Is Lancaster County Worth Visiting? The Answer Is Yes and This Is Why!

The Pennsylvania Dutch Country is definitely worth visiting, if only for a glimpse into how simple and peaceful life can be in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Dutch of Lancaster County is the oldest and second-largest Amish community in the United States, numbering about 37,000. The population has more than doubled in size in the past 20 years.

Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The largest Amish community in the U.S. is centered in Holmes County in the northwestern part of Ohio with a population of 59,000. The main concentrations of Amish are in Millersburg but areas like Berlin, Charm, Sugarcreek, Dover, Canton, and New Philadelphia are also populated with their ancestors. The Amish are also spread over Tuscarawas and Coshocton counties.

Recent figures also revealed that 42 percent of the Amish in the U.S. live in Ohio.

Lagrange County, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another large concentration of the Amish is centered in Elkhart and Lagrange Counties in northwestern Indiana which includes Shipshewana, Wakarusa, Middlebury, Bristol, Goshen, and Nappanee. They are known for their involvement in RV manufacturing.

Lancaster County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The story of the Pennsylvania Amish community dates back to the 16th century Reformation in Europe when the Anabaptist movement spurred the creation of three “plain” communities: the Amish, Mennonites, 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.

Lancaster County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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 American neighbors. 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.

Lancaster County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These groups 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.

Lancaster County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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 named 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 basic beliefs concerning baptism 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 and ’30s.

Lancaster County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arriving in Amish Country allows you to step back in time to enjoy a slower, more peaceful pace—one where the horse and buggy remain a primary form of transportation. Always a vital part of Lancaster County culture, the Amish are involved in agriculture as well as an array of businesses and cottage industries.

Lancaster County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lancaster County is undeniably beautiful and simplistic in its own charming way. Many times, people end up visiting Amish Country because they’re passing through on their way to or from other destinations. As a stand-alone destination, though, is this traditional Pennsylvania region worth visiting?

The answer is an emphatic yes. However, a more detailed answer includes what travelers are looking for during their authentic Pennsylvania Dutch experience.

Lancaster County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved A

Why Visit Amish Country?

As awkward as it might seem, many people are drawn to Amish communities simply due to the fact that they’re often so different than the daily, modern lives of others. The Amish live by tradition and their communities are also shaped by such.

Visiting Lancaster County, specifically, offers a glimpse into a life that’s far simpler without many of the luxuries (often seen as distractions or just plain unnecessary) that most people have grown to rely on. The way of life in Lancaster County is simple and without the desire for many modern means of technology. The result for most is a trip that’s relaxing, laid-back, and peaceful.

Lancaster County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What to Do in Amish Country?

In short, Amish buggy rides, attractions, tours, crafts, and home-cooked meals throughout Pennsylvania Dutch Country. With that being said, some visitors might associate simple with boring—but this is certainly not the case. Of course, those visiting Lancaster County in search of theme parks and nightlife will be disappointed. However, those with realistic expectations of the Amish way of life and how bountiful it can be in its simplicity will be pleased with their decision to visit this area. From the traditional Pennsylvania Dutch food to the sights and sounds of the Amish community, visitors will walk away having developed a greater appreciation for a different way of life.

Lancaster County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The first thing on the list for those visiting Lancaster County is to spend some time exploring (and learning about) this beautiful land. Rolling hills and farms as far as the eye can see are part of the landscape and it’s worth planning some time to take it all in. Visitors can take an authentic buggy ride which is still a mode of transportation, enjoy a modern scooter ride on a guided countryside tour, and visit traditional Amish landmarks to learn more about this unique way of life.

Aaron and Jessica’s Buggy Rides: Book a private tour with Aaron and Jessica’s Buggy Rides and experience authentic Amish life with an Amish guide. A buggy ride is an ideal way to learn about life on a real working farm. The company has seven different routes from which to choose with the farm tour being the most popular. Buggy rides are available Monday to Saturday 9 am- 6 pm and Sundays from 10 am- 4:30 pm.

