Category Archives: Outdoors

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.

Over 50 Years of Music: Long’s Park Summer Music Series

Nothing to do this weekend? Got the Sunday night blues? Why not head over to Long’s Park for the Summer Concert Series– it’s free, it’s fun, and it’s guaranteed to get anyone dancing! The outdoor amphitheater is considered one of the best outdoor venues in Central PA. Built into the grassy hill of Long’s Park, listeners can sprawl out on the lawn with blankets and chairs, or sit along the top amongst the shady trees dotted with grills and picnic tables.

The performances are on Sunday evenings, beginning at 7:30 PM. This makes for the perfect time to pack a picnic dinner, or buy something from one of the various food trucks in the park. (We highly recommend the ice cream from Strasburg Creamery!) If you have little-ones in tow who can’t quite sit still for a whole concert- don’t worry the playground is at the top of the hill! They can burn off some energy before bed time, and you can still listen and enjoy the rest of the show. Also, don’t let possible bad weather deter you, rain or shine- the show goes on!

Performances range from Classical to Rock, Brazilian to Gaelic, and Folk to Blues, covering all genres of music. Guaranteeing any listener to find something they like- or try them all and expand your musical horizons. Certain Saturdays throughout the summer feature performances by talented local musicians. We recently had the opportunity to attend the concert on Sunday, July 10 featuring The Suffers from Houston, Texas. To quote one man sitting behind us who called a friend between sets “You have to come check these cats out!” The performance was wonderful, The Suffers put on a show full of soul, brass, and swing. It got everyone up dancing, young and old a-like.

Music can bring together the community, and it is great that Lancaster continues to organize this free summer series for everyone to enjoy.

The 2016 schedule can be found here.

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Local’s Tips:

1. Bring a blanket or chairs to sit on during the show.

2. Get there a bit early, the amphitheater can fill up so it is best to claim your spot in advance.

3. Pack a picnic, deck of cards, or a Frisbee to entertain kids until the show starts.

4. The program is put on by sponsors and donations, if you would like to donate, be sure to have some cash on hand to give to the “sweeps” before the show starts.

5. Don’t forget bug spray!

A Refreshing Flight through the Trees

Lancaster County is full of unexpected attractions to experience and things to see. Beyond the farmland are rolling hills, an ideal home for a woodland retreat such as Refreshing Mountain Retreat & Adventure Center.

I traveled off of the roads I was familiar with, igniting my sense of adventure. Upon arriving and getting out of the car, I was greeted with fresh mountain air that was slightly cool after a passing spring shower. Let the adventure begin!

There is really so much to do at Refreshing Mountain. For those who are daring and not afraid of an off-the-ground adventure, they have two zip lining courses – the Challenge Adventure course and Aerial Excursion Course. I opted for the Challenge Adventure course because that course features five zip lines PLUS nine rope course elements. They certainly don’t use the word “challenge” lightly – the rope course elements tested my balance, strength and mental stamina but in the end, I’m glad I set fear aside and tried them. From swinging from one platform to another on a foot propelled swing to a challenge they call “the monkey vine,” I think I can safely say this is the closest thing to tightrope walking that I will ever do. After conquering half the challenge elements, it was time to fly through the trees.

If you’d rather spend more time zipping from tree to tree, the Aerial Excursion Course features seven zip lines, double the length of the Challenge Adventure course, along with three sky bridges.

With a harness, helmet, and knowledgeable guides, I felt safe even 60 feet off the ground. The zip lining tour guides were kind and not only ready to teach, but also to answer questions as we went along. They gave clear instructions which helped me feel confident and safe.

For those who’d rather stick to adventure of the ground, there are plenty of things to experience including a hands-on reptile exhibit, playground, swimming pool, pedal cars and more. New for this year, Refreshing Mountain is offering three different Adventure Packages which give families or groups the option to do a variety of activities. Each package features three to four activities that highlight different aspects of nature and adventure.

