Yearly Archives: 2014

Horses and a Ranch – a brides dream wedding

I grew up riding horses, living and breathing horses, obsessing over horses. So when I was asked to tour the grounds of Ironstone Ranch, I thought, HECK YES! Perhaps I could get some “horse time” in Lancaster, something I have been dying for since I moved here. Little did I know I’d have that opportunity in Elizabethtown, a place I had been only once before.

The long stone driveway was intimidating at first. I was unsure of whether I was in the right place, passing from a town center surrounded by businesses and winding my way down a long, secluded drive. But then I saw it. I was first greeted with a beautiful green and off-white barn, a picturesque farmhouse, and two Texas Longhorns peeking over the fence in the front pasture. I hadn’t expected to see such a beautiful property. I guess I had mainly been focused on the potential for taking a trail ride in the woods.

Mark, the ranch manager, greeted me with a warm and friendly manner, a horseman by passion and training; we talked about his life before the Ranch. Mark had trained a special team of horses to provide the opportunity for special needs children to ride therapeutically. In fact, this was the connection that brought him to Ironstone, having met the owners of Ironstone, the Abel family, while working with their first adopted daughter, Brittany. Brittany was the inspiration for Brittany’s Hope Foundation, “a non-profit 501 (c) 3 foundation dedicated to aiding and facilitating adoptions of special needs children from around the world.” All profits from Ironstone Ranch go directly to Brittany’s Hope Foundation. “Events With A Purpose” has become the tagline of the Ranch, embodying the spirit of having a greater benefit to offer the world at large than just a wedding venue or a trail ride. I found that to be a pretty good reason to plan any type of event there.

As we toured the grounds, I imagined what it would be like to be a bride on the search for the perfect venue. Mark walked me through the entire process, from start to finish, no detail left untold. He has actually thought of everything, and I don’t say that lightly. From the details of the bride quarters, including places to hang your dresses, a vanity hidden behind a dry goods display for the day-of primping needs, to the entrance the bride will make in a white, horse-drawn carriage, he’s literally thought of it all.

You can be wed under a gazebo in the orchard, or if it suits you better, in the mini barn with a picture window looking over the fields and 275 acre property. After the ceremony, the newlyweds are whisked away in their marriage carriage, the wedding party following in a horse-drawn carriage of their own. Both carriages make their way down a trail through the woods, following an old railroad that once carried Lincoln’s body during his funeral procession. Large stone walls, intimate groves of tall trees, wide open fields, I couldn’t count on all my fingers and toes, over and over, how many places existed for beautiful photos on this one trail.

Now you may ask, well what do the guests do while the married couple and wedding party are off exploring? Mark’s thought of that too. Cocktail hour by the barn, lawn games to be played, Banjo and Sweet Tea the miniature donkeys are there for a pet, a fire pit for those more inclined towards a quiet moment, and don’t forget and orchard and ranch to explore. All your guests will want not, that’s for sure.

The reception seems like it would be no less spectacular, with carriages unloading the newlyweds and their wedding party in front of the large barn where their guests are anxiously awaiting their entrance. Cue the large barn doors that open to reveal the bridal party and groomsmen, followed by the newly married couple. The stage is a large, restored barn, the wooden structure itself providing a beautiful environment. New and old rustic touches are on display: an old carriage, whiskey barrels and worn hutches. A bar is constructed of reclaimed wood and the ceiling of the barn strung with beautiful lights. Each piece of this beautiful picture placed perfectly.

Mark walked me through the day, start to finish. I could imagine the groomsmen hanging out in the stables of the mini barn, relaxing before the next event. I could imagine taking my bridesmaids on a trail ride the day before, spending the evening in the old farmhouse, enjoying my last moments of singledom. I could imagine bouncing around in a white, horse-drawn carriage down a winding trail. I could imagine how this could be the perfect place for some, with a beautiful mission that inspires “Events with a Purpose.”

