From charming horse-drawn buggy rides to shoofly pie, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is known as PA Dutch Country. You will find uniquely named towns like Bird-in-Hand, Fertility, Blue Ball, and Intercourse, all with beautiful, picturesque farmscapes in the southeastern part of the state.
Things To Do In Lancaster
The Lancaster area has so much to offer the 50+ traveler. Think historic trains, professional stage shows, and hot air balloons. You can easily fill a weekend or longer with some of your own bucket-list activities.
The Amish Farm and House Tour, AAA Buggy Rides, and Strasburg Rail Road provided free admission to enjoy their activities. All opinions remain my own.
Tour An Amish Farm And House
When in Amish country, don't waste the opportunity to learn more about the Amish lifestyle, their history, and how they have been able to remain separate from the world as most of us know it while living surrounded by progress.
I highly recommend The Amish Farm and House Tour. This is a three-part tour, and they tell you to schedule at least three hours to complete the entire tour. I suggest a minimum of four hours.
Self-Guided Farm Tour
You are provided a map, and you can walk around the 15-acre farm at your leisure to see the various animals and the way of the Amish farm. You will see horses, goats, miniature ponies, pigs, and chickens.
You will also get to see all the outbuildings used, such as a blacksmith shop, a spring house, a lime kiln, a chicken coop, and more. You also can visit a one-room schoolhouse. The inside is set up just like a classroom. Be sure to view the pond with a fountain in the middle. It provides a great photo opportunity.
Guided House Tour
The house tour takes you through an Amish home with a guide who gives a fascinating amount of detail about the Amish lifestyle and their history. You will see a table set for dinner, the clothes the Amish wear, stark bedrooms, and even an Amish casket. I found this part of the tour to be captivating.
Guided Bus Tour
This part of the tour takes you throughout the countryside to see various farms and make several stops at Amish businesses. We stopped at a bakery that also had a goat petting area across the parking lot, a soft pretzel shop, and a quilt shop. Our driver was a guide and told us all about how Amish farmers still used mules and horses, why they don't drive cars, how their houses grew as generations were born and stayed on the farm, and how they powered their homes without electricity.
I learned so much on this tour, and I know you will enjoy it, too.
Visit Lancaster Central Market
You can enjoy Pennsylvania Dutch treats like whoopie pies (also called gobs), shoofly pie, and scrapple, along with foods originating from around the globe at the Lancaster Central Market. It is the oldest continuously operating public farmers market in the United States. Families have run many of the stands in the 130-year-old building for multiple generations.
Plan to spend an hour or longer at the market depending on how much shopping and eating you do. Interested in unique PA treats? Read up on the perfect Pennsylvania foodie tour for travelers ages 50+.
Sip A Few Beers
Lancaster County is home to quite a few local craft breweries. You can visit a handful of them and sample their brews. Don't forget to secure a designated driver. A few local favorites are Columbia Kettle Works, Spring House Brewing Company, and Lancaster Brewing Company.
This could be a quick stop or an all-day affair. Don't forget to assign a designated driver if you plan to drink.
Take A Train Ride
The Strasburg Rail Road is just a few miles from Lancaster. With a charter dating back to June 9, 1832, it is America's oldest operating railroad. Formerly a passenger and freight train, in 1958, near abandonment, it was salvaged to be used as a tourist railroad.
Riding the Strasburg Rail Road provides an authentic steam railroad experience. As you ride the train, you pass by pastures, rolling fields, various farms, and the Red Caboose Motel (more on that below). Riding the train will be a highlight of your visit to Lancaster, PA.
The train ride itself lasts approximately 45 minutes, and there are gift shops, photo opportunities, et cetera, so I would plan for two hours at this destination.
See A Show
You have several venues to see a stellar performance. Sight and Sound, Fulton Theatre, Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre, and the American Music Theatre all have amazing shows on par with Broadway. All require reservations.
Fulton Theatre, a historic landmark, produces musicals and other performances unlike any other shows you have seen before.
Sight and Sound offers epic shows with religious storylines designed for all ages. The entertaining shows are performed in a 2,000-seat theater on a 300-foot stage.
The American Theatre focuses on music, and the Dutch Apple provides a dinner theater experience. Your time at any of these will depend on the particular show.
Tour The Area In An Amish Horse And Buggy
Ride through Amish farmlands and learn about the history, lifestyle, and customs of the Amish. There are several vendors offering rides. We prefer AAA Buggy Rides. It is family owned and operated.
