This year, we had a wonderful long weekend in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. While the entire trip wasn’t hosted, we did experience many local activities and restaurants hosted by the local visitors center. Having never been to Pennsylvania, we were excited to see and learn more about this popular travel destination. The result is this list of great Family Friendly Vacation Tips for Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Whether you are headed for a fast weekend, or a long week stays, this area has a ton to do for any family!
When you head to this region, you may be thinking about it being a commonly known Amish country. Yes, the Amish are more prominent in this part of Pennsylvania than others, but that is not all this region is known for. Lancaster City has a ton of unique travel attractions that are not revolved around the Amish in the area.
A note about the Pennsylvania Dutch Amish
As someone who loves the Amish community and what they offer the region, I also feel that at times, they are made into an attraction instead of being looked at as the individuals and families. There are many ways to appreciate their contribution to the community without invading their life and privacy. So, as you visit the region, be aware that while many shops and restaurants are open and run by the Amish in the community, their homes and lifestyles are personal choices. Please, as you would want others to do for you, be kind and compassionate to them. Teach your children about respecting others and their belief, the way of dress, and speech before visiting the area. This will help prevent awkward encounters and make sure everyone understands what to expect.
Family Friendly Vacation Tips for Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Now, let’s look at some of our favorite experiences while in the area and tell you more about what you can expect and enjoy!
Entertainment in Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Check local unique lodging options: Our family stayed at the Fulton Steamboat Inn which is a unique boutique hotel. While you can find many traditional chain hotel and motels around the region, Lancaster has an amazing array of unique lodging. Bed and breakfast options, as well as unique hotels, are a great way to make your family vacation to this region even more fun!
Visit Dutch Wonderland Amusement Park: We have already shared our experience at the Dutch Wonderland park, but it is worth reminding you of once again. This is truly a “Kingdom for Kids” and a perfect option for a fun-filled day with kids of all ages. The local theme park is in the center of Lancaster, and a great affordable experience for the entire family.
Lancaster Science Factory: We had been given passes to review the Lancaster Science Factory while in the area, and I can’t begin to tell you how much we loved this place! As far as kids science centers go, the space of this one was much smaller than we have seen in the past, but the details of what they offered were amazing. So many different and unique activities, including a special workshop that taught about programming robots. Our son who already loves robots fell in love with this and was thrilled to spend a few hours here.
Strasburg Railroad: One of the best experiences on our trip was to ride on the Strasburg Railroad. This classic restored train is setup for an hour long round trip through the Pennsylvania countryside. Not only do you have a chance to experience a train ride like our ancestors did, but there are many upgrades that are offered to make the trip even more amazing for your family. Trust me, if you love trains, this is a must. Plus, they have various upgrade options and passes which give you a chance to go back multiple times. They even have a train that is setup like Thomas the Train for special promotions throughout the year.
Sight & Sound Theaters: While we didn’t get a chance to visit while in Lancaster, we did drive by and saw many reviews of this theater. They focus mostly on Bible story productions, but it is definitely a great place for a family friendly theater experience. It is on our list for next visit to the area. If you are headed to Lancaster, definitely check out upcoming shows at the Sight & Sound Theater.
Hans Herr House: If you love the history behind a region, this is a great museum to visit. The two structures are some of the oldest in the region and will give you a great look at the early German settlements in the area. Hans Herr House was surprisingly fun for the whole family, and definitely educational.
Shopping in Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Tanger Outlet Mall: Everyone loves a good day of shopping at an outlet mall, and the Tanger Outlets in Lancaster are definitely a plus during your stay. They have all of the expected stores, as well as a few regional that you will enjoy. We didn’t get as much time there as we wanted but hope to go back with a shopping budget in mind.
The Old Country Store: A few miles outside of Lancaster is the town of Intercourse, PA. You’ll find a lot of great Amish shops in this city, but our favorite was The Old Country Store. This is primarily a quilt shop, but it is going to be a favorite for everyone. The intricate designs and delicate needlework will astound anyone who loves beauty.
Plain and Fancy Farms: This combines food, lodging, and shopping in one location. It’s a great place to spend a day or more exploring, learning, shopping, and enjoying amazing local foods.
Food in Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Miller’s Smorgasbord: I don’t even know where to begin. This buffet is truly one of the most amazing places to eat in the region. If you can imagine it, they likely have it on the buffet. Our experience here was hands down, the best meal of our trip. Miller’s Smorgasbord has traditional Amish menu items, classic American buffet standards, and of course, their own unique spin on classics. Some of our favorites were the Chicken and Waffles dish, their macaroni and cheese, and the slow roasted turkey, ham, and beef. There was nothing we didn’t enjoy, but too much to try in one visit. Don’t forget to grab a piece of Shoofly Pie while there!
Annie Bailey’s Pub: Downtown Lancaster, PA has a thriving restaurant and night life district. Tasteful displays of art, great architecture, and attention to the culture of the city has created a beautiful place to spend an evening. One of our favorite experiences was the downtown pub, Annie Bailey’s Pub. We especially enjoyed the live music on the weekend we visited. This restaurant has some common Irish meals, but also a few great unique fusion cuisine options and classic pub foods.
Grandma Jack’s Gourmet Popcorn: Popcorn is a staple item in most households, and this local favorite is a perfect option for bringing home some special snacks. We loved our sample of Grandma Jack’s Gourmet Popcorn from a local shop. Check out their website to learn more about where to find it while in Lancaster.
Herr’s Snack Factory: If you’ve visited Pennsylvania before, you know Herr’s Snacks are a popular treat. This factory tour is going to be a favorite for the entire family! See how favorites are made and enjoy a taste of a few while there.
As you can see, there are tons of family vacation tips for Lancaster, Pennsylvania. There are so many amazing options available for you in Amish Country Pennsylvania. With delicious food, great shopping, unique hotels, and tons of entertainment, it makes a great affordable family vacation destination!