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Showing posts with label family vacations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family vacations. Show all posts

Sunday, August 13, 2017

More to Do Around Erie

Last summer I wrote several posts on things to do in Erie, PA.  We visited some additional sites this summer that are worth mentioning.

The Erie Art Museum in downtown Erie is the place to be on Wednesdays in the summer.  Admission is free on that day, and at noon there are concerts just outside the main entrance.

 The Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier Park is definitely a hidden gem.  The paths meander through both wooded and cleared areas, beside a creek, and past gardens.

Even though we live in the middle of the woods on the side of a mountain, we got closer to a doe and her spotted fawn at the arboretum than we do at home.  An added treat is Romolo Chocolates which is just across the street from Frontier Park.  This family owned artisan chocolate store is well-known for its sponge candy, something words can't describe.  

I know I mentioned the amazing sunsets over Lake Erie before, but they are worth mentioning again because they are truly spectacular.

You see what I mean?

My children always like hunting for beach glass at the Walnut Creek Marina, but this summer our youngest son also collected flat rocks to create a walkway and a border for his hand-dug "hot tub."  These didn't come home with us.

Fishing at one of the piers at Presque Isle is always fun for our teen son.

There are a number of universities in and around Erie, and we try to walk around the campus of a college or two each summer.  Mercyhurst is of interest to our high school sophomore, and it is a beautiful campus.

Just a twenty minute drive from Erie is Edinboro University, which has the attention of our high school junior.

Finally, if you do venture to Erie any time soon, be on the lookout for these cute painted rocks.  They're hiding all over the place, and apparently, you're to take your picture with them and post to Facebook, then hide them somewhere else in the city.  Our children found five during the week we were there.  Our youngest daughter thought this was especially exciting, and she gave a lot of consideration to where she would place them.  

For more information on Erie, PA, go to

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Scenes from Lake Erie

Photos of Lake Erie at the Walnut Creek Marina two weeks ago.  It was windy, 66 degrees, and COLD!

But flocks of seagulls were everywhere bracing themselves against the strong winds.

That is, until our loud family showed up and the kids started running into the midst of them.

They temporarily took flight, but returned moments later.

Our main purpose for braving the misty winds was to look for beach glass, but there was barely any beach left as the waves came crashing in.

We had to settle for watching the seagulls and the lake instead.

In my opinion, the waves and cloudy skies provided enough interest and photo ops anyway.  

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Day at the Falls: Taking a Family Day Trip to Niagara

 Our family just returned from our summer vacation farther north.  We spent one day at Niagara Falls, NY, after many months of planning what we'd most like to do on this side of the border.

 I had been to the falls twice decades ago, but always on the Canadian side in Ontario.  There isn't quite as much to do on the American side, and my kiddos gazed longingly across the Niagara River at the large hotels, ferris wheel, and tower that they could clearly see from the US.

But we spent plenty of time hiking the many trails along the Niagara River to take in every possible view of the American Falls and the Horseshoe Falls.  We were on our feet most of the day.  

We started out walking from the Niagara Falls Visitor's Center and approached the falls from up high near the rapids.  Then we crossed the bridge to Goat Island and hiked down closer to the tip of the American Falls.

If you stood close to the railing, you almost felt as if you were going over the edge.

And you got wet.

Some of us stood back and simply took pictures.

Even though I have heard great things about the Maid of the Mist ferry ride that takes you up close the base of the falls, I wouldn't agree to doing that because even with the poncho they gave you, those people looked drenched.

So we simply kept on hiking until we got to the Horseshoe Falls, which were definitely more impressive to our boys, but because of the mist, they were harder to photograph and see well.

After walking through the crowds of people from all over the world for an hour and a half, our kids were drooping, so we popped into the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch.

Our children had never been to this franchise before and raved about the size of the hamburgers for days.  It was mostly 80s music playing with music videos on the screens from my teen years, which was kind of nostalgic for me, I guess.  But I have to say that seeing Billy Idol and a bunch of big-haired, leather-wearing young women dancing rather provocatively doesn't seem cool anymore now that I'm seeing it through the eyes of my children. 

After sustenance and resting our legs, we made the 1.5 mile walk to the Aquarium of Niagara.  We like to support small museums with a family membership each summer wherever we travel, so we did the same here.

Even though my younger children enjoyed watching the sea lions show off and swim around, I have to say I was rather disappointed.  After having been to the aquariums in the Baltimore Harbor, Charleston, and the penguin house at the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, this one paled in comparison.

We spent about an hour and a half there, but only because our daughter kept wanting to look in the gift shop.  It was small, rather rundown, and very crowded.  Plus the layout of it was kind of weird.  I definitely wouldn't go again.