Amish Village, Lancaster County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Amish Village: The Amish Village provides an authentic look at today’s Amish lifestyle while surrounding you with beautiful Amish farmland. Explore the 12-acre village taking a guided tour of a historic Amish homestead and learning about Amish culture while touring Amish countryside. The Village is centered around an Amish farmhouse originally built in 1840.

Lancaster County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Amish Farm & House: Opened to the public in 1955, The Amish Farm and House is Lancaster County’s original Amish educational farm museum. Amish Farm & House offers a variety of guided Amish countryside bus tours, guided farmhouse tours, group tours, and self-guided farm tours (included with the purchase of a bus or farmhouse tour ticket).

Lancaster County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Strasburg Scooters: Enjoy a guided scooter tour through the back roads of Lancaster County as you follow your guide on a ride full of surprise stops hidden throughout the countryside. A variety of tours are available from several locations with varying rates. TripAdvisor’s #1 rated tour in Lancaster County.

Lancaster County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Amish Experience (at Plain & Fancy Farm): The Amish Experience at Plain & Fancy Farm includes a theater experience and interactions with the Amish community to learn more about their way of life. 2021 is their 62nd year presenting guided tours of the Amish farmlands, tours of Lancaster County’s only officially designated “Heritage Site” Amish House (Fisher Family Homestead) and One-Room Schoolhouse, and the Amish Experience theater five-screen production of Jacob’s Choice. 

Julius Sturgis Bakery tour, Lancaster County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery: The Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery is located in historic Lititz in the middle of beautiful Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Founded in 1861, Julius Sturgis was America’s first commercial pretzel bakery. Today, visitors can tour the original bakery, get a hands-on lesson in pretzel twisting, enjoy delicious hand-twisted soft pretzels, and shop for unique treats and souvenirs in the bakery store.

Wilbur Chocolate, Lancaster County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wilbur Chocolate: A sweet, historic brand iconic to downtown Lititz, Wilbur Chocolate has a new location—right across the street from the former store. Parking, easy access, and a better shopping experience await guests. But, more importantly, the smell of chocolate from the candy kitchen greets you while you enjoy a free chocolate sample. Watch candy makers creating confectionery favorites and enjoy interesting displays of tins, packaging, equipment, and more from days gone by. You will find a large variety of chocolate specialties, signature Wilbur Buds, and packaged gifts to purchase.

Worth Pondering…

My mother’s people are Old Order Mennonite—horse and buggy Mennonite, very close cousins to the Amish. I grew up in Lancaster County and lived near Amish farmland.

—Beverly Lewis

Hopewell Furnace: Early American Iron Plantation

History is everywhere at Hopewell Furnace. It’s one of the “iron plantations” that began America’s transformation into an industrial giant.

In the woods of southeastern Pennsylvania, a community of men, women, and children worked to supply iron for the growing nation during the 18th and 19th centuries. They created a village called Hopewell that was built around an iron-making furnace.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site is the best-preserved iron plantation in North America. Hopewell Furnace consists of a mansion (the big house), spring and smokehouses, a blacksmith shop, an office store, a charcoal house, and a schoolhouse.

From 1771 to 1883, Hopewell Furnace manufactured iron goods to fill the demands of growing eastern cities like Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore. While the most profitable items were stoves, the furnace cast many other objects such as kettles, machinery, grates, and cannon shot, and shells for patriot forces during the Revolutionary War.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As technology progressed, the furnace eventually became outdated. In 1883, it closed, and the furnace workers and their families left to make their living elsewhere. They left behind their homes, work buildings, tools, and other evidence of the iron-making community that once thrived.

