Fun Things to do on a Family Trip to Lancaster, PA
Lancaster is by far one of the most interesting cities to visit in Pennsylvania. Its history is very rich, and there are so many things to do here, that you won’t get bored. We promise.
The roots of Lancaster are German, Dutch, and English, and all these influences will be met all around the region. You will find many charming places, such as the rolling farmlands, as well as the old-fashioned villages.
However, although it still keeps the Amish spirit, Lancaster is also a thriving tourist place, very friendly with its visitors.
You will find a variety of activities to do, from amusement parks to hiking, biking, as well as swimming and fishing. In a nutshell, you won’t lack for fun activities while you are here. So, are you ready to start experiencing the best time in one of America’s oldest cities?
The big Controversy: How to say ‘Lancaster’
Ok, first things first. Many people have this question: How do we pronounce “Lancaster”? Ok, so residents of all Lancaster’s in the United States, as well as the locals cannot seem to agree on this, I’m going to stick my neck out and I believe the correct way to pronounce the word Lancaster is Lang-Kisst-her Lan-CAST-er.
If you did not know so far, Lancaster was named, in the old English, as “Roman fort on the Lune”. The name came from the Lune River, on which the region stands. Now, when it comes to English Phonetic, here is the actual transcription for “Lancaster”:
- Traditional Roman: L’ankaster | 3 syllables: “LAN” + “ka” + “stuh”
- Penn Live: Lank-Kiss-stir
- York Daily Record: Lan-Kiss-ter
- Bradley Cooper: Lan-CAST-er <– Bradley, we are not in Philadelphia
- Kali: Lang-Kisst-her <–You have to get that nasally ‘G’ in there
Fun with Kids: Things to do in Lancaster, PA
Going with kids on vacation can be challenging, especially if you don’t have so many things to do in common. Luckily, Lancaster has lots of museums, also some weekend getaways where kids can have lots of fun, while also learning about the history of this place.
If kids get bored with museums, you can explore the indoor play space, specially created for families.
1. Learn about the Amish Village
One of the best things to do with your kids is visiting the Amish Village. Here you can see the one-room schoolhouse, the cheerful pet farm animals, and also the authentic Amish farmhouse.
2. The Tiny Town
If there is a rainy day, you can go to an indoor space, where kids can play as long as you want. At the Tiny Town, they can play inside a mini fire station, a mini garage, or a mini-hospital. Moreover, this place hosts a real coffee bar for parents.
3. The Lil’ Country Store
Kids love toys, don’t they? As such, you can go to Lil’ Country Store, where you can find from dolls to furniture and lots of fun items. You can find some seasonal items too, such as pumpkin butter or apple butter spread. Yummy!
4. Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
Is there anything more fun for kids than visiting a museum full of trains, locomotives, and railroad cars? The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania will teach children all about trains, their history, and importance in our lives.
5. Dutch Wonderland
Spend a great time with your kids by visiting the kid-friendly amusement park Dutch Wonderland. This is a fun park, where you can also find some delicious food.
6. Hands-on House Children’s Museum
This special museum will take you through lots of interactive exhibits, as well as a play garden. Kids can make lots of friends here.
7. Strasburg Railroad
Speaking about trains and the passion for this amazing meaning of transport, you can go to the Strasburg Railroad, where you have the chance to take a ride on Thomas the Tank Engine. If not, you can just keep an eye on the specific hours of the day, when the Thomas train is passing by.
8. Turkey Hill Experience
How about making your own creamy ice cream? Go to the Turkey Hill Experience and have a milk truck, maybe a tasty tea. Here you can also learn about milking a cow, in one of the lab’s mechanical cows.
Free: Things to do in Lancaster, PA
Going to Lancaster can be An inexpensive experience, as soon as you know which are the free things to do there. Its undeniable beautiful landscapes, as well as the seasonal charms and Amish quilt farms and shops, are few of the free things you can do while visiting this place.
