What’s better than some old-fashioned, down-on-the-farm family fun – with some education tossed in as well? That’s what you’ll find if you head to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for an Amish Country Family Vacation. Here are TravelingMom’s four simple rules for enjoying yourself in Lancaster.
Four Simple Rules for a Trip to Lancaster, Pennsylvania
As the fearless leader of TravelingMom, I am constantly looking for the next road trip family vacation. I enjoy taking time with my family to head to new destinations or to explore new ones. One of my favorite road trips was our visit to Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
For once, the kids had five days off from all their activities. I mean, when does that happen, right? We took the opportunity to visit Lancaster, which is known to most as Amish country. I thought it would be educational and wholesome. Having a total blast was an unexpected bonus.
Of course, I knew the area was home to a large Amish population, and I looked forward to laid-back horse and buggy rides, quilt-shopping and delicious farm fresh foods. I had no idea Lancaster was also home to hundreds of shopping outlets, outdoor activities, Menonites, and a bustling tourist business.
We stayed one night and two days at the Holiday Inn Express. The manager recommended we visit Cherry Crest Adventure Farm, Intercourse Pretzel Factory, Dieners, Bird-in-Hand Restaurant and Kettle Kitchen Village for jam and jelly making. We followed his itinerary – and found out he gave the best advice! Here are my four simple rules for having a great time in Lancaster, Pennsylvania:
Rule 1 – Eat Early – or Late
We learned the first night to eat before or after the 5-6:30 p.m. senior dinner rush (which reminded me of Florida). Our dinner choice was the Bird-in-Hand Family restaurant, which offered a huge buffet including homemade mashed potatoes, broasted chicken, pork and sauerkraut and other selections. We enjoyed the salad and soup bars, and there was terrific variety in the offerings, down to a separate kiddie buffet with child-friendly options. The food was good but overpriced. The desserts looked far better than they tasted. Just remember to get there before or after “prime time,” as the restaurant does fill up. If you have to wait for a table, you will be waiting in their gift shop, which is full of cute souvenirs reflective of the area.
Of course, there are several other good restaurants in the area that I hope to check out on subsequent trips. Good and Plenty is a popular option which serves farm fresh favorites like roast turkey, pork and sauerkraut, and baked Lancaster County ham family style. The Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant boasts beers as fresh as the food. Or, for something completely different, try the all-you-can-eat buffet at the Himalayan Curry and Grill.
Rule 2 – Get Lost – In A Maze
After dinner, we headed straight for the corn maze at Cherry Crest Adventure Farms, which we heard could be done at night with flashlights. Of course, we forgot to take our own flashlights, but they had plenty there for $4 each. We purchased a two-day ticket and the flashlights, then headed in. We didn’t emerge again from The Amazing Maize Maze until closing time, two hours later.
The five-acre maze is truly amazing and fun, fun, fun. We were given a map and an orientation that included warnings of no running, no smoking, no cornstalk abuse. The map did not offer directions, only a place to paste the directions as you found them – puzzle pieces, really, that were found throughout the maze. Also interspersed throughout the five acres were solar energy education stations where you could learn more about energy conservation. Age did not matter; everyone was lost and having a great time. It was so much fun, we returned the next night to improve our time.
I can’t recommend this 15 acre family farm enough. On July 1, 2017, Cherry Crest Adventure Farm launched its new summer season, featuring its 22nd Annual Amazing Maize Maze based on the classic children’s book Charlotte’s Web. They are also introducing five new activities, including Round Bale Races, a Battle Zone with Nerf balls, and a Paintball Range. I’m really looking forward to checking out all the new offerings.
Rule 3 – Learn Something Along the Way
After a good night’s rest and free continental breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express, we took a tour of a working Amish farm situated right next to a Target store. The irony of this was not lost on the kids.
Our tour guide answered all of our questions about Amish life, and the differences between the Amish and Mennonites. We furthered our education when we stopped in at the Tourist Center on our way to make pretzels and chatted with an Amish man. He was very kind and chatty with the kids. He said he did not mind that tourists came to Lancaster to observe Amish life. Offering assistance to anyone who asked, he was also happy to witness to anyone who wanted to hear about his religious beliefs.
After our life lesson, we took to the kitchen to learn how to make that Pennsylvania Dutch favorite, pretzels! Pretzels are harder to make, or at least to make quickly, than you might think. We took our lessons at the Intercourse Pretzel Factory. Of course, we left with herb, cheese, plain and brown buttered pretzels, plus several kinds of chocolate covered pretzels. Yes, sometimes education can even taste good!
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Rule 4 – When In Doubt, Fall Back on Reliable Options
Hungry after shopping at a few outlets and unimpressed with the local Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine, the kids chose the ever-reliable Cracker Barrel for a late lunch. The food was great as usual and exactly half the price of Bird-in-Hand.
Because we enjoyed it so much, we returned to Cherry Crest Adventure Farm. We were just in time to enjoy the pumpkin sling (yup, you hoist small pumpkins through the air). Other activities include the giant slide, humungous ball roll, bouncy mats, and corn shooter (costs $1 more). The food did not gouge my wallet. The prices for burgers, chicken, peanut butter and jelly and hot chocolate were reasonable, the staff was friendly and everyone was having a good time.
There are loads of places to stay although most hotels and motels had No Vacancy signs. I suggest reserving early. The Holiday Inn Express felt very homey – it was evident that many of the guests had stayed there several times. They kept waving to the manager and patting him on the back. The rooms were clean and roomy enough for me and the three kids. The breakfast was plentiful and offered several healthy selections. The location was great, ten minutes or less to all the attractions we visited. Best of all, it is located in the center of Rockvale Outlets. Because shopping is one of my favorite fall-back activities in any area!