Lancaster & Amish
Known as the Garden Spot of America or Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Lancaster County is located in the south central part of the Pennsylvania. Lancaster County is a popular tourist destination, and is well known due to the many plain sect residents, known as the Amish or Pennsylvania Dutch. The term 'Pennsylvania Dutch' comes from the earlier use of "Dutch" to apply to all immigrants from Europe speaking German. They are the descendants of Germans ("Deutsch") who immigrated in the 18th and 19th centuries for the freedom of religion offered by William Penn and were attracted by the rich soil and mild climate of the area. Freedom from poverty and political uncertainty also was a major factor. Also attracted to promises of religious freedom, French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution with significant numbers of English, Welsh and Scotch-Irish settled this area in 1710.
Many folks are drawn to Lancaster County for the Amish community, but you will soon discover and enjoy all the other things to see and do when you visit Pennsylvania Dutch Country.
Purely Pennsylvania’s top things to do in Lancaster County:
You'll never run short of things to do in Lancaster County with all sorts of attractions perfect for the young - and the young at heart! Enjoy amusement parks, buggy rides, interactive farm fun, train attractions, pretzel factories, local sports and so much more.
Where quaint meets cosmopolitan. A place where heritage and modern mingle and farmer's markets are hip. Home to innovators and artists, culture and creativity. A place where the people are real and the passion is genuine. Lancaster offers a delightful assortment of almost 300 boutiques, restaurants, art galleries, and entertainment and cultural venues. Downtown also boasts an incredibly rich heritage to be experienced at our many museums, churches and historic buildings.
Located in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, The Amish Village offers visitors a look into the life of the Lancaster County Amish. Located on 12 acres, The Amish Village lets visitors tour an authentic Amish property, including a one-room schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, smokehouse market and more.
Explore The Amish Village at your own pace, or take a 25 minute guided tour.
It's A Kingdom For Kids!
Do you remember your first roller coaster ride? The first time you “drove” a car? Or the first time you tasted cotton candy? These are Dutch Wonderland firsts!
With more than 30 rides, daily entertainment, games, food and fun, Dutch Wonderland provides many of the first and most memorable moments of childhood.
Dutch Wonderland is proud to have been voted as one of the Top 5 Children’s Parks in the World by Amusement Today magazine in 2009.
Dutch Wonderland opens for its regular summer operating season on May 1.
Story, song, and spectacular staging bring each of Sight & Sound Theatres' epic shows to life. Dozens of professional actors attired in elaborate costumes, meticulously detailed sets towering up to 40 feet high, trained animals, unmatched special effects, and beautifully memorable music inspire 800,000 guests every year. Explore this section to find out more about Sight & Sound's mission and vision.
The National Watch and Clock Museum was officially opened to the public in 1977 with fewer than 1,000 items. Since that time, the collection has increased to over 12,000 items and the museum has undergone several expansion projects. The latest expansion opened in October 1999 and featured an entirely new and redesigned exhibit space, as well as a new two-story addition. Today, the museum is recognized as the largest and most comprehensive horological collection in North America.
Experience one of America's largest, most engaging custom model train displays. Choo Choo Barn features more than 1,700 square feet of special model train displays with more than 150 hand-built animated figures & vehicles, and 22 operating trains. The layout represents many Lancaster sights and sounds, such as an authentic Amish barn raising, Dutch Wonderland and the Strasburg Rail Road. From the baseball game to the circus, from the zoo to the operating quarry, we guarantee you've never seen anything like the Choo Choo Barn! Bring your camera!
For over 55 years we have been preserving the bounty of Lancaster County in our Jam & Relish Kitchen and celebrating the area's wonderful heritage with food festivals and special events that make Kitchen Kettle Village a little different...and a lot of fun!
Stroll through a village of 42 shops and restaurants built around our nationally celebrated Jam & Relish Kitchen. Sample pepper jam, watch fudge being rolled, go for a horse drawn carriage ride and listen as Banjo Jimmy plays a tune. And did we mention the shopping? It's like a treasure hunt with everything from hand carved signs, to handmade quilts, to Brighton leather goods, to UGG boots and so much more.