The Explorer Package includes the Climbing Tower, Pedal Cars, Paintball Targets & Archery.

The Discovery Package includes the Hands-on Reptile Exhibit, GPS Nature Hunt, Sling Shots & Archery.

The Horse Rides & Farm Animal Experience includes the opportunity to pet, groom and learn safety around horses, a hand-led horse ride and time with other farm animals.

My experience was both exhilarating and refreshing as I got to try something new while enjoying nature’s beauty. The thrill of flying through the trees is best experienced by discovering it for yourself! Learn more about Refreshing Mountain Retreat & Adventure Center and book your excursion today.

Spend Your Thanksgiving Break in Lancaster

In an area that is filled with a tight-knit community of locals and business owners, Lancaster during the holidays lights up with excitement and warmth. It’s the truth, when residents are happy they radiate that happiness creating a magnetic draw to visitors. With this being said, explore Lancaster and feel the magic and energy through the streets and through these events!

When should you start getting into the holiday spirit? The day right after Thanksgiving, of course! No, seriously, when the weather gets cold you must find a way to stay warm with spirit!

On November 27, break your norm of Black Friday Shopping (who wants to wait in all the lines anyways?) Relax, enjoy your time off and go on a family outing! At 6:30 p.m., bundle up and join us at the Mayor’s Tree Lighting and Tuba Christmas. Want a traditional way to view the holiday window displays? Hop on a Horse Drawn Wagon Ride from 7:30 p.m. until 10 p.m.

On November 28, this is where the new norm is put into place. Small Business Saturday! All over Lancaster, business owners open their doors to help you find unique, memorable presents for everyone on your shopping list. When shopping local, you essentially build relationships with the shop owners, so it makes future interactions more personable and helpful. The beauty of shopping local is you have a VERY slim chance of purchasing the same item for someone that they might already have. Give gifts that are genuine and one of a kind!

On November 29, have your eyes light up gazing at Christmas displays. Find the hidden Santa’s on the layout at Choo Choo Barn from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Walk through a Dutch Winter Wonderland from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m. Warm up at the National Christmas Center and explore the 14 exhibits they have to offer.

Spend time this Thanksgiving breaking your norm and checking out the unique and festive events Lancaster has to offer.

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The author of this post, Julie Press, is currently the Marketing Intern at Discover Lancaster. She encompasses the Lancaster brand. Growing up in a farm house in Adamstown, she identifies with the rustic, homegrown feel Lancaster brings. Now relocated only minutes away from Lancaster City, she feels a strong connection to the City’s creativity, culture, and innovation. Julie studies Public Relations at Millersville University.

Experience Lancaster A Unique Way: On A Horse!

It was starting to feel like fall. As we drove down Nookside Stables‘ driveway passing open pastures, I was hit with nostalgia as I thought back to my childhood horseback riding lessons.

My day started with a text saying “bring sneakers- we’re going horseback riding!” As a Discover Lancaster intern, I was ecstatic to take a break from a regular day to go on an adventure.

A few employees of Discover Lancaster came along for the outdoor fun. As we arrived, we were greeted by Howie, the stable manager of Nookside and a few cute stable kittens.For $49 per rider (all ages 10 and up) you receive a full 1-hour Nookside Horseback Riding Adventure, a wagon ride, commemorative digital photographs posted on Facebook, meet and greet with farm animals, and have a chance to win prizes.

Once we were fitted for helmets, we hopped on a tractor-pulled wagon to get to the next destination: the horses! I was paired with Cinnamon, a beautiful brown horse. This horseback ride is not a typical trail ride; it is an obstacle course. This gave us a chance to work with the horses by directing them through paths created by beams. Once we were fitted for helmets, we hopped on a tractor-pulled wagon to get to the next destination: the horses!Throughout the hour, a stable worker was following us by horse and Howie was on foot encouraging us during the trip. This made me very comfortable having two employees close by throughout the trip.

