15 Best Day Trips from Erie, PA

Erie, the only Pennsylvanian city that runs along one of the Great Lakes, boasts a variety of activities centered around outdoor recreation. 

Although the city itself may be small, it’s perfectly located between 2 states and runs along the border of Canada – making it the perfect gateway for tons of awesome day trips. 

Here is a list of the top15 day trips that’ll keep the fun alive as you visit Erie and some of North America’s most unique attractions. 

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1. Ohiopyle, PA

Ohiopyle’s impressive collection of waterfalls make it stand out from Pennsylvania’s whopping 120 state parks. The most iconic waterfall, Ohiopyle Falls, can be found in the center of the park with multiple. You can admire the 20-foot drop from easily accessible vantage points, including the observation deck, the visitors center, the Ferncliff Trail, and the Ferncliff overlook. 

A close runner-up is Cucumber Falls with its scenic 30-foot drop just a staircase away from the parking lot. 

Stretch your legs on a 2-mile hike along Jonathan Run Trail where you’ll find two awe-inspiring falls (Upper Jonathan and Lower Jonathan) and a series of cascading falls along the way. If you want to extend your trip, visit Fetcher Run Falls and Sugar Run Falls

2. Lake Erie

With nearly 900 miles of shoreline stretching from Toledo to Buffalo, this Great Lake provides day trips to a variety of towns. 

The vast waters are begging to be explored and you can find kayak rentals peppered all around it. Grab a friend and spend the day paddling around the lake but just make sure you track your distance so you don’t get lost or end up a state over. Speed boat rentals are also available for those looking for a more exhilarating experience. 

A highlight along the lake is Marblehead Lighthouse State Park where you’ll find the picturesque 65-foot tall lighthouse. It happens to be one of the oldest and most reputable lighthouses along the Great Lakes, so be sure to snap a picture of this unique structure. 

Choose a dinner cruise that fits your style, from gourmet to buffet, and get ready to dance the night away. 

If you’re spending your day along Ohio’s shore, head over to Madison for some wine tasting at Laurentia Vineyard & Winery. Relax on the outdoor patio overlooking the vineyard with a glass of wine in hand paired with one of their tasty, wood-fired pizzas. 

However, if you are hoping for a quick ride from Erie, Pennsylvania, Presque Isle State Park is just a stone’s throw away. With over 3,000 acres in the park, you can spend the day venturing across its many beaches, checking out the Presque Isle Lighthouse, and learning something new at Tom Ridge Environmental Center

3. Allegheny National Forest, PA

Known as the only national forest in Pennsylvania, Allegheny has over 500,00 acres and is booming with outdoor recreation. 

You could easily spend all of your time hiking amongst some of the forest’s 1,600 miles of trails. One of the most popular hikes is the 2.6-mile Rimrock trail that provides breathtaking views overlooking Kinzua Bay – but be prepared to climb some steps. Camping is available throughout the forest, but the best place to pitch up your tent is right along the Allegheny River. 

With multiple bodies of water scattered within the forest, many enjoy water-based activities including:

  • Kayaking
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Jet skiing 

The small town of Kane lies on the outskirts of the forest and is a charming place to grab a bite to eat, stop for a few drinks, and catch a drive-in movie. 

4. Pittsburgh, PA

Whether you’re into history, culture, or bar-hopping, Pittsburgh has you covered with its overflowing variety of attractions to keep any visitor busy year-round. 

Hop aboard the 150-year-old cable car at Duquesne Incline and make your way up the mountain for a one-of-a-kind view of the city. 

The Phipps Conservatory is a beautiful collection of gardens all on its own, but the seasonal flower shows are the real showstoppers here with their vibrant displays. 

Head over to The Strip District before lunch to shop amongst the local boutiques, but it’s important to note that most close by 3 PM. Reward yourself with a tasty treat at one of the many food stalls. 

Enter a world of color at Randyland where a local artist dedicated two side-by-side houses that he turned into a wonderland of bright-colored art. 