We had a delightful time on this hour-long tour with our guide. She was very knowledgeable about the Amish lifestyle and the horses. Tina and Bailey were the horses who pulled our buggy, and they responded to our guide like they understood English. It was fascinating to learn about their care and how they are trained. We were fortunate to have a front seat in the buggy, so we had a marvelous view.
Don't miss this unique highlight during your visit to Lancaster County. Take your pick of tours that are between 35 and 60 minutes long. We enjoyed a 55-minute covered bridge tour.
Float Over Lancaster In A Hot Air Balloon
Get a different view of the picturesque Amish countryside from a hot air balloon. The United States Hot Air Balloon Team can create an exciting group or private adventure for you. Enjoy majestic views of rivers, lush pastures, and rolling hills along with those tiny towns like Strasburg, New Holland, and Intercourse.
Most rides are an hour long, but you will want extra time before and after, so the minimum amount of time to pencil in for this activity is two hours.
We didn’t have time for a balloon ride on our last visit, but it is on my list for my next trip.
Best Restaurants In Lancaster
Lancaster is all about Amish food. Just about every restaurant has either Amish meal items or dessert items on the menu. Food is home-cooked and often locally sourced.
Miller's Smorgasbord is in Ronks, near the railroad, and it has excellent food.
They have three ordering options: the smorgasbord buffet, a soup and salad bar, and ordering from the menu.
We opted for the smorgasbord buffet, and we were not disappointed. The buffet included chicken, turkey, roast beef, ham, steamed shrimp, meatloaf, meatballs, fish, pasta, salads, potatoes, vegetables, and more. One Amish favorite I tried here that was new to me was sweet and sour cabbage. It was delicious!
At Miller's, they cook from scratch and source most of their products from local Amish farms.
I promise you won't be disappointed with a visit to Miller's Smorgasbord.
DJ’s Taste Of The 50’s Diner
DJ's Taste of the 50's Diner is a fun 50s-style restaurant offering diner favorites such as fries, burgers, and shakes as well as traditional fare. You will enjoy the furnishings and atmosphere as much as the food.
Shady Maple Smorgasbord
I've eaten here in the past, and it is impressive. The 200-foot buffet is the largest in Lancaster County and is full of all types of delicious food. There is bound to be something you'll enjoy at Shady Maple Smorgasbord. Known for serving authentic Pennsylvania Dutch foods, you will find an abundance of other dishes as well.
Where To Shop In Lancaster
Shopping in Lancaster is a treat. You have everything from craftsmen to bakers to quilt shops to modern outlets -- a bit of something for everyone.
We visited several Amish markets when we were in Lancaster. One was the Bird-in-Hand Bake Shop, which sells baked goods and has a gift shop. We visited Riehl's Quilts and Crafts, which had the most beautiful quilts you can imagine. They had everything from pillow covers and book covers to wall hangings and king-size quilts. You can learn more about the Amish markets by reading up on fantastic Amish markets in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
Kitchen Kettle Village
An authentic Pennsylvania Dutch Country shopping area, Kitchen Kettle Village has 40 specialty shops and restaurants to enjoy in a scenic country setting. There’s everything from homemade candy and fudge to a Christmas shop, jewelry, and art. You can watch them make kettle corn or buy potato chips fresh out of the pot.
Best Places To Stay In Lancaster
Holiday Inn Express
The Holiday Inn Express and Suites East Lancaster - Strasburg is a new, modern hotel that is very clean and comfortable. You are just a few miles from the Strasburg Railroad and a short drive to other Lancaster highlights. This is a convenient place to stay in the Lancaster area. We stayed here on our last Lancaster visit.
Red Caboose Motel
You can sleep in a red caboose if you wish. This is right along the railroad tracks, and it’s where I plan to stay during my next visit. The Red Caboose Motel has turned old caboose cars into motel rooms. They have nearly 40 train cars available for overnight stays. Some have been turned into couples caboose rooms, there are large family caboose rooms that include a full bed and four bunk beds, and they even have a Honeymoon Caboose with a queen-size bed and a whirlpool bath.
Enjoy a bit of nostalgia and sleep in a caboose.
Fulton Steamboat Inn
Another fun place to stay is the Fulton Steamboat Inn. It looks like a steamboat. Enjoy 19th-century charm in Lancaster County. When you stay at Fulton Steamboat Inn, you are in the center of everything. It promises to be a memorable experience.
Be respectful of taking pictures of Amish people. It is against their beliefs to look at the camera for a photo.
Hopefully, this list helps you get excited about spending a weekend in Lancaster, where you will discover a slower-paced lifestyle. From delicious Amish foods and craft brews to the numerous unique locations to explore, a weekend won't be enough. Like me, you will be planning another trip back to Amish Country.