Exploring North East, Pennsylvania: A One-Day Guide
Wednesday Apr 19th, 2023
Nestled on the scenic shores of Lake Erie, North East, Pennsylvania is a picturesque area that perfectly captures the essence of small-town charm. With a quaint downtown that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places, North East is a mix of historic buildings, specialty retailers, and restaurants, surrounded by farmland and fruit stands, a delightful blend of historic nostalgia and modern amenities. But North East has more to offer than just its beauty and quaint atmosphere. It is also home to a vibrant wine culture, boasting thousands of acres of vineyards and numerous wineries that are part of Lake Erie Wine Country. With its rich cultural heritage and warm, welcoming community, North East is a hidden gem that is fast becoming one of Pennsylvania’s most sought-out destinations.
Here's a preview of what you’ll notice once you arrive:
- Many of the buildings in North East area date back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. Their classic design adds to the town’s overall character and charm.
- Downtown North East has ample free parking on the street and at area businesses. There are no parking meters, allowing visitors the freedom to park and meander about with no worries of feeding a meter.
- North East is surrounded by fragrant vineyards and lush farmland while downtown is centered around the community oasis, Gibson Park. Its main streets are lined with period lampposts, manicured flowers, and well-maintained sidewalks.
Begin the day with a delicious slice of homemade quiche and a latte to wash it down at The Bean, North East’s go-to coffee house. The intimate café is just around the corner from Main and South Lake Street and offers a variety of coffees, smoothies, lattes, energy refresher drinks, and a case filled with freshly baked sweet treats. Get your coffee and treat to-go and walk up to Main Street where you’ll discover a one-block stretch with a covered walkway and a delightful array of local businesses. The walkway is adorned with decorative overhead lighting and historic wall plaques near each doorway, further adding to the area’s unique character. Placed by the North East Historical Society, each plaque lists businesses that have occupied that space, from the late 1800s to today. A wide range of businesses has called this block home including a post office, soda shop, fashion hat shop, grocery stores, clothiers, banks, and restaurants.
Across the street is Gibson Park, the heart of downtown. Filled with memorial benches, picnic tables, strikingly tall trees, paved pathways, and a decorative water fountain with the “Lady in the Park” sculpture in its center, Gibson Park is a great space to stroll and enjoy the simple pleasures of nature. Take time to pause and reflect and read the heartfelt memorial tributes inscribed on the benches and stop in front of the large war memorial statue and neighboring markers on the south side of the park. The statue and markers honor the North East residents who gave their lives during World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
In addition to being a gathering place for the local community, Gibson Park hosts events throughout the year, including Gibson Park Open Market (homegrown/handmade goods) Saturdays from June 17 to September 2, Erie Philharmonic Concerts on June 28, July 12 and August 2, Thursday Picnics in the Park June 15 to August 10, Wine Fest September 22-24, and Tree-mendous Night of Lights November 25. Jennifer Smith, Executive Director of the North East Area Chamber of Commerce, says “North East is a classic downtown centered around beautiful Gibson Park. The park plays an essential role in creating a sense of togetherness and pride among residents and visitors. This year a new event called ‘Farm Heritage Days’ will take place August 12 and 13. It is a celebration of farming and agriculture with a huge farmers’ market, live music, and guest performances by Axe Women Loggers, a Maine team of world champion choppers, logrollers, and axe throwers. Then across the street at Heard Park, we’ll have a hands-on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) children’s fair, and farm equipment displays.”