Finish your day at the Market Square for dinner and drinks. The Original Oyster House is the oldest restaurant in the city, doubling up as a historic landmark. 

If you’re feeling more playful than sentimental, Bar 11 has some tasty quick bites – and every alcoholic beverage comes with a toy to keep you busy. 

5. Conneaut Lake Park, PA

Home to the most extensive glacier lake in the state, Conneaut Lake is not your average recreational park in the best way possible. Hidden within the park you’ll find the historic Blue Streak Coaster, serving up screaming children since 1937. 

The coaster has been established as a Coaster Classic and landmark. All the more reason to buy a ticket and zip through the woods on its 2,900-foot long track. 

To keep the excitement going, make your way over to Splash City Water Park for a day of water slides, swimming, and floating along the lazy river. 

While you’re in the amusement park mindset, might as well go all out and enjoy some fried foods from Midway Grill. 

Your furry friends are welcome to join you on your adventure, as the entire park is dog friendly – but be courteous of other guests. After a day of thrills, unwind with a walk along the boardwalk as you admire the fishermen and boaters going about their day. 

6. McConnell’s Mill State Park, PA

With over 2,500 acres to explore, McConnell’s Mill State Park has enough outdoor excursions to keep you busy for weeks. 

No trip to the park would be complete without visiting the park’s namesake, the McConnell’s Mill. Built in 1852, the mill is a sight to be seen with multiple observation decks overlooking Slipper Rock Creek. 

Up next is the historic McConnell’s Mill Covered Bridge which was built in 1874 and is one of the largest of its kind in the state of Pennsylvania. Nearby you’ll find the 35-foot tall waterfall known as Alpha Falls, providing picturesque views all year round. 

7. Wheeling, WV

If you’re interested in a day of local cuisine, small-town charm, and laid-back attractions, look no further than West Virginia’s city of Wheeling. 

Channel your inner child at Kruger Street Toy & Train Museum as you walk through exhibits of toys, old and new, that will be sure to give you that feeling of nostalgia. 

The Good Zoo is an amazing place to observe endangered wildlife species, and even offers close encounters with red pandas, kangaroos, and lemurs. 

The Centre Market dates back to 1853 and boasts a fine collection of restaurants, thrift shops, and cafes. 

Be sure to grab a bottle from Good Mansion Wines and pair it with some decadent cheeses, meats, olives, and vinegar from Cerrone’s charcuterie

The hardest decision you’ll make will be choosing between Avenue Eats’ famous burger and Coleman’s Fish Market’s classic fried fish sandwich. 

8. Moundsville, WV

Cross over into West Virginia to visit the quaint town of Moundsville for a relaxing day of eating, shopping, and sightseeing. 

Start your day off right by grabbing a tasty treat at Quality Bake Shoppe. Locals rave about the “Mad Dog” donut. 

The main attraction is the West Virginia State Penitentiary where some of the worst criminals spent their remaining days until the institution was shut down in 1995. Tours are available to see just how those criminals lived with some exciting options like the 3-hour investigation and a sleepover in one of the cells. 

Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise country setting with its flashy architecture, luxurious fountains, and presence of peacocks. 

Things get even weirder at the Archive of the Afterlife, a museum dedicated to haunted artifacts, cult findings, and an embalming chamber. 

After taking in the sights, stop in to Country Lane Crafts & Antiques for a sensory overload of unique goods. 

9. Toledo, OH

Perfectly located along the Maumee River and steps away from the Great Lake Erie, Toledo is the definition of a waterfront town – and you’ll be greeted by wonderful views everywhere you go. 

The Toledo Zoo is a fan favorite, dating back to over a century, with more than 10,000 animals to observe and access to feed the beautiful giraffes. 

With 16 Metroparks in the Toledo area, you have your fair share of choices when it comes to hiking, biking, and fishing. 

Two of the most popular Metroparks are Wildwood Preserve and Oaks Opening Preserve

Oaks Opening is the largest, and even has an established treetop village for those looking for a unique glamping experience. Within Providence Metropark, you’ll find The Canal Experience, which gives travelers the opportunity to learn about the Erie Canal from a historic canal boat. 

