropolitan city in our Pittsburgh-dedicated getaway guide.

Punxsutawney is another iconic PA town that’s a 2.5-hour drive from Erie and best known for their most famous resident and world-renowned weather prognosticator, Punxsutawney Phil. Whether visiting for Groundhog Day or any other time of the year, you can take a self-guided tour of Gobbler’s Knob, visit the Weather Discovery Center, and appreciate the Phantastic Phils!, part of a public art project, scattered throughout town.

Places to Stay

Hampton Inn and Suites Erie Bayfront — Guests can revel in the harmonious blend of shorefront tranquility and downtown vibrancy at the Hampton Inn and Suites Erie Bayfront. Boasting a range of rooms, from cozy to spacious suites, each accommodation is as welcoming as the next. With a total of 150 well-appointed rooms plus the on-site dining and imbibing options of Oliver’s Rooftop Restaurant and Oliver’s Beer Garden, and a convenient doorstep bus stop to travel downtown, every stay promises comfort and enjoyment. FYI… Oliver’s is a nod to Oliver Hazard Perry who taught us all to “Don’t give up the ship!”

hotel building at night by lakefront
Hampton Inn and Suites Erie Bayfront | Credit: Scott Enterprises

Victoria Inn Bed & Breakfast — Step into the welcoming embrace of Victoria Inn Bed and Breakfast, where historic elegance meets contemporary comfort in the heart of Erie. This charming retreat offers a cozy ambiance and personalized service that makes every guest feel right at home. With beautifully appointed rooms and thoughtful amenities, such as complimentary breakfast and free Wi-Fi, relaxation is effortless. Whether lounging in the refined common areas or enjoying a peaceful moment in the lush garden, every corner of the Victoria Inn exudes warmth and hospitality.

Tranquil Vibes — The Tranquil Vibes Airbnb boasts four bedrooms, two baths, and an inviting common space that includes a cozy living room, fully equipped kitchen, and dining area. Complete with convenient amenities including a washer/dryer unit and both front and back patios, you and your guests can truly enjoy this tranquil escape. With flexible rental options ranging from 1 to 29 days, Tranquil Vibes ensures a perfect getaway for any and every occasion.

living room with furniture
Tranquil Vibes

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