This is the kind of place where you can go with your family and have lots of fun, without spending a fortune. Enjoy the simple things, and see one of Lancaster’s top tourist attractions with a small budget. As such, we have gathered some of the free attractions we found interesting to see.
First and Third Fridays Downtown
There are so many special free events that are happening in the city of Lancaster. Right in the first and third Fridays of the month, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m, there are hundreds of art galleries, museums, and shops that are waiting for tourists to come.
Moreover, These events are staying open late at night. You can enjoy live music, as well as the tasty food from the traditional restaurants and the local downtown venues. During the summer, these events are even more interesting. There are Music Fridays, which include free evening concerts, right at Binns Park. During the winter, these concerts will move indoors.
Countryside Driving Tours
If you don’t want to spend too much time in the noisy city, you can explore the sights of it. For instance, you can go and explore the scenic countryside of Lancaster County. Here you can admire Pennsylvania’s Amish Countryside, with its unique elements.
For instance, you can explore the countryside roads and the historic covered bridges, some of them dating since the 1800s. Moreover, you will get the chance to see the Amish farmlands and pass through them with the Amish buggies.
How does it sound visiting a 23-acre Hersey Farm? Located right in the countryside and outside Lancaster, this place has everything you need, everything you want. You can have a nice meal at the restaurant, shop something sweet from the bakery and the shops around, or just have a walking trail for free.
There are also some mile-long trail passes, all through the green woodlands. During spring and summer, you can admire the blooming gardens, while during the fall, you can see the color-changing of the woods.
If you are going with your children, they will finally have the chance to see the farm animals, and all the goats and chickens very closely.
Lancaster Central Market
Are you looking for a shopping destination? Then it is mandatory going to Lancaster Central Market, a place that dates back to the 1730s. This historic land market is one of the oldest farmers market venues from the United States.
It’s impossible not to see the old-red brick building. Once entering here, you will see all the family-owned stands, which are here for over a century. The entrance is free, but you will not resist not buying at least one food product.
You will find fresh bread, farm-fresh cheese, as well as many arts and crafts, keeping the traditional spirit.
Mascot Roller Mills and Ressler Family Home
Right 15 minutes away from Lancaster, there is this historic grain mill, which has been providing local families with flour from 1865 to 1977. Although very old, the milling equipment is still operational today.
There is also some craftsman grinding corn every day, as a demonstration for the ones coming here. The experience of seeing the water flow all through the mill’s turbines is unique, as this is the only power that keeps the mill working.
The admission to the Mascot Roller Mill is free, and it is open from Monday through Saturday, but only from May to mid-October.
Historical Sites: Things to do in in Lancaster, PA
Passionate about history? Here are some historic sites you can visit during your stay in Lancaster, PA.
Lancaster County PA
The city itself is a historic site, as its roots are in the 1700s. Actually, at one point in history, Lancaster was the largest inland city in America. Since the war of 1812, Lancaster served as the nation’s capital for one day. The heritage is still kept in the numerous historical sites and museums of the city.
Have this unique journey back in time and enjoy the full-size reproduction of Moses’ Tabernacle in the Wilderness. This is actually a replica, which was designed and built following the Biblical descriptions in the Exodus book.
Here you will meet the guide of the place, who will carefully explain to you the origins and the spiritual significance of this place and the influence of the spiritual forces.
Columbia Historic Preservation Society
This is definitely a top historic place to visit. Columbia’s history museum will share its visitors with the great story of this river town. You will start understanding the importance of the pivotal role of the city in the Civil War.
Hans Herr House & Museum
Do you want to visit the oldest homestead in Lancaster County? Then you should see how everyday living was 300 years ago. Moreover, the museum has other farmhouses and outbuildings, as well as a native American dwelling.
Lititz Historical Foundation
The Lititz Museum is a great exhibition to visit, as it has elements from the beginnings of the native American culture. Moreover, you will find objects since the arrival of Moravian settlers, but also from Lititz’s most popular resident, John Sutter.
