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Jewels of the North
Breezy Blackpool
Witches and Hot Pot
A Lightning Tour

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The Island of Crete

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Ancient Rome
Renaissance Rome

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Some tips on
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Bridges; Markets

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By Pat Mestern

Mention of Lancaster County in Pennsylvania usually brings comments about traffic, tourist infill on Route #30 and #340 and dreadful souvenirs that have nothing to do with the Amish who settled the area more than two hundred and twenty years ago. This is not a true portrayal of the beautiful area located in southeastern Pennsylvania. Lancaster County has a particular affinity with Waterloo County, Ontario. Ancestors of Canada's Mennonite and Amish peoples traveled from Lancaster County nearly two hundred years ago to establish colonies in Upper Canada, and ties remain strong today between the two areas.

Teddy and I enjoy the area from late October through April when accommodation is cheaper and breakfast is often included in room price. Good rooms can be found for as little as $30. U.S. We have no desire to visit the obvious tourist traps, that open in April and close after Columbus Day in October. Outlet malls are less crowded and there is never a lineup at popular restaurants or large regional farm markets. The County is an easy one day's drive from the Canadian border, and has all the amenities one needs for a good restful holiday. We always book a room in advance and choose accommodation in the heart of the area which we use as base camp for at least five days of exploration. We have enjoyed stays at Lancaster Host Resort & Conference Center, a full service facility, and at Millstream Country Inn, which offers bright, clean rooms with breakfast included in the reasonable room rate. Take advantage of discount coupons if you travel to the area in March, when it is beginning to gear up for the thousands of summer visitors. A number of establishments, wishing to cater to the locals and to ready their staff for the busy season, offer very attractive specials. The first thing we do when we arrive is browse the local publications for half price and two-for-one coupons. Then we plan our week's activities.

The County's large Amish population maintain beautiful farms and homes that are a credit to their work ethic. Buildings are usually painted white, a colour that contracts sharply against the fertile red-brown soil in the valley. This is land that has seen the plough for more than two centuries; land that has been worked by a people whose rhythm of life has remains unbroken from earliest times. The Amish do not mind sharing their visual lifestyle, but they ask that you respect their privacy. A photographer's urge to capture the moment is strong but everyone is asked not to take photographs of these people at work and play. Please do not trespass on private property for a "better look." Amish homes are not living museums, and their people are not live exhibits. They are real people living real lives. Be careful when approaching a horse and buggy. Don't wave. Don't blow your horn. When passing, give the buggy lots of room and do not cut back into your lane too soon as this will frighten the horse.

To be honest, plan for several days of serious shopping. There are two huge outlet malls, Rockvale Square Outlet and Tanger Outlet Center that have more than two hundred stores between them. Bargains are everywhere. There is no tax on clothing in Pennsylvania and State Tax is only 6% on other purchases - need I say more.

Set Tuesday morning aside for visiting Roots Market near Manheim, three quarters of an hour from "base camp." Spread over three interconnecting buildings, an outdoor area and a half dozen satellite structures, Roots is the quanti-essential farm market with healthy competition among its scores of butchers, bakers and produce vendors. Crafts, a flea market and small animal sale round out the activities. Try regional specialties, Whoopie Pie, homemade crispy potato chips, salty fat pretzels. Take several hours to poke around Roots before heading up the road to Lititz for lunch at the General Sutter Inn on the square. Men, check your washroom!

Lititz was founded in 1756. Well known for its architecture, some of the oldest buildings in Pennsylvania are found along the town's tree lined streets. Be sure to visit Wilbur Chocolate Candy Americana Museum & Store, within walking distance of the Inn. Wilbur's has a classy collection of cocoa pots, chocolate molds and an excellent presentation on the story of chocolate. The Gift Shop sells their product. Dark chocolate-covered ginger and milk chocolate-covered apricots are my downfall.

A short jaunt across country brings you back to home base in time for supper at Miller's Smorgasbord on Route #30, east of #896. Millers pride themselves on their buffet with unlimited quantities of well prepared Lancaster County fare, large bowls of shrimp and sumptuous desserts. This smorgasbord rates as one of the best in southeastern Pennsylvania.