Now you may be asking, did you get to actually ride any horses while you were there? The answer is no, but I was welcomed back, whether I was a potential bride or not.

I’m ready for some “horse time!”

Jocelyn Park moved to Lancaster in 2012 from Media, PA. Having traveled to various cities around the world, this one felt more like home than ever. When not planning creative events and blogging for Transplant, Jocelyn is a freelance graphic designer throwing good vibes and design out into the world around her.  www.jocelynpark.com | lancastertransplant.com

 

Our enchanting overnight stay

I wanted to take my husband on a local overnight getaway for his birthday. I was envisioning a relaxing, carefree, and welcoming environment. I got just that when we stayed at the Australian Walkabout Inn Bed and Breakfast.

When I booked our stay, I spoke with Lynne. She could not have been nicer. Lynne and Bob are the Innkeepers and are especially gifted at making their guests feel like family. I was impressed with her ability to be professional yet warm. I booked our stay in the Outback Cottage because it had a private hot tub. I also booked a couples relaxation massage.

When my husband and I arrived, we were greeted by Bob. He explained that he was taking another couple to their room and he would be with us shortly. We walked into the front door to wait for Bob. When we entered, Matt and I were impressed with the decorations. They were done with great detail and thought. It was obvious that the innkeepers wanted their place to feel like home but also elegant. We had made our way into the sitting room to wait for Bob. Only a short time later, he arrived. He offered us coffee and began explaining where the massage would take place, what time breakfast would be starting, and gave us our room key. He then led the way to the Outback Cottage.

When we opened the door to the cottage, I was struck with how lovely it was. Immediately we saw a fire place, a Keurig, and a private hot tub – score! But the best part of the room was the completely inviting king-sized bed.

A short time later we were to arrive for our massages. We went into the main house and walked up the stairs to the third floor. The massage therapists were there waiting for us. The room was very relaxing. We were ready to put our cares and worries behind us for just one hour. The massage therapists did a great job by relaxing us and we felt so comfortable in their care. Once the massage was over, we went out to dinner and then arrived back at our room.

We turned on some music, along with the fire place, and got in the hot tub. It was so nice that I tried to coax my husband into redoing our bedroom to model this one. He didn’t budge. We then went to bed and we both slept like babies because of how relaxed we were from the massage, hot tub, comfortable bed, and perfect room temperature.

In the morning we took our time getting up, made some coffee, and then got ready. We painfully said goodbye to the best room we have ever stayed in. We walked into the main house and were greeted by other guests as we waited for breakfast. The other guests were quite pleasant and very interesting to talk to. We all went into the dining room and sat down at the two large dining room tables. The tables were decorated in a charming way and I was eagerly anticipating what lovely food we might be served. I had previously discussed with Lynne that I must eat gluten free foods and am very sensitive to even the smallest amount of gluten touching my food. She said it would not be a problem. I was anticipating that we would have eggs, bacon, etc. for breakfast so, imagine my surprise when Lynne brought out a piping hot baked oatmeal dish. It was so delicious – I could have eaten the whole batch!

We had a wonderful experience and could have easily stayed there for a week. My husband and I both decided that every year for our anniversary, we will stay at the Australian Walkabout Inn and request the Outback Cottage. It was an absolutely enchanting experience. One that I more than ready to repeat again!

Julie Iddings grew up in Lancaster County. She continues to be charmed by the quaintness of the small towns and villages of Lancaster, but also the artistic and thriving Downtown. Julie resides in Marietta with her family.

FAQ about the Amish

Below are frequent and interesting questions we, the Visitors Bureau, are asked by visitors to Lancaster County. Have you ever wondered about the answers to these questions?

Q: Do you have electricity?
A: Yes, most of us in Lancaster are not Amish.

Q: Are you Amish?
A: No.

Q: Can I become Amish?
A: Sure, but it’s not easy and it’s less appealing once you know all that’s involved.

Q: Can we drive in Lancaster County?
A: Yes.

