Why You Should Visit Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Amish Schoolhouse
Amish Schoolhouse

Any Trip to Pennsyvania Should Include a Trip to Amish Country

When in Pennsylvania, Visit Amish Country-Unforgettable!!

If you have never visited Pennsylvania's Amish Country, in and around Lancaster, PA (Primarily in the towns of Intercourse, Blue Ball, and Bird-in-Hand), you should plan a visit anytime you are in Pennsyvania. It is an experience that you won't soon forget.

If you don't know anything about the Amish people (or Plain Folks), they originated in Germany, and came here, like many, in pursuit of religious freedom. The Amish family is God-centered, and they live a very simple life compared with most of the rest of us.

Amish Homes and Family

Amish homes have no electrical power and Amish people are not allowed to drive cars. Their clothes can not have zippers or snaps, only buttons and no belts, only button-on suspenders. When out and about, women are always wearing full-length skirts, a white apron, and their heads are always covered with a bonnet. Married men, ALWAYS have a beard, but no moustache. Single men, NEVER have a beard. Amish males are usually seen wearing straw hats when they are outside. Most Amish people commonly only wear clothing of blue, black and white.

Many Amish families are in the farming business, as you can see when driving through the Lancaster County countryside. Until you get into the heart of the small towns and villages, there is farmland hearly as far as the eye can see. When an Amish family builds a house, they do not hire outside contractors, the Amish community all pitches in and they build the house together. If you go inside an Amish home, you will notice that the construction is sturdy and of high quality. They also build all of their own furniture, which you will also find is high quality.

Amish Religious Services

Their church (which they refere to as a meeting) is held in the homes of individual families, and they rotate on a bi-weekly basis. Inside the Amish home, there is usually one room dedicated to the meeting, and there are benches for all the "congregation" to sit upon during the service. All of the music is sung with no instrumental accompanyment, and the entire service is in Pennsylvania German (aka Pennsylvania Dutch). All chidlren a required to learn Pennsyvania Dutch in school. ."The history of the Amish church began with a schism in Switzerland within a group of Swiss and Alsatian Anabaptists in 1693 led by Jakob Ammann.[2] Those who followed Ammann became known as Amish.[3]""Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amish

Each area is divided into church "districts" which may consist of 20 to 40 families, who alternate holding church in their homes. Services are held every other week. Education is usually done in Amish run schools, which are normally a one-room school house, up to the 8th grade. Most Amish children stop going to shcool after grade 8, and start working in whatever business the family is engaged in.

Rumspringa

Amish people are not allowed to marry until they are baptized, which usually occurs in late adolescence to early adulthood. Getting baptized is a personal decision, and Amish adolscents go through a period known as "rumspringa," (running around), during which they are allowed some time to be involved in the ways of the world that most of us know as normal. During the course of rumspringa, and Amish adolescent will eventually make a choice to either join the Amish and become baptized, or to stay in our world. If they choose to stay in "the world," they may be shunned by all of their former Amish friends, and even their own family may shun them. About 90% of Amish teens get baptized and join the Amish.

Typical Black Horse Drawn Carrigage
Typical Black Horse Drawn Carrigage
Waiting for Our Turn to go on a Horse Drawn Buggy Ride Through Amish Country
Waiting for Our Turn to go on a Horse Drawn Buggy Ride Through Amish Country

Amish Transportation

Horse and Buggy: The Typical Amish Mode of Transportation

Amish people are not allowed to drive cars (alhtough they are allowed to ride in them), therefore, the most common mode of transportation seen in Amish communities is the black horse and buggy, such as the one pictured here. Many Amish men earn money on the side by giving horse and buggy rides to visitors to Lancaster County. If you are driving along rte. 222 in Lancaster, you will pass many buggy ride businesses that cater to the tourists. One of many you will pass along the way is Aaron and Jessica's Buggy Rides, 3121 Old Philadelphia Pike, Bird-In-Hand, PA 17505
Mail: P. O. Box 417, Bird-In-Hand, PA 17505.

Most horse and buggy rides will entail a stop at a working farm along the way, where you will have an opportunity to observe how things are done the Amish way. You will perhaps be interested to know, although electricity is not allowed inside the home, they can use electricity produced by a generator in some of other farming applications, such as running milking machines. Also, even though you won't find telephones inside the house, you may find a telephone outside of the barn hanging on a telephone pole. A horse and buggy ride is a must during your visit. Sometimes, it's a wee bit scary though, because a lot of big trucks use the highway that they must share with the Amish buggies.

Amish Country-Pennsylvania

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Working Amish House
Working Amish House

Other Places You Have to Visit While in Amish Country

Your Amish Country Visit: What to See and Do

The Amish Farm and House

Many people make this their first stop when they drive into Lancaster County. Here you will get a guided tour of the house, an explanation of many of the Amish customs and traditions, observe how an Amish kitchen operates without electricity, see samples of Amish clothing, and learn more about rumspringa. This house has now been open for public tours for 60 years, and I highly recommend that you add it to your list of stops while you are visiting Lancaster Country.

