Erie is the fourth largest metropolitan area in the state of Pennsylvania. However, in terms of size and stature, there is a clear gulf between the first and second cities (Philadelphia and Pittsburgh) and the second-tier cities, like Erie, Allentown, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and Harrisburg. Erie is roughly in the center of Pennsylvania's only coastline, bordering Lake Erie. The city itself sits on Presque Isle Bay, which is formed by a long, narrow peninsula known as Presque Isle that reaches from the west around the north of the city.
Erie was founded in 1795 after the purchase of the surrounding territory from New York. It made its mark on history during the early 19th century, when Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's small fleet of warships used the bay (then known as Misery Bay) to regroup and repair between skirmishes with the British fleet on Lake Erie. (A reconstruction of the Brig "Niagara" can be found at the Erie Maritime Museum.)
The late nineteenth century brought industrial development, primarily heavy equipment and the locomotive industry. Like many other cities in the so-called rust belt, this development has slowly withered away to outside competition, with the notable exception being General Electric, which maintains a large and active presence in the rail industry (GE Rail).
Erie's climate is similar to most of the Northern United States, but with a big winter twist known as lake effect snow. Snowfall amounts vary wildly within a 40 mile zone south of the lake. Most of the time the immediate vicinity of the lake receives light snowfall, and the range from three to fifteen miles receives a whollop. Snowfalls are also generally heavier as you go east. The NY/PA border region typically receives the most snow until you move far enough away from the lake for the effects to diminish. The roads are well maintained, but some snow squalls come on so suddenly, it is impossible to keep up. If you are driving in the winter, be prepared with emergency gear. The good news is that by January, it is often cold enough for Lake Erie to freeze over, greatly diminishing the lake effect.
Erie is within a two hour drive of Buffalo-Niagara, Cleveland-Hopkins and Pittsburgh International Airports. Erie International Airport (IATA: ERI)  is a medium airport that is worth considering. The airport is served by four major airlines: Continental (via Cleveland), Delta/Northwest (via Detroit), and US Airways (via Philadelphia). Bargains can be had and the airport itself is a breeze to navigate, get in and out of, and also has a full compliment of car rental agencies on-site. Parking is easy, but it is also fairly pricey. (Erie's airport is not large enough to justify a competitive parking market like most larger airports have - park on-site, get a friend to drive, or take a cab/bus.)
Erie has a newly built Greyhound Bus Station located right across from the Library and Maritime Museum. Buses come and go frequently from Buffalo and Cleveland. Erie can even be accessed from New York City, Chicago, and Toronto typically with only one transfer. City buses stop at the station, so you can visit parts of the city without a taxi or car, although you will have less freedom.
Amtrak serves the downtown Union Station, although this is not a common method of transportation, as most, if not all trains arrive or depart between midnight and 6:00 AM.
Erie is easily accessible via Interstate 90 and 79. The recently completed Bayfront Connector Highway links the northern terminus of I-79 through the city along the bayfront and then through the industrial East side and newer housing and office developments around Knowledge Park and Penn State University (Behrend College). The new highway (completed Summer 2005) is 3-4 lanes, but has few buildings or side streets that connect directly with the road, making traffic relatively smooth and making it much easier to get in and out of the downtown. The completed highway is a scenic detour away from the traffic and strip malls of I-90 south of Erie.
Erie is laid out in an easy to understand grid pattern paralleling the Lake Erie coastline. Numbered streets starting with the northern most 2nd Street run roughly east-west. (The bayfront highway loops around this grid, taking the place of what would be a "1st Street". Major E/W thoroughfares are 6th, 12th, 26th and 38th Street. The center of town is split north-south by State Street. N/S streets on the west side of town are typically named after trees (Peach, Poplar, Chestnut) and on the east side after countries (French, German, Holland). The two major north-south routes through the center of town are State and Peach (Peach diverges to the southwest after 26th street.) Major N/S streets listed from west to east are Pittsburgh, Greengarden, Liberty, Chestnut, Peach, State, French, Parade, East. As you can see, this naming convention is not hard and fast, and breaks down in all directions the further you get from the city center. The suburbs of Fairview, Millcreek, Harborcreek, Lawrence Park and Wesleyville also stick to this rough grid pattern to some degree as you move away from the city.
