Category Archives: Amish & PA Dutch Countryside

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.

Countryside Breakfast or Downtown Brunch?

Rise and shine – it’s time to start your day in Lancaster County! Treat yourself to the most important meal of the day.

Breakfast or brunch – which will you choose?

For a Countryside Breakfast:

A traditional breakfast featuring eggs, home fries, pancakes and other favorites can be found at many of the local PA Dutch restaurants and buffets. Try a little bit of everything with an all-you-care-to-eat smorgasbord or order off the menu of tasty classics.

Here are some favorite breakfast spots across the county:

Shady Maple: features two hundred feet of deliciously authentic Pennsylvania Dutch cooking. Be sure to try one of their house-made doughnuts or pastries!

Oregon Dairy Country Restaurant & Buffet: serving a full breakfast menu Monday through Sunday plus a breakfast buffet Friday, Saturday and Sunday

DJ’s Taste of the 50’s: classic breakfast dishes served in a vintage diner setting

For a Downtown Brunch:

Brunch is a delicious early afternoon meal typically served on Saturday and Sunday, and featuring dishes that combine the best of lunch and breakfast. Tasty brunch spots are popping up across Downtown Lancaster, serving up brunch burgers, quiche, chicken and waffles, and cocktails.

Explore Lancaster City and stop by one of these great brunch spots:

Annie Bailey’s: a traditional Irish pub serving classic Irish breakfast items and savory lunch burgers and sandwiches

Aussie and the Fox: blending American and Australian cuisine and creating delicious brunch dishes and cocktails

Prince Street Café: serving breakfast or lunch all day, along with hot and cold espresso and coffee drinks

Bon appetite!

When in Amish Country…

Driving along the country roads in Lancaster County, you are bound to see and share the road with plenty of horse and buggies, but have you ever thought about what it’s like to travel in one? Growing up in Lancaster County, I’ve wondered what this alternative form of transportation is like. I finally got the chance to find out with a buggy ride at Aaron & Jessica’s Buggy Rides, located just outside of Bird-in-Hand.

My daughter, who has been fascinated with horse and buggies since she could look out the car windows, came along on this adventure with me. The weather the morning of our ride was absolutely perfect, with abundant blue sky and even a refreshing breeze. Aaron & Jessica’s was quite easy to find, as it’s located right off of Old Philadelphia Pike, neighboring Plain & Fancy Farm Restaurant and Amish Experience Theater (a convenient stop for after your buggy ride to learn more information on the Amish or a home-style meal).

We met our driver, Ben, as we climbed up into the buggy and took a seat on the benches that are along the windows of the buggy. It was certainly cozy, but with the open windows it was quite comfortable.

As we hit the open road, Ben told us more about his family and Amish background, and introduced our horse, Al, who walked and trotted along the country road. As we passed fruit trees and fields of alfalfa wheat and corn, Ben talked more about the farming customs here in Lancaster County. He was happy to answer questions that we had along the way, and was enjoyable to talk to. My daughter was taking in the sites, looking out the windows as we rode down the driveway towards the farm we were stopping at.

Upon pulling up to the farm, we were greeted by a young Amish girl who told us about the homemade cookies, honey mustard pretzels, root beer and fresh squeezed lemonade they had available for sale that day. To satisfy our sweet tooth, we chose a bag of fresh chocolate chip cookies and a root beer. The cookies looked delicious, and we couldn’t wait to take a bite.

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While on the farm, Ben told us about Amish farms, houses and little more about family life. Even though I have lived here the majority of my life, I learned so much about the Amish community from Ben, and was so thankful he was willing to share his stories.

We headed back to the roads, chatting, learning and enjoying a cookie along the way. The farm looked beautiful from the road, especially with the clear skies and green fields. At 8 to 10 miles per hour, traveling by horse and buggy is significantly slower than traveling by car, but it was far less bumpy than I anticipated. Nature provided us with refreshing “air-conditioning” as Al trotted along the road.

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The buggy ride was a unique experience, and a must do if you’re looking to learn more about life on the farm. We went on a 30-minute ride which was an ideal amount of time for a young child, but Aaron & Jessica’s does offer longer rides that include a tour of the farm. Reservations aren’t required for regular rides, but they must be made for private tours.

Learn more about Aaron & Jessica’s Buggy Rides and stop by for a buggy ride next time you’re in Lancaster!

Shady Maple – Where Food is a Destination!

One of the popular ways to enjoy delicious Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine is with a meal at a buffet, or Smorgasbord as they’re called in Lancaster County. With a craving for a hearty, home-style breakfast, I took a trip to Lancaster County’s largest smorgasbord, Shady Maple. From donuts, pastries and fresh fruit to eggs prepared your way, there is truly something for everyone.  I had bacon and their savory hash brown casserole on my mind, and added creamed chipped beef over home fries and a doughnut to my plate (don’t worry – I ate LOTS of vegetables for lunch). At the grill areas, they make pancakes and waffles with a variety of mix-ins and toppings and eggs prepared to order, eggs Benedict and omelets. Serving a variety of egg options, Shady Maple goes through 3,000 eggs every Saturday – WOW!