National Clock & Watch Museum
This museum has been open since 1977 and displays more than 12,000 items. Moreover, the Watch Museum is the home for the largest horological collection in North America. So you will be able to see lots of tools, clocks, watches, and also thousands of other items from all around the world.
Unique Restaurants in Lancaster, PA
It is a pity going to Lancaster and not trying some of the iconic meals here. Here are our recommendations, so make sure you check at least one of them:
What about enjoying 2 things once? The dinner theaters offer their visitors the chance of having a delicious dinner while also watching a movie or a live show. Lancaster County has a large number of dinner theaters, but the following ones are the best you can get:
- Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre
This is a year-round dinner, which offers its visitors a Broadway show package, with professional performers all across the United States. You can also listen to a live orchestra, with traditional classical music.
For food, you will have an All-American buffet meal, so you can get all that you are craving for. If you are going with children, it’s perfectly fine, as the children’s theatre and concerts are available all through the year.
This is a place is my favorite, where you can serve authentic PA Dutch Cooking Meals and shop. Also here, you can experiment with the largest smorgasbord in Lancaster County. This cooking place has delicious authentic Pennsylvania Dutch meals, so you can try all the dining pleasures you have.
If you are going in a group, don’t worry, as the Shady Maple has a banquet facility special for events, corporate meetings, even more, personal events, such as weddings.
Yes the correct way to say Bube’s is BOOB’S. Go back in time and enjoy this 19th-century brewery complex. Here you will find a series of buildings, which performed lots of brewery functions. If you want to see one of the great American breweries still intact, then visit one of the only breweries that is registered nationally as a historical location that still operates, and that is intact.
Today, Bube’s operates as a microbrewery, where you will get entertained. This is also considered a dining mecca too. I would definitley say this place is very unique and has many layers. I recommend having the tour. The first beer produced in the brewery was in 1917, and the recipe came back to life in November 2001.
Casey Jones Restaurant at Red Caboose Motel
You can finally see the iconic Red Caboose Motel, which dates since 1970. Quite amazing, right? Also here, you will have an on-site restaurant, which is named “Casey Jones”.
Loxley’s at Heritage Hills
How would it be to dine in the most amazing tree house in the world? This is an open layout, and it uses the natural environment to create a unique feeling while having a nice meal, right in the center of nature.
Right in Central Pennsylvania, you can enjoy the feast on an extensive menu. So make yourself comfortable, taste the food while surrounded by a tree growing right in the center.
Good Life Ice cream and Treats
Who doesn’t love tasty ice cream? Good Life Ice Cream & Treats have home-made ice cream, a great assortment to choose from. If you are going with your children, they can have cakes, cupcakes, as well as other sweet treats.
Where to stay in Lancaster, PA
Don’t know what accommodation to look for when traveling to Lancaster? Here are some ideas for you.
Bed and Breakfast
Twin Pine Manor Bed & Breakfast
This place is an actual spacious mansion, with nine luxurious rooms. As you have figured, this is a more expensive place to stay, as it has also some jacuzzi tubs and warm fireplaces. One of the big pluses of this place is its location, right in the heart of PA Dutch Country. The approximate price per night is $169.
B. F. Hiestand House Bed & Breakfast
If you don’t want to pay so much for a room, then go to this accommodation. If you are also enjoying the local history and architecture, this is a gracious home to stay too. Moreover, its unique design will attract anyone, with the rare American Chestnut foyer, or the coffered ceiling.
The fireplaces are very pleasant to stay in, especially if you will snuggle with a good book next to you. The price is around $110 per night.
The Hurst House
The Hurst House Bed & Breakfast is right in the heart of Ephrata, and it sits at the right top of Katche Boucle, or the Cat’s Back Hill. This place looks very traditional and has little elements from hundreds of beautiful Amish and Mennonite farms.
If you are looking for accommodation to make you feel like home, then go to Hurst House. The price per night starts from $170.
The Hertzog Homestead Bed and Breakfast
This is a private, B&B bed, and breakfast, where you can have enough intimacy. If you don’t like to share your space with other people or make small talks in the morning, go to Hertzog. It was built in 1786 and has been the home for a nine generation family.
