By Kelly Frager
People unfamiliar with Erie may envision snow (lots and lots of snow) when they hear the name of this Northwestern Pennsylvania city. And they would be correct: Erie averages more than 100 inches and 60 days of the fluffy white stuff each year.
Thankfully for Erie residents, the intense, snowy winters yield to absolutely glorious summers, and summer in Erie is what I’m more than happy to discuss. Ah, summer.
Full disclosure: Despite living in Maryland for the last several decades, I call Erie my hometown. It’s where I grew up. Erie is where my parents and extended family still live, and where I love to visit each summer. The sunsets are unreal. Presque Isle State Park’s 13-plus miles of paved walking and biking paths could not be more peaceful and filled with Mother Nature’s Beauty, and there’s beaches. Yes. Eleven gorgeous guarded beaches where you can swim, play in the sand and attend a sunset concert.
As you drive down Peninsula Drive, headed toward the entrance of Presque Isle, you’ll first notice Waldameer Amusement Park & Water World. It’s one of the oldest amusement parks in the country and it’s the perfect place for a fun afternoon with the family. An added bonus is free admission, you only pay when you want to ride or play.
Once on the peninsula, roll down your windows, drive slowly and take in the view. You’ll have the bay to your right and the beaches on your left. If you prefer to park and walk, run or rollerblade your way around the peninsula, the 13.5 miles of paved multipurpose trail is for you.
To explore the lake and her lagoons, rent a kayak, rowboat or canoe. Segway tours are also offered through Yellow Bike Rental Co. Once you reach the tip of the peninsula at Perry Monument, named after Oliver Hazard Perry, the Commodore of the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812, you begin to see the beaches on your right. Hunt for beach glass, relish in the sight of the kites flying at Sunset Point, and watch the turtles bask in the sun at Graveyard Pond.
There are endless possibilities for those who want to be on the water, too: boating, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, waterskiing and paddle boarding. The best resource to discover all that Presque Isle State Park has to offer is the Presque Isle Partnership. They make it their business to ensure that you enjoy your experience at the park and raise funds to enhance visitors’ experiences while maintaining the park’s natural beauty.
Erie has plenty more to offer. Let’s start with one of the most important claims to Erie fame in this writer’s eyes, the chocolate. Three famous chocolatiers reside in Erie: Romolo, Stefanelli’s and Pulakos. Each has Erie chocolate roots dating back to the early 1900s. Although their products span the spectrum of deliciousness (I can attest from 40-plus years of market research), if you want to try a unique chocolate specialty, you must try sponge candy, an Erie specialty.
Although Erie is the fourth-largest city in the state, it is relatively small and you can travel easily to the various areas. Venture to State Street via the Bayfront Highway. At the foot of State Street you’ll be at Dobbins Landing and notice the Bicentennial Tower with an observation deck offering a nice view of the Peninsula over the bay. Nearby is the Erie Maritime Museum and U.S. Brig Niagara.
I’m a proud Erie girl, and believe Erie should not be known only for record snowfall. It should be known for the immense natural beauty that Lake Erie and Presque Isle has provided and for all that there is to do once that snow finally melts… in April.