My mini-tribe and I were ready for an out-of-town excursion but we only had 48 hours, so I decided to pack up and head due north to Erie, Pennsylvania. Erie, home to the Great Lake Erie and Presque Isle State Park, is approximately two hours north of Pittsburgh.
As my children were born at the beach and we all are extremely fond of water, I figured this would be a great opportunity for them to see and learn about freshwater habitats and wildlife. Avid fisherpeople frequent Erie, as the streams in the Lake Erie Watershed are renowned for their steelhead fishing. We are less fishing aficionados and more fans of an indoor water park in the area, Splash Lagoon, so made that our first stop.
Splash Lagoon, located in Erie, is a huge indoor complex housing nine water slides with varying levels of intensity, a lazy river, a kid and separate adult hot tubs, wave pool, baby pool and tree tops rope course. You can spend several hours in the facility and not get bored, which is a plus since the admission fees are hefty (though justified). I decided to go after 4pm for the discounted rate, which gave us plenty of time to play, as they are open until 9pm on Saturdays. Also on the premises is an arcade, laser tag rooms and several dining locations to choose from, as well as adult beverage options. With lodging attached to Splash Lagoon, many choose to stay on site. However, we stayed closer to Presque Isle.
I wanted my children to experience freshwater wildlife as they’ve seen plenty of aquariums, sharks, dolphins jumping waves, washed-ashore kelp and so on, but are less exposed to freshwater fish and plants.
After many hours of chlorine-filled fun and the exhaustion that followed, we headed to the Riviera Motel. While there are many great accommodation options, we were going for budget friendly in the best location, and this motel came highly recommended from my aunt. The Riviera is kind on the wallet, and comes with several bars and restaurants either within walking distance or a very short drive away, and is minutes from Presque Isle. The rooms are extremely clean, although décor is quite outdated. The motel offered everything we needed for the 12 hours we were there, comfy beds, shower, TV, mini-fridge and coffee maker.
The following day we found a great little spot to eat breakfast, Avanti’s. With an Italian-inspired menu and décor, including 1950s murals on the walls and family photos, I knew the food would be delicious and the atmosphere kind and welcoming. A small place with a decent sized menu and great prices, Avanti’s offers breakfast and lunch between 5:30am and 3pm.
After breakfast we headed towards Presque Isle to enjoy the sun and sand, and even though the fall temperatures were brisk, the kids didn’t mind. Presque Isle State Park is a 3,112-acre Pennsylvania park on an arching, sandy peninsula that juts into Lake Erie. The peninsula has 13 miles of roads, 21 miles of recreational trails, 13 beaches for swimming, and a marina. After driving several miles, in true kid fashion someone needed to use the bathroom so we stopped at a building, which ended up being at a super cool beach that we decided to explore. After spending their first few years living a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean, my kids are extremely fond of the water, sand and waves, so Lake Erie was a good substitute.
After driving several miles, in true kid fashion someone needed to use the bathroom so we stopped at a building, which ended up being at a super cool beach that we decided to explore.
After their little feet came close to freezing in the water, it was time to leave, so we drove back down the peninsula, stopping at the Perry Monument/lighthouse, watching a few families fishing in one of the many waterways and then onto the Tom Ridge Environmental Center. I wanted my children to experience freshwater wildlife as they’ve seen plenty of aquariums, sharks, dolphins jumping waves, washed-ashore kelp and so on, but are less exposed to freshwater fish and plants, so this was the perfect place to explore next.
The Tom Ridge Environmental Center is an educational center dedicated to teaching visitors about Presque Isle and the many different forms of life that inhabit the peninsula. It also serves as a center for research, contributing to conservation efforts and promoting environmental awareness, helping to preserve Presque Isle. The center is open year-round and offers free admission to interactive exhibits, glass-enclosed tower, and an orientation movie.
Although I’ve visited the area many times, it’s always exciting to return to these places dear to our hearts, especially when it’s so close to home and so accessible. The kids had a ton of fun so we’ll definitely be returning post-winter, unless we feel the urge to try out ice fishing!