For a unique and funky twist on the American tavern experience with a creative list of craft brews, prohibition-era cocktails, and eclectic dishes, head to The Skunk and Goat Tavern. Patrons are greeted with a warm and inviting atmosphere with a rustic cozy vibe of handcrafted wooden tables and décor made from reclaimed barn wood, a marble bar-top, and the vault private dining room, in the original bank vault from the former National Bank of North East. The Skunk and Goat got its name from the menagerie of taxidermy characters that reside there, and the crowd favorites were the skunk and the goat. To pay homage to their fans’ beloved mascots, the owners named the restaurant in their honor. The Skunk and Goat serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week. For lunch, it’s recommended by patrons and staff to start your dining experience with an order of delicious house-made Pub Chips & Dip. Not only are the sour cream and onion and pimento cheese dips incredibly flavorful, the salt and vinegar chips are perfectly seasoned and served warm. Other popular lunch menu items include the mammoth-sized Billy’s Fish & Chips, Take Me to the Greek and DEN Cobb salads, and the buttermilk-brined crispy chicken sandwich. Anné Lewis, Director of Marketing for Red Letter Hospitality, a family-owned company representing several area restaurants remarked, “My family grew up in North East and decided to open up The Skunk and Goat so we wouldn’t have to continue to drive to Erie for a great meal and a drink. It’s the perfect place for all occasions; a first date, a business meeting, a family reunion, or a friend’s get-together. It’s the type of spot where you can just relax and enjoy great food, people, and atmosphere.”
After lunch, get a taste of Lake Erie Wine Country with stops at Arrowhead Wine Cellars and Arundel Cellars & Brewing Company. Since 1998, Arrowhead Wine Cellars has been cultivating more than 30 different varieties of European, native, and hybrid grapes to make their award-winning wines and fruit juices. The family-owned business produces a range of dry, sweet, and dessert wines including Sweet Sophia (named for the owner’s prized poodle), the semi-sweet Diamond, and the deep, robust Scarlet. Arrowhead Wine Cellars’ ADA-accessible features include a tasting bar with a special section low enough for wheelchair access. A cozy, semi-private seating area invites guests to enhance their tasting experience with small plates of light fare while an engaging video of the wine-making process plays on a loop in the background. The grape-to-glass video has incredible aerial footage of the vineyards and Lake Erie. If you lean more toward non-alcoholic drinks, try one of Arrowhead’s no-sugar-added fruit juices or a bottle of craft root beer. Arrowhead’s root beer comes from a family recipe dating back decades. It’s a crisp, refreshing drink with just the right amount of sweetness. For a delightful treat, try it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and make it a classic root beer float.
Down the road from Arrowhead sits Arundel Cellars & Brewing Company, a brewery/winery/cidery located inside a beautifully restored 19th-century barn. The name “Arundel” is a tribute to a former owner’s affection for a castle he had visited during his travels to England. The term was painted on the barn’s side to commemorate his journey, and the current “Arundel Family” honors his memory by retaining the name for their business. Step inside and admire the beautifully hand-hewn timbers and an impressive stone wall fireplace that have been preserved from the original barn structure. There’s cozy seating around the fireplace and the gift area inside the main entrance is filled with whimsical wine, beer, and cider-related items. Arundel’s extensive list of affordable wines, craft beers, and hard ciders includes the sweetly named series of whites and reds: Young Love, Soulmates, and Sweet Kiss along with regularly rotating craft beers such as a tropical fruity King Snipe and the fresh, crisp “everyman’s beer” Arundel Lager. Arundel’s signature hard cider “Spiked” is a crowd favorite, made with tart, juicy estate-grown apples. It’s the perfect cool refreshment for spending time outside in the warmer weather. Arundel Cellars’ numerous outdoor patios and covered pavilion are great spaces for guests to enjoy beverages, munch on light snacks, listen to live music, or play board games. A fun selection of board games is available and free to enjoy, such as Jenga and Battleship. Arundel's Sunday Music Series offers a delightful, family-friendly experience with live music performances every Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. year-round. The free series takes place in both indoor and outdoor settings, weather permitting.
After a day spent walking, shopping, tasting, and sipping, the best ending to your time in North East is with a wonderfully relaxing trip to Bella Salon and Day Spa. Bella Salon provides a cutting-edge style with innovative products and outstanding customer service offering both men’s and women’s spa services that will pamper your body, mind, and spirit. Try the Spa Sampler Package for a rejuvenating experience that includes a half-hour custom massage, a maintenance facial, and a classic manicure. Complete your visit perusing displays of stylish accessories, handbags, skin products, and a rainbow of nail polish selections. Reservations or walk-ins are accepted.
For those who have never visited North East or haven’t been back in a while, Smith has this to say. “North East is the kind of community that gives you a warm welcoming hug. It’s a great place to have a relaxing, make-your-own adventure.” Lewis echoes that thought. “North East is such a special place; everyone truly loves this town.”