Bonfire at Discover Presque Isle in Erie, Pennsylvania (photo courtesy of VisitErie)
Travel | Long Weekends

9 Ways to Experience Erie, PA and Western NY this Summer

Explore Presque Isle State Park, visit the Chautauqua Institution for its 150th anniversary and celebrate laughter in the hometown of a comedy legend.

Explore Presque Isle

As the only Great Lakes city in the state of Pennsylvania, Erie offers serenity and beauty for visitors looking for picturesque views, summer breezes and opportunities for exploration. One of the main attractions here is Presque Isle State Park, a 3,200-acre peninsula that juts out into Lake Erie about 4 miles west of the city center. Translated to “almost an island” in French, Presque Isle welcomes roughly 4 million visitors each year to drive its 13 miles of roads, hike its 21 miles of trails and make a splash in the park’s 7 miles of beaches. From pontoon boats and kayaking to fishing and birding, opportunities for outdoor fun abound.

“Erie is experiencing a renaissance of sorts,” says Jon DeMarco, executive director of Presque Isle Partnership. “There’s a lot happening, and I think the secret is just starting to get out.”

Head to the state park near the end of July to take part in Discover Presque Isle (July 22 through 28 in 2024), an event that provides a new way to experience the peninsula. In addition to birding and opportunities to cast a line with the local fishing group Sons of Lake Erie, the event features a sandcastle competition, craft and food truck festivals, a pancake breakfast and more. Visitors also have the option to take a biking or boating tour or climb to the top of the historic Presque Isle Lighthouse.

After a visit to Presque Isle, travelers should take time to explore more of what Erie has to offer, including the free-to-enter Waldameer Park & Water World, the fifth-oldest continuously operating amusement park in the nation. Other favorites include the Erie Zoological Society and the Erie Maritime Museum.

When You Go 
For more information about destinations in Erie, Pennsylvania, go to

Presque Isle State Park

Waldameer Park & Water World

Erie Zoological Society

Erie Maritime Museum

Miller Bell Tower at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York (photo courtesy of Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau)
Experience the Chautauqua Institution 

Forty miles east of Erie, Pennsylvania, the beauty and tranquility of New York’s Chautauqua Lake has been drawing travelers to its shores each summer for generations. Since 1874, the Chautauqua Institution has been a pillar of that experience, welcoming visitors to take part in a tradition that encourages activities focused on body, mind and spirit. These activities range from fishing and sailing to lectures by notable people to stirring live music performances.

The Chautauqua Institution hosts various family-friendly events throughout the summer, including the opportunity for visitors to learn more about Chautauqua through its Pillar Talks programs, where former leaders of the institution talk about four programmatic areas of focus. Guests can also tour the 140-year-old Athenaeum Hotel, built just after the founding of the institution and the Miller Edison Cottage, which belonged to inventor Thomas Edison.

“Every single day is an embarrassment of riches,” says Emily Morris, chief brand officer at the Chautauqua Institution. “You could schedule yourself to be busy from the time you opened your eyes until the time you close them at night. That’s one of the things that’s unique and special about Chautauqua.”

A trolley system is available to transport visitors to various places throughout Chautauqua County, including down to Jamestown, north to the beaches on Lake Erie or throughout Lake Erie wine country. The latter, which covers a 50-mile stretch, consists of 20 different wineries along the coast of Lake Erie, some of which are just a quick drive from Chautauqua. 1 Ames Ave., Chautauqua, New York 14722, 800/836-2787,

Man at late-night control booth at the National Comedy Center in Jamestown, New York (photo courtesy of National Comedy Center)
Laugh It Up in Jamestown 

Chautauqua County is home to a variety of communities nestled along the lake’s shoreline, but one of the most popular destinations is Jamestown, which sits about a 20-minute drive south. The city has museums, restaurants and shops, but it may be best known for its attractions and festival that celebrate the art of making people laugh.

Lucille Ball, star of the popular 1950s sitcom series “I Love Lucy,” grew up in Jamestown, and she is celebrated during the annual Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, which always takes place around her birthday in August (Aug. 1 through 4). Jamestown is also home to the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum, an attraction dedicated to the stars of “I Love Lucy,” who were also a real-life couple. See props and sets from the show and learn more about the stars’ lives, careers and ongoing legacy.

When first approached by the city of Jamestown about building a museum dedicated to her, Ball advocated for a center that would showcase all of comedy, not just her contributions to the art form. That dream wasn’t realized in Ball’s lifetime, but Jamestown’s National Comedy Center opened in 2018, providing a state-of-the-art experience that uses technology to shape each visitor’s experience based on their personal comedy tastes.

The National Comedy Center also hosts more than 50 individual events throughout town during the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, with past festival headliners including Jerry Seinfeld, Joan Rivers, John Mulaney, Amy Schumer and Jim Gaffigan.

“It’s a great way to spend a weekend,” says Gary Hahn, vice president of the National Comedy Center, “just laughing nonstop.”

When You Go 
For more information about events in Jamestown and Chautauqua County, go to

Lucille Ball Comedy Festival

Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum

National Comedy Center

Kids on ropes course at Holiday Valley in Ellicotville, New York (photo courtesy of Holiday Valley Resort)
Make a Side Trip: Holiday Valley 

Just an hour east of Chautauqua lies Holiday Valley, a ski resort in Ellicottville that travelers seek out for snowy slopes in the winter. But it’s also a huge draw when summer hits, with the resort having a pool, golf course, an aerial adventure park and a mountain coaster that cater to warm-weather visitors.

The Double Black Diamond golf course provides a unique challenge to even the most experienced golfer, with a long front nine and a back nine that winds through rolling hills. Sky High Adventure Park, the resort’s ropes course, takes brave visitors through 5 acres of woods and challenges those of all ages to conquer their fear of heights.

The Sky Flyer Mountain Coaster provides another thrilling experience as it whips riders along 4,805 feet of track installed around the natural curvature of the wooded landscape. In addition to the many permanent attractions, the resort also hosts special events throughout the summer. The most notable event is the Holiday Valley Mudslide, which is comprised of two different, muddy trail runs. 6557 Holiday Valley Rd., Ellicottville, New York 14731, 716/699-2345,