Erie Art Museum (Erie)Â
Coffee cup in hand, a morning walk around Erie is the finest way to understand why they call it the ‘Gem City’ — it really does sparkle by the lake. Take your time and feel the lake breeze as you walk up State Street to your first stop, the Erie Art Museum. It’s the home of interesting folk and traditional works, itself an elegant example of Greek Revival architecture. Make sure you see The Avalon Restaurant, an amazingly detailed soft-sculpture installation of a day in the life at the now-past-its-time local diner — wool-haired, marble-eyed, plastic-fingernailed miniaturized waitresses pouring tiny cereal flakes. Then stop by the ClaySpace where you can use the pottery wheels and pay-as-you-go firing to cook up your own souvenir. Clean the clay off your hands and head north a few short blocks to one of the grandest structures in town, or any small town for that matter.
Warner Theater (Erie)
By now it’s later in the morning, and the light is just about perfect on the Warner Theater, the home of the Erie Philharmonic, the Lake Erie Ballet and Broadway performances. While the 10-ton marquee, in all its Art Deco majesty with 8,000 lights, is a photo-op alone, step inside this one-time Warner Brothers movie palace and witness the grand proscenium stage — it’s huge, it’s gold-leafed, it’s ornate … think Fred and Ginger. In 1931, Warner Brothers (hence the name) spent $1.5 million Depression-era dollars to make this the deluxe downtown picture palace. Today its gold-backed mirrors still reflect the ornate beauty and heart of the Warner. It’s worth planning ahead to find some tickets for a performance later in the evening.
Erie Playhouse (Erie)
Known as one of the oldest and largest community theaters in the nation, the Erie Playhouse remains at the forefront of the arts in Erie. While you’re there, make sure you get to see one of the YouTheatre programs, especially if you have littler ones along. It’s been ranked one of the ten best community theatres in the country (and the busiest in the state), and everything from its on-again/off-again history to its musicals has that small-town can-do spirit written all over it.
The Boston Store (Erie)Â
Take a few hours later in the day to relax on a park bench and live the small life. Poke around the mom-and-pops, admire the Queen Anne-style homes, ask a local where to get a scone, and at around 4:00, “Meet us under the clock.” It’s the popular Erie phrase of yesteryear, when friends would gather downtown under the large bronze clock in The Boston Store. It was once Erie’s premier department store, but couldn’t survive the suburban shopping mall boom. The Art Deco-inspired giant is still worth a visit, and a symbol of Erie’s opulent past. Â
The Brewerie at Union Station (Erie)
Now that you’re a regular local, go to the heart of downtown Erie (hence the spelling of Brewerie) in Union Station. This rail-inspired gastropub on 14th Street treats you under soaring station ceilings — it’s airy yet intimate beneath the grand rotunda. Enjoy beer-infused dishes, (the house muffins are baked daily from the already-brewed beer grain), then take your pint outside to the Trackside Beer Garden and watch the trains whiz by.
Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel (Erie)
The area’s first waterfront hotel located near State Street anchors the center of Erie’s Bayfront Marina District. This stylish hotel offers sweeping views of Lake Erie’s Presque Isle Bay and beyond.