Lancaster, the seat of Pennsylvania's Lancaster County, is a great weekend destination, offering a choice of historical attractions, museums, tours, markets and restaurants. Attend a music festival in Long's Park, visit Dutch Wonderland with kids, sample local food at the Central Market, take a tour of the Amish Farm and House, and explore The Phillips Museum of Art. Here are the best things to do in Lancaster, PA.
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Long’s Park is an 80-acre area situated in the northwest corner of Lancaster. The park has been in existence since 1900 when it was gifted to the town by Judge Henry Grimly Long and his daughter Catherine Long. Every year the park hosts numerous events and it is one of the top Lancaster attractions. Most notably are a season-long music festival, a barbecue competition, as well as a fine arts exhibit. In addition to these events, they also have tennis courts, fitness trails and a beautiful spring-fed lake. Families can enjoy the playground, petting zoo and picnic areas.
Route 30 & Harrisburg Pike, Lancaster, PA 17601, 717-735-8883
2. Dutch Wonderland
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Dutch Wonderland is a “Kingdom for Kids” and one of the best things to do in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The amusement park is designed to be a family-friendly destination for people visiting the Lancaster and Philadelphia area. There are over 30 rides that will entertain all ages. Another highlight is Dukes Lagoon which is a tropically themed water park that is open during the summer and includes tipping buckets and bubblers. Dutch Wonderland also has shows which are open to all visitors. Tickets to the shows are included with admission to the main park. Both day passes as well as season passes are offered.
2249 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster, PA 17602, 866-FUNatDW (866-386-2839)
3. Central Market
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The Central Market in Lancaster is the oldest farmers’ market in the United States. It takes place in a 120 year old brick building which is loaded with local charm. At the market there is a host of local food that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the country. The most popular local food is scrapple which is a breakfast meat comprised of pork scraps and cornmeal. Other things you may find are items such as headcheese and Pennsylvania Dutch Sausage. Another popular food among the locals are the preserves like “chowchow” which is pickled vegetables marinated in mustard, and the famous “bread-and-butter pickles.” The market runs all year on Tuesdays and Fridays from 6 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon.
23 North Market Street, Lancaster, PA
4.Amish Farm and House, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
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The Amish Farm and House offers visitors a first-hand look at Amish life in Lancaster. The house is over 200 years old and has been open for tours for the last 60, making it the first Amish Tourist Attraction in the country. House tours run throughout the day and last about 45 minutes for a chance to walk through the front room, kitchen and bedrooms. Countryside Bus Tours are also available which include stops at a 15 acre farm, one room schoolhouse and Amish roadside stand. Highly trained and professional tour guides educate visitors about the area’s history, Amish lifestyle and local hidden treasures.
2395 Covered Bridge Drive, Lancaster, PA 17602, 717-394-6185
5. Things to Do in Lancaster, PA: The Phillips Museum of Art
© The Phillips Museum of Art
Located at Franklin & Marshall College, The Phillips Museum of Art has become a cultural resource for students and the local community. Exhibits include the museum’s permanent collection, an outdoor sculpture trail and the Franklinian database of Benjamin Franklin artifacts. The museum hosts a variety of events including lectures, film screenings, panel discussions and performances. Students utilize the museum for course-based and independent research in a range of disciplines as well as a venue to showcase and disseminate their work to the campus and community. Free to the public, the museum is open Tuesday through Sunday during the academic year.
Located in the Steinman College Center, Entrance on College Ave between New Street and Frederick Street, Lancaster, PA 17604, 717-291-3879
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6. Landis Valley Museum, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
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The Landis Valley Museum is a living history village and farm with a mission to collect, preserve and interpret the history and culture of the Pennsylvania German rural community. It was opened in 1925 by Henry and George Landis, inviting visitors to experience the 18th and 19th century village and farm life in Lancaster County. The museum has an extensive education program that offers workshops, field trips and special events where children and adults can learn new skills, trades and crafts. Landis Valley is also home to The Heirloom Seed Project and the facilities are available to rent for weddings, parties and corporate meetings.