Q: What type of clothes do we need to wear when we visit?
A: Your normal, everyday clothes are fine. However, you may want to check the weather report to be sure you’re dressing comfortably.

Q: Are motorcycles allowed?
A: Yes, and we even have places you can rental motorcycles for the day.

Q: Where is Amish Town? What is the fee at the gate to get into Amish Town?
A: There is no such thing as Amish Town. The Amish live throughout Lancaster; they live, work, and play among us.

Q: Do you have hotel or motels in your area? Are we able to stay overnight in the area?
A: Yes, of course! Check out our extensive list.

Q: Can I have an water front room?
A: Only if a small lake counts. We are not near the ocean. The largest body of water in Lancaster is the Susquehanna River.

Q: Can I meet or will I see Lebanon Levi?
A: No. All the Amish reality shows on TV are actually fake. Sorry.

Q: Can you give me an address to find a covered bridge?
A: No. You’ll just have to follow directions or look at a map.

Q: Is there really a town called Intercourse?
A: Yes. Click here to learn its history.

Q: Can an Amish horse and buggy to pick me up at the train station and take me on a tour of Lancaster County?
A: No, but you can take a horse and buggy ride or a guided tour, visit a replica of an Amish Village, and walk through a replica of an Amish home. Click here to see more.

To learn more about the Amish, click here.

Annual Fall ArtWalk in Downtown Lancaster

Art Walks have a long history in the City of Lancaster. Back in 1965, the first art walk was organized by the Community Gallery, now the Lancaster Museum of Art. The event was called Art Sunday and occurred on the first Sunday in October. It was a special day for promoting local artists and galleries, and included both city and county venues. Arts venues were fewer and farther between at that time. Downtown was a quieter place and there were no First Fridays. Thanks to the Community Gallery/Lancaster Museum of Art, Art Sunday continued every year and became well-established in the yearly calendar of events. Over time, Art Sunday grew and became more diversified in the types of venues participating.

Leap forward to 2014, and ArtWalk buzzes with energy two times every year. One ArtWalk in the spring, and one in the fall. This year’s Fall ArtWalk features 35 stops within 4 square blocks. You could say Lancaster’s art community is highly concentrated in the center of town.

The best part about ArtWalk is it’s yours to shape as you wish. Some people go for the exhibitions, some go for the activities, and everyone plots their lunch/coffee/ice cream breaks in between.

There are 35 stops, which can feel daunting, but you truly can do all of the stops. But don’t get hung up on the achievement, the day will unfold with unexpected surprises along the way. Linger in the galleries as long as it feels right. ArtWalk is meant to be a contemplative tour. No hurrying necessary.

Seek out the stops that offer a lot of activities such as the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen who on this instance have a blacksmithing demonstration in their back lot on Saturday. Inside they’ll have a group exhibition titled Unmasked, and they’ll also have fraktur, and needle felting demonstrations.

From there you can head to Building Character for more demonstrations in their courtyard, scoot down the Market Street alley to Hidden Treasures to shop an outdoor arts market, and walk across Prince Street to Isadore Gallery to see pottery by Angela Suehr and paintings by Steve Wetzel, one of the highlight exhibitions of the weekend.

Now you’re on Gallery Row, so continue south on Prince Street to see the Gallery at PA College of Art & Design, City Folk, Freiman Stoltzfus Gallery, Liz Hess, Red Raven Art Company, and Christiane David Gallery. You get the idea. This town is a buzz with things to do during ArtWalk.

For a full listing of activities, events, and exhibitions, visit LancasterArtWalk.org or follow the hashtags #lancartwalk and #lancphotowalk on Twitter and Instagram.

An overnight stay with former Amish

I hopped in the car and drove east. The drive was familiar although the destination uncertain. This city gal left Downtown Lancaster and breathed a sigh of relief. I needed an escape from the emails and the meetings, from the loud music and bright lights. For one night I was offered an escape to the countryside to stay overnight with a former Amish family.

