Lovingly referred to as “Amish Country, PA,” there is much more than meets the eye of the charming Lancaster Pennsylvania. While you are plenty likely to encounter a horse and buggy driving nonchalantly alongside its metallic counterparts, the town’s 21st century aspects hold equal shares of novelty for the out-of-state visitor, with everything from amusement parks, the oldest farmer’s market in America, to outlet shopping. From rustic to modern, Lancaster holds the perfect combination of a small town with urban resources to give the weary New Yorker a refreshingly familiar experience.
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Truly the gem of the town is the wealth of bargain shopping to be had. Touting the same store range as Woodbury Commons at half the crowd, the Lancaster Outlets are your perfect means to stocking your wardrobe with expensive brands at a fraction of the cost. Over 140 shopping options are readily available seven days a week with familiar names such as Michael Kors, North Face, and Under Armor. If you’re on the hunt for a well-crafted Pennsylvania souvenir, don’t hesitate to visit one of the many Amish furniture stores for beautifully sturdy furnishings that will last you a lifetime.
For the Kids:
If you’re thinking that the best entertainment your child will get in Lancaster is hiding between the clothing racks at the outlets, then think again! Right down the street from the outlets is the fabled Dutch Wonderland— think Disney, but much more affordable. Roller coasters, log flumes and tilt-a-whirls galore fill the park’s 35 ride roster, with interactive magic shows and jaw-dropping high dives to watch when your feet get sore. Tickets are available from May 2nd to October 11th at $38.99 and include an all-day pass for unlimited rides.
Burgeoning scientists in the family will have a blast at the Lancaster Science Factory, featuring over 75 hands-on exhibits that encourage kids to poke, press, and puzzle their way around STEM-inspired puzzles and brain teasers. Exhibit categories include light and vision, structural engineering, and basic robotics, all at a K-8th grade learning level. The price of admission is just $10.95.
Going home without a taste of Lancaster’s signature Pennsylvania Dutch cooking would be a trip incomplete, so be sure to grab a plate and load it up with homemade sauerkraut and every kind of comfort food you can get your hands on!
Good ‘N Plenty is a fan favorite for visitors looking for a taste of slow-smoked country ham and buttered noodles. Their fifty-year legacy ensures that each dish has been time tested in order to make it to the menu, although the daily specials allow for customers to try fresh recipes. Those looking for a menu with limitless options might enjoy the Shady Maple Smorgasbord, a buffet-style restaurant stocked with dishes whose ingredients have been harvested earlier that day from the restaurant farm. If you’re in the mood to sample a wide variety of locally made food and drink then drop by the Lancaster Central Market, the oldest farmer’s market in the country operating indoors (Open every day, INSERT HOURS). Vendors flock from all over the state to hock locally sourced meats, cheeses, pastries and produce, making it the perfect way to experience Pennsylvania without breaking the bank or driving a car.
History buffs might enjoy Wheatland, the newly restored home of fifteenth American president James Buchanan. Guided tours are available from Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, with tickets purchasable online. A pleasant stroll through the Tanger Arboretum nearby is the perfect revitalization of fresh air and nature after returning from your tour, offering visitors a look at the carefully cared for 150+ tree collection.
Where to Stay
King’s Cottage Bed and Breakfast, listed as a “top ten most romantic inn” by American Historic Inns sets you directly in the heart of Lancaster city, making the outlets just an eight-minute Uber drive away. Each room is outfitted in that old fashioned charm, including fully functional fireplaces, free wifi, and a range of massage and spa packages. Rates start at $175 a night.
Guests not afraid of getting their hands a little dirty might be interested in a stay at the Country Log House Farm Bed and Breakfast, the perfect trial run for anyone looking to live out a day on the ranch. For all those out there with a yen to try out a few days of farm life, the family-owned and operated Brubaker farm’s doors are open to guests with a hankering for the rustic side of life. Gather eggs from the henhouse for your breakfast, feed the sheep and pet the cows, and afterward be treated to a hayride with the owner, Farmer Jim. Starting at $100 a night, all rooms are fully air-conditioned and come with free wifi.
How to Get There:
Amtrak tickets from Penn Station to Lancaster Train station costs $62. The train ride takes approximately two hours and forty minutes. The station is in the heart of the city so everything should be within a fifteen-minute Uber distance, but those with longer transits may be interested in Lancaster’s public busing system.
Carly Kapusinsky writes fiction and travel stories when not loaded down with her work as a student at SUNY New Paltz. If not at her laptop you can likely find her hitting the ski slopes or browsing the stacks of the nearest bookstore.