Category Archives: Outdoors

Snow Geese at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area

If you have not been to Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, it is certainly worth the trip any time of year, but especially now! Sometime in late February to early March the lake is can be found filled with beautiful snow geese and tundra swans.

The birds use the WMA as a resting place on their returning migration back north, some traveling as far as Canada for nesting. This year has been a particularly good year for bird watching due to the mild winter- the grounds are mostly unfrozen for feeding, and so is the 400-acre lake. It was estimated on Sunday, February 19, that there were approximately 50,000 to 70,000 birds at Middle Creek.

It is best to go see the birds in the evening around sunset when they are making their way from the fields to the lake for the night (or vice versa at sunrise, if you are an early riser… they do say the early bird catches the worm). If you are lucky you will catch the birds lifting off the lake in a similar fashion to a murmuration of starlings. It is mesmerizing to watch them skillfully swirl around the air and then land gracefully back on the water.

If you are interested it visiting be sure to check the park website or call for information on their hours and which areas of the park are open to the public. Also, be sure to ask the bird count, since they are wild animals they do not make reservations to stay for a certain length of time. They may be there one day and gone the next! If you do have the opportunity to go it truly is a memorable experience which makes you stop think about how as humans we live in the environments and ecosystems of all nature’s creatures.

Insider’s tips:
– Wear comfortable walking shoes, there is a bit of a hike out to the point.
– Bring binoculars if you have them, since they are wild birds you can only get so close.
– Dress warmly, it can get quite windy near the lake.
– Don’t set your expectations too high, they are wild animals so if they don’t feel like flying they won’t.
– Be respectful of the park and natural environments, walk and explore in only designated areas.

Website: http://www.pgc.pa.gov/InformationResources/AboutUs/ContactInformation/Southeast/MiddleCreekWildlifeManagementArea/Pages/default.aspx

Phone number: 717-733-1512

 

Things to Do in January

The holidays are over, and the winter chill has set in. But have no fear – there are still plenty of things to do and explore in Lancaster and the surrounding areas.

Here’s a round-up of ten great activities, places, and events for you to enjoy.

On Stage:

Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre opens their year with a unique comedy-whodunit, Shear Madness. This hilarious show takes place in the Shear Madness hairstyling salon, and is packed full of audience participation. Members of the audience get to spot clues, question the suspects, and solve the crime, creating a new show each night. This hilarious whodunit runs now through February 4.

Spa Day:

If you need some post-holiday relaxation, Serenity Day Spa and the Spa at Intercourse Village have just what you need. Pamper yourself with a manicure, pedicure, facial or massage to dismiss the holiday stress and chase away the winter blues.

The Great Outdoors:

Even with the chill in the air, there are still ways to get outside. For snowy fun, check out AvalancheXpress Snow Tubing at Heritage Hills. This family-friendly attraction, located in York, features snow tubing and ice skating. When you need a break from the hill, The Lodge offers refreshments and tasty hot chocolate.

Lancaster County Park hosts a wide array of programs that explore the outdoors, from animals to plants. Many programs, like Storytime and Crafts: Turtles, are designed for kids, while others like Wildlife in Winter and SNOW: It’s More than a Four Letter Word, are designed for all ages.

Live Music:

In the intimate and unique setting of the Café at Ten Thousand Village, live music will be held Friday, January 13 and 20. While enjoying music from the Den & Terry Duo (1/13) and Tim & Kim Craven (1/20), enjoy fresh and delicious soups, salads, quiches, paninis and desserts from the Café.

If you prefer classical music, Music in the Round: New Beginnings at the Ware Center is for you. Three terrific pieces will be performed, including Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 1,” Respighi’s “Trittico Botticelliano,” and Jim Colonna’s “Meditation and Dance for Chamber Orchestra.” Admission includes appetizers and the concert in the atrium.

Artistic Flair:

Looking for a way to get your creative juices flowing? Want to make your Pinterest projects come to life? Art and a Bottle is the perfect creative outlet to get in touch with your artistic side. They offer paint & sip classes, where instructors guide participants through a painting, and Open Studio times, where guests can choose from a wide assortment of artwork options. Experience isn’t necessary to create a masterpiece you’ll be proud of.

 Indoor Fun for All Ages:

If you feel cabin fever kicking in already, get your extra energy out at Sky Zone Lancaster. This indoor trampoline park offers open jump times along with special programs for toddlers, families, youth groups and more. Whether you’re 5 or 55, you’ll have a blast jumping off the walls (literally).

Let you child explore their inner scientist at North Museum of Nature and Science, with a plethora of interactive exhibits. From their SciDome Theater to the live animal room, children (and adults alike) will be inspired as they discover nature, science and more!