When lunch and dinner roll around, their buffet features an extensive salad bar, soup, meats, cheeses, homemade bread and fabulous grill options. At lunchtime you can find hamburgers, hot dogs, and corn fritters, to name a few. Their dinner grill options vary through the week with options like Prime Rib on Wednesdays and BBQ on Thursdays.

After my delicious breakfast, it was time to do a little shopping (and walking) in their 40,000 sq. ft. gift shop, located in the same building as the smorgasbord. The gift shop features furniture, games and toys for kids, jewelry, Christmas ornaments and collectibles, canned jellies and jams and so much more! They even sell merchandise featuring their mascots Whoop-e-pie and T-bone steak.

Shady Maple began with humble roots as a road side farm market almost 46 years ago, growing to the 110,000 sq. ft. farmers market it is today. Along with standard groceries, the farmers market sells local produce, meats smoked in-house and delicious baked goods produced in their own on-site bakery. My favorites are their apple fritters and maple bacon long johns. Yes- they put bacon on a doughnut, and yes- it is absolutely scrumptious. In addition to donuts, the Shady Maple bakery produces pies, whoopie pies in a variety of flavors, specialty breads, sticky buns and so much more.

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Shady Maple is a Lancaster County staple and worth a trip! Stop by for a meal at Shady Maple Smorgasbord or PA Dutch style baked goods at the Farm Market next time you’re in the area.

Speckled Hen Coffee

Tucked between the historic bed & breakfasts and train attractions of Strasburg is a quaint café by the name of Speckled Hen Coffee. Excited to try something new, I ventured there for lunch and a caffeinated afternoon pick-me-up.

Speckled Hen Coffee is located on Main Street in Strasburg with ample parking for patrons. Upon entering the café, I noticed the crisp, clean décor and ample natural light. There is a patio out front for al fresco dining on the warmer days. A room next to the coffee bar and main dining area features a table with toys for children to play with while the parents enjoy their coffee. Speckled Hen Coffee features beautifully finished concrete floors with tables near the large windows where you can watch the occasional horse and buggy trot by.

Their breakfast menu including omelets, breakfast sandwiches, and house-made baked oatmeal (just to name a few) is served all day, but I was in the mood for lunch and opted for the Turkey Bacon Jam sandwich with a side salad and a latte. Not only was the latte beautiful, but it was also hot and rich – perfect! They source their coffee from Passenger Coffee, a coffee roasting company located in Downtown Lancaster which speaks to their passion for local products and the Lancaster County community.

From the minute I ordered my sandwich, I couldn’t wait for the first bite… and it was flawless. Melted Gouda, turkey and bacon jam were married between two perfectly pressed pieces of wheat-berry bread. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Chips are offered as a side, but the fresh, tender lettuce they source from Meck’s Produce paired with their delicious balsamic dressing made me forget chips even existed. They take pride in their food by using fresh, local products and making many items in house, like their bacon jam.

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Turkey Bacon Jam sandwich with a side salad… Yum!

After a savory lunch, I was longing for something sweet. The pastry display was filled with sweet treats from macaroons to coffee cake. I opted for one of their special desserts this spring, lemon-lavender cake. The lavender created a floral aroma while the lemon added a refreshing element. It was a uniquely delicious treat, especially on a bright spring day. Also inspired by the flowers of spring, they have added a lavender latte and lavender and rose sodas to their menu for the season.

Lemon Lavendar Cake

Lemon Lavendar Cake

 

During my visit I had the honor of chatting with the café’s co-owner about the inspiration behind the café and its name. Their love for celebrating what makes everyone unique, their community and coffee inspired the name “Speckled Hen Coffee.” They show their community spirit through hosting Music Fridays to showcase local musicians and partnering with Zolé Art Factory to host paint nights to bring coffee, art and people together.

I can’t wait to visit Speckled Hen Coffee again, especially for their Wednesday Burger Night to experience their selection of gourmet burgers and dessert options. Did I mention they have house-made desserts AND Carmen and David’s ice cream?

Whether it’s time for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or even just a quick cup of coffee, check out Speckled Hen Coffee for yourself!

Kauffman’s Famous Fruit Farm & Market

Kauffman’s Fruit Farm & Market has been family-owned and operated since the founder, Amos L. (A.L.) Kauffman planted the first fruit trees in 1911. Today, over 100 years later, the 3rd, 4th, and 5th generations run the business; and the orchards are now producing over 135 varieties of tree fruits on 100 acres. Pretty impressive!

When A.L. built a packing house in 1937, he made it larger than most other buildings in the area because he believed that his business would expand exponentially. He had dreams of growing the best tasting fruit in the region and building a successful business that would continue on for generations.

In 1954, a critical part of his vision was fulfilled when his five sons became business partners. A. L. Kauffman & Sons began a new chapter.

In A.L.’s lifetime alone, the orchard grew to have 55 acres of apples, 35 acres of peaches, 3 acres of pears, and 4 acres of plums and cherries.

For the Kauffman family, hard work, skill-perfecting, family traditions, and fond memories have marked every milestone, every season, and every year of their growing business. Picking apples in the orchard, making cider, assisting in the farm market, and managing a growing business have all been key to the family’s success.

