Tag Archives: Lancaster County

Top 25 Things To Do this Spring

It’s time to shake off cabin fever and explore all that Lancaster, PA has to offer during the spring. Whether you prefer the great outdoors, al fresco dining, or themed festivals, there’s something for everyone this season.

Check out our list of 25 things to create your spring itinerary:

1] Take a hike or go for a bike ride

2] Bid on bargains at a Mud Sale
Mud Sales are annual auctions held by communities featuring antiques quilts, locally-made crafts and more.

3] Celebrate Easter with family over brunch, dinner, Easter egg hunts, and events

4] Bounce out cabin fever at Sky Zone Lancaster

5] Discover the creative energy of the city during First Friday
Art galleries and boutiques extend their hours for browsing during this monthly event.

6] Take in the tranquil countryside from aboard the Strasburg Rail Road

7] Search for unique treasures and bargains at Lancaster’s eclectic antique shops
Spring Antiques Extravaganza is held in the Antiques Capital region, April 27-30.

8] Head to Lititz for the annual Pretzel Fest
Held on Saturday, May 6.

9] Experience the art scene in Downtown Lancaster with Spring ArtWalk
This self-guided tour takes place Saturday, May 6 and Sunday, May 7.

10] Get a head start on your spring gardening at the Herb & Garden Faire at Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum.
Held on Saturday, May 12 and Sunday, May 13.

Credit: Dutch Wonderland

11] Fill your day with family fun at Dutch Wonderland Family Amusement Park.
Open weekends beginning on April 29-30.

12] Enjoy fruity festivities at Kitchen Kettle Village’s Rhubarb Festival.
Tickle your taste buds Friday, May 19 and Saturday, May 20.

13] Celebrate Spring at Rock Ford Plantation’s May Fair Celebration
Takes place on Sunday, May 21.

14] Catch a Broadway-caliber musical, drama, dinner theater performance or jaw-dropping concert.

15] Explore learning with a twist at a kid-friendly museum.

16] Flock to Lancaster for great birding.

17] Relax with a picnic in the park.

18] Find fun for the thrill seekers at Hersheypark’s Springtime in the Park.
Held on April 8-9 and 14-16.

19] Ride as the Amish do with an authentic buggy ride.

20] Grab a paddle for adventures on the river.

21] Stop by Central Market for local goodies.
Open Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

22] Tour the back roads and covered bridges.

23] Stop to smell the roses at Hershey Garden.

24] Refresh your wardrobe with a trip to the outlets.

25] Saddle up for a horseback ride along the trails at Ironstone Ranch.

To find even more exciting events and happenings, visit our events calendar.

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.

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/

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 Romantic Leap Get Away!

Whoever gets paid makes that plans. That’s the deal Cheryl and I have for date night. I got paid so I made the plans. I wanted a quiet get away. A place where we could have a fabulous dinner and hear each other talk. Casual elegance is a good description for what I had in mind. In addition, I wanted to be able to walk to dinner and back to our room where ever that may be.

We’d been talking about Cameron Estate Inn and Restaurant in Mt. Joy because our daughter will be getting married at the estate next January. We’d been there for dinner a couple of times and after each visit I thought it would be wonderful to be able to simply walk upstairs and spend the night. I called, made a dinner reservation for Saturday at 6:00 p.m. and booked the Donegal Garratte room on the third floor.

We arrived just before 6:00 p.m. At check-in they let us know our dinner table was ready and that we could come down at any time. We meandered upstairs, changed and made our way to the restaurant. The Inn, an early American mansion set on a 15 acre estate is absolutely adorable. It’s decorated with antiques and feels like a step back in time. There’s a sense of authenticity about it.

The hostess who was also the waitress remembered us from the last time we’d been there and that was some time ago. She seated us at a corner table in the sunroom so were surrounded by windows on two sides. Our view looked out over the estate. We got to watch it get dark and the lights around the mansion come up. It was awesome.

We started off with a ten year old 2006 Kendal Jackson Reserve, a Cabernet Sauvignon. The menu was incredible, as always.  From past experience we knew whatever we chose would be wonderful. The hostess recommended the pepper encrusted Lamb Porterhouse and the crab cakes. I got the lamb. Oh my goodness, it was amazing. It came with roasted vegetables and an unbelievable cherry reduction. Cheryl had the crab cakes. She loves crab cakes but these were over the top. I wrapped up with Crème Brulee and Cheryl had a hot chocolate spice cake that was to die for.

As the sun went down and the lights came on the estate took on a romantic glow. There was just enough light for a walk. We strolled along the foot paths and stopped momentarily on a small bridge to watch the light bounce off the stream and the water rush by.

We collapsed in a high four poster bed in our room at the end of the hall on the third floor. The next morning breakfast; a choice of quiche, pancakes and yogurt parfait was served at 8:00. Afterward we took another walk around the estate, we put our things together and made the 25 minute drive home.

