Family at Perry’s Monument in Erie, Pennsylvania (photo courtesy of VisitErie)
Travel | Long Weekends

Plan a Summer Road Trip to Erie, PA and Western NY

A trip to Erie, Pennsylvania, and then on to New York’s Chautauqua Lake region offers a wealth of fun, from beaches and boating to hiking and history.

Erie, Pennsylvania
This shoreline city serves as Pennsylvania’s access point to Lake Erie. For summer visitors, it offers fun on and off the water, rich history and a vibrant food scene.  

Beach Days 

Presque Isle State Park offers a 3,200-acre sandy peninsula to explore that spans 11 separate beaches, each with different experiences and offerings. Beach 11 is a favorite of families with young children due to its calmer waters and, as the largest of the Presque Isle State Park beaches, there is plenty of space to spread out. Beach 8 — known as Pettinato Beach — has a ramp that provides wheelchair accessibility right up to the water’s edge. (The park also has beach wheelchair rentals on a first-come, first-served basis.) Beach 6 draws teens and those of college age with its volleyball courts and other recreation options. Lighthouse Beach provides travelers the chance to ascend Erie’s historic and still-functioning lighthouse to enjoy incredible Lake Erie views. 

History Lessons

The Perry Monument at Crystal Point on the Presque Isle State Park peninsula provides history buffs the chance to visit the site where U.S. ships were built for the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. (Presque Isle Boat Tours offers 90-minute excursions on the Lady Kate flatboat docked there.) The Erie Maritime Museum downtown is home to the U.S. Brig Niagara, a re-creation of Oliver Hazard Perry’s flagship, as well as the Lettie G. Howard, a wooden Fredonia schooner built in 1893 that is designated as a national historic landmark. The nearby Hagen History Center tells the story of Erie County and houses renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s original San Francisco office and drafting room, a gift from museum benefactor Thomas B. Hagen.   

Kids at Erie, Pennsylvania’s Asbury Woods (photo courtesy of VisitErie)
Trail Mix 

Presque Isle State Park is home to a 13.5-mile paved, multipurpose loop trail that runs the length of the peninsula. If you don’t bring your own bike, rentals are available from the Yellow Bike Rental Co., which can be found at Beach 7. About a 10-minute drive south of the shore sits Asbury Woods, 216 preserved acres that span forests, fields and wetlands. The site is open to the public free of charge and offers over 4 miles of trails for hikers. The moderately difficult Greenway Trail is the longest at 2.2 miles, while the fully accessible Boardwalk Trail covers one-third of a mile and is great for those of all ages and abilities. Take a self-guided nature walk on the 1.25-mile Guided Trail.  

Foodie Fun 

In 2022, the Flagship City Food Hall opened downtown, offering a large, open space with communal seating for up to 160 people. The setup invites conversation and the opportunity to explore a range of cuisines by choosing from among the eight on-site local food entrepreneurs. Options range from Perry’s Pizza and Tavern and Jo’s Brooklyn Bagel to Dina’s Authentic Dominican Kitchen and an Asian cuisine spot called Noodlelove. Those who want to eat and stroll while enjoying a side of local history can book a walking tour with Erie Food Tours. Teachers on break for the summer serve as the guides for these educational excursions that not only introduce diners to a variety of local restaurants but also offer insight into the buildings and landmarks encountered along the way. 

Asbury Woods

Erie Food Tours

Erie Maritime Museum

Flagship City Food Hall

Hagen History Center

Presque Isle Boat Tours

Presque Isle State Park


Western New York
The small communities that hug New York’s famous Chautauqua Lake are a summertime travel favorite. A trip promises relaxation and recreation, great food finds and lots of laughs. 

Exterior of the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum in Jamestown, New York (photo courtesy of Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau)
Lucy & Laughs

Famous comedian and actress Lucille Ball was born in the city of Jamestown, and her legacy is celebrated there today with a museum that pays tribute to her and husband Desi Arnaz. The Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum highlights the lives of the couple and their on-screen work, featuring artifacts, wardrobe and more from the TV series “I Love Lucy.” Jamestown is also home to the National Comedy Center, a fun museum that celebrates all that has made us laugh over the years, from vaudeville to modern memes. The interactive museum asks guests their comedy tastes and tailors an experience to match it. The National Comedy Center also hosts the multiday Lucille Ball Comedy Festival each August. 

Relax & Recharge 

The Chautauqua Institution was founded along Chautauqua Lake in 1874 as an experiment in out-of-school vacation learning. Today, the summer resort is focused on its four pillars of religion, education, cultural arts and recreation. Over the course of nine weeks each summer, the Chautauqua Institution schedules a lineup of renowned lecturers, musicians and more, and advance tickets are essential for those who wish to attend a specific talk or performance. Those who just want to walk the grounds and experience the atmosphere of the resort can do so any time by paying the gate fee (free on Sundays). Visitors can browse the shops or grab a casual meal at multiple spots on-site. Those looking for a full dining experience can book a reservation at the Athenaeum Hotel’s Heirloom Restaurant. 

On the Water

Those who want to see Chautauqua Lake from a different perspective can book a ticket on the Chautauqua Belle. The steam-powered paddlewheel excursion ship premiered in 1976 as a tribute to the original steamboats that ferried passengers out onto the lake. A historical tour is offered throughout the summer from various points of departure along the shore. There are also dinner cruises with cocktails throughout the season, and buying tickets in advance is a good idea to get the time you want. Marinas along the lake offer boat rentals, and there’s likely one nearby no matter where you’re staying in the area. Evergreen Outfitters in Mayville at the northern end of the lake offers kayak tours and lessons throughout the season. 

Outdoor Adventures

A trip to this part of western New York puts travelers close to a variety of state parks and forests, as well as other outdoor destinations, that offer a multitude of trails. The expansive Allegany State Park has 18 trails that stretch a total of more than 35 miles, and those who want to stay overnight can book one of the more than 400 campsites or 375 cabins. Long Point State Park — a day park that sits along Chautauqua Lake — offers a beach and boat launch. Take the 1-mile loop trail for beautiful panoramic views of the lake. Panama Rocks, a privately owned attraction just 15 minutes southwest of the lake, is home to a fun and rugged 1-mile hike along a rocky ridge. 

People talking and laughing over wine on the Lake Erie County Wine Trail (photo courtesy of Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau)
Food & Drink Finds

When it’s time to eat, Guppy’s Restaurant & Tavern in the eastern shore town of Bemus Point offers a fun atmosphere and fare ranging from fried fish to burgers to specialty pizzas. Ellicottville Brewing Co.’s Chautauqua Lake location is also in Bemus Point, while fans of Southern Tier’s craft beers frequent the brewery’s taproom in its birthplace of Lakewood, New York. Webb’s Captain’s Table in the town of Mayville offers a lakefront deck, while the Landmark Restaurant in Jamestown has a large outdoor patio for summer diners. Wine lovers can follow the Lake Erie Wine Country Trail, a string of 20 wineries that stretch across this portion of New York into Pennsylvania.  

When You Go 

Chautauqua Belle

Chautauqua Institution

Ellicottville Brewing Co.

Evergreen Outfitters

Guppy’s Restaurant & Tavern

Landmark Restaurant

Lake Erie Wine Country Trail

Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum

National Comedy Center

New York State Parks

Panama Rocks

Southern Tier

Webb’s Captain’s Table