Much of my time outside of the city has been spent down in Pequea where I discovered trails, dipped in swimming holes, and climbed around the endless curves that make up its wooded roads. This time I was traveling to the flat, open farmland. The cornstalks stood at attention, swaying slightly in the evening breeze. Cows and horses dotted the grassy hills, as I called out in excitement, the same excitement that had existed in my childhood. As the sunlight dwindled, I followed my GPS not once, but twice past my supposed destination. I pulled over and checked the address, finding my location the good ol’ fashioned way by looking at mailboxes and fence posts for house numbers.

As I neared my destination, Stoltzfus Bed & Breakfast, I saw a large, white farmhouse with green trim that sat atop a hill and was nestled between farms. I pulled into the driveway and up past the house to park. I was greeted by one of the owners, Ginger Stoltzfus, a lovely, charming and bubbly personality, her smile kind and sparkly. She told me a bit of the mansion’s history. It was built in 1845 and served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. My challenge was to find where freed slaves had hidden; this task, however, was completely forgotten as I took in my surroundings and the warm demeanor of my hosts. Sam Stoltzfus had joined us in the tour and we made it as far as the dining room table before I realized my complete neglect of this part of Lancaster County.

The three of us sat at the table, a map spread out in front of us, and a plan being formed for that evening and the next day. The day ahead, they assured me, could take me anywhere I’d like to go. Each time I was asked if I had been to one location or another, my response was “not yet,” to which Sam exclaimed, “We need to get you out of the city!” A few minutes into our planning, I knew this to be true.

Sam and Ginger are determined to direct their guests to the best the area has to offer, providing them with the ultimate Lancaster County experience. Sam and Ginger both grew up Amish, Sam locally and Ginger in York County. I trusted their judgment in all things Amish, although I knew I was not the typical guest they usually entertain. They told me I could pet calves and eat ice cream, buy dry goods for my upcoming camping trip, or have dinner with an Amish family. I had no idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go… all I knew was that I needed food. My stomach was growling. Prepared with a list of restaurants, a description for each, and directions, we let my tummy do the talking. It took me to a local diner, one of Sam and Ginger’s favorite places.

Enter the scenic drive through the countryside, the juxtaposition between modern day lifestyle and a simpler way of life. I passed an Amish family plowing their garden, a young boy perched atop a horse with a second child guiding, the rest of the siblings ready and prepared to sow the earth. Around the next bend, I passed a group of “English” teenagers smoking and gathered around a motorcycle, slightly disheveled and appearing bored. A bit further down, a young, pig-tailed Amish girl ran towards the road, waving enthusiastically. Something simple and beautiful, I thought, as I waved back.

My dinner was no less extraordinary. However, I felt much like Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: totally out of my element, stepping into some alternate reality. Clad in fake Wayfairers and noisy bangles, I took my seat and ordered an iced tea. My meal consisted of a cheeseburger with coleslaw. A regular, Roger, caught me laughing at a text message and struck up conversation. He sat one booth away, but we faced one another as we dined and laughed. He had chicken with a side salad. Soon I said my goodbyes and was on the road again, headed back to test out the air conditioning I had been eyeing up during the tour.

As darkness set in, I used the flashlight cleverly attached to my room key to guide my way towards the house and found my way to my room. I flipped on the switch, tossed off my shoes, and tested out the bed. Covered in a beautiful quilt, I slipped down into the sheets: pure heaven. The sheets were incredibly soft, the pillows just right. I had a TV, but no bother, I was inspired to keep it simple that evening. I read through Sam and Ginger’s Welcome/Guest Book. I peeked through the organized book of things to do in the area, imagining for a moment I was on really vacation. This would be a nice place, I thought, as I dozed off to the hum of the cool, condensed air.