Don't miss the new experiential tours including Cannin' & Jammin' and A Taste of Kitchen Kettle Walking Tour.
The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania houses one of the most significant collections of historic railroad artefacts in the world. Devoted to preserving and interpreting the broad impact of railroad development on society, the Museum:
Displays over 100 locomotives and cars from the mid-19th and 20th centuries, including the priceless Pennsylvania Railroad Historical Collection.
Has restored many of these unique survivors to original appearance, and pursues a major restoration program.
Conducts educational programs for all ages, provides tours and holds special events, many in cooperation with outside organizations. The innovative Railway Education Centre provides a focus for exciting learning.
Houses extensive exhibits of railroad artefacts, plus priceless art work, books, photographs and corporate railroad material.
In the heart of the Pennsylvania Dutch country, quietly secured on 22 acres of natural woodland, you will find the home of the Speedwell Wolves. The Sanctuary currently provides food, shelter and veterinary care for over forty Wolves with no government or corporate assistance. Only, by your continued support and interest do the Wolves thrive.
Tours: Every Saturdays and Sundays for ONE hour commencing at 12 Noon, or by appointment. Open year round.
Located in the heart of Lancaster City’s vibrant arts district, just steps away from Central Market. The stunning architecture of this 1912 Beaux Arts Bank is accented by exhibitions in the building’s textile gallery, featuring the rich and diverse textile traditions of Lancaster County and south-central Pennsylvania.
At the heart of the museum’s exhibitions is what many scholars consider to be the finest collection of authentic late 19th-20th century Amish Quilts indigenous to this region. Formerly known as the “Esprit Collection”, it was the brainchild of Doug Tompkins, a founder of the Esprit Corporation, who began collecting the quilts during the 1970s. The Heritage Centre acquired this collection in 2002. The combination of the Esprit Collection with the Heritage Centre’s own quilt and textile collection results in one of the largest collections of its kind anywhere to be presented in context with the stories of south-central Pennsylvanians.
Nestled behind the hustle and bustle of today's world sits a picturesque 15-acre oasis that has been a must-visit Lancaster County destination for families, children and groups since 1955!
The Amish Farm and House--the United States' first Amish attraction--opened in direct response to the growing demand for correct information about the Old Order Amish lifestyle. This fun attraction provides a fun, respectful and accurate glimpse into Amish life.
The world's premier horticultural display. Created by industrialist Pierre S. du Pont, it offers 1,050 acres of gardens, woodlands, and meadows; 20 outdoor gardens; 20 indoor gardens within 4 acres of heated greenhouses; 11,000 different types of plants; spectacular fountains; extensive educational programs including horticultural career training and internships; and 800 horticultural and performing arts events each year, from flower shows, gardening demonstrations, courses, and children's programs to concerts, organ recitals, musical theatre, and fireworks displays. Longwood is open every day of the year.
Whatever your pleasure, it awaits in Hershey, the town that chocolate built! This year-round world-class resort destination offers the best in entertainment and accommodations for families and guests of all ages.
Enjoy a family-friendly amusement park with fun for all ages, including 11 thrilling roller coasters, water attractions, live entertainment, games, unique shops, and special events during Halloween, Christmas, and springtime. As part of your experience, visit the 11-acre walk-through zoo with more than 200 animals from the five regions of North America.
Other attractions not to miss while you're in town include a luxurious spa with signature chocolate treatments, four distinctive golf courses, and year-round concerts, sporting events and performances at a historic theatre.
Located in the heart of Chocolate Town, this world-class museum guides visitors on an inspirational journey through Milton S. Hershey's lifetime and beyond, a tale spanning more than 150 years of trials, triumphs, philanthropic endeavours and one man's unwavering confidence. From Hershey's earliest entrepreneurial ventures to his visions of a town built upon the success of a simple confectionery treat, The Hershey Story is an uplifting celebration of the great American dream.
Attractions include the Museum Experience, a series of engaging, interactive exhibits; the Chocolate Lab, where learning comes to life through hands-on experiments; the Museum Shop, stocked with unique Hershey merchandise and memorabilia; Café Zooka, the perfect place for light fare, chocolate desserts, Countries of Origin Chocolate Tasting; and much more.
