Dutch Haven (Photo: Discover Lancaster/Scott Kinkade) Dutch Haven
Dutch Haven (Photo: Discover Lancaster/Scott Kinkade)

You can spend a weekend in Lancaster County eating great country-style food, meeting the vendors of the famous Lancaster Central Market, and relaxing in the tranquil countryside.

Lancaster County, part of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, is known for its rolling hills and sizable Amish population—the largest in the United States. But besides picking up Amish-made goods and learning about Amish culture, you can spend a weekend in Lancaster eating great country-style food, meeting the vendors of the famous Lancaster Central Market, and relaxing in the tranquil countryside.

This itinerary assumes you’ll arrive in Hershey on Friday afternoon and depart on Sunday after breakfast.

Friday

When you first arrive in Lancaster County, you can take a tour of the countryside by train on the Strasburg Rail Road, located in Ronks. The 45-minute ride on an authentic steam train will be a fun way to see the picturesque scenery whether you’re really into trains or just a fan of lounging and staring out the window while someone else drives. On Friday evenings at the time of publication, you can take a general train ride or you can take a ride while being served wine and cheese. 

After your train ride, if you haven’t gorged on wine and cheese, you’ll want to grab dinner. Also in Ronks, Dienner’s Country Restaurant is a down-home restaurant serving traditionally made Pennsylvania Dutch foods. This is the perfect place to get acquainted with hearty favorites like buttered noodles, pot pie, and homemade desserts. Plus, on Friday and Saturday nights, Dienner’s serves an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Lancaster Central Market
Lancaster Central Market (Photo: Discover Lancaster)

Saturday

We hope you woke up well rested, because this morning your destination is one of the top things to do in Lancaster (whether you’re talking about Lancaster County, or its seat, the City of Lancaster). Skip breakfast on your way out, because you can pick it up when you arrive at the Lancaster Central Market. At the market, you’ll find Amish- and Mennonite-made goods and foods, international offerings, coffee and tea, produce, prepared foods, gifts, and more. If you can, bring a small cooler bag with you to the market—you can pick up your lunch from one of the many vendors to enjoy later in the day. Consider filling your basket with handmade pretzels alongside picnic-ready foods like specialty sandwiches and homemade potato salad.

After you’ve browsed the market’s goods, you can spend some time at a history museum to learn about some of the people who emigrated from Europe and populated the Lancaster region. Two options are the Amish Farm and House and the Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum

The Amish Farm and House has been educating tourists about the Amish lifestyle since 1955. Visitors can tour an Amish farmhouse and then tour the backroads of the surrounding countryside by bus.

The Landis Valley Museum is a living history museum that’s a little more off the beaten path (meaning you may feel less like a gawking tourist). This farm and museum, just north of Lancaster City, showcases the heritage of all Pennsylvania Germans. Here, you can walk through what an early Pennsylvania German village would have looked like, visiting sites like a blacksmith’s workshop, a general store, and a gun shop. Knowledgeable actors turn the visit into an immersive one by making goods the same way they were done hundreds of years ago, and historical artifacts are on display in the barns and collections buildings. 

Landis Valley Village
Landis Valley Village (Photo: Discover Lancaster)

After you’ve learned what life is/was like without contemporary amenities, climb back into your ultra-modern car (as it will now seem) and head to lunch. Hopefully you picked up lunch already at the Lancaster Central Market and you can dart straight to Lancaster County Central Park, the largest park in the county, for a picnic. 

Your next stop is Cherry Crest Adventure Farm, a Ronks agritourism locale that has activities for you whether you’re raring to solve one of the best corn mazes in the country (according to USA Today) or whether you’re tired from a full day of exploring and would simply like to sip a glass of wine at the winery on site. You can easily grab your dinner at the farm, eating your meal while you listen to the live music that’s featured every Saturday.

Cherry Crest is closed during the winter, so if you’re visiting in the off-season, enjoy dinner and a show indoors at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theater in Lancaster City.

Sunday

Pro tip you should know before you depart for Lancaster: Many places, especially those that are Amish-owned, are closed on Sundays. But you’ll still find things to do!

For breakfast, Rachel’s Cafe & Creperie is located in downtown Lancaster City and offers handmade crepes with locally-roasted coffee. It’s a gem of an establishment that you won’t find just anywhere—so it’s a perfect destination when you only have a short time in Lancaster. You can then wander around the downtown area and see what’s open. Though a lot of businesses will be closed, you’ll still be able to see the many murals that adorn buildings downtown. One is right near Rachel’s Cafe & Creperie and depicts a Lancaster Barnstormer—that’s the name of the City of Lancaster’s local baseball team.On your way out of Lancaster, be sure to stop at Dutch Haven in Ronks. This tourist attraction is famous for a reason—it sells delicious shoo-fly pie, a gooey, molasses-filled Pennsylvania Dutch tradition.