Lancaster County, Pennsylvania: Much More Than Horse And Buggies

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is most often associated with horse and buggies and quilts, staples of the Amish. After all, members of this conservative Christian faith came to the central part of the state in the early 18th century to escape persecution in Europe for their religious beliefs, and today the Amish culture is omnipresent throughout the corn-filled, rural farm region of the county. Their influence can be found in agriculture and construction along with many of the area’s tourist attractions and cottage industries.

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Largely because of the public’s fascination with the Amish culture, scores of visitors come here throughout the year to experience the wide variety of activities and attractions, to partake in educational tours, to purchase Amish goods and to enjoy Amish-style cooking.

Visitors will not want to miss The Amish Village, one of top interpretive attractions of the Plain community, which lets people enjoy a genuine Amish property and experience Amish culture up close and personal. Hop on a 90-minute bus tour throughout the countryside and learn about the Amish culture from informative guides. Educational experiences include tours of an authentic Amish farmhouse, Amish village shops, Amish barn and farm animals, one-room schoolhouse, working windmill and water wheel, blacksmith workshop, smokehouse market, picnic grounds, playgrounds and wide open spaces.

Kitchen Kettle Village is a shopper’s paradise and features over 40 local shops in one outdoor shopping village filled with homemade Lancaster County food and authentic Amish products. Have your caricature drawn by a talented artist as you stroll past the shops then stop by The Jam & Relish Kitchen for delectable Pennsylvania Dutch baked goods. Lancaster Yarn Shop features specialty yarns from all over the world – including locally produced – in addition to classes and free workshops, knitting and crochet tools, books and ideas for knitters and textile artists.

No trip to Lancaster County is complete without enjoying a scenic horse and buggy ride around the Pennsylvania Dutch Country passing by the Amish schools, farmlands and shops. This type of up close and personal tour can’t be experienced by car, as passengers can ask the Amish buggy driver as many questions as they’d like throughout the ride. Visit LancasterPA.com for a complete list of tours.

Of course, not all attractions are connected to the Amish, and the Lancaster area has many faces, each with its own personality. The entire region is bursting at the seams with things to do for visitors of all ages. One of the most enjoyable ways to spend a few hours in Lancaster is to attend a show at the American Music Theatre, a 1,600-seat venue that features big-name music concerts, Broadway tours, comedy acts and family fare. The majority of the performances rival anything that is produced in New York City but at a fraction of the cost. You’ll be welcomed by an affable staff, and comfortable seating affords great views from any section. A recent sold-out oldies concert had the crowd on its feet, while the ever-popular Christmas Show is as good as it gets. American Music Theatre hosts up to 300 performances a year, some of which are written, directed and produced completely in-house. The costuming, wardrobe and set construction are all done on-site and in their own Lancaster-based scenery shop.

The iconic Strasburg Rail Road should be on everyone’s tourism list. Founded in 1832 and first used for passenger and freight transportation, The Strasburg Rail Road is America’s oldest Short Line Rail Road. Today, the train takes riders on a 45-minute journey through beautiful farming landscape in Paradise, Pennsylvania. Themed rides include the Great Diamond Heist along with holiday specials. Standard coaches have been restored in authentic Victorian style in order to ensure the utmost in comfort for passengers. For a special treat, opt for the dining car and select from such freshly prepared lunches as crab cake sandwiches and salads. Or board the train with your picnic basket or cooler and let your trainman know you wish to get off at one of the groves along the way. Before leaving visit the gift shop for a unique selection of branded keepsakes and train-themed merchandise.

Downtown Lancaster itself presents a stark contrast to the rural farmlands of Amish country. Home to exquisite cuisine and contemporary art, the city has witnessed the opening or expansion/renovation of over 150 retail/dining/cultural venues over the last few years. The Lancaster History and Craft Beer Walk begins at the hub of Lancaster, colonial square, and takes visitors through charming streets and alleys. Building Character is Downtown Lancaster’s largest retail destination and offers vintage, recycled and handmade goods. At Amorette, Chef Rikku O’Donnchu and a talented team tantalize your taste buds as they take you on a gastronomic journey via an eleven course immersive menu that features such delicacies as quail egg, duck liver mousse and Wagyu filet. Join Executive Chef Ryan McQuillan and his team for seasonally-rotating, casually-styled comfort food at The Exchange, perched a dozen floors atop Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square and offering panoramic views of downtown Lancaster City.

In order to experience everything this region has to offer, it is advisable to spend several days exploring Lancaster County. The AmishView Inn & Suites is located in the center of Lancaster County and boasts upscale accommodations, including an adults-only wing, along with a scrumptious breakfast. Or choose from one of the many quaint bed and breakfasts that can be found throughout the county.

Home to a vibrant downtown scene along with a picturesque countryside, Lancaster County offers visitors the best of two worlds.

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