The sweet taste of chocolate, food, fun and adventure await you at Hershey’s chocolate world attraction. Learn about the process of making chocolate on Hershey’s great America chocalate tour ride. Admission is free and reservations are not required. Tour includes a FREE Hershey’s product sample!
Hershey Park is a clean, green, world-class theme park offering 65 rides and attractions in the heart of Hershey, Pennsylvania! Families and guests of all ages can enjoy 11 thrilling roller coasters, live entertainment, over 20 rides just for kids, one-of-a-kind shops, irresistible food, and full water park located inside the park which is included in your one-price admission. The Boardwalk at Hershey Park offers the best of two great family vacations - a trip to the seashore and a day at the theme park! This full water park offers nine fun-filled attractions including one of the largest water-play structures in the world, a 378,000 gallon wave pool and a lazy river which stretches over 1,300 feet!
The Amish way of Life:
Lancaster County is home to America's oldest Amish settlement, where thousands still live a centuries-old "Plain" lifestyle. It's a place where visitors can step back in time to enjoy a slower, more peaceful pace - where the horse & buggy remains a primary form of transportation, and where windmills dot the landscape, providing a nature-harnessed power source. A vital part of Lancaster County, the Amish are involved in agriculture and an array of cottage industries. Many Amish-themed attractions, events, foods and crafts are available for your education and enjoyment.
The story of the Amish community dates back to the 16th century Reformation in Europe, when the Anabaptist movement spurred the creation of three "plain" communities: the Mennonites, Amish and Brethren. Although these spiritual groups have similarities, the Amish are the most conservative, emphasizing humility, family, community and separation from the non-Amish world, which includes a reluctance to adopt modern conveniences such as electricity.
Members of this conservative Christian faith came to Pennsylvania in the early 18th century to escape persecution in Europe for their Anabaptist beliefs. Lancaster County is home to the oldest and largest Amish community in the United States, numbering about 30,000. The population has more than doubled in size in the past 20 years.
The Amish have their roots in the Mennonite community. Both were part of the early Anabaptist movement in Europe, which took place at the time of the Reformation. The Anabaptists believed that only adults who had confessed their faith should be baptized, and that they should remain separate from the larger society. Many early Anabaptists were put to death as heretics by both Catholics and Protestants, and many others fled to the mountains of Switzerland and southern Germany. Here began the Amish tradition of farming and holding worship services in homes rather than churches.
In 1536, a young Catholic priest from Holland named Menno Simons joined the Anabaptist movement. His writings and leadership united many of the Anabaptist groups, who were nicknamed “Mennonites.” In 1693, a Swiss bishop named Jacob Amman broke from the Mennonite church. His followers were called the “Amish.” Although the two groups have split several times, the Amish and Mennonite churches still share the same beliefs concerning baptism, non-resistance, and basic Bible doctrines. The Amish and Mennonites both settled in Pennsylvania as part of William Penn's "holy experiment" of religious tolerance. The first sizable group of Amish arrived in Lancaster County in the 1720s or 1730s.
There are actually three families, or Anabaptist-related groups, found in Lancaster County: the Amish, Mennonites and Brethren. All three groups share the Anabaptist belief that calls for making a conscious choice to accept God. (Accordingly, only adults are baptized.) The three groups also share the same basic values concerning the all-encompassing authority of the Bible, a philosophy of brotherhood and non-resistance and the importance of family and community.
The groups differ primarily in matters of dress, language, forms of worship and the extent to which they allow modern technology and the forces of the "outside world" to impact their lives. Most Brethren and Mennonites dress much like their "English" neighbours. Other Mennonites, Brethren and Amish Mennonites wear distinctive Amish clothing but may make use of "worldly" conveniences, such as cars, electricity and telephones. On the other hand, Old Order Mennonite and Old Order Amish groups are more restrictive in their views of modern technology, with the Old Order Amish being the most conservative of Lancaster County's "plain" groups.
There is no single governing body for the entire Old Order Amish population; rather, each church district decides for itself what it will and will not accept. However, all districts base their regulations on a literal interpretation of the Bible and an unwritten set of rules called the Ordnung. And the population as a whole stresses humility, family, community and separation from the modern world.
