What comes to mind when you hear Lancaster County? Amish, Pennsylvania Dutch, Pretzels… but for me, I think of the slow life. Of a trip “back in time” to take a break from it all. There are a variety of things to do in Lancaster PA for people young or old, active or more relaxed, on a budget or wanting to pamper oneself. You’re bound to enjoy the peaceful vistas, delicious meals, and kind people on your trip to Lancaster PA!
Wonderful Things to do in Lancaster PA – Lancaster County
Amish Country PA
You’ll know when you arrive, as you’ll also find yourself in the heart of Amish Country PA, where you’ll see people dressed in plain clothes and driving via horse and buggy. Lancaster County was the first Amish settlement in the United States. The Amish are traditional Mennonites who don’t believe in electronic devices, mirrors, electricity, or baptism at birth. Their ancestors were German immigrants – hence, Pennsylvania Dutch (“Dutch,” being a misnomer of the word for German, “Deutsche”) – and tend to live simple, sustainable lives tending their farms. Out of respect, when in Amish Country PA, please ask before taking any portraits.
Lancaster PA Bed & Breakfasts
While there are a variety of Lancaster PA Bed & Breakfasts, one most certainly tops the list: The Historic Smithton Inn. Run by Rebecca and Dave, this quaint Bed & Breakfast in Lancaster County far surpassed our expectations. As advertised, it’s truly a “One-of-a-kind Historic Bed and Breakfast!” Founded in 1760, nearly two decades before the Declaration of Independence, The Historic Smithton Inn provides their guests with all of the 21st Century amenities modern travelers have come to depend upon, and each room has been meticulously renovated.
We were truly captivated by the historic charm of the Inn, and loved that all 9 rooms had their own fireplaces! Ours was one of the coziest rooms I have stayed in to date throughout my travels.
The Historic Smithton Inn – Lancaster PA Bed & Breakfasts
While the fusion of historic charm with modern amenities was fantastic, the best part of our experience at the Historic Smithton Inn was with their owners. Rebecca and Dave offered exceptional, round-the-clock guest service, and cooked the most incredible breakfast! I can say with confidence that breakfast at the Historic Smithton Inn simply cannot be beat. Each morning, we indulged in homemade baked goods (like blueberry lemon bread and banana bread), a cup of fresh fruit drizzled with a ginger glaze, and a sweet or savory entrée (like her mouthwatering strawberry-stuffed french toast or breakfast margarita pizza). Needless to say, Rebecca’s delectable breakfasts were surely a welcomed kickstart to our day!
Breakfast started with fruit each morning at the Historic Smithton Inn
If you are looking for one of the most charming, boutique Lancaster PA Bed & Breakfasts, look no further than the Historic Smithton Inn. It makes for the perfect launch point to explore the rest of Lancaster County!
10 Wonderful Things to do in Lancaster PA
1. Do Goat Yoga
Have you ever wanted to cuddle a baby goat? I can’t say it was ever on my to-do list, but now that I have… I couldn’t recommend it more highly! Honestly, Goat Yoga at the Amish Farm & House was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in a long time. It wasn’t kitschy; rather, it was like being in a play pen. Imagine getting into yoga poses and having baby goats jumping on top of you to hang out, while others curiously trot your way. Or if you’re not into yoga, you can sit on the floor and enjoy the inquisitive baby goats. They’re there for all the pets and nuzzling that you can handle. One of the things I really appreciated was that the experience didn’t feel rushed; in fact, it was quite the opposite. We willingly left the pen before the goats!
Address: 2395 Covered Bridge Drive, Lancaster, PA
Price: $21 per person (and worth every cent!)
