As Summer approaches, families are looking for ways to have some fun and connect with each other. With gas prices soaring, many families are opting for a “staycation” this year. The Happy Housewife has done a great job organizing over 100 bloggers who will each write about staycation ideas for their own hometowns. Today, I’ll highlight some great ideas for Erie, PA. Check back in tomorrow for link-ups to the rest of the bloggers and their hometowns. Almost all 50 states are represented, so you should be able to find something close to home.
Churches, this might be a great resource if you’re looking to organize some family-fun activities or looking for a place to do some youth group events.
Children’s Ministry workers, I was just listening to Children’s Ministry Talk where they encouraged us to take some time to rest and refresh this summer. Some of these ideas would be great for that!
If you know of some other staycation ideas, be sure to let me know in the comments. Also, be sure to read these tips on how to have a great staycation. Happy Summer!
I tried to group some ideas by age, but be sure to read through them all. Many are applicable across the age-span!
For the Little Ones (Toddlers and Preschoolers)
- Bounce a Lot Playland: Located in the All-Season’s Marketplace by the Millcreek Mall, this play area featured a giant slide, several bouncers, and an entire miniature golf area. We took a look at it last week, and there’s certainly a lot to do. However, at $8.00 for two hours of play per kid (unlimited play on Fridays), it might be a bit steep for large families. One family we saw played for awhile in the morning, left to get lunch and returned for more fun. There’s also a Jumpin’ Jungle (same idea), but Bounce A Lot is a lot better!
- Story Time: Check here for the latest listings in Erie. Our church is doing an outdoor story-time in the park, so you get to enjoy the weather and some great reading!
- Children’s Museum: be sure to check their website for special events
- Hide ‘N Seekers Nature class at Presque Isle: Wednesdays July 6, 13, 20; 10AM-12PM for Ages 3-5. $3 per day; Registration required, 833-0793
- Feeding the Birds: There’s something magical about seeing a flock of seagulls or ducks suddenly descend on you when they spot a bag of bread. This is great idea for the little ones — just save your old bread ends and buns for a few weeks (the birds don’t mind the mold) and then get feeding! Hit the beach if you want to draw some really big bird-crowds!
- Try some Gardening: Here’s an article to get you started!
- Playgrounds and Parks: Get exploring! Check out all the different ones around Erie.
- Asbury Woods: Enjoy the trails, have a picnic, send your kids to art camp — this place is a great resource! We just discovered it for ourselves last weekend and had a great time (read all about our experience).
- Projects, Projects, Projects: Lots of stores like Michaels, AC Moore, Lowes and Home Depot have free projects for kids. Check their websites, facebooks, or “Like Mommysavers“ on facebook — they usually give updates about things like that.
- Claytopia: They’ve got lots of workshop days themed around holidays ($14 per workshop). Check out the printable schedule here (and check your coupon book for more deals!)
- Y-Splash: A free swim instruction class offered by the YMCA. Eastside Y class starts June 13 — click here for more details! There’s more community events (for ages 6-18) held by the Y as well including Port-a-Pool days, Sports, Arts, and Nature clubs. More details on their website.
- Summer Movie Clubhouse: 10 weeks of fun films for kids and only $5 for 10 shows if purchased in advance. Full schedule is here.
Preteens and Teenagers
- Sunset Concert Series at Presque Isle: Check out the schedule here‘
- Volunteer Together! This is a great age to teach kids about being a servant and caring for others. Check out this post about Meals on Wheels and other service project ideas for whatever area you’re in. In Erie, you can help build a playground on June 21st — check it out! You can also volunteer at the Children’s Museum (you can even work up to a free membership!). I think there’s also a Shade’s Beach clean-up day being scheduled through the YMCA.
- Even though it’s not a family activity, don’t forget about summer camps. They are usually full of friends and memories. My favorite? Youth Adventure Camp. There are also plenty of art, dance, nature, or sports camps to check out, including day camps — so do a little googling. Erie Day School looks like they have a great line up for summer! Asbury Woods has a great line up this year, for all ages including preschoolers. Check out their Art, Nature, and Adventure camps on the Asbury Woods website.
