Category Archives: River Hills

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

10+ Things to Do in Lancaster County in August

There’s still plenty of time to enjoy the splendors of summer in Lancaster County. Plan some last minute fun with the kids before school starts or enjoy a weekend girlfriend’s getaway.

Kid-Friendly Festivities:

Happy Birthday to Kitchen Kettle Village’s beloved gingerbread man mascot, Yummie! Join Yummie and his friends for a family fun birthday party, featuring a petting zoo, pony rides, pedal cart rides and samplings of Kitchen Kettle’s tasty jams, pickles and more. This event is best suited for children 10 and under. Before the festivities begin, party-goers can enjoy a breakfast buffet filled with Lancaster County favorites. Tickets are required for the pre-party breakfast, and can be purchased online.

Thomas is coming back to town – Thomas the Tank Engine™ that is! August 27th through September 4th, Strasburg Rail Road® will host their Day Out with Thomas™ event, featuring a train ride with Thomas, storytelling and more. Thomas won’t be traveling alone, as his friend Percy will be joining in the festivities too. Tickets can be purchased for the August and November Day Out with Thomas™ events online.

For the Art-lovers:

If you’re a fan of arts and crafts, you’ll love the art show line up this month in Lancaster County.

Shank’s Mare Outfitters hosts their annual Art & Outdoor show on August 6, featuring local artists who will be displaying and selling their works along the Susquehanna River. Local non-profit outdoor, historic, and cultural organizations will also be displaying information on their activities and programs. Show-goers can enjoy activities throughout the day.

Drawing 700 crafters from throughout the United States and Canada, the Rotary Club of Lititz Craft Show will be held along East Main Street, Broad Street and in Lititz Springs Park on August 13.

A weekend of art comes to Mt. Gretna, August 20 and 21, and features a plethora of artists, exhibitors, live music and delicious food options. Stroll the show grounds as you take in art of all kinds and activities for all ages.

Educational Family Fun:

From history to the arts and science, there are plenty of fun ways to learn in Lancaster County.

Little history buffs will love the Stories-on-the-Porch series at Rock Ford Plantation, August 3, 10 and 17. Geared towards children 3 to 7, this free program features a Rock Ford volunteer in 18th century period dress reading a story on the porch of the mansion. Following the story, children will enjoy a game or craft and light snack.

The First Friday in August brings art to the North Museum of Nature & Science with their new exhibition. The STEAM Art Gallery features creations by local artists whose work is inspired science and nature. Kids can connect with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) and the exhibition with a scavenger hunt activity. On August 5, guests can experience the museum after hours, interact with the artists and enjoy light refreshments during the First Friday Exhibition Opening.

Brews Galore:

Beer lovers will love the ale-centric festivals scheduled in Lancaster this month.

Columbia celebrates brews with Rivertown Hops on August 6 along Locust Street. With over 40 brewers, live music and food vendors, Rivertown Hops promises an afternoon of beer sampling and tasty food.

Lancaster City celebrates ales, ciders, stouts and more during the annual Lancaster Craft Beer Fest on August 27 in Binn’s Park. Last year’s festival featured 64 breweries (both local and natioanlly know), food vendors and live music, combining for an afternoon of fun in Downtown Lancaster.

Going Once, Going Twice:

Mud Sales and auctions are back with three consignment sales in August.

To benefit the work of the Mennonite Central Committee, the Gap Relief Sale will be held on August 13 at the Solanco Fairgrounds. This annual community auction features quilts and a variety of items, plus delicious food available for purchase.

On August 20, the Intercourse Fire Company Consignment Auction will be held at the Intercourse Fire Company. The following weekend, the Bareville Fire Company Consignment Auction will be held in Leola at the Bareville Fire Company.

And that’s just the short list! For a complete list of the events happening in Lancaster County in August and beyond, visit our online events calendar. Happy travels!

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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A Day of River Therapy

I love the Susquehanna River, but I don’t spend as much time on or near it as I should, considering how close to home it is. One Saturday evening, I set out to remedy that by going on a Chiques Rock Outfitters’ 5:00 pm “Therapy Float.”

The Therapy Float is a guided trip on the Susquehanna River from the southern end of Marietta down to River Park in Columbia, where I parked my car at the Chiques Rock Outfitters rental shop.

I was equipped with a solo kayak, paddle, life jacket, and dry box for my camera. When we put our boats in the water, there were no others in sight, but we did spot a great blue heron fishing off a rock not far from shore. My guide, Ranae Tibbens, co-owner of Chiques Rock Outfitters, gave me a refresher on how to steer since it had been at least twenty years since I’d last been in a kayak. Then we were off to explore the river.