Humility is the hallmark of Amish ideals. Mild and modest personalities are esteemed. Patience, waiting and yielding to others are marks of maturity. Obedience, conformity to goals and community activities are encouraged. To preserve the Amish identity and maintain spiritual harmony, members are encouraged to surrender their personal aspirations for the sake of community purity. These ideals are maintained by keeping all work, play, worship, commerce and friendship within the Amish orbit.
Community harmony is threatened by secular values such as individualism and pride, which permeate the modern world. Thus, the Amish curb interaction with outsiders and insulate themselves from modern technology and mass media. They also prohibit habits that feed individualism and greed, as displayed through their plain dress style and prohibition of personal photographs. Personal Bible study and devotions are discouraged because individual interpretations may challenge traditional doctrine. Buggies are a dark gray colour so they can blend into their surroundings rather than stand out.
Although the Amish resist cultural influences, they are willing to strike compromises with the modern world, tapping its benefits while still preserving the Amish identity. They are willing to use modern technology to live, work and communicate - as long as they do not disrupt family and community stability.
The family is the most important social unit among the Amish; those with seven to ten children are not uncommon. This high birth rate feeds Amish growth, as does the fact that four out of five children choose to become baptized and remain in the church. Jobs, friendships and business opportunities provide incentives to stay.
With several generations often living under the same roof, there is both a sense of continuity and participation in family life. Upon reaching teenage years, many youth engage in traditional recreation, but others engage in more worldly activities before choosing whether or not they want to be baptised as adults in the church.
In Amish society, older family members are respected and cared for by the family and community, often moving into a special addition to the house. The Amish generally do not accept social security and try to avoid the use of nursing homes.
Style of Dress
The characteristic style of plain Amish dress is the most obvious outward manifestation of their faith, purity and social separation from the world. It demonstrates group allegiance and identity, as well as the willingness to yield to group standards.
Amish men wear dark- colored suits, straight-cut coats with no lapels, broadfall trousers, suspenders, solid-collared shirts, black socks and shoes, and black or straw broad-brimmed hats. Shirts fasten with conventional buttons; suit coats and vests fasten with hooks and eyes. Men do not wear moustaches and generally wait until after marriage to grow beards.
Amish women wear modest, solid-collared dresses, usually with long sleeves and a full skirt, a cape and apron. The clothing is fastened with straight pins or snaps. Hair is never cut and is worn in a bun on the back of the head, concealed by a prayer covering. Single women in their teens and twenties wear black prayer coverings for church services; a white covering is worn at most times by women of all ages. Amish women are not permitted to wear jewellery or printed fabrics.
At home and in their community, the Amish speak a dialect of German. This language, originally known as Pennsylvania Deutsch, has gradually became known as Pennsylvania German, or Pennsylvania Dutch. The use of this dialect binds the Amish together and naturally limits interaction with the non-Amish. Amish children learn English at school and also study High German for worship services.
The Amish taboo on electricity has become one of the public symbols of their separation from the world. Because public electric and utility lines provided a literal and mysterious connection to the outside, the use of power generated from them - and from generating plants - is forbidden. This ban has prevented seculary influences from intruding into the home and has silenced endless debates over the use of new electrical gadgets such as radios, TVs and appliances and more. While the 110-volt power generated from public utility lines is prohibited, 12-volt self-contained batteries are unconnected to the outside world, and therefore permitted.
In order to power tools for the cottage industry, farm equipment and some household appliances, the Amish get creative, using air or hydraulic powered motors. This pressure can be used to operate larger household equipment like washers and sewing machines, but not smaller ones such as clothes dryers, toasters, blow dryers, microwaves, TVs, and doorbells. Bottled gas is used to operate major appliances such as refrigerators, stoves and water heaters. Home freezers have been banned due to the fear that they would lead to other electric appliances. To light their homes and shops, the Amish utilize pressurized gas lanterns to mount on walls, hang from ceilings and attach to mobile carts.
Personal transportation: When the modern car became a common fixture in American life, it also became the American symbol of freedom, independence and mobility - transforming the slower pace of horses and trolleys. In all of these ways, the motorized vehicle clashed with the traditional values of Amish culture. Moreover, the very concept and progression of the automobile breeds pride and inequality.
