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The city of Lancaster sits at the heart of Pennsylvania Amish country, forming a bridge between the rural lifestyle in the surrounding farmlands and the local creative communities. Curious travelers have been coming here for decades for glimpses of a world that is at once surreal and increasingly more familiar. This is a place where horse-drawn buggies ply the dirt roads and markets sell the latest in local and handmade goods. The city of Lancaster, a classic Pennsylvania Dutch community, is a jumping-off point for exploring the maze of smaller roads dotted with handicraft shops and artisan food stands. Here you’ll find modern shops selling quality, handmade products alongside locavore restaurants that use ingredients and techniques from the region in fun, fascinating ways.
The small Harrisburg International Airport (MDT) is just a 30-minute drive from Lancaster, and offers flights to destinations mostly around the eastern United States, while the much larger Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) and Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) are 60 minutes and 90 minutes away, respectively. Amtrak trains come directly into the city at Lancaster Station from Philadelphia (about an hour away) and New York City (3 hours away). Once you’re settled in Lancaster, it’s nice to have a car, especially if you plan to explore the surrounding area at your own pace or veer off the beaten path — which is recommended. That said, local public transportation, shuttles, taxis, rideshares, and tour buses often cover much of the same ground and can be a relaxing alternative.
Summer in the area tends to be warm and muggy, while winters are chilly. But the in-between months bring pleasant weather and lots to do. Lancaster’s surrounding fields burst with color as the spring flowers poke out their pretty heads, and Easter events and celebrations can make it an ideal time to visit. Spring is also when the annual tradition of mud sales (auctions of locally made goods) attracts savvy shoppers looking for deals on things like Amish quilts, handmade furniture, livestock, and farm equipment. The sales are usually run by the local volunteer fire companies, include plenty of homemade food, and are as much social events as they are effective fundraisers. Fall in Lancaster is harvest season, which brings the opportunity to buy local produce and the tasty pies from which they’re made. Roadside farm stands, pumpkin patches, and corn mazes dominate the landscape, while the crisp air brings out the brilliant fall colors in the foliage.
This nearly 300-year-old market brings the best of Lancaster County and its surrounding area under one roof for an easy, abundant shopping experience. Locally grown produce and flowers, regional foods, and handicrafts stands share the market space with restaurants serving cuisine from around the region and the world.
Roaming the backroads of Lancaster County is one of the area’s main draws: that’s where the famous farm stands sell their jams and jellies, dairies produce their cheeses, and the locals pick up their whoopie pies. Get around by bike, bus, or even scooter, and let a guide show you the way over the rivers and through covered bridges to old schoolhouses and the best butter.
Explore the region by paddling a canoe down the Susquehanna River, or hiking or biking the trails that mirror it. A series of parks, water trails, rail trails, and nature preserves surround the river as it flows through Lancaster County, giving you plenty of ways to experience rural Pennsylvania.