Scooting around Lancaster’s Back Roads

On a beautiful fall day, the Discover Lancaster team took to the back roads of southern Lancaster County, not by car, buggy or bus, but by scooter! We met at Strasburg Scooters for a unique adventure, and were excited to see the fall foliage, covered bridges and farmland from a new perspective.

After a safety lesson and a few practice laps around the block, our group set off for our three-hour Covered Bridge tour, ready for the sights that were waiting to be discovered. Our scooters buzzed as we made our way up and down rolling hills. The foliage glowed in the warm sun. The wind, especially as we made our way through open roads, made for a chilly ride, but the experience made braving the cold worth it.

As we buzzed towards our first stop, we were guided around the curves and wooded back roads, dotted with beautiful fall-colored trees. Our guide signaled our first stop at a covered bridge, where we got off our scooters for a history lesson and a photo opportunity. After warming our hands and observing the architecture of the bridge, we hit the road again, headed towards our next two stops, a vista then an Amish farm.

Our guide knew the backgrounds well, and our caravan was greeted by Amish children at each schoolhouse we passed. When they heard the scooters coming around the bend or over the hill, they ran to the fence, greeted our guide and scrambled to collect the candy he tossed to them.

We pulled in to the Amish farm house and had the opportunity to tour their barn, meet the horses and learn more about Amish lifestyle and tradition. It was a great chance to learn more about the Amish, before hitting the road for our last stop.

Our final stop before heading back to base was another covered bridge, slightly narrower than the first, with more history to learn about. After snapping a few group photos to commemorate our adventure, we followed our trusty guide back to the starting point.

While our ride was quite cold, we were thrilled by journey we took around the county. If you’re looking to see the farmlands and the less traveled back roads, check out Strasburg Scooters. During the summer, they host a variety of tours including the Covered Bridge Tour, Date Night Tour, Bridge and Beer Tour, Amish Country Mystery Tour and more. Their fall tours include a Spooky Scoot, while winter features Scootin’ with Santa.

Tips:
– Be sure to check the weather and dress accordingly. We anticipated cooler weather and dressed in layers plus brought hats and gloves and even hand warmers! If you warm up along the way, there is space in the seat area of the scooter to store extra layers.
– Have your camera or phone charged and ready. Historic bridges and beautiful views await, and you’ll want to be sure to capture them when you stop to enjoy.
– Ask questions! The Strasburg Scooter guides have a wealth of knowledge about the bridges, Amish farm life, and the county itself, and are happy to share information along the way.
– If you don’t feel comfortable driving a single seat scooter, opt for a Scoot Coupe which look like small convertibles. They have three wheels for extra stability, and seat two people.

Full Moon Tour at Wolf Sanctuary of PA

Are you looking for a unique way to spend an evening, completely different from your usual Saturday night? Try heading over to the Wolf Sanctuary of PA for a Full Moon Tour!

These tours happen once a month on the Saturday evening closest to the full moon and are open to anyone 16 years of age or older. Walk through the sanctuary at your own pace moving from pack to pack and learn loads of interesting facts about the wolfs in each family- you may even be lucky enough to hear a bark or howl from the wolves themselves (although you will learn, it is not actually the moon they howl at!). This event is perfect for anyone with a fascination in wildlife, nature, or conservation. All the volunteers at each station are very knowledgeable and will answer any question guests ask as best they can. They also know the story of each wolf and how it ended up at the sanctuary- the majority of them are rescues!

Be sure to stop by the bonfire in the center of the sanctuary to warm up, roast some hot dogs or marshmallows, and just relax taking in the awesome experience you are a part of. It is a great way to enjoy being outdoors in the presence of an awesome species!

Note: If you are interested in visiting but have children under 16 years of age you can still visit the Sanctuary for one of the daytime tours. Admission for the Full Moon Tours is $20 per person, and your payment goes towards the care of the wolves (food, vet bills, facility maintenance, etc.)

Local’s Tips:

– Order tickets in advance online, or arrive early- this event tends to draw a crowd
– Make sure everyone in your party is 16 years of age or older
– Bring a flashlight and wear sneakers or comfortable shoes, you do quite a bit of walking and the ground is uneven in spots.
– Bring your own hot dogs, s’mores, roasting sticks, and blankets or chairs for the bonfire
– Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions, you can learn a lot!

Fall Foliage from a New Perspective

The leaves are starting to change across the county, making fall a beautiful time for a trip to Lancaster. While the foliage can be viewed with a leisurely back-road drive, we’ve picked out four different ways to experience the autumn reds, oranges, and yellows.

View the foliage from above with a relaxing hot air balloon ride with the U.S. Hot Air Balloon Team. Take in views of the farmland and changing trees as your float across the county. The perfect time to fly is either early morning or evening.

