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The Total Solar Eclipse in Erie, PA: Trip Planning Tips

Wednesday Aug 30th, 2023

It's never too soon to start planning where you will be to view the upcoming total solar eclipse. The celestial phenomenon that has captured the imagination of skywatchers around the world takes place on Monday, April 8, 2024, and if you’re looking for the perfect destination to witness this awe-inspiring event, look no further than Erie, Pennsylvania. Situated on the beautiful shores of Lake Erie, Erie is Pennsylvania’s only major city to be in the path of totality. For nearly four minutes, Erie will provide an unforgettable backdrop for witnessing this rare spectacle. To ensure a memorable and successful eclipse experience, here are some helpful tips to help you plan accordingly.

Visit ErieEclipse2024.com to stay up-to-date on the latest Erie eclipse information.

 

Overnight Lodging


To ensure a memorable and stress-free trip to witness Erie’s total solar eclipse, plan on spending at least one overnight stay. By doing so, you’ll have more time to enjoy and explore all that Erie has to offer plus you’ll have less traffic to deal with. As of January, 2024, accommodations are available, but they're booking quickly! Click here for a list of lodging options or contact VisitErie at 814-454-1000 for up-to-date availability. 

 

Where to Watch

 

The sun will be above the tree line and high enough in the sky for maximum views pretty much anywhere in Erie County but if you’re driving to a specific public viewing space, it’s best to plan on arriving at least an hour ahead of the eclipse to ensure good parking and an equally good vantage point. Here are a few suggestions that will provide the perfect setting for you and fellow eclipse watchers to gather together to enjoy the eclipse in all its splendor. Additional location suggestions can be accessed here.

Erie Bluffs State Park: The 587-acre Erie Bluffs State Park lies along the Lake Erie shoreline in western Erie County, twelve miles west of the city of Erie. With 90-foot bluffs overlooking Lake Erie and an almost unimproved park through fields and woods, it’s a great space for eclipse enthusiasts and nature lovers. There is ample parking and restrooms are available at the Elk Creek access area, approximately 0.4 miles away, an approximate 9-minute walk from the park’s main gate. Find it here.

Liberty Park: Located on Erie’s beautiful Bayfront on the West Bayfront Parkway, Liberty Park offers remarkable views of Presque Isle Bay featuring a large. sloped grassy area, paved parking, an expansive children’s playground, and restroom facilities.

Perry Square/Downtown Erie: Situated at State Street and North/South Park Rows, Perry Square offers a green oasis amid the urban landscape. Conveniently surrounded by local establishments like the Flagship City Food Hall and the Shops at 5th and State, it provides easy access to snacks, drinks, and time for a little shopping. Benches and seating areas are plentiful throughout the square, parking garages are within a 5 to 10-minute walk, and metered street parking is available making it a convenient viewing location. Find it here.

Shades Beach Park: Located north of Route 5 (East Lake Road) in the east Erie County town of Harborcreek, PA, Shades Beach may be a smaller-sized beach but the views of Lake Erie are huge! Before or after your eclipse-watching, Shades Beach has other amenities to utilize including nature trails, restrooms, picnic facilities, horseshoe courts, woodlands, a playground, and a boat launch. There is also a connecting parking lot. Find it here.

Lake Erie Community Park: Set on a bluff overlooking Lake Erie in Lake City, PA, the Lake Erie Community Park is a 125-acre park with lots of wide open space to spread out and enjoy the eclipse. The park is complete with restrooms, benches, picnic shelters, nature trails, baseball fields, a playground, and of course, expansive cliffside lake views. Find it here.

Picnicana Park: Located on the west side of Old French Road in Waterford, PA, Picnicana Park is 34 wooded acres that offer ample space to park and spread out. This beautifully maintained park features two covered picnic pavilions, accessible restrooms, multiple playgrounds, walking trails, basketball, volleyball, and pickleball courts, a softball field, and horseshoe courts. Three on-site kitchens are available for rent by calling 814-868-9686 ext. 222.  Find it here.

Presque Isle State Park: While Presque Isle seems like the most natural spot to witness an outdoor celestial event, it is not a recommended viewing location. With only one road in and one road out, it is a recipe for a heavy crowd and traffic nightmare.

Community Events and Celebrations
Events are taking place throughout Erie County including “Lights Out” at Lake Erie Wine Country wineries, Lake Erie Speedway viewing party, Mercyhurst University's” Eclipse Within Our Gates”, and Port Farms' “Eclipse on the Farm”. Event listings and full details are at ErieEclipse2024.com.

Traffic and Parking

  • Give yourself plenty of time for travel: Crowd estimates from GreatAmericanEclipse.com indicate that for the 2024 eclipse, Erie County could expect to see up to 200,000 visitors. The heaviest traffic will occur once the eclipse ends. Exercise caution and pay attention to traffic patterns and law enforcement/public safety officials that will help to safely guide you home. You may want to consider waiting a while before leaving your location, allowing the numbers to lessen.
  • Downtown Erie is a mix of metered street parking, metered lots, and parking garages. Downtown Erie offers a convenient app “MeterEZ” and parking garages are reasonably priced starting at $4 for up to two hours.
  • Most locations listed as suggested eclipse viewing spotsoffer free and ample parking in their lots which are a mix of paved, dirt, and gravel surfaces. Keep checking this list as more viewing locations are added regularly.
  • To lessen the amount of traffic on the roads and ease parking concerns, consider carpooling or using public transportation. The Erie Metropolitan Transportation Authority (EMTA) has routes throughout Erie County. Regular bus ride fare is $1.65/person.

