Nestled in the heart of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is one of the country’s largest Amish settlements, second only to that of Ohio. I consider myself quite lucky to live within a twenty minute drive of this serene country lifestyle. Until you have laid eyes on the rolling hills, rustic buggies, austere forms cloaked in black and plum and farmers plowing fields with horse and plow it is very difficult to even imagine that such a place still exists in this day and age.
Every year thousands upon thousands make a pilgrimage to Lancaster County, PA to immerse themselves in the culture of the Amish lifestyle. They come in droves to buy their hand stitched quilts, shoofly pies, hand crafted wood furniture, and home grown vegetables, canned goods, and bakery items from road side stands. These tourists want nothing more than to fully experience the “Amish” way of life.
One of the major troubles with tourists and their interaction with the Amish lives in the Englishers desire for pictures of the Amish, and the Amish’s belief that photographs are taboo. They believe that no graven image of them shall ever be taken. While many Englishers are respectful of this, there are those who just push the boundaries and take without asking.
I am sure that everyone has heard of the tragic school shooting at Nickel Mines that took the lives of several Amish School Students, and severely injured several others. As human nature goes, many Englishers flocked to the scene of this tragic incident to gawk at the crime scene. The school has since been taken down, and replaced by a new school in an undisclosed location, but while it was still standing, tourists and residents alike flocked to the scene to get a peep at the Amish tragedy.
Some of the really great Amish attractions that are available to tourists in Lancaster, PA are to take a buggy ride. There are several Establishments that offer buggy rides, many stopping at real Amish Farms so that tourists can catch a glimpse of real working farms. One of the best ones out there would be Aaron and Jessica’s Buggy Rides, located in the small town of Bird-in-Hand, PA which is in Lancaster County. This three mile buggy ride includes a stop at a real working Amish Farm. You should call 717-768-8828 for reservations.
Another popular Amish attraction would be the Fisher Farm. This is a real, modern day Amish homestead that welcomes tourists into their home to get a firsthand look at what a day in their life would be like. Also located in Bird-in-Hand, tours can be arranged by calling 717-768-3600.
To learn about the “Old Order” Amish, try a visit to Amish Farm and House located in Lancaster PA. Similar in nature to the above Fisher Farm, but with Old Order. To arrange a visit to this farm, call 717-394-6185
A terrific resource for information in general on the Amish and Mennonite Culture and a wonderful museum of artifacts would be the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, located in Lancaster, PA. Currently they are offering classes on Pennsylvania Dutch which is a fun thing to do if you are planning to be in the area for any extended amount of time. They can be contacted at 717-393-9745.
If you’ve ever seen an Amish child, then you have probably seen her with a faceless doll. If you would like to have one of these heirloom treasures, you can make one yourself at the “Make-A-Friend Workshop” located in Ronks, PA. The workshop is not limited to the faceless Amish dolls, they also have other Amish toys that you can make and take, but it is a fun way to spend the afternoon with Amish people, learning about their culture, and making something of your own to take back with you. 717-768-7137.
Something that the Amish are renown for are their beautiful quilts. Some selling for thousands of dollars, people flock to this tiny part of the country just to find them. You can visit the Lancaster Quilt and Textile Museum and find out all about the quilts, the stories they tell, who makes them and just what exactly makes them so special. Located in Lancaster, call 717-299-6440 for more information.
On any given day of the week, you can drive down main street in Strasburg, PA, or take any of the numerous country back roads and be inundated with scenery so picturesque that you would have imagined you could have only ever seen it in a book. Aside from all of this beauty and nature, and truly awe inspiring lifestyle, Lancaster, PA has become hugely popular for it’s outlet shopping malls. There are several large ones, Tangers, and Rockvale are the leading two and it would take a whole weekend to just get through the two of those. Additionally, Lancaster is home to Dutch Wonderland which is a fun theme park owned by Hershey Park. It features water slides, live entertainment, rides for small toddlers as well as adults.
Accommodations can be had at your choice of hotel or bed and breakfast depending on your personal preference. One thing is for sure, there is something for everyone in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. If you have never had the opportunity to visit an Amish community, to see a horse and buggy clopping down the lane, driven by an Amish Farm on Church Sunday and seen the hundreds of Amish that gather together to worship, then you truly are missing a site to be seen. And if you aren’t near PA, then you may consider looking to Ohio, Indiana, New York, Tennessee, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Minnesota or any of the other 24 states in which they live. You’ll be glad you did.