There's nothing plain about this charming region
Lancaster County in east-central Pennsylvania, an hour's drive west of Philadelphia, encompasses America's oldest Amish settlement where thousands still live a centuries-old "Plain" lifestyle. Arriving in Pennsylvania Dutch Country allows visitors to step back in time to enjoy a slower, more peaceful pace—one where the horse and buggy remain a primary form of transportation for the indigenous people, and where windmills dot the landscape, providing power harnessed from nature. Always a vital part of Lancaster County culture, the Pennsylvania Amish are involved in agriculture as well as an array of businesses and cottage industries.
Lancaster County's unique heritage and rich history are tucked into a variety of interactive attractions, from hands-on Amish homesteads and museums to restaurants, walking tours and theaters. Attractions in Lancaster County, whose state tourism slogan is "I Brake for Shoofly Pie," include amusement parks, buggy rides, interactive farms, train attractions and pretzel and chocolate factories.
Plan to visit Lancaster's Central Market, a farmers' market since the 1730s. Also in Lancaster there are many tours of this historic area, including the Downtown Lancaster Walking Tour.
RVers can explore the innocence of the Amish community with a personal tour guide in your own vehicle, or with others in a mini-coach. Insightful and customized guided tours can be as personal and private as you wish. All tours are highly respectful to the Amish residents. Tours offered at Pennsylvania Dutch Visitors Center include an Amish Farmlands Tour, which departs daily from May to October.
Lancaster County holds a bevy of quaint communities. For starters, there is Adamstown, known as the "Antiques Capital," and Bird-in-Hand, tucked along Highway 340, a designated cultural scenic byway. Also on Highway 340, Intercourse offers a charming shopping village, authentic cannery, pretzel factory and Amish theater.
Being immediately north of the Mason-Dixon Line, Lancaster County was an important stop on the Underground Railroad, with as many as 17 "stations" identified.
Christiana fostered one of these "stations," which now houses a museum and theater that bring the moving freedom journey stories to life. Columbia boasts plenty of Victorian-era architecture.
Elizabethtown is home to a variety of galleries, small shops, museums and eateries. Ephrata is home to the Ephrata Cloister, one of the country's earliest communal societies. The town is best known for its original art and music and distinctive medieval Germanic architecture. Lititz, a "foodie town," is home to several famous sweet and salty spots. Manheim features a dairy farm tour and lively renaissance village. In Mount Joy, visitors can take in a 19th-century brewery and metal giftware factory tour and store. Strasburg, also known as the "Traintown," features train rides and other unique family railroad attractions.
There are 29 covered bridges in Lancaster County, more than any other county in the state. The quaint structures are sometimes referred to as "kissing bridges" because of the many couples who have strolled across them over the years. Five different driving tours are available to visit these bridges.
The names alone often get a second glance—dried corn, whoopie pies, schnitz und knepp—but these made-from-scratch treats like apple dumplings and shoofly pie are staples in local bakeries, and no Pennsylvania Dutch restaurant is complete without an offer of chicken potpie and a side of chow chow.
Wineries and Breweries
Pennsylvania is home to more than 50 microbreweries and has more operating regional breweries than any other state. In Pennsylvania Dutch Country, old German influences and creative personalities have blended to make seven special microbrews you won't find anywhere else. Visit these local breweries and brewpubs and experience beers and ales with tons of Pennsylvania Dutch flair.
Artists have expressed themselves and portrayed the county's history via large colorful murals displayed for all to see on the sides of buildings in Mount Joy, Elizabethtown and in downtown Lancaster.
Other tourist attractions include the American Music Theatre, Dutch Wonderland, Ephrata Fair, Hans Herr House, Landis Valley Museum, Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, Rock Ford Plantation, Robert Fulton birthplace, the Sight & Sound Theatres, Wilbur Chocolate and the Sturgis Pretzel House.
Wheatland is the restored residence of James Buchanan, the 15th president, the only bachelor president and the only president to hail from Pennsylvania.
Lancaster County is also home to Susquehannock State Park, a 224-acre park overlooking the Susquehanna River.
Agriculture Still Big
With some of the most fertile, non-irrigated soil in the United States Lancaster County retains its strong farming industry, generating $800 million in food, feed and fiber, nearly one-fifth of the state's annual output. Livestock raising is responsible for $710 million of that total. Lancaster County is home to the largest dairy industry on the East Coast.
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