Bus (EMTA ) service primarily stretches from Fairview in the west to Harborcreek in the east, and south to the I-90/Peach Street shopping district. Regional shuttles connect the outlying communities of Edinboro, Waterford, Corry, Union City, Girard and Albion. EMTA is available by phone at (814) 452-3515.
Taxis are rare in Erie - apart from the airport and perhaps the very center of town, calling ahead is a must.
Erie Art Museum, 411 State Street, ☎ 814-459-5477, . Tu-Sa 11AM-5PM, Su 1PM-5PM. The Erie Art Musuem hosts over 5,000 pieces of art on State Street, along with 18-20 traveling exhibits annually.$2-4.
Erie Zoo, 423 West 38th Street, ☎ 814-864-4091, . 10AM-5PM. A great zoo comparable to those of larger cities. Summer educational programs for children. Fun train ride though the zoo; great for the kids or kids at heart.$7.
Erie Maritime Museum and Brig Niagara, 150 East Front Street, ☎ 814-452-2744, . A good place to get a hands-on look at an early nineteenth century sailing warship. The U.S.S. Niagara is typically in port, but does travel to historical events all across the Great Lakes region, so consider calling ahead or drive by to see if she's around.
The Bicentennial Tower. Constructed in 1995 to celebrate Erie's Bicentennial, the tower stands about 100 feet high and one can easily see out to Long Point or over Erie. Located at the foot of State Street.
Firefighter's Historical Museum, 428 Chestnut Street, ☎ (814) 456-5969, . June-Aug. on Sat. from 11 AM to 4 PM and Sun. 1 PM to 4 PM, Sept. and Oct. on Sat. and Sun. from 1 PM to 4 PM. A small fire station built in 1903, it was used during the age when firefighters used horses to pull a hose on a cart. The horses were used here until 1921 and the fire station closed in 1974. Inside the museum you can see various contraptions firefighters used to put out fires before the firetruck existed. Hours of operation are limited, but you can call to schedule an appointed during other times.Adults $4, Children (6-12) $1, Firefighters $2.50.
Watson-Curtze Mansion, 356 West Sixth St, . Wed. to Sat. from 11 AM to 4 PM, Sun. from 1 PM to 4 PM. A historic mansion built on "Millionaire's Row" in 1891.Adults $5, students $4, children under 12 $3.
Presque Isle State Park, . Situated on a peninsula starting from about four miles west of downtown and then going north and east approximately ten miles. Most of the lake side of the peninsula is made up of sandy beaches. The bay side provides launching docks for boats and spots to fish. A fourteen mile paved exercise and bike trail runs the entire length of the peninsula offering views of the lake beaches and wildlife refuges. Bicycles and boats are available for rental in and around the park. There is also a nature cruise starting near the Perry monument, on the southeastern side of the park. With free entry, copious parking, and miles of beaches, it's not hard to see why this park is the most visited state park in Pennsylvania, averaging over a million guests a year.
All Season's Marketplace 2080 Interchange Road Millcreek Mall Pavillion ...Open Year Round. A unique shopping experience with a variety of specialty shoppes,,, open Thursday and Sunday from 10:00AM to 6:00PM and Friday and Saturday from 10:00AM to 8:00PM Food Fun and Shopping. This place is constantly changing and growing! Come visit us to see! www.allseasonsmarketplace.com
Waldameer Park & Water World, 814-838-3591, . Right before the entrance to Presque Isle and in the summer is a popular place to beat the summer heat.
Splash Lagoon, 8091 Peach Street, 1-866-3-SPLASH,  is another great place to take the kids. Located immediately off of I-90 on Peach Street, this indoor waterpark operates year round.
Erie Wine Country There are a number of wineries north and east of the city, including Mazza, Penn Shore, and Presque Isle Vineyards.
