Monday, September 16, 2013

Travels to Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Lancaster, PA is the oldest inland city in the United States, snuggled along the north and west by the mighty Susquehanna River.  It was originally settled in 1718.  The city of Lancaster was home to several important figures in American history. Wheatland, the estate of James Buchanan, the fifteenth President of the United States, is one of Lancaster's most popular attractions. Thaddeus Stevens, considered among the most powerful members of the U.S. House of Representatives, lived in Lancaster as an attorney. Stevens gained notoriety as a Radical Republican and for his abolitionism. The Fulton Opera House in the city was named for Lancaster native Robert Fulton, a renaissance man who created the first fully functional steamboat. All of these individuals have had local schools named after them. After the American Revolution, the city of Lancaster became an iron-foundry center. Two of the most common products needed by pioneers to settle the Frontier were manufactured in Lancaster: the Conestoga wagon and the Pennsylvania long rifle.

Keith and I decided to take a #RoadTrip and drove up towards Philadelphia, stopping in Lancaster for a day detour.  We actually drive up on a Thursday night and stayed at one of the local lodging facilities, so that we could wake up first thing in the morning to get a full day's worth of exploration.  The original plan was to have a traditional Amish breakfast at one of the popular smorgasbords - however, we quickly found out the restaurant did not serve breakfast during the weekdays.  Instead, we grabbed something quick at The Fractured Prune.

From there, I wanted to check out the Amish Farmer's Markets.  I have purchased items from the Amish when they travel down to DC and vend at our local farmer's markets, therefore I wanted to also see them in their own hometown territory.  We walked around and picked up a few canned goods that the Amish specialize in.

Additionally, baked goods, cheeses, fresh produce, and sweet treats were available.  It was fun to walk around the stands and sample items.  If only we weren't continuing on to Philly, we would have picked up a few more goodies to take home.  Look at these sweets!

Besides food items, the Amish are known for their quilt work, woodwork, and other antique items.  We easily killed a couple hours just strolling through the aisles and looking at all the collectibles.

After shopping, I wanted to visit some more historical sites and learn more about the Amish.  One of Lancaster County's most unique features is its Amish population. A strong and deep-set religious faith shapes their world, which excludes electricity, television, and automobiles. The Amish express their religious values through the use of horse and buggy transporation, style of dress, and strong sense of community and family. But their simple lifestyle is not totally distracted from the society as a whole.  A great place to see and learn more about the Amish is the Amish Farm and House.  The 207-year old house is the centerpiece of your experience.

The Kitchen
Built in 1805, it had been a home for many generations. A knowledgeable guides will take you through the house on a 45-minute guided tour and explains the lifestyle of the Lancaster County Amish.  Main highlights of the house include: The Front Room -The Old Order Amish of Lancaster County hold church services in their homes. In this room, the wooden benches are arranged in preparation for an Amish service; The Kitchen - the center of activity of any Amish home and where the Amish family spends most of its time; and The Bedrooms - Amish bedrooms are conservatively decorated with colorful quilts and simple furniture. Their uniquely styled clothing hangs on the wall.

You can also tour the farm grounds featuring the original 1803 stone bank barn - a unique Pennsylvania Dutch design. In the barn and the surrounding meadows are many animals including goats, sheep, cows, chickens, and more.  There are also some actual vegetables and fruits growing on the property and I caught glimpse of this giant yellow squash.

An original tobacco shed is set up like a working tobacco stripping room. See real tobacco hanging from the ceiling and learn how this important crop is grown by local Amish farmers.

A blacksmith shop highlights the art of blacksmith. On special occasions, they have blacksmiths work in the shop.  It was neat to see the oven and all the tools laid out.

After touring the house and farm, we finally got a chance to check out the smorgasbord for lunch.  There are a couple popular places, but we settled on Miller's.  With full bellies, we continued our #RoadTrip north towards Philadelphia.  We took more country roads to stop at additional furniture shops and farmer's stands along the way.  One shop was connected to another farm.  We got out for a break and to taste some of their homemade root beer.  All of a sudden I heard a rooster's crow, so I walked around towards the back and saw all these cute animals lounging away.

It was a nice change of pace to visit the farming Amish communities of Lancaster.  I was intrigued to see how the Amish lived side-by-side with the "English".  Sharing the road with horse and buggies was normal practice in this area - so beware of horse droppings and sudden stops.  Have you visited Lancaster before? What are some of your favorites things to do and places to eat? Please share in the comments below!


  1. What a nice day spent exploring! Those goodies look great and I would love all the cheeses!!! I have a friend that is from Lancaster but not Amish and she said she had major culture shock moving to California!!

    1. Yes - much different pace of life there. Nice to see the farming community flourish so close to a "big city".

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