DescriptionNorth East and the vicinity grow an abundance of fruit and vegetables—especially grapes. With the help of Lake Erie's moderating effect on the climate and proper soil conditions, grape production is thriving. The first vines were planted in 1850 and today there are thousands of acres of vineyards, several wineries and a large Welch's processing plant. Locals take pride in their agricultural region: More than two dozen banners sporting an image of a large grape bunch are displayed around downtown and public school students are known as the Grapepickers. Local produce can be bought at markets, farms (including pick-your-own fruit and vegetable farms) and roadside stands. A farmers market is held Thursdays noon-7 from early June through mid-August in Gibson Park. Bicyclists and motorists on SR 5, which parallels Lake Erie and is part of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail (a national scenic byway), get great views of the sprawling vineyards and lake.
Recreational opportunities are certainly not lacking. Lake Erie offers boating, fishing and swimming. North East Marina, 11950 E. Lake Rd., provides various marine services, including fishing charters and free access to four boat ramps. The season runs mid-April to mid-October; phone (814) 725-8244. Freeport Beach is about 2 miles west of the marina at the end of SR 89. Lifeguards are on duty 10 a.m. until dusk early June through Labor Day. The adjacent Halli Reid Park, named for the first woman to swim across Lake Erie from Canada, has a playground, covered picnic areas and grills. There are several other small parks in the area, and North East has places to camp, golf, hike, hunt and cross-country ski as well. Tributary streams 16-Mile Creek and 20-Mile Creek can be used for steelhead trout fishing.
North East is home to a branch of Erie's Mercyhurst University. The 84-acre Catholic-affiliated Mercyhurst North East campus, which opened in 1991, was home to St. Mary's Seminary until the mid-1980s. Some of the historic buildings date between 1868 and 1920.
Lake Erie Speedway, 10700 Delmas Dr., hosts auto racing in six divisions Saturday evenings on its 3/8-mile asphalt track; the stands can seat up to 8,000. Pop into the post office lobby at 38 S. Lake St. to see a sculpture of a town crier, created during the Great Depression as part of President Roosevelt's WPA program; it resides above the drop-off area.
The extensive calendar of events in North East includes two festivals celebrating local agriculture. The North East Cherry Festival takes place in mid-July and the Wine Country Harvest Festival is held the last full weekend in September.
InfoOfficeNorth East Area Chamber of Commerce 44 W. Main St. NORTH EAST, PA 16428. Phone:(814)725-4262
Self-guiding toursPick up a brochure, which includes a detailed map of the area, at the chamber of commerce and enjoy the exteriors of downtown's many historic buildings, including the library, Masonic Temple and several churches and residences.
ShoppingIn addition to all the edible goodies you can find in North East, there are boutiques and antique shops in some of the downtown historic buildings. More antiques can be found at Interstate Antique Mall, 5446 Station Rd. (SR 89), just off I-90.
Attraction PlaceHoldersLake Shore Railway Museum
Horseback RidingEden Run Farms