Goat Yoga in Lancaster PA
2. Get moving on the Historic Lancaster Walking Tour
The Visitor Center in Lancaster arranges walking tours around downtown Lancaster, and it’s a fantastic way to immerse yourself in centuries worth of history. The oldest church in Lancaster, built in 1760, was even attended by George Washington himself! Lancaster was the fourth county in Pennsylvania under King George, and you’ll still see much of the English influence today, largely in the street names (King Street, George Street, N. Queen Street) and road figurations. We learned that Lancaster was Capital of the United States for one day on September 27, 1777; the Continental Congress packed up and left the next day because it was too close to Philadelphia, too small, and lacked protection. The monument in the center of town today depicts the location of this one-day Capital. If history is your thing, you don’t want to miss the Historic Lancaster Walking Tour. It lasts for 2 ½ – 2 ¾ hours, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes!
5FT Fun Fact: Lancaster housed more than 600 German POWs during WWII. These POWs were given jobs, food, and even a church that gave sermons in German. There are many accounts of these former POWs coming back to Lancaster later in life because they were treated so well.
Address: Historic Lancaster Walking Tour, Corp. 38 Penn Square, NW Corner of King and Queen Streets
Times: Tuesday – Saturday at 1pm; Fridays and Sundays at 10am and 1pm
Price: $8 per person
The site of the US Capital for one day – Things to do in Lancaster PA
3. Check out the Central Market
Designed in 1889, Lancaster’s Central Market is the oldest public farmer’s market in the country. Today you can find a variety of fresh produce and food stalls, from pickle stands to açaí bowls, sandwiches, and more. Everything is local and supports the community. If you’re looking for Amish vendors, you’ll find numerous stalls (and if you can’t find what you’re looking for there, you can always pull over at one of their stands on the side of the road to try a Shoofly Pie!). The Central Market is all about community and located in the heart of town.
Address: 23 N Market St, Lancaster, PA
Times: Only open on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 6am to 3pm
The Central Market in Amish Country PA
4. Drive through the Lancaster PA Covered Bridges
Lancaster County countryside is incredibly peaceful. Windy roads yield vast farmland, and, in many ways, it feels like a step back in time. Lancaster County is home to more than 25 covered bridges, and Discover Lancaster has them mapped out for us so that way we don’t need to go on a wild goose chase. We did their Southern Amish Countryside self-guided driving tour.
Address: Choose the right driving route for your wants and needs here.
Walking through the covered bridges in the countryside of Lancaster PA
5. Make a Pretzel
Did you know that the first ever pretzel bakery in the States was in Lititz, Lancaster County? Needless to say, I had no idea. But more than that, I had no idea that there was a significance behind the pretzel twist. We visited the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, toured the oldest pretzel bakery, and then designed our own pretzels (unfortunately not to put in our bellies). Now, for some history behind the pretzel twist! We learned that pretzels began in 610 A.D. as rewards for children who learned their prayers. To make a pretzel, you roll a string of dough about 12 inches long, then create a U-Shape; this U-Shape represents a child’s prayers lifted up to heaven. Twisting the two ends then represents marriage between the child’s parents, while the end result with the three openings represents the Holy Trinity.
Address: 219 East Main Street (Route 772), Lititz, PA
Time: 10:30am – 3:30pm Monday-Saturday, 12pm-3:30pm Sunday [must book tour in advance]
Price: $4 per person
First Pretzel Bakery in the States – Things to do in Lancaster PA
6. Go on a Horse & Buggy Ride
When in Amish Country PA, do as the Amish do. There’s no better way to learn about their way of life, than on a horse & buggy ride through the countryside. You don’t have to pre-book your ride, and the carriage driver is a wealth of knowledge on the Amish lifestyle. While quite different from modern day, there’s something to be said for the simplicity of life and truly living off the land. I think I’ll keep my car that doesn’t top out at 10 mph though…
Address: 3121 Old Philadelphia Pike, Bird N Hand, PA
Time: 9am-5:30pm Monday-Saturday, 10am-4:30pm Sunday
Price: $16 per person
Buggy Rides Lancaster PA
7. Stroll the Stoudtburg Village
Now this was a surprise for us! While initially not in our itinerary, we learned that Lancaster County is considered to be the best place in the States to go antique shopping. And since we just bought a house, we wanted to see if there were any interesting tchotchkes to bring home. Everyone was incredibly friendly and we so enjoyed ourselves. After perusing the stalls, we walked across the street to Stoudtburg Village, and it truly felt like we walked through one of those portals from The Avengers and ended up in Bavaria. With colorful buildings and shops, it was like a fairytale! Considered a “modern day version of an old European Village,” Stoudtburg Village is largely residential with some cute shops and boutiques; many of the shopkeepers are retirees who always dreamed of owning their own shop. We admittedly didn’t have as long as I would have liked here, as we squeezed it into our plans, but we’ll certainly be back! Do plan time here to relax and meander the colorful alleyways on your visit.
