Yearly Archives: 2013

Do the Amish celebrate Christmas?

Yes, the Amish celebrate Christmas!

They observe Christmas as a sacred holiday with simplicity and tradition. While some are influenced by the traditions of their English friends, many do not get caught up in the modern-day commercialism as we experience it. Most don’t include Santa Claus, electric lights, flashy tinsel, fancy wrapping paper, or Christmas trees. Rather, they focus on the reason for the holiday– Jesus’ birth.

Because Christmas is so important in the Amish community, it is celebrated for two days. On December 25, they fast, meditate, and read Scripture; on December 26, or “Second Christmas,” they celebrate with family and friends with festive gatherings, great feasts, and gift-giving.

Because the Pennsylvania Amish have been greatly influenced by German Christmas traditions, they often decorate by lighting candles and hanging stars, angels, greenery, and holiday cards. Most families exchange gifts and usually pick names out of a hat so each person receives one gift each year. Gifts are not always of the old-fashioned handmade variety. Sometimes they give gifts such as Barbie dolls (dressed Amish), board games, and toy tractors. In addition, homemade cookies, candy, and stamped Christmas cards are very popular. Often Amish owned stores sell these homemade items.

At the Amish schoolhouse, a Christmas program is usually planned and is one of the most anticipated events of the year. The Amish community enjoys watching the children sing, read poems, and perform Christmas plays.

And, when it happens to snow, the children enjoy playing outside. They race down the hills on their sleds, ice skate, play ice hockey, and of course, have snowball fights and snowman building competitions.

While we, the English, enjoy our traditions at Christmas, the Amish, too, will be enjoying their holiday traditions, but always with Jesus at the center of their celebration.

To learn more about how the Amish celebrate Christmas, listen to Ada’s story.

Get in the holiday spirit with American Music Theatre

The first time I visited American Music Theatre (AMT), it was love at first sight. I was so impressed with the gorgeous lobby, the elegant bathrooms (yes, the bathrooms are really elegant), and the staff in tuxedos, I told myself I had to work there. Five months later, I was fortunate enough to land a position as a member of their management team.

I had the privilege of working at this world-class theater for over two years, during which time I discovered AMT is much more than just a “pretty face.” In addition to the beauty and comfort of this state-of-the-art, 1600-seat theater, the shows they produce are of unparalleled quality. Besides hosting celebrity concerts such as Frankie Valli, Vince Gill, Foreigner, and more, they also write, choreograph and produce their own Original Shows, the most popular of which is the annual Christmas Show.

The 2013 show theme was “The First Noel.” While every year the show has a different storyline, they all have several things in common: top-calibre vocalists and musicians, talented dancers, and beautiful set designs and costumes. The show features both secular and sacred music, and is ideal for guests of all ages, from families with young children to seniors.

This year’s show did not disappoint and had the perfect blend of singing, dancing, and light-hearted moments. The vocals were fantastic, as was the AMT Orchestra. The set resembled a perfect family fireside, and everything from the lobby to the theater was decked out in lively red & green seasonal decor.

AMT’s annual Christmas Show rivals any holiday show you’ll find in a major market. They hire outstanding talent from all of the country (sometimes all over the world), and the scenery, lighting and costumes are some of the best I’ve ever seen.

Attending this production is a wonderful way to get into the holiday spirit and spend a quality afternoon or evening with your family or significant other. There are so many restaurants nearby that it’s easy to make a night of it and eat out before you attend. But just in case you don’t have time, AMT does have a fully-stocked snack bar (as well as a gift shop with a wide variety of merchandise for last-minute holiday shopping).

Visit for more information on upcoming shows.

A day of Hersheypark thrills

Dutch Wonderland, a premier amusement park located within the heart of Lancaster County, is geared toward families with kids up through 12 years of age.  Since my children are now teenagers and self-proclaimed thrill seekers, a visit to nearby Hersheypark – with its 11 exciting roller coasters and expansive waterpark – was in order.

Hersheypark is only a 20-30 minute drive from Lancaster County and is great fun for families of all ages.  In addition to the roller coasters and waterpark, it boasts numerous rides for younger children, live entertainment, games, gift shops and more.  Their one-price admission gets you access to everything for the entire day.

My kids love going to Hersheypark – in fact they’d probably go every day if they could.  The rides are diverse and thrilling, the games are fun, and the waterpark is refreshing.  From a parent’s perspective, there are plenty of shaded areas, lots of beautiful hanging plants, and an extremely clean environment.

Speaking of clean, when I was part of the Hersheypark management team years ago, the General Manager was passionate about maintaining the cleanliness of the park.  Whenever we managers were in the park, which under his leadership was quite often, it was our duty to make sure things were running smoothly and that any trash was picked up promptly.  There were many 90 degree days I spent wearing high heels and a suit, picking up sporadic pieces of trash in the park.