Afterwards, Howie explained the mission of Nookside to us. He stated that some people believe that an upside down horseshoe is a sign of bad luck. At Nookside, they do not believe that your experiences are dictated by luck, but rather the intentional design by God. Nookside also gives a portion of every Horseback Adventure to those in need within the community.

This adventure was very rich and included many different elements. This property is great for a family outing, groups, birthday parties, or even a date! Come experience it for yourself!

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The author of this post, Julie Press, is currently the Marketing Intern at Discover Lancaster. She encompasses the Lancaster brand. Growing up in a farm house in Adamstown, she identifies with the rustic, homegrown feel Lancaster brings. Now relocated only minutes away from Lancaster City, she feels a strong connection to the City’s creativity, culture, and innovation. Julie studies Public Relations at Millersville University.

Fall in love with Lancaster

I love fall! It’s my absolute favorite season of the year. That’s yet another reason why I love Lancaster; it is a quintessential fall destination. The countryside is beautiful and there’s lots of fun fall activities for all to enjoy. Here are my Top 5 favorite fall activities in Lancaster County:

1. Hiking

Lancaster County offers many unique parks for your hiking and biking pleasure. Fall is the perfect time to soak in the beauty of leaves changing color, plus the temperature is perfect- the mornings are chilly and the afternoons are comfortably cool. My personal favorite spot to hike is to Chickies Rock, which is a “light to moderate” hike. Once you reach the top, you see a stunning view of the Susquehanna River and the surrounding farmland.

2. Lancaster City Cafes

When I think of fall, I think of putting on an over-sized sweater with a big scarf, drinking a cup of coffee, and reading a good book. Whether you want to get work done or meet up with friends, spend a relaxing afternoon in one of Lancaster City’s numerous cafes. My personal favorite is Prince Street Cafe, located across the street from the Fulton Theatre. The food is great and the hot beverages will warm up your heart and your fingertips.

3. Cherry Crest Adventure Farm

Cherry Crest Adventure Farm is a great place for families to have a fun-filled day. The farm features a corn maize, a courtyard, and a barnyard with numerous activities. One can pet a llama, learn about farming, and go for a ride down a giant slide. A fun play area is also available for younger children. Oh, and don’t be surprised when you hear a loud train whistle – the Strasburg Rail Road steam engine passes right through the farm! It’s an incredible sight to see!

4. Haunted Attractions

For those of you who enjoy adding some thrill into your fall season, Field of Screams and Jason’s Woods are just two of many great Halloween attractions in the area.

5. Lancaster City Ghost Tours

Spend an evening walking around Lancaster City by candlelight. Explore the mysteries of one of America’s oldest cities. Experience the haunting tales of phantoms, unsolved mysteries, and star-crossed lovers. This 90-minute tour will be sure to send shivers down your spine!

Covered Bridges of Lancaster County

Covered bridges are an iconic symbol that bring to mind a more simple time, a more simple way of life. Pennsylvania has approximately 219 covered bridges that have withstood the test of time, more than any other state. Lancaster boasts over 25 of those bridges, each with its own unique story.

The purpose of the covering is to protect the wooden structural members from the weather. Uncovered wooden bridges have a life span of only 10-15 years because of the effects of rain and sun. Thanks to the covering, we have many bridges that have been around a long time.

The longest covered bridge at 5,960 feet once spanned the Susquehanna River from Columbia to neighboring Wrightsville in York County. Built in 1814, it was unfortunately destroyed by high water and ice in 1832. But, many others remain, ready for you to discover and enjoy.

We’ve developed five driving tours of covered bridges in Lancaster County. For a PDF version, click here. If you prefer to use our Google Map tours, click here and choose the tour that most interests you. To learn more about our covered bridges, be sure to stop the Discover Lancaster Visitors Center to purchase the book, Covered Bridges of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

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