We paddled under the railroad bridge, where Chiques Creek empties into the river, to take a look at the water level and a new pedestrian bridge. As we headed out to the middle of the river, a bald eagle came swooping down over the water.  He came close enough overhead to be seen in detail, but I was too slow getting my camera out of the dry box to be able to get a good shot of him. He was very shortly joined by another, and we watched the two of them fly circles above the river and the shoreline for a few minutes, before flying away.

Getting out of the kayak during the trip is not only acceptable, it’s encouraged. We pulled up on an exposed stretch of pebbles, then waded out to a rock to examine someone’s 100+ year old script signature etched into the surface. We also examined the bore holes at the base of the rock, worn by the action of small pebbles in the current over time. Some rocks on the river seem to be more hole than rock, honeycombed by friction of stone and water. After taking photos from the top of the rock, we climbed down and waded back to our boats, thankful for the traction of water shoes on slippery rocks.

Shortly before sunset, we stopped at the boat launch by John Wright Restaurant for a few minutes then we took our time crossing to the other side of the river. We stopped often to take photographs of pink and orange light reflecting off of the bridge piers and the water.

When we pulled our boats in at the launch at River Park again, I was pleasantly exhausted and happy to have explored a couple of miles of the beautiful river in our backyard.

To learn about other water activities in Lancaster, click here.

Marietta has the perfect B&B for you

Marietta is a quaint town that I’ve always loved to visit, but I’ve never spent more than a couple hours there. So when I was given the opportunity to stay at B. F. Hiestand House Bed & Breakfast (located in Marietta), I jumped at the chance. Being a photographer, I could tell the story better with photos… but I’ll do my best with words.

After a friendly hello from Quincy, a sweetheart of a lab, the human owners of B. F. Hiestand House B&B, Dallas and Pam, greeted my husband Jesse and I with freshly baked cookies. (I knew immediately that I was going to love this place!) After Dallas gave us a tour, we settled into our room.

Our room – The Susquehanna Room – was bright and airy and the bathroom was spacious and immaculate. It was love at first sight. The sink and wall tiles are original to the house which was built in 1887. Original hardware is always a plus – and it’s fun to photograph.

For dinner we decided to try a local tavern. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming; the food and beer were fabulous! A perk of staying at the B&B was a nice 10% discount. After dinner, we retired to our room where we got cozy in the four-poster bed and watched TV. The bed was so comfy – and the sheets, too! It was lovely!

Breakfast the next morning was wonderful: poached pears, muffins, South Western fritatta, sausage, and au Gratin potatoes. Quincy decided that I was the best person to sit under as he thought I couldn’t possibly finish everything on my plate (smart dog!). We met some of the other guests and had a nice conversation with Pam about the area and her family. We lingered long after breakfast – it was really nice out-of-the-ordinary experience for Jesse and I.

We spent the day doing things we don’t often get to do – see a movie in a theater, met up with some friends for drinks, then ended the day with dinner at a local pub.

Breakfast on Sunday morning was another marvel. Pam prepared it early for us as we had to pack up and leave… broiled blueberries with cream and brown sugar and French toast. It was heavenly.

We had a lovely time at B. F. Hiestand House B&B. We fell in love with the character of the house – the veranda, the dark wood staircase leading to the second floor, the original tile work in two of the many bathrooms, and so much more. This 127 year old house is beautiful and beautifully kept.

Jesse and I highly recommend an overnight stay, and we guarantee that Dallas and Pam will make you feel welcome.

This post was written by guest blogger, Aubri Porter. Aubri is a professional photographer who loves crafting and lives in Lancaster City with her talented husband, young son, and sweet pooch.

To learn more about Marietta, click here.

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The Grand Vineyard at Grandview

I remember the first day I fell in love with wine – October 15, 2011. I was touring Virginia with my husband when we happened upon a multitude of vineyards. Some were 100 acres vineyards, some small wineries, some cultivating grapes planted by Thomas Jefferson, some growing anything but grapes; but all introducing me to this new world of flavors. Back here in Lancaster, I find the vineyards just as unique and The Vineyard at Grandview is no exception.

A recent trip to this family owned and operated 5.5 acres vineyard in Mount Joy was filled with wonderful flavors, eccentric stories, and beautiful views. I was greeted by owner Marilyn Kennel and her daughter, Sarah Haines, who combined with patriarch Larry Kennel, Scott Haines, and Fran and Steve Kratz make up the family staff. Marilyn quickly filled me in on the history of this new vineyard, opening only in 2009. The Vineyard at Grandview has quickly figured out the wine making process utilizing both steel and oak aging techniques. Their motto in running such a small vineyard is to produce quality over quantity, a slogan that has been proved successful by the complete sell-out of each of their wines.

