It’s exciting to be in town when all the tourists arrive, but what I’ve found to be even better are beach towns in the off-season, when you don’t have to fight lines or sit in traffic just to spend some time enjoying the attractions. From Erie, PA, where Presque Isle beaches are open to bike riders and walkers year-round, to Rehoboth Beach in southern Delaware, where a world-famous jazz festival attracts thousands in October, there are a lot of reasons to visit these sandy oases in the shoulder seasons.
The weather is still lovely in Rehoboth through fall, which is why they schedule so many fun things to do after the kids have gone back to school. The Rehoboth Jazz Festival, now in its 28th year, offers visitors the chance to attend a wealth of musical events in venues ranging from supper clubs to churches to high school performing arts stages.
Certainly not as crowded as similar events like the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Rehoboth’s jazz festival gives you the opportunity to get up-close to artists and celebrate with like-minded fans. This year’s festival, which runs from Oct. 12-15, includes performers Boney James, 2016 Grammy award winner Lalah Hathaway, and Larry Graham and Graham Central Station. The Clarence Spady Band will also be paying tribute to Prince in a performance at the Bottle & Cork in Dewey Beach.
I love that you don’t have to wait in line at a concert hall to see impressive performances; you can stop in to hear live jazz at Dogfish Head Brewery, or even get your fill of fine music at the farmers’ market! Hotel rates are less expensive at this time of year, even if you want to stay right on the beach, and you actually have time to enjoy a long, relaxed dinner at local eateries instead of feeling the need to vacate your table for other vacationers.
Another fun event is the Sea Witch Halloween and Fiddlers Fest, now celebrating its 20th year. From Oct. 27-29, you can take part in this rowdy party, which features a costume parade, dog parade, beach games, a 5K race, horse show and live entertainment. Hotels book up early for this event, though, so make your reservations well ahead of time.
Erie and Presque Isle State Park
While you may not think that a northern Pennsylvania beach town is the place to visit in fall, there is loads of stuff to do in Erie and along the shores of Presque Isle State Park, where you can still get out on the water, as well as rent bikes or walk the trails.
A very cool place to visit is the Tom Ridge Environmental Center (TREC), where you can learn more about the history of the 3,200-acre park, or enjoy the view from its 75-foot observation tower. I was mesmerized when I first walked in by the three, floor-to-ceiling, square glass columns featuring hand-carved wooden whirligigs, which you could make move by pressing a button. These “mechanical amusements” by Decatur, GA folk artist Woody Jones were designed to represent land, sky and water, and perfectly represent many of the attractions to be found in Erie.
While you’re there, stop at the registration desk and sign out a rod, reel and tackle so that you can spend some time fishing Erie’s shores. TREC’s Fishing Rod Loaner Program is free, so you don’t even have to invest any money to spend a day honing your skills. If you’d prefer to be on the water, you can still experience the “lagoon by pontoon” several times a day through September. These one-hour interpretive tours highlight the wildlife in the area, including basking turtles, great blue herons and beavers.
The new Erie Visitors Center, located inside the TREC, is open year-round and provides visitors with not only information on Presque Isle, but Erie’s other tourist attractions, lodging, shops and restaurants
Fall is also the best time of year to visit Lake Erie Wine Country because you don’t have to fight the crowds or traffic to travel the 50-mile trail that runs along the coast. The trail is open all year, but the weekend of Sept. 22-24, 2017 is a great time to be in the area for the North East Wine Festival, where you can enjoy tastings and tours, grape stomping, bed racing, car shows and live entertainment. But beer lovers don’t despair! There’s a Lake Erie Ale Trail too, featuring 11 micro-breweries.
Of course, if you pick the right time in October to visit, you may get a chance to admire the changing fall colors, which are truly spectacular in northern Pennsylvania. Sign up for the fall foliage wagon tours the weekend of Oct. 20-22 in Presque Isle State Park, and get an even closer look at the brilliance of beach towns in the off-season.
What’s your favorite beach to visit in the off-season? Visit us on Facebook and let us know!