10. Akron, OH

Once a small farming community, Akron’s prime location at the foot of Ohio’s national park has slowly transformed the area into a popular tourist destination. 

The Akron Zoo may have started small with just two brown bears, but has since expanded – with a total of 35 acres dedicated to exhibits. 

Although there is no set theme at the Kent State University Museum, the rotating display of exhibits makes it a great place to visit time and time again. 

Don’t miss your chance to explore one of the country’s most underrated national parks. Cuyahoga Valley National Park has an overwhelming 32,000 acres, but if you only have time for a short visit, dedicate your time to Brandywine Falls. This 65-foot tall set of falls is just a short walk from the parking lot at the end of the boardwalk.  

Walk through the gallery, enjoy a live show, and grab a bite to eat at the popular Blu Jazz venue

11. Cleveland, OH

Known as the second-largest city in Ohio, Cleveland represents the state perfectly with its combination of rustic and modern style. 

A visit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is an absolute must for music lovers, with 6 floors of interactive exhibits and a rotating variety of international shows. 

Admire art from around the globe and museum special events at some of the many amazing museums in Cleveland, including:

  • Cleveland Museum of Art  
  • Museum of Contemporary Art
  • The Great Lakes Science Center
  • the Cleveland Museum of Natural History

The West Side Market has been growing since 1912, and is now the largest market in all of Cleveland. Here you’ll find a diverse selection of fresh produce, baked goods, plants, and dairy products being sold by 100+ vendors. 

12. Dunkirk, New York

Nestled along Lake Erie, Dunkirk is a hidden gem, making it the perfect place to take in the views with less of the crowds. Dunkirk is oozing small-town charm with its adorable beaches, museums, and markets. 

Walk along the boardwalk to admire the Great Lake and treat yourself at the Dunkirk Boardwalk Market. Here you will find tasty treats from La Dolce Vita, a relaxing bar scene at Spike Dailey’s, and all the souvenirs you could need at Waters Edge Gifts

Stop by the Dunkirk Lighthouse and check out the maritime museum to learn more about our country’s military. 

Watch the sun set over the lake at the edge of the Dunkirk City Pier before taking the short walk into town for a fried fish dinner at Demetri’s On the Lake. 

13. Buffalo, NY

The city of Buffalo has been up and coming for years with billions of dollars put in to bettering the community. 

One of the most popular attractions is the six intertwined structures that make up the Darwin D. Martin House, a national historic landmark. Dating back to the early 1900s, the house has gone under a variety of renovations to maintain its appeal, and guided tours are available to check out the interior. 

Spend a few hours strolling along Canalside with its beautiful views of the water and easy access to Harborcenter’s shops. 

Other noteworthy attractions include the Delaware Park & the Buffalo Zoo, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and Shea’s Performing Arts Center

14. Niagara Falls, NY

With breathtaking views from New York and Canada it can be hard to decide which side to choose. New York is the best time-saving choice, eliminating the hassle of border crossing. 

Niagara Falls State Park is actually New York’s oldest state park with over 400 acres of waterfalls, islands, and hiking trails. The most accessible and rewarding attraction in the park is the Observation Tower with 360 views of Niagara Falls’ three iconic waterfalls. 

You can also get up close and personal with the falls on the Maid of the Mist boat tour. The boat tour has been running since 1846, with close encounters to both the Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls. 

15. Toronto, Canada

Grab your passport and say goodbye to the United States with a day trip to Canada’s most popular cities. 

The CN Tower has the tallest glass floor elevator in the world and is one of the tallest buildings in the continent, earning its title as one of the Seven Modern Wonders. Don’t forget it’s breathtaking views overlooking the city’s skyline. 

The Royal Ontario Museum prides itself on being one of the largest, most significant museums in the continent with over 6 million artifacts scattered across its 40 different exhibits. 

Hang out at Kensington Market and listen to the local musicians as you shop in the eccentric stores and eat at the popular restaurants.