I’m still brandy new ’round here. I just made it through 90 days of Innkeeping Bootcamp! I transplanted here from Norfolk, Virginia at the very end of June of this year but actually I am a Jersey Girl. Now here I am in the heart of lake Erie Wine Country, in North East, Pa., Assistant Innkeeper at the wonderful Grape Arbor Bed and Breakfast . Among the 50 miles of unique wineries and gorgeous vineyards, along the shores of Lake Erie you’ll find us in the jewel in the crown……..in downtown North East, Pa.
Let’s get to my only complaint first and get that out of the way. For a town that is situated on Pennsylvania’s westernmost edge, the name North East is a real misnomer. It’s a confusing name to the uninitiated, and Siri just doesn’t get it. You will get a string of fine but far away businesses Susquehanna, Wayne, or Pike county from her if you ask for something in North East, Pa. You need to specify that you want such and such in “the town of North East, Pa” or you will get information of little or no use to you.
Now, if that’s my only complaint, and it is, then haven’t I just landed myself in one heck of a great and happy little hamlet? Yes indeed! Let me tell you about it. And mind you, this is just the “so far” list as I am not done exploring yet.Here in North East, there is a real and palpable sense of community. There’s a small town feel but the town is quite up to date with everything. Friendly folk live here. People of all ages generally greet passersby on the street with a cheery hello and a smile. The town is safe and it feels safe. The local school kids painted up our crosswalks in an explosion of fun, creative color and good artistry.
Most of the homes here are gorgeous, old historic homes which are well preserved and well cared for. The pride in ownership is evident. These beautiful properties have neatly trimmed lawns and tended, flowering gardens. A committee goes about in the summer and awards the owners/gardeners with a North East in Bloom lawn sign award. Several of these homes have huge front porches with wooden rocking chairs on them – my fav thing in home features.
There are many worthwhile small businesses on and off of the main street of downtown North East owned by Mas and Pas and entrepreneurs. They are all frequented by locals and visitors alike. Just to name a few: North East has great clothing shops. I get my best wardrobe additions at Serendipity Consignments. LaRoccas men’s wear store is huge and has EVERYTHING a fella might need in the way of clothing. We have nicely merchandised antique shops such as Mercantile 89 and Ye Old Vineyard Antiques. Three o’clock shopping slump? No problem, rest and re-caffeinate at The Bean. There are also very nice restaurants and places to just grab a snack. My favorite restaurant spots include our contemporary casual Skunk and Goat Tavern and Johnny B’s, both of which I visit frequently and I can tell you the staff is terrific at both places.
North East is also home to the biggest concentration of Lake Erie Wine Country wineries. Some of the best of them at that. The mural above was commissioned by a local nonprofit, Downtown North East, showing all the things that are found in…North East.
There are several parks, open spaces and nice playgrounds for the children.
The town crown is Gibson Park right in the middle of downtown North East. The water drinking fountain in the town’s square actually works! And it is clean and kept nicely polished.
Seems like all of the water drinking fountains in all of the parks in NJ and VA are long forgotten relics beat to death and covered in graffiti. In the center of Gibson park there is a magnificent fountain with what I think of as a Grape Goddess pouring out water on the towns many lush and lovely vineyards. Gibson Park is the location of free town sponsored events and festivals including music events in the summer. Everyone comes out with their lawns chairs to enjoy and mingle. I tell ya, Whooville has nothing on us.I love the traditions, the festivals, and the annual parades. Folk line those lawn chairs up the day before the parades and are free to leave them to hold their space because no one messes with them. A big annual North East event/tradition that includes a festival AND a parade is the Cherry Festival each year in July and there is literally something for everyone at that fest!
We have a terrific library that hosts all sorts of events and activities, especially during the summer months which is housed in a historic building, of course. North East has ornate, elaborate historic churches of many denominations that are still attended faithfully.
Speaking of churches, check out the stunning, historic Mercyhurst University campus and cathedral. One of my favorite spots for a walkabout.
And ahhh, the vast and sprawling vineyards. This town smells like flowers in the summer and ripe fruit in the late summer. The wineries and the gorgeous vineyard vistas aside, Historic North East, Pennsylvania is a must visit. It’s a town that you just want to be in and walk about in but stay while; it’s good for the soul.