Travel by horse and buggy is the prominent mode of transportation, naturally limiting travel, and therefore, interaction with the non-Amish world. This also prevents the erosion of geographically-organized local church districts, because members cannot simply drive to the congregation of their choice.
While owning a car is not permitted, being a passenger is no compromise to the Amish beliefs. Accepting rides from neighbours or hiring a driver is a way for Amish to use cars as a means of transportation to social functions on the outskirts of the settlement, but not disrupt the Amish culture or social structure. Amish businessmen often have agreements with non-Amish persons to haul materials as needed, or hire a non-Amish employee who provides a vehicle.
Public transportation: The church permits the use of trains and buses as modes of transportation to visit far-flung settlements shop or work at markets. These are unlike a car in that they cannot be used for personal status. Travel by air, however, is prohibited because it is viewed as too modern and worldly. Moreover, it should be largely unnecessary, as the Amish are not engaged in professional occupations or vacations to faraway places.
Youth leisure transportation: The Amish church placed a taboo on the bicycle in order to keep youth close to home. However, the scooter is viewed as a compromise between walking and the bicycle, and many youth ride them to school.
Despite their separation from modern culture, the Amish are entangled with the larger economic system. They lean heavily on the broader world for raw materials and supplies, and they use banks. Just like other citizens, they pay all taxes, with the exception of social security. Similarly, the Amish pride themselves on being self-sufficient and do not collect social security benefits, unemployment or welfare checks.
Financial security and protection come from the community itself, most outwardly visible in the Amish barn-raising. But the Lancaster Amish have also created other ways to help church members in time of need. An Amish Aid Society was formed, by which members are assessed and money collected to help rebuild after a disaster. This is a modest system of fire and storm insurance. Those with medical bills to pay are helped by church alms. Again, in Lancaster, an Amish Church Aid was developed for serious problems as an informal version of hospitalization insurance.
Rather than going away from the home to parks or movies, Amish children enjoy activities in the house and around the farm. With animals and wide open spaces, the farm is an exciting, although sometimes dangerous, playground. Children also get together at school and after church; baseball is the most popular activity in the school yard.
The fact that recreation is tied so closely to the home is perhaps the reason that some teenagers rebel before they join the church by participating in "worldly" recreation. This stage, often referred to as "sowing wild oats," may include owning a car, drinking parties, attending movies, playing on a (non-Amish) baseball team, going to the shopping mall - even purchasing a car. Amish youth may trade their traditional dress for modern clothing and get a modern haircut to blend into public crowds. This period between childhood and adult membership in the church offers Amish youth a chance to explore and experience the outside world before choosing to accept or reject the culture of their birthright via baptism as an adult in the church.
Many activities normally considered work are forms of recreation for the Amish adult. Quilting bees and frolics are an enjoyable mixture of work, socializing and recreation. Some Amish do travel, making trips to visit Amish in other states, and also to museums, the zoo or other places of interest. Some Amish enjoy an occasional trip to eat out, or a birthday party at a local restaurant. The most popular leisure activity for the Amish seems to be visiting. This may include everyone from relatives and the sick to non-Amish friends.
Pennsylvania Covered Bridges
Discover Lancaster County’s covered bridges:
Just the sight of these covered bridges brings to mind thoughts of old charm and romance, and in Lancaster County, the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, we have plenty of both! Sometimes referred to as “kissing bridges” because of the many couples who have strolled across them over the years, the area offers more than two dozen of these architectural beauties – each with its own inviting story.
Lancaster County has developed five driving tours - with directions - to lead you through various areas of the county. Each includes several covered bridges; ideas for things to do along the way; and unique towns and villages lined with restaurants, shops, galleries and historic attractions. A great way to stretch your legs during the journey, break for lunch, or create an itinerary to fill your entire day!
Lititz & Its Countryside
Gather some travel tips at the PA Dutch Visitors Centre and then depart for a journey to four historic covered bridges, meandering through north Central Lancaster County countryside and town of Lititz, with its galleries, sweets and salty treats!