It was a wonderful overnight stay. We didn’t go far. The Estate was both historic and romantic. There were people around but it wasn’t crazy. The staff was cheerful and engaging. Whether you are local or from out of the area a stay at the Cameron Estate Inn and dinner in the restaurant is a perfect choice for an overnight get away.

Hands-on Fun to Cure Cabin Fever

When it’s not quite warm enough to play outside, but cabin fever is setting in, Hands-on House, Children’s Museum is the solution!

We ventured out on a dreary Sunday and set off for Hands-on House, located off of Oregon Pike in Lancaster. I had been there as a child and volunteered there years ago, but this was my first time visiting as a parent. With as curious as my daughter is, I was excited to see how she would respond to the learning-through-playing activities featured in the museum.

The first area, “Right in Your Own Backyard” explores the sights and sounds found in nature, primarily ones found in Pennsylvania. At first, my daughter who is almost 4, didn’t exactly know what to do. After we showed her she could climb up into the tree house or catch and measure fish, she began branching out and led the way to the next activity.

Untitled design

Left: Catching fish in “Your Own Backyard” Top Right: Creating at masterpiece at “Art-rageous” Bottom Right: Gathering our produce in “Corner Grocery”

She led us to the next exhibit “E-I-E-I Know,” where she was drawn to the wall of corn that we could pick and distribute to market stands, restaurants and farm animals. This activity, along with many throughout the museum, required reading, and parents are highly encouraged to get involved. Along with the words, many activities incorporate images which help to develop pre-reading skills. This activity also involved lots of counting as we filled each corn order. What makes this children’s museum different from others is how the exhibit designer draws inspiration from Lancaster County, “E-I-E-I Know” being the perfect example. Children can learn about farm life in Lancaster County and how goods like milk and eggs get from the farm, to the grocery store, and to our fridge.

Speaking of grocery stores, the “Corner Grocery” area was a hit, and appeared to be a favorite of other visitors as well. Children can pick a grocery list, featuring both words and pictures, and find the items including produce, seafood, meat, dairy, dry goods and bakery items. Much like a real grocery store, after all the items on the list have been gathered, it’s time to check out at one of the two check-out stations with computers where children can scan the bar codes to ring up their groceries.

Our last stop in the museum was “Marty’s Machine Shop.” This exhibit gave us a look into how factories and assembly lines work, and was by far the highlight of my little one’s day. Oddly enough, this was also a favorite of my sister and me when we visited as children! The process begins with the creation of a “Whatcha-ma-giggle” which is shown step by step with pictures and words. The “Whatcha-ma-giggle” passes through quality control before heading off to be packaged. The last station dives into reusing versus recycling. While that concept was a little mature for my daughter, it was a clever way to take the items from the end of the assembly line back to the beginning while teaching sorting and picture recognition.

We wrapped up our visit with their Pop-in for Play program, “Art-rageous,” which was the perfect activity for my artsy child. The Pop-in program was included with admission and could be done at any time during the 2-hour program period, hence the pop-in. Using construction paper shapes and glue, children were able to put together an “art-rageous” creation. An example was provided but it was really up to the children to design their own art project. My daughter was so proud of the art that she had created. She could not wait to show everyone what she had made.

After discovering our inner artist, we were definitely ready for dinner and a nap. Don’t miss the exhibits we didn’t get a chance to explore during our visit; “Face Painting Porch,” the “Post Office” and “Mostly Make Believe.”

Hands-on House is geared towards children aged 2 to 10, and is stroller-friendly for families with infants. Admission is $9.50 for children and adults. Family memberships, starting at $99 per year, are available for families planning to visit more than one or twice.

Photo courtesy of Hands-on House, Children's Museum

Photo courtesy of Hands-on House, Children’s Museum

Tips:
– Check out their hours prior to your visit. Public hours vary day by day and by what time of year you are coming.

– Be sure to eat before you go! Hands-on House does not allow food or drink inside the building and energy is definitely needed for all the playing and exploring involved.

– Wear comfortable shoes. Since parents are highly encouraged to play and learn with their children, seating areas are limited.

– Visit rain or shine! The “Play Garden” is open year-round, weather permitting, for fresh-air fun.

-The Pop-in for Play programs are an added bonus as they are included with your admission. Be sure to check out the schedule before visiting.

A Tuesday Tradition

Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday… All are names for the day before the first day of Lent.

Here in Lancaster County, we celebrate this Tuesday with FASNACHTS, delightful treats that aren’t your run-of-the-mill doughnut.

This tradition stems from the need to use up the lard, sugar, butter and eggs prior to the beginning of Lent since these lavish items were typically given up. Not to be confused with a standard glazed or powdered sugar doughnut, many fasnachts are made with mashed potatoes and fried in animal fat making them less sweet, but extra delicious!

