Lancaster County: The Heart of PA Dutch Country

Kitchen Kettle Village. Photo credit: Chris Bird / Standby TravelingMom.

Country farms, wide-brim hats and horse-pulled buggies are just a few of the sights that greeted us upon arriving in Lancaster County – less than an hour drive from Harrisburg and Hershey, Pennsylvania. We had one day to explore this beautiful part of South Central Pennsylvania and learn about the Amish way of life.

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Visiting Pennsylvania Dutch Country has always been on the bucket list, and now that we’ve been, I can’t wait to go back. On our tight schedule, we barely scratched the surface of all there is to do and see in Lancaster County. Fortunately, now that Frontier Airlines has direct flights to Harrisburg out of Denver, it will be easy to return. Starting in June 2014, they will have five direct flights per week!

Lancaster County: The Heart of PA Dutch Country

Created by Chris Bird / Standby TravelingMom.

Our first stop upon arriving in Lancaster was the Pennsylvania Dutch Visitor’s Center. Parked outside was a Sticky Buns cart, where we enjoyed our first traditional Pennsylvania Dutch food brought over by early 18th century German settlers.

Inside the Visitor’s Center we chatted with a friendly travel consultant who not only loaded us up with brochures and maps of the various ways we could spend our day in Lancaster, but answered our questions about the Amish and Mennonites who live side-by-side there. We even talked about the “Amish Mafia.” Not surprisingly, the television show is all Hollywood and the Amish can’t stand it.

Buggy Ride Tours in Pennsylvania Dutch Country

One thing there are no shortage of in Pennsylvania Dutch Country are buggies. There are almost as many buggies on the road as there are cars, and most are filled with tourists. Buggy Ride Tours are big business in Lancaster and just one of the ways Amish families earn a living. We took an Amish Farm Tour with Aaron & Jessica’s Buggy Rides, where we got a taste of Amish farm life. We toured a barn filled with Clydesdale horses, saw the cows, petted rabbits and asked a lot of questions of our tour operator. He happened to be a Mennonite who converted from Amish and was able to expand on the differing values and traditions of the two faiths.

The farm tour itself was not much different from any farm in America, as even the Amish depend on the latest technology to stay competitive. But, the general Amish education we received from our friendly tour operator while riding in a horse-drawn buggy made the tour worthwhile.

Kitchen Kettle Village

Amish boys in Kitchen Kettle Village, Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Kitchen Kettle Village. Photo credit: Chris Bird / Standby TravelingMom.

Craft stands, quilt, fudge, jam and relish shops galore pepper the streets, but for the most shopping, dining and activities all in one place, Kitchen Kettle Village is a must stop. This all-outdoor venue began more than 50 years ago and remains a quaint community of shopkeepers selling their locally made wares today.

We snacked on deliciously sweet and salty bags of Pappy’s Kettle Korn while winding our way through the village and ending up at Yummie’s Barnyard Friends (petting zoo) & Playground where Reagan burned off some energy. Other activities for the kids include Pony Rides, Berg Toys Pedal Cars that you can race on a real track, Gingerbread Cookie decorating and horse-drawn carriage rides.

More to See and Do in Lancaster

Here’s what we missed but will definitely be going back for!

The Strasburg Rail Road: a scenic 45-minute steam train ride with on-board dining.

Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum: a living history museum containing the nation’s largest collection of Pennsylvania German Kitchen Kettle Villageartifacts displayed in authentic farm village surroundings.

The Amish Farm and House: America’s first Amish attraction featuring an 1805 farm, blacksmith shop, one-room schoolhouse and resident artisans.

Dutch Wonderland: “A Kingdom for Kids!” Amusement park.

Turkey Hill Experience: Experience what it’s like to be a Turkey Hill Dairy ice cream maker for a day and learn about dairy culture.

Miller’s Smorgasbord: World famous, award-winning smorgasbord since 1929 serving up American and local favorites including chicken and waffles and Shoofly pie, all made from scratch with ingredients from local farmers.

To read our full 3-day, family-friendly itinerary for our visit to South Central Pennsylvania, including Gettysburg, Lancaster and Hershey, please visit MamaBirdsBlog.com.