When you hear the clip-clop of hooves, smell the syrupy sweet aroma of shoo-fly pie, spot colorful hex signs on the side of barns and observe men with long beards and black hats riding their horse-drawn buggies down rural roads, you’ll know you’re in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. There is a wide range of fun things to do in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Lancaster County is the heart and soul of “Penn Dutch,” as the home of the Amish people living in this region west of Philadelphia is commonly called, and over five million people every year visit towns in Penn Dutch whose strange names include Bird-in-Hand, Paradise and Intercourse.
Pennsylvania Dutch Country: Chocolate, Intercourse and Roller Coasters
Pennsylvania Dutch Country is the place of one-room schoolhouses, modern machinery pulled behind four-and six-mule teams, homemade quilts, and wooden covered bridges. It’s also a place where you’ll find the freshest, most delicious locally grown vegetables, homemade ice cream, and smorgasbords anywhere.
Stay in Lancaster for one perfect day, or go a little farther afield. Lancaster is close to two other family vacation hot spots – Hershey Park and Gettysburg – which makes Penn Dutch a close-to-home, inexpensive year-round vacation.
Lodging in Lancaster
Lodging in Lancaster County PA ranges from hotels to bed and breakfasts. Best Western, Rodeway, and Days Inns all have a presence in Penn Dutch, but a better option is to stay at a bed and breakfast, not only because the cost per night is less but because the flavor of the area lives on inside these handsome residences.
Most bed and breakfast inns are homey and beautifully decorated, and King’s Cottage is no exception. Owners Jan and Ann make their guests comfortable and take pains in the morning to serve food the region is famous for. Best of all, King’s Cottage is located in downtown Lancaster and is central to all attractions.
Amish Country PA
Amish History in Lancaster County: The Amish who live in Lancaster County are descendants of people who immigrated to the U.S. from Germany and the Low Countries before 1800. Hardworking, family-oriented, religious, and dedicated to a simple lifestyle, they shun current fashion and most elements of the modern world.
The simple, charming presence is found throughout Amish Country PA and the region. From small children to adults, there’s something for every member of the family to enjoy and do. Dutch Wonderland Amusement Park in Lancaster has rides and water slides to keep young children busy for an entire day. Authentic Amish farmers take tourists on horse and buggy rides through bucolic farmlands where corn and other vegetables grow in abundance.
*Lancaster’s only ride through real working non-commercial Amish farms. Four-mile tour with Amish guides; visit to real Amish home. Open all year.
Where is Amish Country PA
Lancaster County is America’s oldest Amish settlement. The population of Amish in Lancaster County PA is in the thousands and they live a centuries-old “Plain” lifestyle.
Longwood Gardens is a short drive from Penn Dutch and people with green thumbs will marvel at the beauty of the flowers, plants, shrubs, and trees. Kids can see up close how insect-eating plants scoop up bugs for supper and watch in amazement as water shoots out of fountains while patriotic and popular tunes play in the background.
Hershey’s Chocolate World
You can easily spend a day at Hershey’s Chocolate World where the streets are paved in chocolate. Well, that might be an exaggeration, but the marketplace has shops and restaurants specializing in Hershey’s chocolate products. Attractions include the Really Big 3-D show, Hershey Trolley Works, Factory Works Experience, and a free chocolate tour ride.
Adjacent to Chocolate World is Hersheypark amusement park with roller coasters, water slides, kiddie rides merry-go-round, boardwalk and outdoor restaurants. Hershey’s Chocolate World also includes Hersheypark Stadium, Hersheypark Arena, Hershey Museum, and Giant Center.
Hershey’s Chocolate World is located off of Hersheypark Drive, in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Hershey World admission into Hershey’s chocolate tour is free. All other attractions within the facility require a ticket.
If you plan to do both Hersheypark and Chocolate World on the same day, you can park in the main Hersheypark lot which has access to Chocolate World and is adjacent to the main entrance to the park.
Gettysburg Day Trip from Lancaster
Older children who have studied the Civil War in school will want to experience Gettysburg first hand. The drive from Lancaster is less than an hour and the town and battlefields can be seen in a day.
Every weekend throughout the summer and fall there’s a special event in Gettysburg. For instance, the Annual Old Fashioned Corn Fest at the Historic Round Barn eight miles west of Gettysburg will be underway in July. The mouth-watering menu will feature corn roasted in the husk over an applewood fire, barbecued chicken, pulled pork, peach sundaes, and apple dumplings. The festivities will also include hay wagon and pony rides and more.
Return to Penn Dutch Country and plan to spend a few more days. There’s a lot more to discover in the place history liked so much that it never left.
The King’s Cottage (1049 East King St; 717-397-1017)
Dutch Wonderland Amusement Park (2249 Lincoln Hwy East; 866-386-2839)
Aaron & Jessica’s Buggy Rides, Plain & Fancy Farm* (3121A Old Philadelphia Pike (Rt. 340), Bird-in-Hand; 717-768-8828).
Longwood Gardens (1001 Longwood Rd, Kennett Square; 800-737-5500)
Hershey’s Chocolate World (251 Park Blvd, Hershey; 717-534-4900)
Hershey Park (100 W. Hersheypark Dr, Hershey; 800-HERSHEY)
Related Article: Things to do in Erie, Pennsylvania
As travel today remains uncertain, please keep your safety and the safety of others in mind at all times. If you are comfortable with traveling, please travel responsibly and regulations in Lancaster County PA, as any travel is at your own risk.
If you do decide to travel at this time, here are a few recommendations:
- Wear a face mask.
- Bring hand sanitizer and wash your hands on a regular basis.
- Check official websites before your trip for the latest updates on policies, closures and status of local businesses.
- Book a hotel with free cancellation in case you need to change your plans at the last minute. I also suggest checking hotel reviews in my favorite site, TripAdvisor.
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Gail worked in the newspaper industry for fifteen years before launching her own full-service communications company, WordPower, in 2002. She brings a high degree of integrity, innovation and successful strategic planning to a diverse client base. Her specialties include media relations; writing, editing and graphic design; event management and corporate training. Her writing specialties include travel and tourism, finance and education. She is a resident of Wakefield, Massachusetts, where she lives with her husband, Tony.