 

Weather Considerations

 

From Erie senior meteorologist Tom DiVecchio (WJET TV/ABC and FOX 66): “There is always uncertainty about how much cloud cover there will be on a particular day in the future, regardless of location. Erie PA is no different. Nationwide, the average April cloud cover is lowest in the south, over Mexico and Texas. Historically speaking, Erie’s cloud cover on April 8, looking at data from 1979 to 2022, is at 60%, which is only 10% higher than Little Rock, Arkansas. On average, Erie does receive its share of cloudy days in April. However, Erie has more partly cloudy to sunny days than overcast days for that month. It’s important to keep in mind that April is an active weather month for ALL areas along the path of the totality from Maine to Texas. While not perfect, those odds are not too bad when it comes to the potential to view the eclipse.” Watch Tom’s detailed eclipse weather video.

 

What to Bring

  • Solar Glasses: Looking directly at the sun even through sunglasses will instantly cause severe eye injury. ISO-Certified eclipse glasses will be provided to Erie County guests staying overnight April 7, and will also be available at no additional cost in several locations: 
    • Complimentary VisitErie "The Ultimate Sunblock" eclipse glasses will be distributed while supplies last from April 5-8 at the I-90 Pennsylvania Welcome Center near the PA/NY border and at the I-79 N rest stop between the Saegertown and Edinboro exits.
    • Beginning March 1, Country Fair convenience stores throughout northwestern Pennsylvania will distribute eclipse glasses with every purchase, while supplies last.
  • Weather-Appropriate Clothing: When totality occurs, temperatures will drop quickly so it’s best to be prepared and dress in layers or bring a blanket.
  • Comfortable seating: Since you might be spending several hours in your viewing spot, nothing beats the comfort of sitting on a cushion rather than a hard surface.
  • Sunscreen: Even during an eclipse, the sun's rays can still be strong, so apply sunscreen to protect your skin from sunburn.


Enhance Your Erie Trip

Discover the abundance of fun things to do in Erie! Here are some suggestions on how to maximize your time here before, during and after the eclipse. You can also make your trip planning even easier by downloading the ‘Hello Erie’ app. Find activities and attractions that match your interests and create custom maps and itineraries for yourself or to share with friends and family.

  • Shopping: The Erie area is home to a multitude of shopping options from thrift stores and boutiques to the Millcreek Mall, plus Pennsylvania has no sales tax on clothing and apparel! Avoid expected heavy traffic after the eclipse and instead, indulge in retail therapy at the Millcreek MallVillage West Plaza, and The Shops at the Colony Plaza
  • Dining: From fine dining to casual, family-friendly, ethnic, fusion, and grab-and-go, there is cuisine to please every palate. You can dine on a rooftop, on the water or the waterfront, bayside, curbside, inside or outside. To ensure that the restaurant will be open on eclipse day and if they are accepting reservations, it’s best to call ahead. You may also want to consider placing an order to go. 
  • The Erie Zoo and Botanical Gardens: Featuring a compact user-friendly design, the Erie Zoo is a refreshing departure from sprawling metropolitan zoos, allowing visitors to explore its array of exhibits and wildlife in just an hour or two. The Zoo will be open on eclipse day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the last admission sold at 4:15 p.m.
  • Lake Erie Wine Country: If you don’t make it to the “Lights Out” eclipse event, you can still explore 21 wineries and more than 30,000 acres of vineyards on your own time. Nestled along the Lake Erie shoreline, each winery features a distinct collection of award-winning wine just waiting to be sipped and savored.
  • Lake Erie Ale Trail: The Lake Erie Ale Trail is composed of 15 microbreweries, all located near the shores of Lake Erie. Each brewery has its own creative approach to brewing beer, refining simple ingredients, and transforming those ingredients into a wide range of ales of varying flavors, styles, and funky names.
  • The Erie SeaWolves AA baseball team, an affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, will host an eclipse viewing party on April 8 and their season home opener takes place the next day at UPMC Park. For fans of the sport, this presents an excellent opportunity to witness the burgeoning talents of future major league baseball stars, at prices that won’t break the bank. UPMC Park’s intimate seating design ensures great views from every perspective. Notable major league stars who honed their skills in Erie include Justin Verlander, Nick Castellanos, and Andrew Miller.   
  • For a complete list of things to see and do while you’re in town, click here.

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Ante-up, Erie.

Find true action with slots, table games, sports book, and horse racing.

Just for fun!

Experience family summer fun on more than 100 great rides, slides and attractions at Waldameer!

One stop convenience.

Fill your tank, pick up fresh food from local brands, and a six-pack to go in 40 regional locations.

Award-Winning Compassionate Care

Voted Erie’s Choice Best Hospital for eight years in a row

Soak in the fun!

Experience 84 degrees all year at one of the top water parks in the country.