While I have never actually navigated the Erie Canal, nor did I have a mule named Sal, I have fallen in the Riverwalk in San Antonio and I have an ex-girlfriend whose nickname was Sal (short for Salina). While that has absolutely nothing to do with Erie, it is a testament that I, like millions of other school kids, sang Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal and still remember most of the words. While this is not the most glamorous distinction of fame, be proud Erie – all Camden, NJ has is that it's William Hung's hometown.
Erie is a bit of a tourist destination. The lake obviously is the namesake for the Gem City, but Presque Isle State Park and Presque Isle Downs and Casino collectively attract more than 4 million visitors annually – especially from nearby Cleveland, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh. That's a lot. It hardly leaves any tourists left over for Presque Isle Michigan, Wisconsin, or Maine (yes, three others).
Downtown: Always a good place to start, downtown Erie is, like most smaller cities, quaint and proud. There's enough of everything, from just about 60 restaurants and/or bars, a play house, art museum, and minor league hockey, baseball, and hoops. The sort of flagship of downtown is the Sheraton hotel with its unmatched views of Lake Erie. Downtown affords you the best chance of sharing such views, although most of the downtown Erie apartments are set back a few blocks from the lake. While in downtown Erie, check out the various bike nights, the boardwalk, Thursday night block parties, and during the holiday season, Downtown d'Lights in Perry Square, and of course, Cougars Bar. 1 BR $425-550, 2 BR $700, 3 BR under $900.
Mercyhurst: Just about 3 miles southeast from the shores of the Lake Erie. A neighborhood with a smattering of restaurants. Check out the under appreciated Hillside Park with its playground and ballfields. 1 BR $450, 2 BR $550, 3 BR $675 - $875
Millcreek: Technically its own township, but with an Erie mailing address, Millcreek is the place to go for shopping and nightlife opportunities away from downtown. The Millcreek Mall, with its five anchor stores, fifteen restaurants, and two movie theaters is to thank for this. Millcreek is about 5 miles southwest of downtown. 1 BR $450 - $550, 2 BR $675 - $800, 3 BR $850 - $950
Lawrence Park: Also its own technical township. Visit the deliberately misspelled Lawrence Park Dinor or a few restaurants and pubs, or drive 4.5 miles west to downtown. Perhaps, if you like golf, you can join the Lawrence Park Golf Club (or check out the handful of public courses within 5 miles). 1 BR $475, 2BR $650, 3BR $775.
Not meaning the desire to swim and waterski in warmer weather – we're talking the meteorological phenomenon that leads to some wild weather and lots of snow. Almost all apartments include snow removal, but do ask.
Lake Erie is such an amazingly popular fishing spot (with about 1.5 million fish caught each season). Consider taking it up and joining in on the fish-crazy culture. Also, visit the lighthouse when touring around. It's one of the last that has a live-in lighthouse keeper. Sorry, we hear there's quite the waiting list... But best of luck finding another equally well lit spot in Erie, Pennsylvania.