As the tasting room began to fill with guests for the day, Marilyn passed the story telling off to her daughter, Sarah, who was eager to relay the unique family history behind the vineyard and its wine recipes. Sarah regaled stores how her father and wine maker, Larry Kennel’s, background lies not in viniculture but veterinary medicine, however, his passion has kept him constantly attending his vines and searching for local grapes to sustain their new popularity. Familial stories then flowed from Sarah as she introduced me to Grandview’s Heritage” collection consisting of three wines: Mom Kennel’s Blackberry, Pop Umble’s Black Cherry, and a Limited Release Black Jack Cherry. The story goes that matriarch, Grandma Kennel, was a strict and frugal woman of faith who kept the family strong but had a few secrets of her own in journals and recipe books. A particular recipe is now the base for Grandview’s Mom Kennel’s Blackberry wine staying true to “top-shelf” ingredients and avoiding any inferior products. Larry Kennel utilizes this recipe everyday ordering premier blackberries from Oregon and Washington to maintain the sharpness and flavor in Grandview’s specialty fruit wine. Also distinctive to this collection is the Limited Release Black Jack Cherry, a wine aged in Jack Daniels oak barrels, which create flavors not readily found mixed into the wine world.

Once Sarah was done introducing me to the history behind the vineyard, she gave me some insight into their wine collection. Producing mostly red varietals on site such as Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cab Fran, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdo, and one white, Chardonnay; Grandview has successful mastered sweet, dry, and the obscure fruit wines. While tasting, I experienced an array of flavors from their blended varieties as well as a superb Pinot Noir from their 2013 collection ( a MUST if you stop to taste). Additional offerings at Grandview include a cheese/chocolate pairing for your tasting as well as Rock Candy Spritzers. These spritzers combine the sweet varieties of the Rock Candy Gem Collection with soda and locally made rock candy for a fun presentation and bubbly taste.

Of course, those who read my blog about wine understand I am about the full package. I appreciate great wines and knowledgeable service, but I love a good atmosphere and Grandview does not lack in this department. The atmosphere is relaxing as you enter the open and naturally lit tasting room or exit onto the sprawling outside deck that overlooks the Lancaster landscape and vines. Snacks are welcome by guests and events are frequent as the vineyard partakes in both the Hershey/Harrisburg and Mason Dixon Wine Trails.

The Vineyard at Grandview possess all of the qualities essential to convert the non-believer. The wine, the staff, the location, and the pride in their products shine through leaving little room for the visitor to not fall in love with this wonderful Lancaster vineyard.

Looking for a Bed & Breakfast?

There are many wonderful places to stay overnight in Lancaster. From hotels to farm-stays to Bed & Breakfasts, Lancaster has it all. If you’re considering a Bed & Breakfast, here are some reasons to stay at an Authentic B&B:

  • We’re an association of over 30 B&B’s and Inns. We live here and are happy to share local insights with you. We know where to find the best sweet corn, tomatoes, and whoopie pies. The Amish and local business are our neighbors and friends. If you are looking for a locally-made broom, quilt, or new kitchen table, you can bet we’ve shopped for these same purchases, so we can help you. As your hosts, we’ll greet you with a smile. And since we own our B&Bs, you can be sure we’re available if you need us. We’re always on the lookout for new places, new experiences and fun… and we do it all for you!
  • We’ll serve you a great breakfast in the morning. If you like it, chances are good that you may even get the recipe so your stomach can stay on vacation long after you’ve returned home.
  • Need a place to stay at the last minute? Want to bring the kids? Mom? Fido? Stay in a mansion? In the country? In a log home? We’ll find a B&B that’s just perfect for you. We share an 800 number, so no matter your situation, can find a room for you.
  • Do you visit Lancaster often? Take advantage of our Passport program: stay at 3 participating members of the Association and after the 4th stay, get a $50 credit off your 5th stay. Plus the Passport program includes coupons and special savings.

So, the next time you’re looking for a place in Lancaster, be sure to give us a call!

Jan Garrabrandt is an Innkeeper at The Artist’s Inn & Gallery.

Tubing down the Pequea Creek

Myself and a few coworkers decided to check out Sickman’s Mill Tubing. Yes, tubing. Something that none of us had done in years. Let me say, we had a blast!

After driving on winding back roads through beautiful Lancaster County, we found our destination. The large, beautiful stone mill greeted us as we entered the property. The mill, adjacent barn, fresh country air, and the nearby creek – full and flowing – made us feel like we were stepping into one of the adventures of Huckleberry Fin.