The morning was no less homey. Breakfast was served promptly at 8:30 AM, and I was dying for a cup off coffee from the fancy machine Ginger had pointed out the day before. I hopped in the shower, pleasantly surprised to find a massaging showerhead, perfect for that kink in my neck I had developed over the last days of sitting in front of my computer. As I toweled off, I noticed the little touches around my room. Local goat’s milk lotion, beautiful furniture, and hand-painted signs. I made my way downstairs to the breakfast room table, surprised to see two more guests. I knew they were there, but I hadn’t heard a peep. Skip and Terry were from Maryland and here to spend some time in an area where people lived a simpler lifestyle. I guess we all needed to get away.

Breakfast was amazing and the coffee hit the spot. Ginger had left cheese off my side of my frittata, thoughtful of my random dietary issues we had discussed the night before. Amish nut butter, a delicious traditional cheese spread, sausage, and venison scrapple. The majority of the ingredients came from friends or neighbors aside from the potatoes, but I didn’t care. It was incredible. The Stoltzfus’, Ginger’s mother, Skip, Terry, and I sat around the table talking about our plans for the day, telling a little bit about ourselves, and sharing a meal together much like friends and family. After the plates were cleared, Skip and Terry said good-bye, and I headed upstairs to pack my bag.

The care with which Ginger and Sam had taken to expose the beauty of their historic home, uncovering wooden beams and pitted bricks, was the same care they gave to me to reveal the potential of my stay. As they led me from room to room, the mansion to the carriage house, I could see the love and care they bestowed upon their property. It was no accident they bestowed the same love and care onto me. I had assumed I’d just be spending the night in a different bed, with some air-conditioning, and a warm, morning shower. Instead I felt at home, with friends and family to share a meal with, a little ginger cat to rest in my lap, and laundry list of things I wanted to do in the area the moment I had time to spare.

Jocelyn Park moved to Lancaster in 2012 from Media, PA. Having traveled to various cities around the world, this one felt more like home than ever. When not planning creative events and blogging for Transplant, Jocelyn is a freelance graphic designer throwing good vibes and design out into the world around her.  www.jocelynpark.com | lancastertransplant.com

The Amazing Annual Whoopie Pie Festival

Are you a fan of the whoopie pie? If you aren’t then you most certainly will be after you attend the annual Whoopie Pie Festival at Hershey Farm Restaurant & Inn. If you’re like me and are a die-hard fan of this tasty creation, you definitely want to make plans to attend this festival.

My family and I planned to visit the 2014 Whoopie Pie Festival on Saturday, September 6, but I have to confess I was dreading the parking situation. I was so relieved to read on the festival’s website that they would be providing shuttles from several locations. We decided to catch the shuttle from the American Music Theater. The shuttle bus was air conditioned and very fancy. My kids are used to school buses, so this was a big treat for them and got our day off to a good start. The driver told me shuttles run every 20 minutes to each location to make it easy to get back to your car when you’ve finished your day.

When we arrive at the festival, my children and I couldn’t believe the sheer number of whoopie pies that were gathered in one place; everywhere you looked there were whoopies. Not knowing what else to do, we started off in the Whoopie Pie tent where over a 100 varieties of whoopies were available for purchase.

At first we played it safe by picking up the original chocolate whoopie pie with vanilla filling, then we branched out to coconut and strawberry fillings. Finally, we got brave with a vanilla cookie with sprinkles featuring cream cheese filling. My son, the most adventurous of us, got a root beer filled chocolate whoopie pie.

We wished we would have brought a cooler so we could have taken home the banana orange, marble salted caramel, chocolate chunk mint chip, and chocolate dipped whoopies… but without a cooler they’d wouldn’t have made it home without melting.

I didn’t venture into the “adults only” section of the tent, but I heard that some new special whoopie pies featured flavors like Bailey’s Irish Creme and Creme de Menthe. Bring ID if you want these extra special ones because they will card you!

We checked out the craft vendors selling everything from cards to stuffed animals. There was lots to choose from and all were friendly folks eager to help you make a selection. I would have liked tohave shopped longer, but my kids were pulling me to the Whoopie Pie Treasure Hunt.