If you want to see the view from above at a quicker pace, hop on a helicopter for a tour with Smoketown Helicopters. Choose from a variety of tours that fly over a plethora of Lancaster attractions. Get your camera ready to snap aerial views of autumn’s magic.

See the foliage while soaring through the trees with a zipline tour at Refreshing Mountain Retreat. Zip from tree to tree as you enjoy autumn views from 40 feet above the ground. The mountain background offers a beautiful snapshots of Lancaster County.

If you’d rather keep your feet on the ground, opt for a scooter tour with Strasburg Scooters. Take in the sights of fall as your tour guide shows you around the Lancaster County country back roads. One of their most popular tours is the Covered Bridge tour.

Discover Lancaster this fall with our list of attractions, events and fairs!

Take Flight Over Lancaster County

Ready for takeoff? Looking to see Lancaster from new heights? Take flight with Smoketown Helicopter Tours for an adventure with breathtaking views.

Excited for a new voyage, two co-workers and I arrived at Smoketown Helicopter Tours located next to the runway at Smoketown Airport. We met the owners who gave us the safety run-down. Then we loaded in to the helicopter and prepared for flight, popping on our headsets and getting our cameras ready to roll.

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Our pilot, Garrett, started the helicopter as we braced for takeoff. Smoothly we sailed forward then began to gain height. The helicopter cruised over the farmland, towns, and familiar attractions as we snapped pictures and oh’ed and ah’ed at how little things looked from above and how far we could see. Even with the clouds that were rolling out from a morning shower, the views were spectacular – from the quilt work farmland fields to the city streets dotted with cars.

helicopter

As our tour came to an end, we landed back at the airport. We were all pleasantly surprised by how smooth the ride was. Garrett was a fantastic pilot, navigating us across the county with ease. We felt safe, which helped us enjoy the flight and take in the scenery.

Our group took the Taste of Lancaster Tour which covers many of the familiar sites across the country, from country to city. The tour took about 20 minutes, including take-off and landing.

Smoketown Helicopter Tours offers tours of different lengths, from the 4 minutes First Flight Tour to the 50 minute See It All Tour, which actually takes riders all the way up to Hershey, PA for a view of Hersheypark.

Want to see a specific location in the county? Smoketown Helicopter Tours can provide custom tours where you can fly over places near and dear to your heart (perfect for proposals, guys!).

This fall, take flight over the foliage. As the leaves begin to change, the view from above changes too. If this is something on your bucket list or you want to see Lancaster from a new perspective, take flight with Smoketown Helicopter Tours during your autumn visit.

For more information and to schedule your tour:
http://www.smoketownhelicopters.com/

September – A Month of Fairs & Festivals

Fairs, festivals, and harvest events are plentiful as fall begins in Lancaster County. The air begins to get crisper, and the weekends are filled with autumn fun.

Whoopie!

It’s time to celebrate a favorite Lancaster County sweet treat – the whoopie pie! Hershey Farm Restaurant & Inn hosts their annual Whoopie Pie Festival on September 10, complete with a whoopie pie eating contest, a treasure hunt, and the chance to see the largest whoopie pie ever made.

With over 100 whoopie pie flavors to sample, festival-goers can snack on the classic combinations like chocolate with vanilla cream and pumpkin, or try unique match-ups like strawberry with vanilla crème and carrot cake. New for this year –

Sweet festivities take place from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and admission is free.

Fiesta!

Held in Downtown Lancaster on September 11, the 4th Annual Latin American Cultural Festival honors the cultures, customs, art, and cuisine of Latin American countries. Folk dances and live music will be performed on the stage in Binn’s Park. Bring the whole family for arts & crafts and activities for children in the kid’s corner.

This celebration takes place from 2:00 to 9:00 PM, and admission is free.

Touchdown!

Football season means it’s time for tailgating! Kitchen Kettle Village commemorates the beginning of the sport’s season with their Tailgating Festival, featuring tasty snacks and family fun along the village walk ways. There will be tasty tailgating food samples, cooking demonstrations, a bounce house, pumpkin bowling, live music, and even a parade through the village.

Wear your favorite team jersey and head over to this free event that will take place on Friday, September 16 from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Saturday, September 17 from 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM.

Tic-Toc!

On September 24, National Watch and Clock Museum is hosting its second annual Cloktoberfest, alongside Smithsonian Magazine’s Free Museum Day. This fall-themed event consists of behind-the-scenes museum tours, clock and watch evaluations, make-and-take a clock workshops, steampunk fashion show, book sales, silent auction, food trucks, beer, and more.

Perfect for lovers of history and all things horological, this event takes place from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

Fair Time!

