When I moved to Lancaster, PA 10 years ago there was no looking back. The Amish fields filled with corn and tobacco, the train whistles in the background, and the hot air balloons drifting slowly into the sunset made life feel like we were living in painting from an era gone by.
But don’t let the vintage feel fool you – there are plenty of things your modern family will enjoy when they come to visit. Here’s my Top 10 Things to do (with kids) in Lancaster PA. I’m putting the kiddos in parenthesizes because even if your sans diapers and duffle bags (does anyone use those anymore??) you’ll still enjoy these places!
- Cherry Crest Adventure Farm – A giant corn maze, a petting zoo, tractor pulls, huge jumping pillows, lots of outdoor games for the whole family, and an awesome atmosphere are just a taste of what you’ll get at this one of kind farm attraction. They have family friendly food and drink and plenty of places to sit and enjoy a laid back meal. When my daughter was younger she especially enjoyed the Lil’ Farmers Playland with activities perfectly suited for toddlers. An added bonus – #2 on our list runs right through it…
- The Strasburg Railroad – If you’re driving around Strasburg you are sure to hear a train whistle coming from one of the old steam locomotives. You can of course ride the train (so fun), but there are also places to eat, shop, and a playground. Thomas the Tank Engine comes to town a few times a year and they have extra booths and activities for his visit. I really love the Christmas Santa Train as well. The first time we ever rode it we were sipping hot cocoa and eating reindeer sugar cookies when all of a sudden it started to snow – talk about magical!
- Dutch Wonderland – This amusement park is great for kids and fun for their parents too. It’s geared mainly towards younger kids and has a water play area and live entertainment.
- Longwood Gardens – Oh how I love you Longwood Gardens! I would have put this at #1 but it’s about a 45 minute drive from Lancaster so I’m gonna push my obsession for this place down on the list a bit ( but make the drive and go!) This award winning 1000 acre garden does not disappoint. You can spend all day breathing in the fresh air and looking at all the beautiful flowers, fountains, trees, ponds and so much more. There are two restaurants on site ( I recommend the cafeteria with kids and 1906 for couples), and two distinct play areas for kids (one inside/one out). In the summer they also have a concert series, and at Christmas it’s lit up like nothing I’ve ever seen before. In the summer you can definitely spend all day here – in the other seasons I would say 3-4 hours at the least. Close by are Winterthur and Nemours Mansion and Gardens (you have the be 12 to go there) that are also worth a visit.
- Turkey Hill Experience – Ice cream samples, ice tea samples, a ball pit, and a make your own ice cream taste lab are on the menu at this attraction. I would say this one is about a 2 hour visit and best for preschool/elementary kids.
- Hershey Chocolate World – This one never gets old. I went here as a kid and now I take my daughter whenever I can. It’s a little less than hour from Lancaster but worth the drive. They have a free ride where they show you how chocolate is made and you get a free Hershey’s treat at the end. Lots of chocolate shopping and eating are on the menu when you visit this attraction! If you want to spend all day in Hershey also check out Hershey Gardens, Zoo America, and Hershey Park.
- Pottery Works (and a trip to Lancaster city) – My daughter and I love to go paint pottery here. Pick out a mug, ornament, vase, or other ceramic and let your inner artist out. You paint it and then it takes a week for them to glaze it. Located next door is a nice cafe and down from that is Lancaster Cupcake where your little one can enjoy playing with a cupcake kitchen just her size. Once you find a parking spot you can check out some other great eateries like Rachel’s Crepery, Prince Street Cafe, and Central Market. If you can grab a sitter go with just your honey to The Belvedeer or Aussie and the Fox for a great dinner.
- DJs taste of the 50s – This throw back diner is sure to delight young and old. My little one loves the “bendy toy” and balloon she gets at the end of the meal. For an added bonus check out the Cruise In’s they do a few times a year.
- Kitchen Kettle Village – Try jams, salsas, honey, cheese, and fudges galore as this unique shopping village. When you’ve have your fill of relishes you can grad a cup of Joe at the Cafe and take the little ones to the playground and small petting zoo on site. A few times a year they have special festivals filled with music and extra activities which are always fun – but of course can get crowded. Visit on a weekday if you like to leisurely peruse or visit on Saturday if you want the extra action.
- Cherry Hill Orchard – Pick your own apples, peaches, berries, pumpkins and more at this awesome attraction. You can also sample a wide variety of apples in the store and peruse their garden center. About an hour maybe 2 for this one and then you can head back home and make a wonderful pie, cobbler, or crumble with your freshly picked goodies.
Well folks – that’s it! Come on out and see what Lancaster is all about. XOXO – Bo Peep
Bo Peep’s Bonnets is a hand knit hat and cowl company in the heart of Lancaster PA. Her charity Hand Knits for Hope provides free, fashionable hats to cancer patients all over the USA. If you or someone you know is currently going through chemotherapy and would like a free hat click here. Support Bo Peep’s charity by shopping all her handmade hats and scarves here. The proceeds from her online store completely fund her charity.