The Treasure Hunt is a free activity where kids can hunt for up to ten mini-whoopies to take home with them, but it is the famous golden whoopie that gets them the prize. My daughter found one of the golden whoopies and she was thrilled with her prize – silly band bracelets in Amish themed shapes. There were two of each shape in the package, enough for her to share with her not-as-lucky brother which made life easier for me.

Next up we took pictures with the World’s Largest Whoopie Pie. Weighing in at 720 pounds, you’d need a lot of milk to get this one down. The cream filling would keep my sweet tooth satisfied for at least a year (OK, maybe just a month).

Next door was the Make Your Own Whoopie Pie booth. For $2 the kids were given a box with the chocolate cookies and decorating candy in it and filling was available on the decorating tables. I have to give the festival organizers bonus points here; the person working the booth asked right away if either child had a peanut allergy. My son is one of the lucky no-peanut kids, so he received an extra special box that was peanut-free. So often he is left out of food-related activities because people don’t think about food allergies, but here he was able to do the very same thing his sister did plus he got licorice which made him really happy. It is these types of things that keep me coming back to a food event year after year, the little touches that help my family have a good time even though we have some dietary limitations.

We didn’t get to see the Whoopie Yell Off, the Whoopie Pie Launch, the Whoopie Pie Eating Contest, or the live entertainment, but the kids did enjoy the bounce slide and seeing the farm animals.

When it was time to go home, we caught the shuttle bus back to our car. I was thankful the wait for our bus was less than five minutes. On a hot day even that length of time can seem forever. Despite the heat, my family enjoyed the Whoopie Pie Festival and we would visit again.

If your family would like to attend the 2015 Whoopie Pie Festival at Hershey Farm Restaurant, here are a few tips for you:

  • Use the shuttle bus service. It is so nice to have air conditioning and a chance to rest your feet and parking at the event site is limited.
  • If it is hot, bring a cooler with ice packs for your whoopie pies so you can stock up on your favorites.
  • Arrive early for the best selection. If you want some of the limited flavors like chocolate chunk cookies and cream or vanilla rootbeer, be sure to beat the crowds.
  • Bring small bills for the bounce house, decorate your own whoopie and checkers. They do not accept cards and the prices are minimal.
  • If it is a sunny day, be sure to wear sunscreen.

I’ve been to many food festivals, but this one by far is the best I’ve attended. If you want to do something unusual and tasty with your family on a nice fall day, definitely consider the Whoopie Pie Festival at Hershey Farm Restaurant. It’s a whole lot of fun.

 

Made by hand (and passion)

Eldreth Pottery was started over 30 years ago in a dank cellar by Dave Eldreth, who at the time, was a full-time teacher trying to supplement income to support newly born twin daughters.

Without much money, he was motivated to make things work. His first potter’s wheel was an improvised conversion of a washing machine. His first pottery kiln was borrowed. He dug his own clay from a local Southern Lancaster County quarry. With many years and many fortunate twists along the way, Eldreth’s determination, ambition, and creativity drove his company’s growth.

When it was time to expand into a larger space, he went to see the local banker, who as luck would have it, just started collecting Eldreth’s pottery. The banker believed in the vision, and put money behind the ideas.

Eldreth recounted a few other serendipitous stories including the time he hired a mason to build a salt-kiln. The mason abruptly quit because he didn’t want to do that kind of work. Devastated, Eldreth thought his plans to set up a pottery factory were doomed from the start. Fortunately, his neighbor turned out to be a distinguished engineer who built the kiln, and then wouldn’t accept payment for his work other than “the first four pots that come out of the kiln.”

Now with about 35 talented artists and three locations, Eldreth Pottery is a renowned name in the pottery business showcasing creativity in salt glaze, redware, and stoneware. They’re known for many different items and varying styles sure to fit everybody’s tastes. Their most popular pottery are painted birdhouses, and their annual limited edition carved Santas.