Erie Playhouse, 10 W 10th St, . Erie's oldest theater group, producing around 12 shows per year. Musicals, comedies, dramas, concerts, and youth theater are common events. Shows run Thursdays through Sundays as a general rule
Erie Philharmonic, 811 State Street, ☎ 814-455-1375, . The Erie Philharmonic is an orchestra that plays a variety of concerts at the Warner Theatre on State Street, which is on the National Register of Historical Places for its Art Deco style. Tickets can be ordered online, and they go well in advance.$16-48.
Erie is a city of minor league athletics with four minor league teams.
Jerry Uht Park, ☎ 814-456-1800, . Home of the Erie SeaWolves, Erie's minor league baseball team.
Tullio Arena, 809 French Street, . The arena is home to Erie's other three minor league teams, the Otters (hockey) and the Bayhawks (basketball) and ErieStorm (football).
The main shopping area in Erie is centered around Peach Street, south of the city to its junction with I-90. Many of the typical national chains can be found, many of which are contained in Millcreek Mall, a sprawling single-story mall/strip complex.
Smaller niche shopping is available on the west side of the city in plazas on West 8th, 12th, and 26th Streets. The downtown also has a few stores, but has not been a large retail draw since the late 1970's.
Erie is a popular shopping destination because of Pennsylvania's waiver of sales tax on clothing. Many people from the surrounding states and Ontario make special trips to Erie for this reason.
There are plenty of chain restaurants in Erie as well as ethnic and local places to eat. Peach Street has a large concentration of restaurants as does downtown Erie.
Smokey Bone's Barbeque & Grill, 2074 Interchange Rd, ☎ 814-868-3388, . A great place for anyone who likes barbequed food.
TGI Fridays 814-868-9655
Valerio's Italian Restaurant 814-833-2959
Wild Card's Sports Grill & Bar 814-866-1234
*More than one location
Raj Mahal, 2740 West 12th Street, ☎ (814) 838-1055. Lunch Buffet and Dinner. The only Indian Restaurant in Erie. Extremely great North Indian cuisine and a good change.
Khao Thai, 36 North Park Row, ☎ (814) 454-4069. One of Erie's hidden gems. Located across the street from Perry Square, Khao Thai offers a taste of Thailand that is almost identical to that you would see in Bangkok.
There are plenty of places to go for the night scene. Numerous bars and dance clubs are located throughout the metropolitan Erie area. Some night clubs are:
The Boardwalk Complex Downtown: Containing a sports bar and dance club daily, as well as a quieter upscale bar located upstairs in the Dream Ultra Lounge open on Friday and Saturday nights with bottle service available
The Plymouth: One of the mainstays in downtown Erie, the Plymouth is great for all ages, with drink specials daily from 9PM-11PM
Gino's Bistro & Jazz
The Cell Block
The King's Rook
On the Rocks
Hotels are concentrated along the heavily travelled Interstate 90 corridor, primarily at the Peach and State St. exits. There are also a number of chain and locally based hotels and motels along Interstate 79 north of I-90 and to the west on 12th and 26th streets towards Presque Isle. Finally, the downtown offers a third option, offering anything from barebones motel to full-service hotel to bed and breakfast.
Microtel Inn & Suites El Paso Erie, 8100 Peach Street, Tel: (814) 864-1010.
Sara's Campground, 50 Peninsula Dr., (814)833-4560, . Great campsite located on the water and adjacent to Presque Isle State Park. Pitch your tent right on the beach or in a designated site in the woods. There's also RV parking.
SpringHill Suites, 2087 Interchange Road, ☎ 814-864-5000, . checkin: 3pm; checkout: 12pm. Accommodations include complimentary Internet, flat screen TV, and pantry area. Guests will also have access to complimentary hot breakfast, complimentary parking, indoor pool and fitness center.$128.
Lake Erie Tour Route and Lighthouses. Go back to the mainland and see the shoreline. The drive (or boat ride) around Lake Erie takes you through the Working Waterfronts around Buffalo NY, Cleveland OH, Detroit MI, Erie PA, Toledo, OH, and southern Ontario and is intermingled with beautiful preservations of flora and fauna as well as the history of North America's first westward expansion, the Old Northwest Territory.
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