What do you get when you combine covered bridges, picturesque farmland, quaint small towns and the aroma of wholesome country cooking? Add in lots of Amish folk who live a “plain” life that hasn’t changed in centuries, and you come up with a serene, bucolic vacation escape. Plan your next trip to Lancaster County in the heart of the Pennsylvania Dutch Countryside.
Leading to Lancaster
Lancaster County sits on the southeastern part of Pennsylvania on U.S. Route 30, the historic Lincoln Highway. It’s about 40 minutes south of Harrisburg, the state capital, and about the same distance southwest from Hershey, home of America’s favorite chocolate maker. If you’re visiting the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, you can motor west to Lancaster in less than two-hours.
The area has plenty of rivers, creeks and state forests to explore and enjoy. There are also six state game lands in Lancaster County that are open to hunting, trapping and fishing in season. Lancaster County leads the nation in farmland preservation and is approaching 100,000 acres of preserved farmland in the county, the first in the nation. Looking for a place to drop a line? The Susquehanna River at Middletown teems with smallmouth bass.
Are you ready for some fresh air? Grab your mountain bike and explore the rolling hills of Lancaster County. There are a number of scenic bike trails throughout the county, ranging in length from 7 to 84 miles. One of the best trails takes you to the 29 gorgeous covered bridges in the county. Lancaster County has eight county parks with several hiking opportunities, too. If you’re in the mood for a little more excitement, your luck at ziplines or rent a scooter or motorcycle and enjoy! Another great way to see the sights is from the air in a hot air balloon. Watch the patchwork of farms and small towns slide under the basket as you ride the currents. For sweeping views of the countryside, take a ride on the Strasburg Rail Road.
Heritage of Innovation
Lancaster County has been making history since 1729. From the early days when Conestoga wagons were made and sold in Lancaster County to one of the first iron furnaces to be in operation, Lancaster County has been at the forefront of industry. Visit the Cornwall Iron Furnace and discover how pig iron was mined, smelted and formed. Pay a visit to the Conestoga Area Historical Society and learn why the Conestoga wagon paved the way for modern transportation. For transportation of a different type, visit the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania and its neighbor the National Toy Train Museum.
Lancaster County is home to America’s oldest Amish settlement, where thousands of locals still live the plain life. You’ll see horse-drawn buggies traveling on the same roadways as cars and trucks. These folks still work their land by hand and rely on the wind to provide power. You’ll want to plan to tour the Pennsylvania Dutch Country and shop for handmade Amish crafts. Don’t miss out on the Amish cooking style that many of the area’s restaurants specialize in, with big portions and baked goods made by hand. You will never forget the meals you eat in Lancaster County!
Reaping a Hearty Harvest
The profusion of agriculture in Lancaster County means that harvest time is special. Late summer is the start of the fair season, and this uniquely Pennsylvania time of the year blends the best of the harvest with auctions and carnivals to create an atmosphere that many anticipate the whole year through. Stop by any of the local or county fairs to get a taste of good home cooking, play a carnival game or two and have a traditionally good time. Spring is another time of the year when happenings occur that are unique to Lancaster County.
Lancaster’s Three A’s
For many, Lancaster County is also known for antiques, art and alcohol. The northeastern part of the county is known as the antiques capital of the nation. The area is conveniently located just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike and is home to thousands of antique shops and dealers. In downtown Lancaster, the county seat, are seven square miles packed with art shops and galleries as well as charming restaurants and cafés that are sure to delight.
For More Information
Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development