So for fun, I told my oldest daughter Maddie I was going to look for trash during our visit and count the number of pieces I saw.  There’s always SOME trash at amusement parks, right?  So any guesses as to how many pieces I saw?  ONE.  Yes, in an amusement park of over 120 acres, I only saw one piece of trash the entire day.

For for a fun and thrilling day with the kids, in a safe and clean environment, Hersheypark is the place to go.

As part of the Lancaster County tourism team, I feel we are extremely fortunate to have two world-class theme parks in such close proximity to each other, one suitable for families with children up through 12 years of age, and the other for more thrill seekers.

Hersheypark is open weekends through the end of September, then opens for seasonal hours & events around Halloween and the holidays.  At only 20-30 minutes away, it’s the perfect day trip during your stay in Lancaster.  For more information, please visit

A deliciously engaging way to spend the day

I recently visited Turkey Hill Experience in Columbia with our newly-promoted Marketing Coordinator, Kristen, and her 3–year-old daughter and ice cream connoisseur, Sophia. Turkey Hill Experience is a fun, interactive museum where you can learn about their history and how they make their very popular ice cream and iced tea products.

Throughout the experience, there are numerous interactive exhibits and activities geared to both children and parents alike. Some of the fun things we did on our visit included:

  • Checking out the tearoom where we learned all about teas, finding out what teas match our personalities, and drinking as many free samples of tea as we liked. Our favorite for the day was “half and half.” (Half tea, half lemonade)
  • Watching Sophia make her own virtual ice cream favor called “Coconut Bears,” which consisted of vanilla ice cream, raspberry flavoring, coconut, and gummy bears. After combing everything via a computer, she was able to design her ice cream package any way she wanted, then make her own TV commercial that Mommy could later access online.
  • Milking the mechanical cows, playing with Sophia in the ice cream truck, and keeping busy in the Flavor Frenzy, where you pretend to pour flavorings into empty containers to create ice cream blends.
  • There was a “cold room” where Sophia could experience what it would feel like to be stored in a freezer, and a Mix and Match station that allows you to smell various scents used in their products.
  • Turkey Hill Experience also has a Make Your Own Ice Cream Lab (which requires reservations and an additional nominal cost), but we were so busy with our other activities we decided to do that another time.

And now for the Inside Scoop – throughout the Experience, you can sample as much ice cream, and as many flavors, as you like. Just like their iced tea. That alone was worth the visit!

On our way out, we visited a whimsical gift shop where Sophia scored a stuffed cow and a very large lollypop (since she apparently didn’t get enough sugar with all of the ice cream she had throughout the day).

All in all, Turkey Hill Experience was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed watching Sophia have a great time, as well as testing out several of the exhibits on my own. For a fun, engaging experience with your children, not to mention lots of free ice cream, plan your visit today. Check out for more information.


A VIP Tour that’s available to all

I embarked on the Amish Experience’s Amish V.I.P. (“Visit in Person”) Tour along with our Public Relations Director, Joel Cliff.  The V.I.P. tour is a fantastic opportunity to visit with our Amish neighbors in a more personal and intimate setting.

When I first heard the tour was three hours, it seemed like a long span of time, but when the tour was finished I couldn’t believe how quickly the time went.  I was engaged throughout the entire tour, as was even the youngest member of our group, a 6-year-old girl from Canada.

We boarded a very comfortable 14-seat air-conditioned bus and our driver and tour guide, Joanne, began our journey with some background on the Amish community and their history in the area.  Our first stop was at Esh’s dairy farm, where owner Jake showed us how they milk cows and told us all about life on the dairy farm.  Our young little Canadian even had the opportunity to bottle feed one of the calves.

We toured the barn where we saw buggy horses and work mules, then headed to the quilt shop where they sold gorgeous handmade quilts and other beautiful gifts.

Our next stop was at the Leola Buggy Shop to see how buggies are made and refurbished.  It was really neat to learn about the types of buggies, the various features that can be ordered, and the differences between Mennonite and Amish buggies.

Our final stop was an Amish home where we warmly welcomed by Steven and his family.  We toured the kitchen and common area, then had the opportunity to sit in the living room to listen to stories and ask whatever questions we wanted:  “Do you pay taxes?”  “How long do the kids go to school?”  “Do you still do barn raisings?” etc.  This was perhaps the most enjoyable part of the tour – I mean, how many people have the chance to sit and talk with an Amish family and realize that, in a lot of ways, they are just like you and me?

