Visiting Pennsylvania Dutch Country
Amish Country offers both tradition and modern fun.
There are surprisingly many Amish and Mennonite communities spread throughout the northeastern United States. These communities are not quite as separate from the rest of us as they used to be. These days it's relatively common to see an Amish person operating a modern cash register, using a computer and even talking on a cell phone.
They've still kept many of their basic traditions though. The men still usually have their trademark 'Abe Lincoln' beards with the shaved mustache and the black hat. The women still wear their traditional simple clothing and headpiece. Here in my neck of the woods (northeast Ohio), it's common to buy your fruits and veggies from a local Amish vendor.
It's just as common to see them walking through the mall or at your local restaurant. In this area you don't see many Amish folks using a horse and buggy to get to work anymore but just a few hours east in areas of Pennsylvania even that is still the norm.
Where to Go
Perhaps the largest concentration and certainly the most famous area for these 'plain folk' as they're sometimes called locally is in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the center of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. If you're thinking of visiting Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Lancaster is the place to go.
Located surprisingly close to the large metropolitan areas of Philadelphia and Baltimore, Lancaster has nevertheless resisted that kind of growth, choosing instead to remain simpler. Make no mistake, Lancaster is a city and in fact for many years in America's early days, it was the largest inland city in the nation but it has managed to keep a simpler, less hectic air.
It's this small, simple 'country living' atmosphere in the area surrounding Lancaster that attracts more than five million tourists per year. Well, that and the shopping! The area is known not only for the Amish but for the products they make. From food to clothing to furniture, Amish products are a staple in the area and the reason that many people visit.
What Lancaster Offers Visitors
There's much more in this area to do other than shop though. You can take walking, car, bus and even buggy tours of the Amish country and learn about the Amish culture. See Amish homes and farms, one-room schoolhouses, covered bridges and more, but there's also enough city to have all of the modern-day conveniences close at hand like common restaurants and hotels. Other non-Amish attractions include regular shopping, outlet shopping, several wineries and breweries you can tour and plenty of antique dealers.
Fun Family Activities
For the family, there's the Choo Choo Barn at Traintown USA where the family can see what may be the largest model train set they'll ever see. There's the Cherry Crest Farm, with country favorite activities such as a pumpkin slinger and corn maze as well as petting zoo and live entertainment. If you've never tried a pumpkin slinger it may seem a bit silly but once you've done it, you'll realize why people love launching little pumpkins with a huge slingshot and trying to hit the targets!
The family can also visit the beautiful Longwood Gardens with over 1,000 acres of gardens, fountains and more. A family favorite during the summer is a small 48-acre theme park called Dutch Wonderland with 30 rides and other entertainment.
Something for Everyone
There are a number of live theatrical venues, as well as many museums, both for children and adults in the area to choose from as well. The family will not be lacking for things to do while visiting Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Most places are open year-round so any time you choose to visit is a good time.
A simple web search brings up several websites dedicated specifically to Pennsylvania Dutch Country and Lancaster, PA tourism so finding the information you need about food, lodging and transportation is very easy. Of course, if the 'country living' just gets to be too much for you, it's only short drive east to Philadelphia and some of the most important historic sites in America.