Growing up in Lancaster County, I fondly remember the days of coming home from school to see a box of fasnachts on the kitchen counter, never really understanding the rhyme and reason behind them. Now, much like pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day, this is a tradition I can’t pass up. I stopped by Lancaster Central Market on my way in to work for my fasnacht from one of the bakery stands who were displaying rows and rows of fried perfection. It was just as delicious as I remember – slightly crispy on the outside with a fluffy center. I prefer ones rolled in powdered sugar, but am sure other variations are just as tasty.

Bakeries and churches across the county will be making fasnachts for the occasion including Oregon Dairy, Achenbach’s Pastry, Bird-in-Hand Bakery and Shady Maple. Stop by and try one for yourself!

Happy Fasnacht Day!

Amish courtship

There is no PA Dutch word for “dating,” but the Amish use the English word when they need it.

The Amish consider romantic relationships to be private, so courtship is practiced secretly, while parents look the other way until the couple comes to ask their permission for marriage.

Amish young people can choose whoever they want for their mate, but if they want to remain Amish themselves, they need to marry within the faith (or date someone who has intentions of joining the faith). Very rarely, a non-Amish person might join the Amish church to be able to marry an Amish person.

Dating often starts with a boy offering to take a girl home after a Sunday evening sing, which is one of the places young people socialize. When a couple is more serious, a boy can visit the girl at her house after her parents have gone to bed on a Saturday night when there’s no church on Sunday. They sit in the living room, where most parents require a light to be on, and visit, sometimes with other couples.

Print your free PA Dutch Valentine

I’m always looking for a way to send Valentines Day cards with my son that don’t include candy, because I feel slightly guilty giving chocolate away to small children. I recently saw something that made me recall my days of elementary school, and when we used to play M.A.S.H. and make fortune tellers (also known as “cootie catchers”). Then I thought, why not make one of these into a valentine?

I’ve decided to share my PA Dutch Valentine Printable with you, along with step-by-step instructions, in case you weren’t privy to (or just can’t recall how to) making these paper games. Instead of getting a “fortune” when you choose your final number, you get a PA Dutch Saying about love/friendship!

Here’s how to make yours:

First, print out the PDF, and use either a paper trimmer, or scissors to cut on the dotted line (this is designed to be 8.5″ x 8.5″).

2-flat

Next, fold it in half both ways, making a good crease (photo below). When you unfold the second time, your creases will make a cross or an ‘x’ on the paper.

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Put the paper on the table printed side down, and fold each corner in to meet the middle.

4-corner4-corners

Then flip the paper over so that the PA Dutch icons and numbers are facing the table, and fold each corner again into the middle (photo below). When you are finished, all your numbers will be on one side, and the PA Dutch icons will be on the other side. Your fortune teller will be in a perfect square.

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Next, flip your paper and fold it both ways to make nice creases.

7-flip8-fold

Finally, slide your fingers into the fortune teller as shown in the first photo below, one thumb and index finger under each PA Dutch icon. Fluff the sides up until it looks like the second photo below.

9-slide-fingers10-fluff

Last, enjoy the game! Instructions on how to play below!

11-numbers12-saying

If you’re not quite sure on the instructions to play, you can follow this simple method of the game!

Player A: Asks “choose a PA Dutch icon.” (Holding the game closed so that Player B only sees the four icons)
Player B: Chooses one of the four icons. (for example, Buggy)

Player A: Spell out “Buggy,” holding the game with your thumb & index fingers of each hand, alternate pinching on “B,” pulling on “U,” pinching on “G,” etc. Once completed, ask Player B to choose a number.
Player B: Chooses a number. (for example 3)

Player A: Count to “3” while pinching on “1” and pulling on “2,” etc. Once completed, ask Player B to choose another number.
Player B: Chooses a number. (for example 5)

Player A: Open the flap with the number 5 on it, and read the PA Dutch Saying under the flap to reveal Player B’s valentine!

*If you want to extend the game, you can repeat the middle step a few times (choosing three numbers before opening the flap).

 

Amish church services

You might wonder what an Amish church service is like. You can’t visit one to find out, because the service isn’t public, it’s for members and invited visitors only. Also, you wouldn’t understand any of it, unless you can speak Pennsylvania German, as that’s the language the service is conducted in.

The Amish observe two kinds of Sundays: “church-Sundays” and “off-Sundays.”

The Amish are extremely religious, so it might surprise you to know that they don’t hold an actual church service every Sunday. Amish services are long, intense experiences. The service itself lasts about 3 hours, then they have lunch together, and then there’s an afternoon of visiting. For the younger teens, it’s even longer, because they meet again in the evening for singing & socializing.

On the “off-Sundays,” some may attend church in other districts, but for most it is a quiet day at home in the morning, and visiting friends & relatives in the afternoon.

While you’re driving around Lancaster, you might see a boxy wagon parked in a farmyard. That’s the bench wagon, and when you see it, you know that church was either recently held at that farm, or will be soon.

 

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