Today the remains of Hopewell Furnace represent an important time in America’s maturation as a nation. The production of iron in hundreds of small furnaces like Hopewell provided the key ingredient in America’s industrial revolution, enabling the United States to become an economic and technological leader worldwide.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located on top of a hill the modern Visitor Center overlooks the colonial and early-1800s iron plantation that used slave and free labor. The 15-minute introductory film focuses on many topics including how Ironmaster Mark Bird (a colonel and quartermaster in the Continental Army) supported Washington’s forces with cannon, shot, shell, and even flour. The furnace produced 115 big guns for the Continental Navy. Other items once produced at the site included plowshares, pots, stoves, and scale weights.

Hopewell Furnace consists of 14 restored structures in the core historic area, 52 features on the National Register of Historic Places, and a total of 848 mostly wooded acres. The park’s museum contains nearly 300,000 artifacts and archival items related to the site’s history.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The impressive blast furnace and 30-foot water wheel, ironmaster’s mansion, workers’ quarters, a living farm, charcoal maker’s hut (otherwise known as a collier’s hut), and other structures illustrate the historic infrastructure typical of the charcoal-iron making process. What today’s visitors will not find is the noise, heat, and pollution that were ever-present in the community during the heyday of iron production.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition, there are plenty of apple trees ready to pick when in season and guests can also partake in apple butter making and cider pressing demonstrations. During the annual Sheep Shearing Day—held on Mother’s Day—visitors can learn about 19th-century shearing techniques and meet newly born lambs.

Hopewell Furnace lies at the center of 848-acre French Creek State Park and consists of 14 restored structures as well as the paths, fields, and meadows of the one-time working village. The buildings include a blast furnace, the ironmaster’s mansion, and auxiliary structures.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, the site is an interesting visit for the hikers, backpackers, and campers who are spending time at French Creek State Park. Bird-watchers and nature photographers as well as history buffs enjoy the tours and picnics are encouraged.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are no entrance fees for persons or vehicles the entering park. The park is open year-round Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. During summer, the park is open 7 days per week 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. On days the park is closed, its historic buildings, parking lots, and visitor center (including restrooms) are unavailable for use but its hiking trails (which interconnect with those of neighboring French Creek State Park) remain open.

Except for the park’s visitor center and historic buildings, visiting Hopewell Furnace is largely an outdoor experience. Touring the site includes walking historic roadways and footpaths while exposed to outdoor conditions. Comfortable seasonal clothing and walking shoes are recommended.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Did You Know?

Cold blast charcoal-fired iron furnaces like Hopewell Furnace were in operation in Pennsylvania as early as 1720. Between 1832 and 1840, 32 such furnaces were built in the state. The U.S. census of 1840 recorded 212 charcoal-fired furnaces operating in Pennsylvania that year.

Worth Pondering…

Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of every day, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.

—Freya Stark

Honoring Bravery at Historic Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg was a major turning point in the Civil War, the Union victory that ended General Robert E. Lee’s second and most ambitious invasion of the North

America’s history is full of bravery and bloodshed, noble ideas, and flawed men. One of the places that seem to show this so clearly is Gettysburg National Battlefield.

Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Battle of Gettysburg marked the turning point of the Civil War. The North and South met for three days in the stifling July heat and fought each other in what became the bloodiest battle of the war. General Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia retreated and would never cross the Mason-Dixon line into the Union side again. 

Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The battle was fought as tensions between the Union and the Confederacy had reached an all-time high. In January 1863, six months before the battle took place, President Lincoln had delivered his famous Emancipation Proclamation declaring all slaves to be free. The objective of the war which had been kindled by questions of states’ rights versus the governments’ rights now became about whether a man had a right to be free. 

Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We slowly made our way through the historic battlefield, beginning with the Union side. Gettysburg in person feels completely different from learning about the battle in a textbook.

Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Reality of War

The Battle of Gettysburg, like many battles in the Civil War, took place on the farms of civilians. Many of the farmhouses are still standing today allowing visitors to imagine what it felt like to watch war happen right outside their windows. Many picture war as separate from real life. Gettysburg intentionally reminds visitors of the ways that they intersect. The battlefield feels like a picture of the human paradox: that we are capable of both tending to soil and procuring fruit from it, and fighting one another on that very same soil. 

Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The largest and most prominent monument on the battlefield is the Pennsylvania State Memorial. Standing an impressive 110 feet high, the monument looms over the battlefield. Etched into the four sides of the monument are the 34,530 names of the Pennsylvanians who served their state and country fighting in this battle.

Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The battlefield monuments are designed to educate visitors on where the Union and Confederate lines were and how the fighting took place. As we moved to the Confederate side of the battle, I was struck by the number of monuments, plaques, and markers that honored the men who fought with these states. The Gettysburg Battlefield National Park website has stated their commitment to preserve “these memorials while simultaneously educating visitors holistically about the actions, motivations, and causes of the soldiers and states they commemorate. A hallmark of American progress is our ability to learn from our history.” 

The park is dedicated to providing accurate information and historical context to their visitors to reflect what really happened on the battlefield.

Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Visitor Center

After visitors wander around the field the Gettysburg Visitor Center provides a welcome relief from summer heat. More than that though, its Museum of the American Civil War is packed with information, relics, and stories from the Civil War. 

Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Soldier’s National Cemetery (Gettysburg National Cemetery), the final resting place of the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg and where President Abraham Lincoln gave his famous address, is also located in the park and is open from dawn to dusk throughout the year.

Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I left Gettysburg feeling overwhelmed by the reality of war and would return again to the park to find the stories of bravery and courage in the midst of it. The battlefield is full of stories of people who in a season when their country was hanging on by a thread, summoned enough hope for what their more perfect Union could be to fight for its future. 

Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.

It is for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain―that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

―Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863

The Ultimate Road Trip Guide to East Coast Destinations

If you haven’t considered the possibility of an epic east coast road trip, we’re here as your guide

Getting on a plane can seem daunting, but taking a road trip beyond the four walls of your home is quite embraced, as long as it’s socially-distanced. If you want to take a weekend trip or an extended road trip, read on for your guide to East Coast destinations that are ideal for a summer or autumn road trip, ordered from North to South.

Remember to travel with caution, follow good health practices, and behave responsibly when outdoors or around other people. As always, be safe, have fun, and enjoy!  

New Hampshire

Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Hampshire is bursting with a variety of landscapes to choose from. If you’re looking to get outdoors and stay active, New Hampshire is your state. Lake Winnipesaukee is the sixth-largest in the country. The lake’s beaches are perfect for relaxing in the sun or for the more active, swimming and sailing are a few of the water sports you can take advantage of on Lake Winnipesaukee in the summer.

White Mountains National Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arguably one of the most popular destinations in all of New Hampshire, White Mountain National Forest is home to endless hiking trails, wild species, and views galore. Whether you visit in the spring, summer, fall, or winter, it is worth the few hours of driving. Be sure to bring your camera and stop at the ranger station before beginning an excursion because they will fill you in on all of the things to keep an eye out for on your trek.


Freedom Trail, Boston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Massachusetts is a state that many yearn to visit in the summer. With every type of scenery from picturesque islands—think Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket­—boasting sailboats to a city with an old, cobblestone street vibe, you can do and see it all in Massachusetts.

Old Ironside © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It would be remiss to visit Massachusetts without at least dropping in on the bustling city of Boston. Boston is a city with old-time charm and a lot of history. As you walk through the town you encounter cobblestone streets, old buildings, and the waterfront of the harbor. Be sure not to miss iconic stops like Fenway Park, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, USS Constitution (Old Ironside), and Boston Public Garden for gorgeous park views. For the history buffs out there, pick up a map of the Freedom Trail for a self-guided history lesson.