- Do some summer reading together. Find a great series and make it a habit to read together every night. You may think the kids are too old, but you might be surprised as much they enjoy this one-on-one time with you. Keep it light with some fiction or dive into some heavier issues with books like Five Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter, The Five Love Languages of Teenagers, or What Your Son Isn’t Telling You.
- Be sure to check out the YMCA community clubs as well (for ages 6-18) — you can learn how to sail on June 25!
- If you’re willing to travel a bit, check out this website for ideas for preteens and teens around Pennsylvania.
A Mix for Everyone
- Peak and Peak: My friend Nicole told me, “We enjoyed heading here for a weekend, there is the spa, pool, and nice restaurant but your only 20 minutes from home!” Check out some of their May Specials.
- Beaches in General! Erie is certainly not short on sandy shores — why not take a month and visit a different beach every week?
- Camp Sherwin: Looking to actually get away from the house? Check out the great cabins for rent here! With lodging anywhere from 5 – 24, there’s sure to be a size to fit your family (and extended family?). You can get a day pay to the pool for $15.00 per family and there’s plenty of events scheduled all summer including outdoor movies and more.
- More Camping Options: My friend Michelle tells me, “Stay at one of the KOA campgrounds, or state parks – Pymatuming and Chapman dam have yurts and cabins with heat, plumbing and appliances.” Check out the description for the KOA in McKean: “Come to our beautiful “kid friendly” campground offering fun for the whole family. Go fishing or paddle boating in our catch and release pond, swim in our heated pool, ride our pedal carts and banana bikes, or walk our pygmy goats. Throughout the summer we have movies and weekend ice cream socials. Jam to our DJ entertainment on holiday weekends. Enjoy our recreation room for air hockey, pool, ping-pong and arcade games. Special events, kids games and social activities abound. Check out the campground’s activities on our independent website. Enjoy our FREE pancake breakfasts on Sundays.” Sounds impressive! My friend Carol says, “I hear Sparrow Pond in Waterford is excellent!”
- Outdoor Movies: This is a great way to relax outdoors while the kids are entertained. Google around and add to the comments if you find some!
- This posting on ErieMoms website has some great ideas for the whole family. Be sure to read through the comments too for new ideas that might pop up!
My friend Tina told me about this great idea: “We actually have an ‘Aunties Camp’ in Erie every summer and the kids have a blast. Things we have done in the past include the zoo, children’s museum (which includes parking at Intermodal and riding the trolley to get there), Breakfast on the beach, Bike riding the peninsula with of course lunch at Sara’s! We’ve also done Fishing on the pier, Camp Sherwin has an awesome aqua rock wall the kids absolutely love, the free pontoon boat ride is great for kids (but you have to get down there early to sign up on the waiting list), Tom Ridge EC is fun for kids of all ages (especially on HOT days), dollar movies (1st show on Monday is the cheapest and the $6.50 bucket of popcorn comes with a free refill…enough to feed 9 kids and 2 adults all their little hearts desire…and as always, the free craft hours at AC Moore and Michaels is a good way to get some crafty fun in! Frontier park also offers free movies and there are some really great parks in Erie where kids can play. If the budget allows or discounts are found, Waldameer is an option. Almost forgot but wouldn’t want to leave out the Whippy Dip, Maria’s or Creamland!! Mini golf is sometimes fun…depends on the age. There are some establishments that will give tours to kids…I know Pizza Hut has done it in the past but we have found Krispy Creme to be the one the kids like the most! There really is so much to do here without even having to drive far!!
Pick a theme for the week (outer space, fish, plants, art, etc) and find activities and crafts to coordinate with the theme. For example, if you pick “Fish” or “Oceans”, you could head to the PPG Aquarium for a day (worth the drive!), fish on the pier for an afternoon (fish for free days, no license required), head to the library and read a bunch of fish or ocean books, watch the Oceans documentary, do some fishy crafts (great sites for that here, here, and here) and have fish for dinner! This mom gives some great suggestions for her theme-week Summer. Check out Camp Mom on Parents magazine website for more inspiration or check out this website that lists over 45 days of idea-filled fun. This woman runs a camp “Stay-at-Home-Mom” with rainy day activities included! Start checking Erie Families in June for more theme week ideas!
