Author Archives: Sarah

Sarah

About Sarah

Sarah grew up in Philly and moved to Lancaster permanently after meeting her husband. Sarah loves being outside, and finds joy in little wonders, taking her kids for a stroll downtown, and is always up for trying something new. She is often teased for being the youngest member on staff, as the Director of Marketing at Discover Lancaster. If you're familiar with Lancaster County at all, and have been to Central Market, you may run into her father-in-law, as he's the owner of Long's Horseradish!

Picking Peaches at Cherry Hill Orchard

If you’ve ever created a summer bucket list, whether it’s with kids or not, you may have added finding a local farm where you can pick your own fresh fruit (whether that’s strawberries, apples, or cherries). I know this is an activity that I always wanted to try with our kids.

Well June came and went, and we missed peak cherry picking season in Lancaster County. July also came and went, and we missed prime plum picking season. August started to arrive, and I was determined to pick some fresh fruit before the end of the summer. We were driving past Cherry Hill Orchards, and saw a sign that said “Pick Peaches Today!” What better sign than that for us to check something off our bucket list.

It was really quite an adventure. It was a gorgeous day, we pulled on the orchard road, stopped to let them know that we wanted to pick peaches (it’s also the season for blackberry and early apples), and were directed to the trees that would be ripest for picking, we parked, and we picked! After we were done gathering our peaches (we picked about 20), we went back to the entrance, they weighed our peaches, and we were done!

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Here are some tips for picking pretty much any fruit:

1.  Bring your own basket, box, or bag. The thought didn’t occur to me about where we would put the fruit we picked, until we pulled up and they asked us what we would carry them in. Fortunately, they have boxes on hand for people like us who forget.

2. Ask about which peaches (or any fruit) are best to pick. The kind man who gave us our box (since we forgot one) also let us know to look for peaches that were very red/orange, not a lot of yellow or any green. He also told us NOT to put them in the fridge, and that they’d be ripe in a day or so. We ended up picking some peaches that were more yellow, since we were picking so many, we didn’t want them all to be ripe the next day!

3. If you’re picking berries of any kind, it is wise to bring wipes with you – you can typically eat while you’re picking (and won’t pay for the extras that you eat), but your hands will likely be smeared with berry juice.

For a full list of fruits that are in season, see Cherry Hill Orchard’s website here.

Skip the Traffic, Take the Train!

While Lancaster County is a year-round vacation destination, the summer is definitely considered peak season for out of town travelers. That means lots and lots of cars on the road. So whether you are traveling to Lancaster from New York City, Harrisburg or Philadelphia, maybe next time you visit you want to skip the traffic and take the train!

Kid-Friendly
Did you know that if you’re traveling with kids, up to two children, ages 2-12, can receive a 50% discount on the lowest available fare? Kids under the age of two ride FREE! And it’s much easier to travel with kids when they can move around a bit, without the constraints of their car seat. They will enjoy snacking, coloring, and just watching the world whiz by (and maybe even laying across two seats and napping if the train isn’t too busy). Oh, and did I mention there’s not pulling off the highway to find a bathroom? Just walk to the end of your car, and do whatcha gotta do!

Earth-Friendly
Lancaster County is known for our green spaces, with loads of rolling farmland. We depend on the earth for our number one economic driver, agriculture. So, we like to take good care of the earth. Another great perk of riding the train is that you’ll be traveling green! Amtrak trains are 11% more energy efficient that planes and 31% more efficient than cars.

Traveler-Friendly
Whether you’re visting for just the weekend or taking a 2-week vacation, there is plenty of space to store your baggage on Amtrak trains. So pack the extra sunscreen and a few extra pairs of “just-in-case” shoes, because when you travel on Amtrak you get two carry-on bags plus two personal items for FREE. Then, when you arrive at the station, you’ll be able to easily rent a car or taxi to get to your destination.

Now if only we could get a horse-and-buggy rental at the Lancaster station… maybe on your next trip…

Willow Valley Celebrate 50th Anniversary

Many guests that come to Lancaster County have fond memories of visiting Willow Valley as part of their trip. Opening in 1966, Willow Valley Inn included thirty guest rooms and a family restaurant with 100 seats. Today, Willow Valley is blessed in having expanded to farmers markets, a bakery, additional hotels, a golf course, a supermarket, senior living communities, and real estate development company. It started as a small, hospitable part of the community, and has grown into a tradition of excellence.

On Saturday, June 26, I took my family to celebrate the past fifty years, and say cheers to the next fifty. We arrived and the kids could tell immediately that it would be a fun event, because from the road before we even pulled into the parking lot, we could see the bouncy houses set up. True to the sense of community that Willow Valley instills, the local volunteer fire department was parking cars, so we were able to donate to them.