If you want to experience quietness and peace, then you should try this getaway. The price per night is around $150.
Strasburg Village Inn
The Strasburg Village Inn is right in the middle of Strasburg, and it has walkable shopping and dining spaces. Moreover, you have other attractions, such as the Strasburg Rail Road and Sight & Sound, which is only five minutes away. The price per night here is $120.
If you love to stay in the middle of nature, here are some options for campings in Lancaster:
Beacon Hill Camping
The first camping to mention is the Beacon Hill Camping, which is located less than a mile from Intercourse. It is one of the quietest places to stay, plus, it is surrounded by the beautiful Amish farmland. However, there is a minus.
This camping is adult-only. If you don’t go with your children on vacation, then make this camping your home-away-from-home. It does not matter the time of the year you are going, you will find the same quiet place.
Dutch Cousins Campground
If you are an RV camper and look for a cozy place to camp, the Dutch Cousins is the campground you should go to. All the sites are spacious enough, and also big-rig friendly. You have some hook-ups as well, which are really needed for a camping trip.
Flory’s Cottages & Camping
It’s a pity not to have the experience of camping surrounded by amazing farmland. The Flory’s Cottages and Camping are very peaceful and quiet, and enough space to feel comfortable. As such, even if you have a large RV, you have all you need. From full hook-ups to level sites.
White Oak Campground
Located in Lancaster County, the White Oak Campground has lots of season sites and hookups. People prefer this camping because of its central location, perfect if you want to be close to the main attractions.
Old Mill Stream Campground
Traveling with kids means you need special accommodations. As such, the Old Mill Stream Campground is an RV-friendly campground, right next door to Dutch Wonderland Family Amusement Park. The Old Mill Stream Campground has also a stream for fishing and full-hook up sites.
Staying at the Amish Farms is an authentic experience and unique. So here are some of the best Amish Farm Bed &Breakfast accommodations and Guest Houses in Lancaster.
Country Log House Farm Bed & Breakfast
If you are looking for a quiet place to stay in and which keeps the atmosphere of Lancaster, come to Country Log House. The rooms are really comfortable, and you get a rich breakfast which is made in a family-style.
Moreover, you are free to feed and pet the sheep and goats or play with the adorable cats.
Country View PA Bed & Breakfast and Cottage
Right in the heart of the Amish Country, you will find comfortable accommodation, from where you can watch the horse or ride the buggies. The rooms are tourist-friendly, and they have all the amenities you need.
Lancaster Hotels with Pools
Country Inn of Lancaster
Do you enjoy swimming? Then consider the Country Inn of Lancaster, a hotel with AAA Triple-Diamond rate. You will have both an indoor and outdoor pool and hot tub, a continental breakfast, a very friendly service, as well as a pub where you can have a nice cocktail. All the rooms are deluxe balcony rooms.
Bird-In-Hand Family Inn
If you are looking for a more affordable option, go to Bird-In-Hand Family Inn. This place is perfect for those families who have a very active lifestyle. It has indoor and outdoor swimming pools, as well as two sports courts, one for tennis, one for basketball.
Circle Camping Resort
Crazy about adventure? Then you should enjoy renting a cabin and the 104 acres of land, and indoor water park, a mini-gold, pitch, and putt golf within the Circle M RV Camping Resort.
Red Caboose Motel
Red Caboose Motel is a unique experience in Lancaster County, and it is perfect for couples and families too. This hotel features 46 rooms, and it has cabooses, baggage cars, and post office cars.
Cartoon Network Hotel
One of the most exciting hotels in the whole world, the Cartoon Network Hotel is a unique place to stay with your family. Once you enter the lobby, you will meet some character-themed guest rooms, as well as some Dream Suites. So, staying here will be like sleeping over in a cartoon.
There are so many things to do once you are in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Here are our top picks, so we hope you enjoyed them.
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Ultimate Guide to the Best of Lancaster, Pennsylvania
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