Where to Stay
The Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel, boasting a new modern look with substantial renovations, offers more than 5,800 square feet of meeting and event space along with 200 guest rooms. The hotel is connected to the 70,000-square-foot Bayfront Convention Center with a glass-enclosed sky bridge. “The hotel is quite a draw for meeting planners,” says Joseph Holody, director of convention marketing, sales and services for VisitErie. “They enjoy the view of the water and like the convenience of the hotel being connected to the convention center.”
The Ambassador Banquet and Conference Center is more than a hotel. Actually it’s two: The Hilton Garden Inn Erie and Courtyard by Marriott are combined with conference space under a single roof. “Our complex is an outstanding choice,” says Michelle E. Elias, guest services manager for Hilton Garden Inn. “Along with the two beautiful hotels is a large conference center, each with several different spaces of different sizes and ambiance for all your event needs.” All told, there are 214 rooms and suites plus more than 21,000 square feet of meeting space.
A distinctive feature of the Bel-Aire Clarion Hotel and Conference Center is its Regency Ballroom, offering 5,000 square feet of event space. Divisible into thirds, it can accommodate up to 600 attendees. Smaller multipurpose rooms are also available. The hotel’s 131 guest rooms include poolside choices. And the on-site BizNet business center makes it easy to keep up with important work while away from home. “It’s a great location for small to midsize conferences,” notes Holody.
Where to Eat
Carefully selected artisanal wines, craft beers and house-made foods are the focus at Cloud 9 Wine Bar. Attractive dishes include those based on farm-to-table meats cured on-site, locally sourced cheeses and New American tapas. Over 100 wines are available along with a variety of beers and spirits, all in an upbeat and down-to-earth atmosphere. Groups can take advantage of a private dining room seating for up to 30 or can rent the entire facility to accommodate 120. “We love wine, but we’re not snobs about it,” says B.J. Shields, general manager.
A good time is the name of the game at Hooch & Blotto’s, where guests enjoy two 120-inch projector screens along with 70- and 80-inch flat-screen TVs. “People love that we have a total of 17 big screens,” says Barbie Squires, general manager. With a Prohibition theme, the restaurant features great food and a selection of 30 craft beers with special privileges for guests sporting mustaches. Groups may choose from a private dining room seating 150 or a party room holding up to 200.
The Brewerie at Union Station offers a historic atmosphere with its location in the city’s downtown railway depot. Guests can dine in the impressive rotunda, an old tap room or a private balcony; for a bit of a thrill during warm weather, the outdoor trackside beer garden provides an up-close look at trains as they roar by the restaurant. A private dining room seating up to 130 is available for groups as well. “The combo of a twisted American pub menu and handcrafted ales makes this a can’t-miss on your trip to northwestern Pennsylvania,” says owner Chris Sirianni.
What to Do
Covering a compact 15 acres in the heart of Erie, the Erie Zoo & Botanical Gardens has over 400 animals, representing 200 species around the world. Since you can take in the entire zoo in one-and-a-half to two hours, it can provide a convenient lunch break or other interlude for those attending meetings, according to Kelly Miller, marketing and events coordinator. New this year is the zoo’s big cat exhibit with amur leopards and a pair of Canadian lynx.
Visitors to Presque Isle State Park can choose from 13 designated and guarded swimming areas or explore the local waters on pontoons, kayaks or narrated boat tours. In the winter, activities include ice skating, ice fishing, ice kitesurfing and cross-country skiing. The Tom Ridge Environmental Center offers a wide range of educational programs. “The park is known for its beautiful swimming beaches, incredible sunsets and a wealth of recreational opportunities, but is also an important habitat for birds, plants and other wildlife,” says Anne M. DeSarro, the center’s environmental education specialist supervisor. During the warm weather months, a great outing can be had at an Erie SeaWolves baseball game. An affiliate of the Detroit Tigers operating at the AA level, the Eastern League team takes the field for 142 games a year. “We want fans to have fun and see something new during every visit to the ballpark,” says Greg Coleman, the team’s president, who touts the chance to watch future major leaguers as just one attractive feature. “Even if you’re not a die-hard baseball fan, it’s tough to beat a Smith’s hot dog at the ballpark on an Erie summer night.”