Of course the first thing we did was line up for the bouncy houses – there was a castle that both my 3 and 4 year old enjoyed. The second one only my 4 year old did. It was a race to climb to the top of the tall slide – he handled the climb like a champ. Let’s just say we waited in that line quite a few times.

Next we stopped by the ticket booth to get some tickets for face painting, balloon animals, pony rides, and other activities. And, can you guess what we did next? Yup… jumped in the bouncy castle again. We grabbed food at two of the food trucks (I chose the Urban Olive – featuring Mediterranean cuisine, and the kids and my husband chose the Dough Heads Waffles, which I must admit I snagged a few bites of – so delicious!).

As the evening wore on, I knew there would be campfires and fireworks, but we really wanted to visit one of our close family friends who is a resident at Willow Valley’s Retirement Community. I also knew that all that jumping and excitement would probably mean that our kids wouldn’t make it until then before falling asleep.

We made the short drive from the event to Pat’s apartment. She is like a grandmother to our kids, so of course everyone was excited all over again. My husband and I joked that Pat’s apartment is better than our house – she has a beautifully landscaped rear patio courtyard, where she was sitting and reading when we arrived. It is so quiet and peaceful (when there aren’t 3 and 4-year-olds running around) back there.

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Pat mentioned that the next time we come, we need to give her advance notice so that she can rent out the bowling alley, where we can spend the evening bowling and eating the delicious burgers at the clubhouse. We talked about the kids and what we’d been doing, that we’re starting to teach our kids how to swim – and she mentioned that there is a pool in the basement of her building, and we could come anytime to swim with her. We joked again with her that she’s not really retired, she’s just living at an all-inclusive resort.

The kids (and Pat) started winding down, so we headed home. It was definitely a fun day that the kids are still talking about – they are hoping to “go again next year” (I’ll have to recommend that they make this an annual event rather than every 50 years!). If they do, we may just have to keep the kids up late and enjoy the fireworks. Happy 50th, Willow Valley!

Three ways to enjoy the Holidays in Lancaster

1. Stay overnight in one of our fabulous Bed & Breakfasts – with the cold weather coming (I know, this week doesn’t feel like December, but the cold weather will come eventually!), the best getaway is one that includes some generous hosts, a delicious homemade breakfast, and a warm fireplace to snuggle up close to with a good book. And I guarantee they’ll be the best decorated houses in town.

  2. Hunt for the best Christmas decorations in one of our small towns. You  never know what you’re going to find down a little side street – and there are always little cafes to pick up a hot cocoa with marshmallows on top. 

3. Because who doesn’t love the foodie scene that’s popping up in Downtown Lancaster & Downtown Lititz? You’re guaranteed to find something new to try at one of our independently owned restaurants or pubs. Who knows, maybe an ingredient in your meal will inspire your holiday cooking this year!

Unexpected Surprise: Lancaster Symphony Orchestra

Lancaster County is known worldwide for the Amish culture. I’ll be honest, when I was moving here for college from Center City Philadelphia, that’s about all that I knew about Lancaster – the Amish, Dutch Wonderland, and Shady Maple. While all of those are true, and are all great to experience, I’ve come to love all of the unexpected surprises that Lancaster has to offer.

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that this past Saturday evening was the first time that I experienced this particular surprise, but there, I’ve said it. I was invited to see Hollywood Heroes and Villains performed by the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra at the Winter Center for Performing Arts at Millersville University. Let me tell you – the performance was amazing, and our orchestra rivals the only other one I’ve seen live, the Philadelphia Orchestra. The symphony typically offers its classical music events, but this was the start of a new popular music series, POPS.

In this particular show, they performed both the dark side and the bright side of new and old favorite “hero vs. villain” stories like Batman, The Hobbit, Wizard of Oz, Frozen, and Star Wars. The conductor, Stephen Gunzenhauser, set a fun tone for the evening by walking out wearing a batman mask to conduct the first series of songs. Their tech team put together a video that was projected above the orchestra that allowed us to have an experience like you would have had back in the day when a pianist would accompany your movie in the theatre. The best part about this is that you’re overwhelmed by the passion of the orchestra. The sounds that you hear live all around you paired with the visuals seem to swallow you up.

I would highly recommend going to see the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra perform, whether you’re into classical music or not. If you are, you can pretty much see anything this season; if you aren’t, you might want to wet your feet with their POPS series. Some of the upcoming POPS concerts are: Sound of the Season Christmas at Hogwarts (December 18 & 20, 2015) and Broadway Our Way (May 14, 2016).

Up, up, and away!

Last night I set my alarm for 5:00 AM. I know, crazy right? But it was for a VERY good reason. Why would I wake up while it’s still dark? To get ready for a 6:00 AM start with the US Hot Air Balloon Team, of course!

If you have never been on a hot air balloon ride, I’ll let you know that you don’t have to get up before dawn to catch a ride – they also have evening flights. When we arrived at the field that they take off from (almost directly across from the Bird-in-Hand Farmer’s Market), the balloon was already beginning to inflate.