While they are thankful for their rich history, strong values, and meaningful traditions, they continue to grow and adapt to the needs of their customers. They proudly combine values of the past with visions for the future.

Because the Kauffman family loves their business, the local community, and each customer, they promise to continue growing food responsibly, sustainably, and healthfully for many more generations.

Image Courtesy of Kauffman's Fruit Farm

Image Courtesy of Kauffman’s Fruit Farm

To learn more about the market and Kauffman’s delicious produce, read Christina’s post.

Learn more about the Kauffman family or purchase their 100th-anniversary keepsake book, FAITH, FAMILY & FRUIT.

Be sure to check out other iconic Lancaster County hot-spots such as Shady Maple Smorgasbord, Strasburg Rail Road, and Lancaster Central Market, and Green Dragon.

What Exactly is Chow-Chow?

Chow-Chow, not to be confused with the breed of dog hailing from China, is a sweet and sour mix of pickled vegetables often served as a side dish next to PA Dutch classic cuisine.

Not only is chow-chow delicious, it’s also a resourceful use of odd amounts of vegetables left at the end of harvest, giving it the nickname “end of season relish.” Left-over carrots, onions, cauliflower, cucumbers, celery, corn, peppers, beans, etc. are canned together with a sweet and sour pickling liquid.

While the origin of the name isn’t officially known, there are a few theories. Some believe it comes from the French word for cabbage, Chou. Others say it comes from the Indian squash, chayote, which is also known as chow-chow.

Regional flavors and variations do exist, including the less-sweet southern version and varieties that are chopped and shredded.

Pick up a jar of the Pennsylvania Dutch version and try it for yourself! Find chow-chow along with many other jams, sauces and pickles at Intercourse Canning Company.

Thank you to Intercourse Canning Company assisting with the chow-chow facts.

Take a Step Back in Time this Holiday Season

Terry w Triunial jpegI am addicted to technology, especially my phone – I will never go anywhere without it. This weekend, I took a step back to a time where there were no phones, televisions or even cars. The Magic Lantern Show, run by the Amish Experience, at Plain and Fancy Farm, let me escape from modern times and enjoy entertainment of the past.

Contrary to the name, a magic lantern is not what you would expect. This lantern is a brass lantern with three lenses to project hand painted illustrations on a projection screen. The magic lantern was developed in the 1850’s and was a precursor to movies. When first developed, the lantern used a candle to project and later, kerosene light.

The theatre is completely transformed to feel as though you are sitting in a barn. Before the show began, the showman, who was the host and storyteller, made sure the entire audience was in the Christmas spirit with a game of Christmas trivia. After we were in the holiday spirit, our showman began the show which consisted of classic Christmas stories, such as a Christmas Carol. My favorite part was the new Christmas stories, including a story about a giant snowball causing havoc on a town! All of the stories were narrated by the showman and accompanied by handmade illustrations and music.

The show lasted approximately an hour. During that time, I completely forgot about my phone and became immersed in a time less complicated. After the show I went to the local town, Bird-in-Hand, for homemade Amish foods and handcrafted goods. This show was a great way to experience a different form of entertainment and get into the Christmas spirit. The magic lantern show will definitely be a new holiday tradition!

Make our Visitors Center your first stop

Located directly off the Greenfield Road exit of Route 30, a well-known highway that snakes through Lancaster County, you will find the Discover Lancaster Visitors Center. Make this place your first stop and your trip will be off to great start!

Here are 6 reasons to stop at our Visitors Center:

1. Restrooms, ATM, and Wireless Internet Access

Take advantage of our free wireless Internet access, onsite ATM, and clean restrooms. If you like coffee, grab a FREE cup of Lancaster County Coffee Roasters coffee courtesy of Discover Lancaster.

2. Informative brochures, maps, and expert advice

Do you want to find out what Lancaster County has to offer? We can help! From brochures and maps to advice from our experts, we’ve got you covered. Our friendly travel consultants can assist you by offering restaurant suggestions, helping with last-minute lodging needs, and giving directions to special, out-of-the-way places.

3. Art Gallery

Our Art Gallery displays a wide variety of local art ranging from quilts to pottery to paintings. Best of all, it’s all available for purchase.

4. Marketplace

Browse our marketplace filled with Lancaster County items from popular places such as Intercourse Canning Company, Kitchen Kettle Village, Good ‘N Plenty Restaurant, and more. This is the perfect place to pick up a souvenir (or a tasty treat!) before or after your stay in Lancaster.

5. Amish Countryside Tour

Enjoy a 90-minute Amish Countryside Tour operated by Amish Farm & House. Sit back and relax as you wander deep into Lancaster County’s heartland and learn about the area’s history, culture, and Amish lifestyle. Open Memorial Day (end of May) through October 31.

6. Mr. Sticky’s Homemade Sticky Buns

Directly outside of the Visitors Center, you will find delicious and downright addictive sticky buns. Be sure try one before you head out. Here’s a coupon! Open March throughDecember.

For more information about our Visitors Center, hours of operation, and directions, click here.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

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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!

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