So You Want to Move to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania?
There’s a lot to like about living in Lancaster County. It’s no wonder – the Amish, the lovely countryside, the fresh produce and farmer’s markets. Many young families as well as retirees are making Lancaster County their home and are loving it. If you’re like many who leave the hustle and bustle of the Greater New York or DC areas, or the high taxes of neighboring New Jersey, then you will be in for a pleasant surprise to see how far your money goes here.
The first and most obvious difference we discovered when relocating to Lancaster County 12 years ago was the cost of housing. In comparison to the northeast, you will get substantially more house for your dollar. The same is true for folks from the Baltimore and greater DC areas. While land is a premium and hopes of purchasing several acres upon which to build a home are slim, new and established developments are plentiful at various price points throughout the county. Those preferring to live closer to the city where thriving arts and culture is a mere walk from the front door, Lancaster City boasts lovely gracious row homes in true Pennsylvania style. An independent league baseball team with a brand new park, the outstanding Fulton Theatre, the treasure that is Central Market indoor farmer’s market, boutiques, as well as many museums and art galleries are very handy and will not disappoint.
Where you choose to live within the county depends of course on your preference for school districts and convenient access to work. While the draw of town’s names like Bird-in-Hand, Paradise, and Intercourse hold a romantic appeal to those with idyllic illusions of Lancaster County, (thinking the movie Witness with Harrison Ford?) be aware that they also draw heavy crowds of tourists. Traffic congestion in these areas can be a nuisance, and I find that I tend to avoid them during the summer and fall months. Of course these same towns and villages are where Amish gawkers will certainly get their fix of Plain folk. The same holds true for any of the towns east of Lancaster City close along Lincoln Highway, Route 22 and 340. Neat places to explore, but if heavy traffic is not for you, you may want to head further out.
We settled in the western most part of the county along the Susquehanna River. It’s what I call the “quiet corner”. Rural living, lovely farmland, charming small towns and quaint shops make this side of the county a “best kept secret”. Traffic jams? Forget it. Getting stuck behind a tractor is more like it. You won’t find the wealthiest school districts here, however, so keep that it mind if a large school district with more resources is a requirement for you.
So what are some other benefits to living in and raising a family in Lancaster County? The food! Eating Pennsylvania Dutch is a treat unlike any other. Think about avoiding the tourist traps that lure buses of tourists and get out and about to discover the small family restaurants which are plentiful, many farmer’s markets, roadside stands, and family owned Mennonite stores which stock bulk items. Ah, the Mennonite stores! The benefits are very reasonably priced foods, like deli meat. At half the price per pound of larger grocery store deli meats, you just can’t beat it. Hinkle’s Pharmacy in Columbia – yes, I said pharmacy- is just one of the many neat little mom and pop places where you can mingle with the locals for a hearty breakfast or lunch at a fraction of what you would expect to pay elsewhere. Coffee, eggs, toast, and hash browns for less than $3.00? Yes please! And lest you think that all it’s all whoopee pies and shoo fly pie, don’t forget about the luscious fresh produce which is plentiful at markets like Green Dragon, Roots, Central Market, and the Columbia Market House. I didn't know that cantaloupe is supposed to be sweet and extremely juicy until I had one from a roadside stand and the juice literally dribbled down my chin.
Because Lancaster County is a tourist hot spot, you won’t have difficulty finding things to do. Check the Visitor’s Website here for a sampling of just some of the activities taking place. Museums, amusement parks, musical theaters wonderful shopping, a world class Renaissance Faire, wineries and lovely parks are close and convenient. If you are unfamiliar with the area, you will experience something of a culture shock at first. Speech, phrases, sayings and strange new foods are an unexpected surprise and may take a little getting used to at first.
The prospect of relocating to any new place can be daunting. I recommend setting up an appointment with a realtor prior to arriving. A realtor will take you around and show you neighborhoods and areas you may not initially find on your own. While they cannot recommend school districts to you, they can certainly provide resources to help you in your decision on where to settle and put down roots.