One day should be spent "doing" the area's covered bridges, old hardware and country stores. We recommend the Amish Store at Bart on #896 south of Strasburg, Kaufman's Hardware in New Holland and The Amish Hardware Store off Route #896 about five miles south of Georgetown. As these stores do not advertise, keep a sharp eye out for them. Mark their location on the handy map provided by the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau. You will want to visit to these gems again. Use the same map to locate the area's more than twenty beautifully restored covered bridges. Ask for directions if you get lost on a winding back roads. Nothing runs straight in Lancaster County. Many Amish families have businesses on their farms, so feel free to browse for quilts, wooden items, wagons, scooters, preserves, bird feeders and houses, but never on Sunday. Set aside an afternoon to explore the villages of Bird In Hand and Intercourse. After a busy day, enjoy a hearty meal at the Good & Plenty or the Plain & Fancy, where service is family style and you share tables with people from around the world. Be sure to visit the Green Dragon Market near Ephrata on Fridays.

While in the area explore Ephrata Cloister, the site of an 18th century communal religious society. The Cloister has some of the oldest restored buildings in the Eastern United States. Only three-quarters of an hour from Lancaster, Ephrata's quaint, vibrant main streets beckon. Doneckers & The Artworks on State Street is excellent for those interested in the arts and upscale crafts.

During the spring and fall a large number of auction sales are held throughout the county, including the Gordonville Firefighters Auctions in March and September when several hundred Amish buggies go on the block along with scores of other horse drawn farm equipment, horses, mules, household furniture, quilts, odd and ends. A half dozen auctioneers work simultaneously to sell the hundreds of items. The Amish love a good auction. Bidding is stiff! The area offers accommodation and restaurants to suit all pocket books and tastes. Along with those mentioned above, we enjoy casual, inexpensive dining at The Gap Diner, ten miles east of Lancaster and both Best Western Restaurants in the village of Bird In Hand and Intercourse. For elegant dining, enjoy an evening at the Washington House Restaurant at Historic Strasburg Inn. As Lancaster County has a culinary reputation to uphold, you are rarely served an unacceptable meal. Be forewarned that the weight your wallet loses during the course of your visit, will end up around your waist line, in pounds gained from all the good food you consume. Lancaster County is well worth a visit at any time of the year, but if you are not into crowds, plan to visit during the months of January through March, and late October through December. It is an great place to relax when you need a quiet break. Once you have spent a week Lancaster County, you will want to return each year to participate once again in its charming and unusual amenities. Gut Smecking!


  • For information and maps write Pennsylvania Dutch Convention & Visitors Bureau

  • Accommodations mentioned include
    • Lancaster Host Resort & Conference Center
      2300 Lincoln Highway East
      Lancaster, Pennsylvania 17602

      Millstream County Inn
      Route #896
      Smoketown, Pennsylvania 17206

  • Restaurant contacts are
    • The General Sutter Inn
      14 East Main Street
      Lititz, Pennsylvania 17543

      Miller's Smorgasbord
      Route #30
      Lancaster, Pennsylvania 17601

      The Plain & Fancy Restaurant
      Rte #340
      Bird In Hand, Pennsylvania

      The Good & Plenty Restaurant
      Rte #896
      Smoketown, Pennsylvania

      Hershey Farm Restaurant & Motor Inn
      Rte #896
      Strasburg, Pennsylvia

  • Attractions mentioned are open year round
    • Wilbur Chocolate Candy Americana Museum & Store
      48 Broad Street
      Lititz, Pennsylvania 17543

      Ephrata Cloister
      632 Main Street
      Ephrata, Pennsylvania 17522
      (Admission charge)

      Doneckers & The Artworks
      #100-409 N State Street
      Ephrata, Pennsylvania 17522

  • Kaufman's Hardware is located at
    • #201-215 E Main Street
      Rte #23
      New Holland, Pennsylvania 17557

  • Rockvale Square Outlets is at
    • The corner of Rte #30 and #896
      Lancaster, Pennsylvania

  • Tanger Outlet Center

  • Roots and Green Dragon markets have no advertised visitor information

  • Remember too that many Amish run stores have no advertised telephone numbers

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