After hiking back down to the parking lot and getting more pictures of the falls from yet another angle, we were ready to call it a day.  We were being approached by a number of strangers asking for money---something my children have never experienced before---and it was getting hot and very crowded.  We spent about five hours there, which felt long enough, and I was glad we hadn't made this a week-long destination like I had considered doing.  It was awesome seeing these famous waterfalls as a family, but we were pressed to find enough interesting things to fill our day that weren't...tacky.  I think if we went again, we would probably visit some places in nearby Buffalo, but my kids just really wanted to veg out and not walk anymore.  So we drove the two hours back to their grandparents' house, stopping at a college (more about that another day) and a restaurant for a light dinner, and everyone slept late the next morning because we were beat. 

And being the list-maker that I am, I can now check that off the bucket list of places I'd like my kids to see.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Tons of Fun for Everyone in Erie (Part 2)

Continuing with our Erie vacation, many of the fun family activities can be found on Presque Isle.  We spent a lot of time there, and there was plenty we never got to do because we ran out of time.  We had wanted to go on one of the pontoon boat tours of a lagoon, but it was too windy that day, so the tours were canceled.  We also never got around to hiking on the numerous trails that wind their way through wooded areas.  That's definitely on the list of things to do next time.

We did manage to swim at one of the many beaches on a calm, sunny day.  Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea, and the sand quickly filled up with umbrellas, towels, and lots of people.

Many of the days we were there, the waves were too high and the undertow too strong that swimming was unsafe, and the beaches were closed.  I'm sure this contributed to the crowds showing up on a Sunday to swamp the beach for the afternoon.  It was also Roar on the Shore, so there were bikers everywhere.  Even so, our younger children had a great time in the clear waters of Lake Erie.

Two hours of 90 degrees in the sand and sun were enough for us grownups and the teenagers though.  Much to our younger children's dismay, we packed up and headed elsewhere for the remainder of the day.  

Sunday evenings are Family Night at Presque Isle Downs & Casino.  You can't take the kiddos into the casino, but they are welcome out back at the race tracks.  Admission is free, and there's food and beverages, and lots of horses to admire and bet on.  

We're not a gambling kind of family, so we just watched the races and tried to guess which horse would win each race.

And it's good we don't gamble because each of us would have lost every single race, except for the kids' MeeMaw who predicted the winner twice.

It was fun for awhile, but most of my children lost interest after the first two races.  Only our horse-loving daughter wanted to stay.  But if you like horses, this would be a good place to come with your family to have dinner and watch the races.

Probably one of my most favorite places we visited was the Presque Isle lighthouse.  This was an actual working lighthouse for many years, and families lived in the attached building.

It is open to the public and you can have a tour guide share its history and walk you up the winding staircase to the very top of the lighthouse.  Once you're up there, the view is spectacular.  It's narrow though, and the railing at your back is kind of low.  On the windy day that we were there, it whipped your hair around and sometimes made you feel like you could be blown right off the ledge.

But like I said, the views of Lake Erie are amazing from up there.

Another great place for views of Presque Isle is the Tom Ridge Environmental Center.

Admission is free, and there are two floors of local nature/ecological/science-related exhibits.

Some of it is a little odd in a Ripley's Believe It or Not kind of way.

But most of it gives a decent introduction to the wildlife and habitats of the area.  They currently feature information on fishing in Lake Erie.

You can either take the stairs or the elevator to the top of the tower, and you get a great view of the roller coasters and water slides at nearby Waldameer Park.  This is both an amusement park and a water park.  This is another place we didn't go to on this trip.  There's also a Splash Lagoon in Erie that our kids love.  

On our last night in Erie, we went to a Seawolves baseball game.  For some of our children, this was their first time to watch baseball.  In fact, it was only the second game I've ever been to.

It was "Buck Night" so sodas, popcorn, hotdogs, and the cheaper beer (yuck!) were only a dollar.  We took advantage of that and ate dinner there before the game started.  And we all donned Seawolves baseball caps to get in the spirit of things.

This is probably the only time you will catch my husband and me in baseball caps.  They're just not our thing, and I spent the whole evening adjusting mine because it felt so uncomfortable.  I don't know how so many people go through the whole day with these on their heads.  It drove me crazy.

We cheered and we clapped and we ate popcorn and cotton candy.

And we thanked their grandparents for procuring the tickets.

But in the end, the Seawolves lost the game, I am sorry to say.

Those were the activities we packed into about five days in Erie, PA.  We had such a good time that some of us weren't ready to come home.  But it's good we did because a few days later our family had an event that none of us would want to miss.

More about that news later in the week...