Every piece is made by hand in Lancaster County. All of the pottery is one-of-a-kind as every single item gets hand-painted.

The showroom and factory in Oxford at 902 Hart Road is stocked to the brims with high quality ceramics. You can also get a tour of that factory generally anytime between 10:00-3:00 PM from Monday to Friday. Watch the pots being made or glazed by the studio artists. Explore the studio space, which includes old clay molds, kiln room, potter’s wheels, etc.

If you’re visiting the Oxford location in early May, don’t miss their annual Open House, which includes demonstrations, kids’ pottery wheel activities, pig roast, and more.

Eldreth Pottery also has a showroom in Strasburg at 246 N Decatur Street. If you’re looking for a good time of year to visit there, go on the second weekend of November to catch their annual Holiday Open House to see all of the new limited edition Santa creations.

Either way, seek them out. Reconnect with craft that’s locally made by hand. Eldreth’s passion is contagious, and I think you’ll find his pots as inspiring as his story.

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Thomas the Tank Engine Welcomes Percy!

Strasburg Rail Road is best known for its historic steam trains that leave soft puffs of smoke along the iconic Lancaster County countryside between the small towns of Strasburg and Paradise.

For parents and grandparents of Thomas fans, Strasburg Rail Road conjures up a different image – one bustling with excitement as the heritage railroad station transforms to welcome Thomas the Tank engine, star of the popular series Thomas & Friends. These visits happen three times a year – filling out a season of special events including Santa’s Paradise Express, Wine & Cheese Trains and on-board dining opportunities.

This September the excitement level is going way up as Thomas’ pal, Percy, tags along to join in on all the fun!

Percy makes his debut at Day Out with Thomas at Strasburg Rail Road September 13–21, before chugging along on his national tour. Little engineers and their families will meet Thomas, Percy and Sir Topham Hatt®, Controller of the Railway and take a 20-minute ride aboard one of Strasburg Rail Road’s larger-than-life trains pulled by Thomas himself.

Many Thomas & Friends-themed activities are included in the ticket price making this a full-day adventure. Children of all ages can enjoy arts and crafts, blocks and toy trains in the Imagination Station, storytelling and extra rides Percy and Strasburg Rail Road’s Pint-Sized Pufferbelly Train, Cranky Cars and Motorcar Train.

Tickets for Day Out with Thomas are on sale now and available by calling Ticketweb at 866-468-7630, or by visiting www.ticketweb.com/dowt or directly from Strasburg Rail Road at www.strasburgrailroad.com/train-schedule/events/day-out-with-thomas. Ticket prices are $21.00plus tax for ages 2 and up (service charges may apply).

For more information and directions, contact www.strasburgrailroad.com or 866-725-9666 and share your experience at facebook.com/StrasburgRailRoad and twitter.com/StrasburgRR

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Victoria Hill is the Social Media & Public Relations Specialist at Scheffey Integrated Marketing.

Roadside Stands & Local Farmers

Growing up in the farm country of Lancaster County. Moving to suburban Philadelphia and New York City for 20 years. Working on Wall Street. Traveling the world as a consultant.

Moving back to Lancaster County gives one an interesting perspective. Of course, even though we lived and worked in New York City and Philadelphia, we’d make frequent trips back to Lititz where my wife and I grew up to visit family. It always felt like a step back in time – more simple, relaxed, friendlier.

I’ve crested 55 and lived here again for just over 10 years. Our youngest daughter goes off to college in a few weeks. Those 20 years out of the area were our family and career building years, not only full of excitement and adventure but sky-rocketing stress, high anxiety and a struggle to master the world. It wasn’t until I got laid off from a very good job, that we decided we wanted a simpler life and moved back to Lancaster County.

One of the things I love about Lancaster County are the roadside farm markets. They’re all over the place. I intentionally drive past my favorite stand on the way from home from my current job at Garden Spot Village. Sometime I’ll stop and simply get a homemade whoopie pie for less than a dollar. That’s right – less than a dollar! Often I’ll pick up fresh fruits or vegetables that came out of the fields surrounding the stand. It’s amazing.