Town fairs are plentiful during September across the county, boasting agricultural exhibits, contests, rides, parades, and fair food. Community is celebrated through parades and exhibits where vegetables, fruits, canned goods, arts & crafts, and more are displayed for viewing. Get ready for some sure-fire entertainment, family fun, and fantastic food.

Streets and fairgrounds are transformed into social hubs in the following towns this month: York (September 9-18), Denver (September 13-17), Solanco (September 14-16), Ephrata (September 20-24), West Lampeter (September 28-30) and New Holland (September 28 – October 1).

So whether you’re local or visiting from out-of-town, there’s plenty to do in Lancaster County this month! For a complete list, visit our online events calendar.

Happy Autumn!

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.

Sickman’s Mill Creek Tubing

Looking for a great way to spend the lazy, hazy days of summer? Head over to the southwestern side of the county and jump in the Pequea Creek! Open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, Sickman’s Mill is a laid back way to spend any summer afternoon, perfect for children and adults alike.

Prior to arrival you can print and fill out a waiver form from the website, but other than that the day does not involve much planning- you simply go-with-the-flow. Upon arrival guests are provided canvas covered tubes (first come-first serve) and sent on their way. Once you are in the cool, refreshing water simply kick back and enjoy the scenery and the company of your crew. If you like, you may tether your tubes together with ropes provided by Sickman’s Mill or go solo.

The Pequea Creek alternates between sections of calm water and small rapid, providing the perfect ratio of relaxation and adventure. Depending on the water level and time of year, your trip duration can range from fifty minutes to an hour and a half (the creek gets slower as the summer progresses, however, the water can be a bit warmer). At the end of your float a shuttle van will pick you up and return you to the mill. Easy as that!

Local’s Tips:
– Call ahead or look online to check the water-level, weather conditions, and hours/events for each day.

– Be sure to wear sunscreen and bug spray- the creek winds through wooded areas in both the shade and sun.

– Wear water shoes, old sneakers, or strap-on sandals. The creek bed is very rocky and you may need to walk through a few areas is the water level is low.

– If you are bringing smaller children, it is recommended they be at least 6 years old for tubing and 12 years or older for kayaking. There are some life-vests available, however, you are welcome to bring your own along.

– The creek banks by the Mill are grassy and shaded, making for a great picnic spot. Pack your own lunch, or grab something to eat at the snack shack before or after your float.

 For More Information:
www.sickmansmill.com

A Mile-High View of Lancaster County

On a sunny, mild morning in June, I got to cross something big off my bucket list – “Go on a Hot Air Balloon Ride.”

We arrived bright and early at the US Hot Air Balloon Team’s take off point in Bird-in-Hand, PA. Just as I got out of the car, they were inflating the balloon as the sun continued to rise. The trusty crew prepared for flight as we mentally prepared ourselves to be a mile above the farmland.

When the balloon was ready, we climbed into the basket (which was roomier than I expected). Our pilot, Lucas, introduced himself and reassured us that he was no stranger to the sky – he had flown over 2,000 times, in multiple locations in Pennsylvania and even internationally. Before I knew it, the balloon was floating off the ground, gaining height every second. Our cars and the cows in surrounding fields started to look like toys as we floated higher and higher.

The sky was absolutely beautiful – painted with oranges, pinks and blues. As we drifted with the wind, we saw the patchwork pattern of the farmers’ fields, with their perfect lines and contrasting browns and greens. We floated over familiar landmarks that Lucas pointed out along the way. The sights we typically see from car windows looked different and miniature from up above. Since the humidity was relatively low that morning, we were able to see all the way to Harrisburg and the Chesapeake Bay!

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We climbed to a mile above the ground as we took in the sights. Since hot air balloons move with the wind, it felt as though we were barely moving at all – a true floating sensation.

After reaching our highest height, we drifted lower to float right above the tree tops. Dogs arked as we sailed over houses, and bunnies scampered through the gardens and fields. We watched the county wake up as traffic picked up on the main roads and people began working – stopping to wave as we sailed overhead.Our flight came to a close and Lucas prepared us for landing. He scoped out a spot among some houses in a small development and called the ground team to meet us there. Landing was as simple as bending our knees as Lucas steered us safely to the ground.

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The ground team skillful packed up the balloon and basket, and as quickly as we came, we left – heading back to the take off point. To celebrate the flight, we enjoyed a mimosa toast and sticky buns. The connection between champagne and hot air ballooning is quite interesting. In the early days, pilots in France would carry champagne as a peace offering when they would land in farmer’s field, proving to the possibly confused farmer that they meant well and were, in fact, human.

The hot air balloon ride was an opportunity of a lifetime with breathtaking sights. If this is something lingering on your bucket list, I highly recommend taking flight with the US Hot Air Balloon Team in Lancaster County.

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