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Spotlight: Lancaster County

Go Dutch in this Old World corner of Pennsylvania

Lancaster County owes much of its fame to the Amish, the so-called “plain people” who have forsaken modern technology for simple lives without electricity or automobiles. And while this delightful corner of Pennsylvania offers lots of insights into this fascinating culture, it’s also chock-full of attractions from its non-Amish residents.

A great place to start is the Historic Lancaster Walking Tour, which will introduce you to the stories of the county seat’s earliest days. Helpful guides dressed in period clothing share the city’s past (it was once the capital of the United States) and explain the area’s contributions to American life through stops at more than 50 locations around Lancaster.

Stop in at Saint James Episcopal Church, a beacon of hospitality and an icon of the region. The church has stood at its present location since 1744 and is adorned with stained-glass works of art, intricate paintings and colorful tiles.

Pennsylvania German culture is rich and lively, and Historic Schaefferstown welcomes you to explore and learn about the traditions and lives of its founding residents. Visit Alexander Schaeffer House and Farm, a mid-18th-century dwelling in which residents distilled whiskey. The Thomas R. Brendle Museum displays cultural artifacts from Pennsylvania German families and the Gemberling-Rex House, once a tavern, invites visitors in to see where thirsty travelers once whet their whistles.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Plain Folk and Food

Ok, so you made the trip to the region primarily for the Amish. No problem. Travel around in Amish style on a buggy ride from Kitchen Kettle Village. Whether you trot four miles or meander five, be sure to pass over a covered bridge and take in the scenic countryside. Then, trek through historic Intercourse for more Amish-style fun. As you travel, you’ll glean some great insights into the customs, agricultural methods and ingenuity of this community, who migrated from Europe in the 17th century to escape religious persecution. But be respectful of the Amish. Don’t take photographs of them without permission, and always be polite and courteous.

If you’ve ever wanted to get insights into the day-to-day Amish lifestyle, head to the whimsically named community of Bird-in-Hand. The Amish Experience offers a VIP tour that allows you to visit an Amish home and watch while family members milk the cows and prepare food. Abe’s Buggy Rides has been giving visitors a taste of Amish travel for nearly 50 years, and if you’re lucky, the driver will let you in on the best places to try the traditional molasses treat known as Shoofly pie, the region’s most famous desert.

The town of Paradise lives up to its name if you’re a lover of farming. Here, Verdant View Farm celebrates the bounty of Lancaster County. Try your hand as a farmers’ apprentice and help tend to the goats, milk the cows, collect eggs for breakfast and make homemade ice cream.

Toast to a great vacation at Rumspringa Brewing Company, where craft-brewed beers accompany lively conversation and tasty bar-style treats, and where wine lovers can sample vintages from the region. If you’re a fan of salty snacks, you can’t miss the chance to see famed Lancaster County pretzels being made by hand. Some establishments encourage guests to try and twist their own. Homemade jam is a sweet attraction here, too, and the Cannin’ and Jammin’ Tour is a fun way to find out how jam comes together.

Save room for dinner, which becomes an entertaining event at one of Lancaster’s famed dinner theaters. Broadway shows are under the spotlight at Fulton Theatre, a county treasure and National Historic Landmark. Taste the fresh produce of the county at Lancaster Central Market, where goods have been sold since before the American Revolution.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Trips to the Past

Hop aboard a vintage train at Strasburg Rail Road. The coal-burning steam locomotive pulls passenger cars along America’s oldest short-line railroad for 45 minutes, then drops guests back at the station to try their hand at a pump car or ride on a miniature steam train. Wander across the street to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania for even more great rail history, including full-size railroad equipment.

Fine country living is preserved for visitors to see and experience at Rock Ford Plantation, the home of Revolutionary War General Edward Hand. These 33 acres include a house built in Georgian domestic style and preserved in the style of the day, down to the paint colors. While the barn is not original to the property, it stands on the original location and dates to the 1780s.

See where the movement to free slaves before the Civil War played a central role in the state’s history at Christiana Underground Railroad Center. The site of a skirmish over escaped slaves has become a museum honoring the Pennsylvania citizens who spurred the resistance against slavery.

Expanding Horizons

Tucquan Glen Nature Preserve includes a two-mile loop that leads hikers and bikers along a tributary that feeds into the Susquehanna River, with views of short waterfalls and a variety of trees with seasonal foliage. Also in the preserve, Fishing Creek North is a prime spot for—you guessed it—fishing. As a cold-water fishery, Fishing Creek is home to a spawning trout population that’s supplemented by trout stocking. The preserve permits bow hunting and is home to white-tailed deer and turkey.

Kids can become inventors, creators and engineers at Lancaster Science Factory, where exhibits are designed to encourage children to learn more about the world around them. For more good times, Lost Treasure Golf and Maze is a delightful destination for families. Take your choice of two 18-hole miniature courses, then make your way through the open-air maze.

Savor the beautiful sunset from up high on a hot-air ballon ride over Lancaster County. The U.S. Hot Air Balloon Team hosts trips that provide views of farmland and town life, and even extend into three- and five-day tours through the Brandywine Valley.

For More Information

Discover Lancaster
800-723-8824
www.padutchcountry.com
Pennsylvania Tourism
800-847-4872
www.visitpa.com