Throughout our tour, Joanne kept us entertained with fun facts, answered our questions, and told us how she came to live and work in Lancaster County.  (Originally from Long Island, she visited Lancaster on her honeymoon and fell in love with the area … for more details, ask her yourself!)  The other guests – visiting from Long Island, Wisconsin, Connecticut, and Canada – couldn’t say enough wonderful things about the outing.

If you would like to learn about the Amish, and see how they live, work and play firsthand, then book your Amish V.I.P. Tour today at

A haven for foodies

If you’re a self-proclaimed foodie, no visit to Lancaster County would be complete without a trip to Lancaster Central Market.

Lancaster Central Market is the country’s oldest farmers market, located in a beautiful 120 year-old building in the heart of downtown Lancaster.  Featuring gourmet and ethnic foods, local specialties, and unique gifts and souvenirs, Lancaster Central Market was recently listed as “one of the 10 best fresh markets in the world” by CNN Go, the global and travel website of the international cable news network.

During a recent visit I decided to stray outside of my comfort zone to try some things I may not typically sample.

My first stop was at Pureblend Tea where I enjoyed my first tea latte.  It was a nice change from my usual café lattes. They can be ordered in a number of different flavors… mine was salted caramel.  Devine.

I was craving comfort food so my next stop was Spring Glen Fresh Foods for some delicious macaroni and cheese.  Spring Glen features everything from chicken pot pie to potato salad to chow chow.  If their other food offerings are as good as their mac and cheese, you’re in for a real treat.

On my way to satisfy my sweet tooth I was distracted by the tantalizing smell of… horseradish?  Yes, the smell of fresh grated horseradish drew me to Long’s Horseradish where owner Mike Long was making a fresh batch.  In addition to horseradish, Long’s offers a number of selections including gourmet horseradish mustard, cocktail sauce, horseradish pickles, and horseradish BBQ sauce.  Per Mr. Long’s recommendation, I later tried the BBQ sauce on meatloaf.  Fantastic!

Then I was off to get my sugar fix at Shady Maple Bakery where I had the best peanut butter filled whoopie pie I have ever tasted.  It was so fresh and moist… I can’t believe I had enough self-control to only eat one.  If you want to try this yummy PA Dutch classic, this is the place to go.

Finally, I was feeling a bit edgy so I thought I’d try a bit of Thai.  I headed over to Narai Exotic Thai Cuisine for their Panang Chicken Curry.  It was flavorful, spicy, and oh so delicious.

So for all those foodies out there, Lancaster Central Market is a must for your “To Do” list.  Open year-round on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, more information can be found at

A kingdom for kids… and parents

Kids love amusement parks – everything from the rides and water attractions, to the food and live entertainment.  While most children of all ages thrive on the activity and craziness, many parents do not.  For those parents, I have two words for you:  Dutch Wonderland.

Dutch Wonderland is a 43-acre amusement park located right off Lincoln Highway East in Lancaster, not far from some of the most beautiful farmland in the county.  Boasting over 30 fun-filled rides, a wonderful water-play area, and fabulous live shows, the park is geared toward families with children up to age 12.  This year, the park celebrates its 50th anniversary.

In addition to the wide variety of rides, the entire park can be described as “clean and green.”   It is quite beautiful really, with gorgeous flower beds, plentiful areas for sitting, numerous trees to provide ample shade, and clean walkways.  Because of the layout of the park, and the fact they target younger children, you rarely experience long lines like you might at typical amusement parks.  In addition, there are lots of food and drink offerings, all reasonably priced.

Since my kids are teenagers, I thought I’d enlist the help of my good friend, 6-year-old Bailey, to tell me about her recent experience at Dutch Wonderland.

Bailey, what was your favorite ride at Dutch Wonderland?

“Turtle Twirl, because it went around in circles and I love it so much. It made me giggle a lot!”

How about your favorite food?
“The cookies and cream Dippin’ Dots.”  (Yummy….my kids always loved them, too!)

What was your favorite thing about the park?
“I rode the big roller coaster with my hands up after the third time!”  (Bailey’s mom told me they were able to ride each ride 3-4 times because of either no, or minimal, lines!)

How did you like Duke’s Lagoon waterpark?
“I loved it! I got to go down the slides. They were so awesome. I went down the big, black one that was dark. I didn’t think it was scary, but Mommy screamed. I liked going down the orange slide, too, in the play area and shooting water at people.”

As you can tell, Bailey had a great time at Dutch Wonderland, and I am certain you and your family will as well.  For more information, please visit

A buggy ride and ice cream

What’s a great way to see the area, get a close look at the Amish, and is suitable for everyone? A buggy ride, of course!

Recently I went on my first buggy ride at Aaron and Jessica’s Buggy Rides in Bird-In-Hand with my three children, Katherine, Maddie and Jack, ages 12, 13 and 14 respectively. While I chose not to bring Goldendoodle Ted, I easily could have since the buggy rides are pet-friendly (as long as your dog plays nicely with the horses).