Be a Tourist
Looking for some more touristy things to do? Check out some Family Fun packages, take a group tour, or check out the 2010 City Recreation Guide. Pick up a Enjoy the City book and let the coupons be your guide! Get a frog guide and take your picture with every frog mascot in Erie! Check out this page on GoErie.com for staycation ideas. Check out the latest issue of Lake Erie LifeStyle for ideas around town and event listings as well. The Get Outdoors in PA site provides some great ideas that are usually pretty close to home (geocaching anyone?).
For being such a small town, Erie sure is packed with sports teams, available all year round! In the summer, the Seawolves are a favorite among locals, especially on Buck night. Be sure to check your coupon book for BOGO deals. You can also head to the Family Fun Sports park for some more hands-on fun.
30 Days of Summer Fun
If you search around, you can find a lot of ideas for summer fun on the internet. You can usually sign up for a daily newsletter or get the RSS feed so you can get a daily dose of entertainment for the day. Check them out:
- Baby Parenting (from 2008, but might still have some good ideas)
- Challenge: 30 Days of Summer Fun
- Summer Activities for Toddlers
- 30 Days Newsletter
- 30 Days of Nonstop Summer Fun
- Messy Kids – this isn’t a 30-days thing, but this woman has some seriously great ideas. Not only that, but she’s busy finding other great ideas all over the web. ”Like” her on facebook, and you will have an abundance of fun and frugal ideas at your fingertips.
Take a Drive
If you’re interested in a day trip, some of these locations might be worth the drive :
- Story Book Forest (3+ hours away): Straight from the story to real-life is the path characters travel in this enchanted woodsy location. There’s magic in the air in Pennsylvania: there are wands-a’-wavin’, and fairies are flying all over the place in this enclave where kids can meet their favorite story-book characters. Commiserate with the Old Woman in the Shoe, catch a glimpse of Jack-Be-Nimble, and see if Peter Rabbit can really speak human. Check out a review with pictures here and other reviews here.
- Stackhouse Park (3.5 hours away): This isn’t your typical neighborhood park with its assortment of monkey-bars and water fountains. You’ll find no sandbox in Stackhouse. What you will find are over 250 acres of serenely punctuated Pennsylvania woodlands. After you’ve explored and garnered a curiosity for the various flora and fauna, Stackhouse offers a comprehensive selection of educational and recreational programs for both children and adults.
- Pymatuning Deer Park (1 hour away): You’ll be amazed at this densely populated Pennsylvania wildlife refuge. Pick one of the other 250 species of animals and birds from destinations as exotic as Australia. Lessons in biology are easy to come across at this lakeside wildlife preserve which we’re sure will delight young and old visitors to Pennsylvania alike.
- Ohio Travel Deals — sign up for 1/2 off family vacations (works kind of like Groupon)
- Take a ride on the Megabus! It goes to Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Toronto — sometimes for as little as $1 each way!
- Food & Festivals: If you look around, you might find some really wacky and fun events to attend. For instance, the National Hamburger Festival is held in Akron, OH on August 20-21 and the Buffalo Wing Festival is in Buffalo, NY sometime in September.
- Hiking: The nation’s largest hiking trail is only a short drive from Erie. Check out the North Country Hiking Trail’s website for more information. Pennsylvania Hiking week is also coming soon — find an event and learn more here.
- Check out Roadside America, Family Attractions, or HomeAway for more ideas!
Dig a Little Deeper
Many of the venues listed above have special events for kids and families (for example, Captain Jack Sparrow recently visited the Bounce A Lot Playland). It’d be too cumbersome to list them all out here, but check their websites regularly or when you’re looking for something to do. You can also check on sites like Visit Erie or American Towns, but they aren’t always up to date. Even Craiglists can provide some ideas for community events. Be sure to pick up the Thursday edition of Erie Times News as well — often the showcase has some great family fun activities. Here’s a few pages that provide a great list of local attractions: check them out here, here, and here. There also some Erie-specific blogs you might want to keep an eye on.
Special Thanks to my friends Nicole, Karen, Carol, Gordon, Anne, Tina, Jennifer and Michelle for their great ideas!
Other Sites Worth Checking Out:
What About You?
Got some great Erie memories you want to share? What’s your favorite summer activity? Post a comment and let everyone else know!