Address: Village Cir, Adamstown, PA
Time: Open Friday-Sunday
Stoudtburg Village – Shopping in Lancaster PA
8. Relax at the Spa
If you’ve leaned into the slower pace of life in Lancaster County, a massage may be just what you need! Whether you’re on a romantic getaway or a self-care escapade, The Spa at Intercourse has a variety of treatments that will certainly leave you feeling zen (and yes, there really is a town called Intercourse). We always opt for 90 minute sports massages. Of course, be sure to book your appointment ahead of time!
Address: 3542 Old Philadelphia Pike, Intercourse, PA
Time: Book ahead by calling (717) 768-0555
Schedule a Spa in Amish Country PA
9. Eat a Whoopie Pie
Guess what? Lancaster is home to the whoopie pie! They’re nothing like the preservative-filled ones you buy at the store; they’re made fresh, soft, and delicious! They come in a variety of flavors, but I’m pretty sure the pumpkin reigns supreme.
Address: Any Amish Stand
Time: Varies, but closed on Sundays
Eat a Whoopie Pie – Things to do in Lancaster PA
10. Hike to Chickies Overlook Trail
Hiking in Lancaster PA must not be missed! If you’ve had enough history and downtime, immerse yourself in nature! Lancaster County has a variety of outdoor activities, and we spent time checking out three of their trails. Chickies Overlook Trail was our favorite – you can either take a flat stroll there (all ages welcome), or you can choose a steeper path if you want something more rigorous. Both routes lead you to a beautiful, well-maintained overlook of the Susquehanna River. It takes approximately 30 minutes there and back, and it is well worth it.
Address: 880 Chickies Hill Road, Columbia, PA
Time: Sunrise to Sunset
Hiking in Lancaster PA
Best Restaurants in Lancaster PA
- Decades Lancaster – This is one of the most enjoyable restaurants I’ve been to in a long time. A former basketball court turned retro restaurant, Decades has bowling lanes and old school arcade games because who says adults can’t have fun too? Aside from the ambience, the quality of the food was incredible. I was surprised to find so many vegan options on their menu, and I highly recommend their vegan BBQ bites – they taste just like ribs!
- The Deck – Located just minutes from the Historic Smithton Inn, the Deck has a fantastic – you guessed it – deck and outdoor dining. They’re open until around 2am (a rarity in Lancaster County, I learned) and it’s just a vibe. We had their buffalo shrimp and fish tacos, which were delicious!
- The Fridge – In the heart of Lancaster, The Fridge offers casual dining with a variety of food options. Their specialty pizzas were fantastic! I’d recommend grabbing a quick lunch here before your Historic Lancaster Walking Tour.
How far is Lancaster? Directions to Lancaster PA
Lancaster County is easily accessible from the Tri-State Area, as well as the Maryland, DC, and Virginia areas, and it’s a wonderful weekend road trip destination. There’s a variety of activities to appeal to all ages and tastes, no matter the season.
If you’re not within driving distance, I’d recommend flying into Philadelphia and driving the hour and a half to Lancaster County. As you’ll need a car to get around, this would be the easiest route.
For further directions to Lancaster PA, have a look at this link from Discover Lancaster.
No matter how you get there, you're bound to have a fantastic experience, and a variety of things to do in Lancaster PA!
Scenic views at every turn in Lancaster County!
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*Special thanks to Discover Lancaster for providing us the opportunity to explore the area! As always, all opinions are my own.