During our 30 minute ride, we saw beautiful Lancaster County countryside. We stopped at a real working farm where we were offered homemade cookies and lemonade. We learned so much about the Amish culture from our driver, John, who freely chatted about his Amish lifestyle and happily answered any questions we asked.

But the really neat thing about the experience was riding INSIDE the buggy and experiencing what it is like on a regular basis for the Amish who travel our roads daily. At Aaron and Jessica’s, along with the many other establishments throughout the county who offer buggy rides, there are a number of different tours from which to choose. You can visit an Amish farm, go on a leisurely tour (which was our choice), visit a roadside stand or two, or plan a personal, private tour for you and your family.

After our ride, the kids and I visited one of my favorite places, Strasburg Country Store & Creamery in downtown Strasburg. As you can guess, they specialize in homemade ice cream, but their menu also includes sandwiches, soups and fries, and is a delightful place to eat lunch. In addition to the most divine ice cream I have ever tasted (sweet cream and nuts is my favorite), they make their own fudge, caramel corn, and a number of other goodies. Their adjoining gift shop features everything from homemade honey (the working bees are actually on display) to dip mixes, to homemade peanut butter. My kids were both overjoyed and overwhelmed.

What a fun, relaxing and truly interactive way to spend a day with my children in Lancaster County. For more information on Aaron and Jessica’s buggy rides, please visit For more information on Strasburg Country Store & Creamery, please visit

An enjoyable “scoot” around town

When I told my husband we were going on a scooter tour of Lancaster County, he was both thrilled and nervous.  Thrilled because he thought it would be fun, and like me, he has yet to experience Lancaster from a tourist’s perspective.  Nervous because he wasn’t quite sure of my ability to safely operate a scooter (I wouldn’t exactly call myself a “precision driver” – if you could see my front car bumper you would understand).

However, when we arrived at Strasburg Scooters, his worries were quickly laid to rest.  Our instructor, and partner in the business, Marc Crusemire did an outstanding job of getting me and the other riders comfortable with the scooter and making sure we were competent riders.  After a quick lesson and a few laps around the block, we were ready to go.

For the next three and a half hours, we toured some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen.  Marc kept laughing at me because at every stop sign all I could say was “wow” (Marc put me second in the scooter line up since I was the least experienced).  We rode by farms, quaint road side stands, and lush fields showcasing flowers of every color.  We passed between 8-10 buggies along the way, and every time we did we received a friendly wave and smiles from the drivers.

We saw cows, horses, chickens, sheep, bison, and even a deer farm.  We stopped at four very old and beautiful covered bridges, where we received a brief history lesson from our guide, and had the opportunity to take photos.  I learned that not only does Pennsylvania have the most covered bridges of any state, but Lancaster County has the most covered bridges of any county within the state.

Our group was a good size – there were seven of us – and included a local couple and one visiting from Massachusetts.  We rode single file, and Marc always kept a close eye on the group.  He had lots of fun facts and anecdotes to share on the tour, along with his great sense of humor.  He was the consummate host and instructor.

Near the end of the tour, we stopped at an Amish dairy farm to take a quick tour and briefly speak to the owner, who was busy in his woodshop making bird houses.  We saw buggy horses, field work horses, lots of cows, of course, and two calves that were only three days old.  A few of the owner’s small children were laying in the shade in the front yard and eagerly waved to us. Riding the scooter was a lot of fun, and I can’t even begin to describe the beauty I saw everywhere I went.  Words can’t do it justice, so I recommend you go and see it for yourself.  I can honestly say it is one of the coolest things I have ever done, and will definitely recommend it to all my friends and family members who visit this beautiful destination.  If you want to experience Lancaster County in a fun and unique way, this tour is definitely for you.

In addition to the tour I enjoyed, Strasburg Scooters has four other tours from which to choose.  For more information, visit

Amish courtship

There is no PA Dutch word for “dating,” but the Amish use the English word when they need it.

The Amish consider romantic relationships to be private, so courtship is practiced secretly, while parents look the other way until the couple comes to ask their permission for marriage.

Amish young people can choose whoever they want for their mate, but if they want to remain Amish themselves, they need to marry within the faith (or date someone who has intentions of joining the faith). Very rarely, a non-Amish person might join the Amish church to be able to marry an Amish person.

Dating often starts with a boy offering to take a girl home after a Sunday evening sing, which is one of the places young people socialize. When a couple is more serious, a boy can visit the girl at her house after her parents have gone to bed on a Saturday night when there’s no church on Sunday. They sit in the living room, where most parents require a light to be on, and visit, sometimes with other couples.

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