buggydriver2One of the reasons families travel is exposure to different cultures, and nowhere is the divide more apparent between what we are used to and what we will experience than in two roads through Lancaster, PA. Route 30, the usual road through the area, is crammed with chain stores and strip malls.

The bucolic Old Philadelphia Pike, which more or less parallels Route 30, has traffic slowdowns when a horse and buggy pulls onto the road, or a cow wanders over from a nearby farm.

The escapee cow actually happened when I took my daughters, Sela, 17, and Nora, 12, and their cousin, Zoe, 10, on Aaron & Jessica’s Buggy Ride. They were already having trouble digesting that the Amish not only don’t go in cars, they don’t have – gasp – Internet access. No cell phones, no Netflix, no iPods.

They do have semmingly incongruous websites, but the girls didn’t pick up on that.

Our buggy ride included a farm tour, where we watched the cows getting milked and Nora got sprayed with cow poop. The girls were already squeamish about the horse poop that emanated continuously from ‘our’ horse, so the cow was just one more reminder that we were not in New York any more.

Of course, you can take a horse and carriage ride through Central Park, but your tour guide will be wearing a top hat and tails, not the traditional modest clothes favored by the Amish. And you won’t follow this up with a meal at Plain & Fancy Farm Restaurant.

Plain & Fancy features an Amish Farm Feast with unlimited platters of meat, not the most obvious choice for a family of vegetarians. But the appetizers of potato salad, Chow Chow, (pickled vegetables) tomato salad, and rolls, almost filled us up; sides of mashed potatoes, dried sweet corn, green beans and noodles gave us more than enough to eat, even if heavy on the carbs. And then there was dessert: vanilla ice cream with apple or shoo-fly (molasses) pie.

meatfeast2Zoe, a carnivore, was in pig – and beef and chicken- heaven. She was served a platter of chicken, a chicken potpie, sausage and roast beef. Lest we feel guilty that we couldn’t finish this cornucopia, our server told us that leftovers are fed to the animals.

By the way, the feast was $9.95 for kids ages 4-12. $18.95 for adults. Iced tea, lemonade, coffee and tea are included; an excellent local micro-brewed beer, from Lancaster Brewing Company, was only $3.

We stayed in the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square, which has modern amenities – Wi-Fi in rooms, a beautiful heated indoor pool, valet parking, (for cars, not horses) all right across the street from Central Market, where you can pick up an excellent breakfast or the fixings for a picnic lunch. The indoor market, the country’s oldest farmers’ market, is open Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

The hotel’s luxurious bedding – pillow top mattresses, high thread count linens and down comforters, practically guarantees a good night’s sleep. The Marriott is part of the ‘Nickelodeon Your Stay’ promotion, where kids get a free activity pack with SpongeBob SquarePants goodies and a special turndown service (through December 26, 2010).

You could check it all out on your smartphone – as long as you are not Amish.