If you’ve never seen a balloon inflate, they use one or two large and powerful fans to push air into the balloon. You can even walk around inside the balloon as it is being inflated. Once the balloon has enough air in it to hold its shape, the pilot adds hot air to make it rise in the form of flames.

There were ten of us riding, including our flight pilot, Lucas, who was on his 2,084th (or somewhere around there) flight. He is definitely experienced enough for me to trust him flying me up about 1 mile over the beautiful farmland of Lancaster County.

We went up pretty quickly, I was surprised. It’s funny – I’m not someone who would say I’m afraid of heights, but I’m also not super fond of them – but riding up in a hot air balloon, you almost don’t feel like you’re moving, because you’re going gently with the wind. It does get a little chilly up there in the morning, so you definitely want to bring a sweatshirt or light jacket. Lucas told us that later in the summer you probably don’t need that because it gets hot and humid so quickly in the mornings.

Something that I’ll always be amazed at, that was just accentuated by being up so high above it, is Amish farmland that looks like a patchwork quilt despite not using modern technology to plow the fields. The rows are so straight, and because the properties are all right next to one another, you get lines that are going different directions, and some fields that are still brown, and some that are green. It’s truly amazing.

At one point, Lucas flew low enough over some trees that my friend Kristen & I could grab some leaves off the tops – it was awesome. We waved to lots of people below on the ground, as we descended. We landed on an open field in farmland, and a few of the local Amish kids came running over to see the balloon that had landed in their back yard. The ground crew started pulling the ropes to get the balloon down, while Lucas pushed the air out from the bottom.

Once the balloon was packed back into the trailer (who knew such a HUGE thing could fit into a trailer tied to the back of our van?), we drove back to the launch site, and had breakfast with a mimosas toast. It’s definitely an experience that I would recommend, and make sure that when you take a flight, especially if it’s with Lucas, that you let them know you read about it here!

To learn more, visit their website: www.ushotairballoon.com

A visit to the Strasburg Rail Road

My son is just getting to the age where he’s starting to enjoy cars, trucks, and trains. He points them all out whenever we’re driving somewhere – “truck! bus! digger!” This past weekend, I took him to the Strasburg Rail Road to ride on a REAL train. We took him for Christmas this past year, but I think he was too young to fully appreciate the experience.

We arrived a bit before our train was scheduled to leave, so we rode on the Pint-sized Pufferbelly, which is a their miniature steam train ride. It used to be called the Cagney, but they’ve really expanded the route for it – it took a little over 20 minutes, and we got to see the engine use a turntable to turn around at one end, we went through a “tunnel,” and pretty much across the whole property. Definitely a great addition to our day.

Then we got on the big steam train, and every time the whistle blew, my son would get very excited and say “choo choo!” He loved seeing the horses and cows on farms that we passed, and interacting a little with the other children on the train.

I would definitely recommend a ride on the Strasburg Rail Road – they have a ton of options for types of ride this year – the Great Train Robbery, the Easter Bunny Train, Steampunk unLimited, and of course, Thomas the Tank Engine. See their website for more details on all of these great events.

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.

Wine and cheese, please

Whether it is their artisan wines, the spell of the old Farmhouse or the little piece of heaven by their natural spring pond, you will be captivated by your visit to The Vineyard at Hershey. From whimsical and refreshing whites to bold and flavorful reds, The Vineyard at Hershey handcrafts every bottle of wine for the enjoyment of new and and the most experienced of palates.

In the Tasting Room in the Farmhouse you will be invited to taste five of our wines for $3.00. No reservation is necessary. They also offer VIP Tour & Tasting packages and One-on-One time with their Winemaker (call for reservations). And, if you are not in a rush, you should plan to have a glass of wine and wander around the Vineyard or sit out on their deck and enjoy the beautiful view.

Along with handcrafted wines, they also offer a selection of locally made cheeses from September Farms. Each batch of September Farms cheese is made on their Honey Brook farm following time proven traditions for the hand crafting, hand waxing and aging of artisan-style cheese.

The Tasting Room is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11AM to 6PM. I hope you visit soon!

Heart-shaped goodies for your sweetie

Valentine’s day is FILLED with hearts. Heart shaped cards, lollipops, chocolates and whoopie pies! Why hearts? Cupid is to blame! As the Roman god of love, he scampered across mythological times, shooting unsuspecting mortals through the hearts with love-laced arrows. Once hit with an arrow, love was inevitable.

So head on over to the Bird-in-Hand Bakery & Creamery, and get your heart-shaped whoopie pies and old-fashioned sugar cookies for your loved ones to show them that you “love them with all your heart.”

While you’re at the bakery, you can also check out their famous wet-bottom shoofly pies, oversized apple dumplings, fresh pumpkin pie, moist red velvet cake, donuts, ice cream and more!

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