Hyannis Harbor, Cape Cod © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Before leaving this incredible city, we’d be remiss if we didn’t recommend more incredible New England breweries based in Boston. Of course, the well-known Samuel Adams Brewery is a must-see. If you’re in the mood for incredible craft beers and deliciously fluffy pretzels (made from the actual hops of the beer) then Harpoon Brewery is for you.

Rhode Island

The Breakers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Founded in 1639, Newport, Rhode Island is considered to be the shining gem in the coastal crown of New England. A haven for religious dissenters, a critical Colonial Era port city, a thriving artists’ colony, a summer playground for America’s barons of industry during the Gilded Age, and home to the U.S. Naval War College, Newport is a destination like none other.

International Tennis Hall of Fame, Newport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Possibly best known for its timeless mansions, the Cliff Walk is a must-see upon entering Newport. Beautiful estates like the Breakers, Rosecliff, The Elms, and more are available for walking tours. You can purchase tickets for one or multiple estates at the Breakers upon arrival and you can walk or drive amongst each one. Along the Cliff Walk, you will also pass the beautiful Salve Regina University.

Upstate New York

Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Upstate New York is like a whole new world from the concrete jungle that we know as New York City. Full of quaint small towns with boutiques and beautiful scenery, Upstate New York is not a destination to be missed.

Village of Lake George © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saratoga is most notably known for the Saratoga Race Course. Although races may not be happening during this time, consider simply making the trip to walk around the massive grounds or perhaps wait until horse racing is back in action to visit. During the summer, the Saratoga Farmers’ Market is in full swing, making for the perfect summer activity. And of course, the sweeping hills of New York contain many well-known wineries and Saratoga is no exception.

Saratoga National Historic Park reenactment © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saratoga National Historical Park has a number of attractions and activities that happen throughout the year. Visit the site of the historic Battle of Saratoga, take tours at the Schuyler House, check out the Saratoga Monument, walk through Victory Woods, and explore the battlefield. Before you go, check the park’s official website for alerts. As always, be safe, have fun, and enjoy!  

Corning Museum of Glass © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Corning Museum of Art is celebrating 50 years and as many museums allow back visitors, they’re doing so with extra safety precautions and in a unique way. The museum, which showcases a first-hand look at glassblowing and 3,500 year-old glass on exhibit, is now scheduling online virtual reservations. Guests will be temperature checked when they walk in, masks are required for both guests and even the glassblowers who run the workshops and capacity is limited to allow social distancing. Normally, there’s a make your own glass workshop but they’ve had to adapt—there’s now individualized packages for the materials for families to get involved.


Lancaster County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pennsylvania is known for its popular cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh that contain a ton of historical value and things to do. However, the Keystone State is quite large so where you end up may depend on how far you’re willing to travel and what you want to see and do.

Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gettysburg National Military Park is a must-see for any fall excursion, providing the perfect, scenic backdrop for visitors experiencing this historic battlefield. Explore the sights and sounds of battlefield reenactments, monuments, memorials, and true history. Gettysburg offers guests a part of the nation’s past all year and provides optimal trekking treasures in the fall.


Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Virginia’s Historic Triangle is full of living history and fun for the whole family. Located in Coastal Virginia between the James and York rivers—Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg together are named the Historic Triangle for their historical significance and close proximity.

Colonial Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The area includes five historic sites and attractions from the first English settlement at Jamestown, to the end of the Revolutionary War at Yorktown, and the founding of a new nation at Williamsburg. The sites are easy to visit when traveling along the scenic Colonial Parkway and many offer discounted tickets and packages when you visit more than one.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While Williamsburg is great for all ages if you have younger kids you really can’t go wrong here. This town is an extremely interactive way to engage your little ones in the rich history of America. Williamsburg served as the capital of the Colony and Commonwealth of Virginia from 1699 to 1780 and acted as the center of political events leading to the American Revolution. You will be transported back in time through “townspeople” willing to tell their stories and include you in interactive experiences that tell a tale of Williamsburg long ago.

Worth Pondering…

We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost.

—Henry Rollins