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Pennsylvania Dutch treatsPennsylvania Dutch treats

Lancaster County, PennsylvaniaLancaster County, Pennsylvania

A joy to visit, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, is best known for its Amish communities. As you drive the back roads, you’ll pass lush farmlands and the occasional horse-drawn buggy. Stop at delightfully named towns like Lititz, Bareville, Blue Ball, Intercourse, Bird-In-Hand, Fertility, Paradise, and  the city of Lancaster to sample fabulous farm products, visit chocolate and pretzel factories, or shop at antique or outlet stores. As for parks, how about a ballpark, an amusement park, and a wolf park?

  • A horse and buggy on a back road in Lancaster County. The “Pennsylvania Dutch” are Amish Germans who immigrated to Pennsylvania in the early 1700s to escape persecution for their religious beliefs. They settled in the Quaker community of Penn’s Woods. Their village was named Lancaster by an English settler from Lancaster, England and thus the city—and county—are pronounced “LANK-iss-ter.” Photo by Terry Ross.
  • John Rathmell flies a Bristell Elsa over Lancaster Airport, which has two crossing runways. When you are inbound, if Land and Hold Short (LAHSO) is in use, it will be stated in the ATIS and the Available Landing Distance (ALD) will also be given. Remember that you don’t have to accept a LAHSO clearance if you’re not comfortable. Parking is free at Alliance Aviation for piston aircraft not flying in on business. They also offer hotel discounts, rental cars, and free samples from the nearby Wilbur Chocolate Factory. Photo by Dan Myers.
  • Gallery Row in downtown Lancaster. For nearly 300 years, Lancaster has been a shopper’s delight. Its Central Market was established in 1730 and Franklin Woolworth’s first successful "five & dime" opened here in 1879. Photo courtesy DiscoverLancasterPA.com.
  • See “Beauty and the Beast” or another theater production at the historic Fulton Theater in downtown Lancaster. Photo courtesy Fulton Theater.
  • The Lancaster Arts Hotel is right across the street from the ballpark. Originally constructed in 1881 as a tobacco warehouse, the hotel has been beautifully renovated; its original brick and stone walls, wooden support beams, wood floors, and 12-foot ceilings in the second and third floor suites were carefully preserved. Photo courtesy Lancaster Arts Hotel.
  • Typical Amish countryside. Guided tours are offered in several locations; they dispel misconceptions and educate visitors about Amish life. Find out why the Amish still rely on horses and why Amish men grow beards. Those funny town names aren’t what you might think, either. Intercourse was built at the confluence of two major roads. Blue Ball is named for a hotel, now closed. Founded in 1756 by members of the Moravian church, Lititz was named after a castle in Bohemia. Photo by Kathleen Popola, courtesy Amish Experience.
  • In the 19th century, there were about 1,500 covered bridges in the state of Pennsylvania. That number has decreased to just over 197 bridges, with more (29) located in Lancaster County than any other county in the state. As most bridges then were built from wood, they were covered to provide protection from the weather, dramatically extending their life. Photo courtesy Crista Worthy.
  • One of the fun things about driving the back roads is discovering tiny roadside stands, laden with fresh fruits and vegetables, or preserved goodies like these. Photo courtesy DiscoverLancasterPA.com.
  • In 1954, Bob & Pat Burnley started a canning company in their garage. Those humble beginnings blossomed into Kitchen Kettle Village, with dozens of shops, restaurants, and this Inn. Photo courtesy Inn at Kitchen Kettle Village.
  • Relax on the back field of Kitchen Kettle Village. Photo by Mike S.
  • Tour the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, America’s first commercial pretzel factory, and learn how to twist these savory treats yourself. Photo courtesy Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery.
  • The Lititz Springs Park Train Station Welcome Center is open Mon–Sat 10 a.m.–4 p.m. and stands next door to Wilbur Chocolates. Both buildings are constructed out of locally-made red brick. Photos by Gretchen Elaine Photography, courtesy LititzSpringsPark.org.
  • Tioga licks the face of his father, Merlin, at the Wolf Sanctuary of PA. Photo by Chuck Rineer.
  • What a gorgeous room this is! The Speedwell Forge B&B is adjacent to the Wolf Sanctuary. Photo courtesy Speedwell Forge B&B.
  • The end of another beautiful day in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Come see it for yourself! Photo by Terry Ross.

Lancaster Airport is in south-central Pennsylvania, 11 nautical miles northeast of the Susquehanna River. The airport is surrounded by several major airports and their corresponding airspace; flight following is recommended. Take care to avoid the Washington, D.C., Special Flight Rules Area and always get the latest notams before departure to avoid violating temporary flight restrictions. The airport has two large, crossing runways; review these airport procedures before departure. At the airport, Fiorentino’s Bar and Grill offers good Italian food, indoor and outdoor seating, and runway views.