We were greeted by Trina, whose family owns the property. She was kind and hospitable. Excited to go tubing, we signed the waiver forms and headed to the barn to pick up our canvas-covered tubes. There we were instructed on what to expect during our tubing adventure.

As we entered the creek, we felt the cool water surround our legs – it felt wonderful. Once we climbed into our tubes, the water did the rest. From calm water to mini rapids, we spent approximately an hour drifting along the two mile stretch of the tree lined Pequea Creek. We laughed a lot and enjoyed relaxing together. As we neared our exit, we jumped off our tubes and ascended up the small hill toward the meeting point. There the shuttle van conveniently picked up us (and our tubes) and returned us to the Sickman’s Mill property. I highly recommend wearing water shoes or old sneakers, sunscreen, and bug spray for this trip; and it would be good to bring a towel and a change of clothing.

We were pleasantly surprised by the other offerings that Sickman’s Mill has in addition to tubing. If you’re looking for a longer experience, you can sign up for their reservation-only kayak tube trip that lasts anywhere from 3-5 hours with a distance of about 7 miles. You can also enjoy a self-guided tour of the 4 1/2 story mill. Hungry? No problem. You can bring a picnic or buy food from their reasonably priced snack bar. If you’re planning a trip to Lancaster, you can rent their onsite, air-conditioned A-frame house which has 3 bedrooms and 2 full baths, and can up to 12 people comfortably.

Sickman’s Mill has everything you need for a getaway – lodging, water activities, and beautiful scenery.

For more information, hours of operation, and pricing, visit www.sickmansmill.com.

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The perfect destination for retirement living

I’ve been working at St. Anne’s Retirement Community for seven years now. Seven! How time flies. This is my first “real” job out of college. In my initial interview when asked “have you ever worked with older people before” [my 40-something year old boss was referring to our Residents] I replied “why of course! I work with people your age all the time!” After the howling laughter subsided from our entire senior management team who were in the interview, I returned from lobster red to my normal shade of skin color, and they unanimously decided that I was perfect for the job – PHEW!

I came to settle in Lancaster after graduating from Messiah College, and after joining the St. Anne’s team. Originally, however, I’m from Ipswich, MA, a beautiful little shore town north of Boston. So, why did I choose to stay here? The same reason that many folks are choosing to spend their retirement years here – Lancaster is awesome!  And here’s why:

People: No. I’m not being cliché, it’s true. Everyone is so nice here. People smile, they lend a helping hand, and whether they’re a “native” or not, they’re easy to make friends with!  Many folks have vacationed in Lancaster for years and it’s the compilation of those happy memories that bring them to settle down here.

Variety: There are so many choices in Lancaster. From small city charm, to country farms, to gourmet restaurants to the local diner… there’s something for everyone.

Weather: While we still have 4 seasons, they’re not nearly as extreme as one might find in New England, and we don’t have hurricanes like Florida, or droughts like the mid-west. The majority of our days are bright and sunny. The farm land is green, the sky is blue, and – as long as it’s not manure spreading day – the air is fresh!

Location: Lancaster is within a few hours drive of Baltimore, Washington DC, Philadelphia, New York City, and Pittsburgh. Which means we’re conveniently located to major airports, attractions, and all that comes with that. On the other hand, if you’re more into the great outdoors, we’re also close to the Chesapeake Bay, Raystown Lake, Poconos, and Blue Mountains.

Health Care: Lancaster General Hospital, Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Center, Hershey Hospital, and other health facilities are all within minutes of downtown. In Lancaster County, there are also 17 non-profit Continuing Care Retirement Communities that offer a continuum of health care services while also providing excellent accommodations and amenities.

Cost of Living: Everything from real estate to groceries are more affordable in Lancaster compared to many larger cities. For those of you who are number crunchers, I also hear the tax benefits for older adults living in PA are better than average.

What’s great about St. Anne’s? We like to say we’re the “Just Right” community. We’re not too big, not too small  – approximately 250 Residents call us home. We’re not too fancy, but our campus is still beautifully decorated, maintained, comfortable and home-like. As a continuing-care community, St. Anne’s offers a variety of floor plans in independent living Cottages, Villas, and Apartments as well as Personal Care, Skilled Nursing Care, and Rehabilitation. Our Residents enjoy maintenance-free living so they can continue to be involved in wellness, volunteerism, and other life-enriching activates. As a non-profit organization, our Residents and our Mission will always be a priority.

Want to learn more about St. Anne’s Retirement Community? Visit: www.stannesretirementcommunity.com
Want to learn more about retirement options in Lancaster?  Visit:  www.exploreretirementliving.org

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