Northern Amish Countryside
Begin your journey in the town of Ephrata and travel through Northern Lancaster County countryside, past Amish farms and schools, plus five historically-preserved covered bridges. Along the way, enjoy a hearty meal at a popular smorgasbord, stroll around a farmers' market and learn about a 1700s religious community.
Southern Amish Countryside
Beginning in Strasburg, travel the twists and turns of Southern Lancaster County's beautiful back roads, passing four historic covered bridges, one-room schoolhouses and farms along the way. During your journey, stop in Christiana and learn about its history and role in the Underground Railroad.
Starting at the PA Dutch Visitors Bureau, journey through picturesque Southern Lancaster County countryside, which gives way to beautiful woods and natural preserves. Along the way, explore seven historic covered bridges and enjoy a variety of attractions and shops, particularly in Strasburg and Downtown Lancaster.
Historic Rivertowns & Western Villages
As you travel between five unique covered bridges throughout western Lancaster County stop and experience the historic towns of Marietta, Columbia, Mount Joy and Manheim. Along the way, you'll enjoy the Susquehanna River, unique museums, a farmers' market, brewery and family attractions offering laser tag, dairy tours and renaissance fun!
Purely Pennsylvania’s quick guide to Lancaster County’s Towns and Villages
Linger in Lancaster County, where there's no fast lane, and where life's brisk pace naturally slows to a stroll. Tucked into rolling Amish farmland are some of this country's oldest towns and villages. Each one has a story of its own, history carved into the restored buildings, churches, museums and attractions found in quaint downtowns. Meander the charming tree-lined streets bordered by local art galleries, funky boutiques, antiques shops, farmers' markets, cosy cafes and upscale restaurants. Venture out into the surrounding countryside to explore covered bridges, or plan to partake in community festivals and events.
Details about Lancaster County's individual towns and villages can be found at the links below.
Known as the “Antiques Capital,” Adamstown is a premier year-round treasure-hunting destination in north-eastern Lancaster County, home to thousands of quality antiques dealers within a three-mile radius.
Tucked into farm fields along Route 340, an AAA designated cultural scenic byway, Bird-in-Hand has been a farmers’ meeting place for centuries. Visit its charming restaurant, inns, farmers’ market and shops for an authentic experience.
A tiny historic town known for its role in the Underground Railroad and Civil War, Christiana is located in the south-eastern part of the county. It houses a museum and theatre that bring the moving freedom journey stories to life.
Columbia’s rich history as an industrial hub along the Susquehanna River is reflected in the Victorian-inspired architecture that still remains today. While in town, visit a renowned clock museum, glass factory, historic mansion and farmers’ market.
The quaint north-western Lancaster County town is home to a variety of galleries, small shops, museums and eateries. Learn about its history via 19th and 20th century buildings, plus vibrant hand-painted murals created on the sides of buildings by a local artist.
This charming town is home to one of America’s earliest religious communities. Surrounded by Amish farmland, the north-eastern Lancaster County hub also offers antiques, shops and restaurants.
In this true Amish hub along Route 340, you’ll be immersed in a unique way of life and find lots of handmade remembrances. Visit a charming shopping village, authentic cannery, pretzel factory, Amish theatre and PA Dutch restaurant. Hop on a buggy ride, too!
Stroll the quaint, tree-lined streets of this historic northern Lancaster County village to browse its unique shops, galleries and bed and breakfasts. The “foodie town” is also home to several famous sweet and salty spots – take tours and grab some samples!
Once a flourishing industrial centre, Manheim still remains a trading centre of sorts for farmers along well-travelled Rt. 72. When visiting the quaint town, stop at a nearby dairy farm tour and lively renaissance village.
Once a hotbed for river commerce, this river town is steeped in old-world charm and 19th century flavour, thanks to cosy bed and breakfasts, fine restaurants and enticing antiques shops
Stroll down Main Street of this north-western Lancaster County town and find that antique you’ve been looking for, or delight your taste buds in one of Mount Joy’s delicious eateries. A unique experience awaits at a 19th-century brewery and metal giftware factory tour and store.
Nestled among sprawling Amish farmland, the streets of this southern historic village are lined with country stores, quaint shops and eateries. The “train town” also features train rides and other unique family railroad attractions, plus world-class theatre and antiques.
For more information on Lancaster County please click here.