Dinner last night was salad topped with shrimp so I stopped for fresh greens, peppers, carrots and broccoli to add to the shrimp in the fridge. It’s great to know that what you’re eating is organically grown, fresh and wholesome. And this particular weekend, Friday and Saturday, held a special surprise! Fresh Peach Sundaes for .99 cents. Oh yeah! Three scoops of Turkey Hill Ice Cream, topped with fresh peaches that were just washed, peeled, sliced and finished off with a swirl of whipped cream. It was heavenly. Is that crazy or what? Where else do you find fresh hand-dipped sundaes for .99 cents? Certainly not suburban Philadelphia or New York City, I can tell you that!

Having grown up in Lititz, roadside farm stands were just a common thing, something I drove past and ignored. It’s only been in the last several years that I’ve discovered how amazingly incredibly they are. Not only are the baked goods, cheeses and produce wonderfully farm fresh, the families that run them are extremely friendly and helpful. And sometimes they do crazy things like fresh peach sundaes for 99 cents.

If you live in Lancaster County or you visit regularly, do yourself a favor and add visits to local farm stands into your routine. If you’re visiting be sure to stop and check some out. You’ll be glad you did. If you’re feeling like life is too complex, full of unreasonable responsibilities and way too stressful, you might want to do what we did: take a step back in time and make Lancaster County home. For us life got a lot simpler and happier and Lancaster holds that same potential for you. And then, well, maybe a roadside farm stand might be right next door! Imagine the possibilities and adventure of a simpler life!

To read more about Garden Spot Village, go to www.gardenspotvillage.org/blog.

 

Zip line your way to adventure and fun

Refreshing Mountain is a family-friendly, all-inclusive retreat facility with a large outdoor pool, sports fields, sand volleyball courts, indoor gyms, hiking trails, high ropes courses, zip line courses, a giant swing, archery, paintball, and more. While everything about this place is amazing, my goal was focused: to conquer the high ropes and zip line courses.

The Zip Line Canopy Tour at Refreshing Mountain has two courses from which to choose – the Challenge Adventure Course and the Aerial Excursion Course. The Challenge Adventure Course consists of five zip lines and the Aerial Excursion Course has seven zip lines, three sky bridges, and a surprise ending (you’ll have to experience it for yourself to find out). I went for the Aerial Excursion Course; I had to go big.

First things first, I signed the waiver and was fitted for a helmet and harness. Our tour guides seemed calm, cool, and collected… of which I was none. Though I love adventures, I always get nervous before hand… especially when heights are involved.

We ascended to the platform. The guides climbed like monkeys – like they were made to do this. Clearly this was second nature to them. Thankfully my harness and rope made me feel secure enough for my defenses to diminish. At all times the rope, securely connected to my harness, was attached to a pulley that road along the cable. I could pull the pulley along with me as I moved – like a dog on a leash. The pulley is key – because of that little piece of metal, we are able zip from platform to platform through the canopy of trees and not fall.

The first zip line was the scariest. Not knowing that to expect, I closed my eyes and with some hesitation, jumped. I went whizzing through the air like a flying squirrel. As I picked up speed, it wasn’t long before I saw the next platform quickly approaching. I extended my legs; my feet slammed into the wood platform. I made it. Safe and sound. One down zip line down; six more to go.

Later that day I tried my hand at the high ropes course. It was awesome! While at times I felt like I couldn’t conquer the challenge and sweat cascaded down the sides of my face, I stuck with it, and made it to the end. Nothing feels more gratifying.

My experience was incredibly exhilarating. I recommend that everyone try high ropes and zip line courses at Refreshing Mountain. If you’re afraid of heights like I am, remember, you are always strapped in and safe – so there’s no excuses.

To learn more about Refreshing Mountain or to book your aerial experience, to go refreshingmountain.com/ziplines.cfm.

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