The road this house is situated on was the first road in the United States to be paved. It ran from Lancaster to Phildalphia, and was known as the Lancaster-Philadelphia Highway. The early travelers on this highway carried people and goods between Philadelphia and Lancaster in Conestoga wagons.

The Landis Valley Museum

"Landis Valley Museum is a nationally significant living history museum that collects, conserves, exhibits and interprets Pennsylvania German material culture and heritage between 1750-1940. This is accomplished through preservation and interpretation of the largest collection of Pennsylvania German artifacts in the country, and through the presentation of authentic traditional farming, village and industrial life, skilled craft demonstrations, and historical animals and plants. The museum promotes education, research, programs and events for the benefit and enjoyment of its visitors and the community."

Source:http://www.landisvalleymuseum.org/history.php

Shady Maple Smorgsbord

The motto at Shady Maple is "200 feet of all you can eat," and it's no lie. I have never seen so much food seved buffet style anywhere, EVER. Nearly evernyone I ever talked to in Pennsylvania has heard of or visited Shady Maple at some point in time. Every weekday evening, there is a different all you can eat main course. Shady Maple is also a GREAT deal if you are between 4 and 10 years old, over 90 years old, or in the first year of having had gastric bypass surgery, because being in one of these categories gets you 50% off. All prices on the menu include PA state sales tax and an 8% service fee. I always leave a tip too, but the 8% is meant to compensate, becuase many people don't tip at buffet style meals.

If you make a stop at Shady Maple, make sure you come hungary, because you will most certainly leave full. Seating at Shady Maple is enough to accomodate 1200 patrons. In addition there is a 30,000 foot gift shop. At Shady Maple, you will find the best cooks preparing the best in Pennsylvania Dutch Cuisine.

Dutch Wonderland

Posing With Our Buggy Driver
Posing With Our Buggy Driver

Things to Pack if You Stay More Than a Day

Things to Pack
Things to Know
Camera
Do not take pictures of Amish People, unless you have asked and been given permission
GPS
Can help you get around to the places you should visit
Cell Phone
Never know when you might get separated from your family and need to get in touch.
Comfortable Shoes
You'll probably be doing a lot of walking
Antacid
Just in case you overinduldge at Shady Maple
Suncreen
Espeically in the late spring and summer
Hat
To keep the top of your head from getting sunburned. You'll probably be outdoors a lot.
Bathing Suit
Some lodging places have swimming pools (maybe even indoor)

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11 comments

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

Lovely hub. I have a friend who is a consultant who lives in Lancaster, PA and she telecommutes. It is certainly a different way of life. I've had the chance to visit Lancaster and love their quilts and other crafts as well as the Amish food.


pocono foothills profile image

pocono foothills 2 years ago from Easton, Pennsylvania Author

@FlourishAnyway-Thanks for your comment. Lancaster is a great place for us to visit, because it is only 1 1/2 hour drive from our home. It's good for a day trip or a weekend trip.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 2 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

We used to vacation in the Amish country of Pennsylvania quite often, It's a wonderful place to visit. We often stayed at the Willow Valley Inn, which just this month I was told has been bulldozed. I hope it's not true. It was (more than a decade ago since I was last there) a perfect vacation spot with a huge indoor swimming pool and a nice 9-hole golf course. We stayed also in a number of other eastern pennsylvania resorts including Pocono Manor Inn, Fernwood Resort and Shawnee Inn to mention a few.


pocono foothills profile image

pocono foothills 2 years ago from Easton, Pennsylvania Author

@William F. Torpey-Next time I go to Lancaster, I'll try to remember to check out the Willow Valley Inn. My wife and I will probably go there perhaps in August. I used to sneak into Shawnee Inn's swimming pool at 2 AM in the morning when I was a teenager. Psst....Don't tell!!! Fernwood is only a few miles from where I grew up. Thanks for your comment.


mts1098 profile image

mts1098 2 years ago from InsideTheManCave

While I have not actually visited the Amish - Shady Maple is a great place...cheers


pocono foothills profile image

pocono foothills 2 years ago from Easton, Pennsylvania Author

Shady Maple is great, but you have to not eat for three days before you go there!!!


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 2 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

I called Willow Valley a few months ago. If I remember correctly the Thomas family (I believe they were Mennonites) sold the resort to Double Tree. I was told that the pool and golf course is still there, but the best buffet I've ever experienced no longer exists. I think it was replaced by some kind of restaurant. I'll be it's still a great place to stay.


pocono foothills profile image

pocono foothills 2 years ago from Easton, Pennsylvania Author

Did you ever go to Shady Maple?


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 2 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

Never been to Shady Maple, but I see it's only a Smorgasbord and a Farmer's Market. We always stayed at one of the many hotels in the Amish area and then visited all the many area attractions -- they're all within a reasonable distance.


pocono foothills profile image

pocono foothills 2 years ago from Easton, Pennsylvania Author

I wouldn't say "only a Smorgasbord." I've never seen so much food in one place in my whole life. This is the buffet to end all buffets.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 2 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

Probably the only reason I didn't get to Shady Maple is that Willow Valley at that time had the greatest buffet I've ever experienced. I have no doubt that Shady Maple's Smorgasbord is fantastic as well.

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