By far the area’s largest city (about 60,000 people), Lancaster is both a shopper’s delight and a thriving arts center. Mosey down Gallery Row, the venue for First Fridays, a popular monthly street fair. Take your pick of activities for day or night: The walkable downtown includes antique shops, Christian-themed productions at the Sight and Sound Theatre, historic Fulton Theatre, Pennsylvania College of Art and Design, Lancaster Museum of Art, and the Phillips Museum of Art at Franklin and Marshall College. I love the goofy audience-participation contests, mascots, and even the heckling at minor league baseball games, not to mention affordable tickets. If you do too, check out the Lancaster Barnstormers and then check in to the Lancaster Arts Hotel, right across the street. Farm-fresh fine dining can be had at the adjacent John J. Jeffries restaurant.

Young fans vie for an autograph from Cyloicious L. Barnstormer, aka “Cyclo.” He claims to be a distant relative of the Philly Phanatic. His favorite cheer is, “You’ve got to mooooove it, mooooove it!” See him at all Lancaster Barnstormer baseball home games. Photo courtesy DiscoverLancasterPA.com.

Choose from several scenic drives through the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, which includes some 29 covered bridges. Or, hit the Lancaster County Winery Trail and sample local vintages. If you brought the kids, take Highway 30 to Dutch Wonderland, a family-friendly amusement park, and The Amish Farm and House, a quaint farm with year-round tours and artisans onsite April through October (Chris will amaze you with his whittling skills). Outlet malls along the highway include Tanger and Rockvale.

But to get a better feel for the area, I prefer the stops along Old Philadelphia Pike. In Bird-In-Hand, try the apple butter at Kauffman’s Fruit Farm. Next, head to Plain and Fancy Farm, where you’ll find a plethora of activities like tours and buggy rides, along with a country store. Save your appetite for Smokehouse BBQ and Brews—love those burnt ends and smokehouse chili! Less than four miles east of Bird-In-Hand is the town of Intercourse. Kitchen Kettle Village features live music and more than 40 merchants, from the Jam and Relish Kitchen to locally made art, cheeses, Pennsylvania Dutch quilts, and locally sewn personalized teddy bears, to name-brand favorites like Brighton Collectibles and Minnetonka moccasins. Sleep right here at the Inn and enjoy free perks like breakfast at the Kling House Restaurant, a dozen fresh-baked cookies on Sundays, crackers and jam in your room, plus a travel mug you can bring to the village for free coffee or tea at select stores.

Originally, the Ephrata Cloister was a retreat from worldly distractions where devoted members followed a disciplined life designed to prepare them for a heavenly existence. Now administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the cloister’s mission is to preserve its distinct history, including the German calligraphic art of “Frakturscriften,” and to help visitors understand Pennsylvania’s significant role in religious tolerance and intellectual freedom. Photo courtesy Historic Ephrata Cloister.

There’s more to explore north of Lancaster. You can visit the Ephrata Cloister, whose residents have preserved the traditions of William Penn’s holy experiment since 1732. Next, walk around the town of Lititz (also known as “America's coolest small town"). You might smell chocolate, because Lititz is the world headquarters of Wilbur Chocolates. Duck in for a taste, learn how these treats are made, and take home a tin of the wildly popular “Wilbur Buds.” Balance sweet with salty and head over to America’s first pretzel bakery. You can take a tour and learn how to twist a pretzel at the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, opened in 1861 and still going strong. Other locally owned shops include a bookstore, kitchen gadgets and cooking classes, gourmet foods, and oils and balsamic vinegars. Tour the Lititz Historical Foundation and Museum, feed the ducks in Lititz Springs Park, or drive 6 miles north to the Wolf Sanctuary of PA, home to some 45 displaced canines. The park and wolf sanctuary are good choices for Sundays, when many shops are closed. The Speedwell Forge B&B is right next door. In town, choose the Lititz House Bed and Breakfast, a room on the second floor of the historic General Sutter Inn, or a modern Rockblock Penthouse upstairs.

In Lititz, whether you fine-dine at the General Sutter, boost a cold one at JoBoy's Brew Pub across the street, or take a break at Café Chocolate, save room for a slice of tomato pie. It’s fresh, local, and authentic, just like everything else in Lancaster County.

A girl drives a bumper car at the Dutch Wonderland amusement park. Photo courtesy Dutch Wonderland.

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Crista Worthy

Crista V. Worthy

Crista V. Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. She has single-engine land and sea ratings. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association. To suggest future destination articles, send an email to aopadestinations@gmail.com.
Topics: US Travel

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