2451 Kissel Hill Road, Lancaster, PA 17601, 717-569-0401
7. North Museum of Nature and Science
© North Museum of Nature and Science
Perfect for a family day out, or if you just want to learn more about nature and science, the North Museum of Nature and Science is home to the impressive SciDome Theater, which will take you on a tour of the galaxy and offer you stunning views of the night sky. There are also permanent exhibitions that offer visitors the chance to get up close to live animals for a hands-on learning experience and to enjoy a wide collection of birds and fossils. If you are wondering what to do in Lancaster with kids, this is a great place to visit. Depending on when you choose to visit, there are up to three featured exhibitions that run throughout the year.
400 College Avenue, Lancaster, PA 17603, 717-358-3941
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8.Mennonite Information Center
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The Mennonite Information Center gives visitors an opportunity to learn about the unique way the Amish and Mennonites live. “Who are the Amish” is a three-screen feature that can only be seen at the center along with another short film, walk-through exhibit, bookstore and selection of fair-trade handicrafts from Ten Thousand Villages. The most popular feature is the Biblical Tabernacle Reproduction, a full-sized reproduction of Moses’ Tabernacle in the Wilderness. Knowledgeable tour guides lead visitors in conversation from the Brazen Altar to the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. The center is open year-round Monday through Saturday and the Tabernacle is seen by 45 minute guided tours only. Next read: water parks in PA
2209 Millstream Road, Lancaster, PA 17602-1494, 717-299-0954
9.Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre
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The Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre has been providing top quality productions, award-winning food and exceptional service for almost thirty years. The theatre seats 370 guests in a simple yet sophisticated setting hard to find at other theatres. Dining options include a dinner buffet, A La Carte nights, Appetizer and Dessert only shows and enhanced upscale weekend buffets. Shows range from favorite classical musicals to contemporary hits with performers from New York, Phoenix, South Carolina and Chicago. A live orchestra accompanies the production created by nationally recognized designers, directors and choreographers for a truly magical experience.
510 Centerville Road, Lancaster, PA 17601, 717-898-1900
10.American Music Theatre, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
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The Stated Mission of the American Music Theatre is to provide outstanding entertainment for their patrons by collaborating with artists who represent all musical genres and parts of the country. The AMT is unique in that it is the only theatre in America that has original shows as well as touring artists. The Theatre has 1600 seats and hosts every kind of show such as rock and roll, comedy, Broadway shows and pop music. The American Music Theatre opened in 1997 and has worked hard to build an impressive list of visitors including artists who have won Grammys, Tonys and Oscars.
2425 Lincoln Hwy East, P.O. Box 10757, Lancaster, PA 17605, 800-648-4102 | 717-397-7700
11.Things to Do in Lancaster, PA: Fulton Theatre
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The Fulton Theatre produces plays and musicals hoping to move the collective soul of the community and honor its national landmark, the Fulton Opera House, which is considered the oldest continuously operating theatre in the country. Now run as a non-profit, The Fulton serves over 130,000 people annually with rotating main stage productions as well as one-hour family oriented musicals on Saturday mornings. Every Friday from Memorial Day to Labor Day, informative story-filled, backstage tours explore The Fulton’s rich history and provide a glimpse behind the scenes of the current productions.
12 North Prince Street, Lancaster, PA 17608-1865, 717-397-7425
12.The Lancaster Science Factory
© The Lancaster Science Factory
A perfect stop for families with children ages 7 to 13, the Lancaster Science Factory is a hands-on, interactive technology and science center. Created by James Bunting, the Science Factory houses over 50 exhibits and hosts science related events throughout the year. Its mission is to help children develop curiosity, think creatively and build confidence as they learn about the principles and applications of science through highly interactive exhibits, workstations and mini-labs. The Factory is open Tuesday through Sunday and takes an average of two hours to visit. Facilities are also available to rent for birthdays, fundraisers and team building events.
454 New Holland Ave, Lancaster, PA 17602, 717-509-6363
13. Wheatland, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
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President James Buchanan once referred to Wheatland as his “agreeable country residence about a mile and a half from Lancaster City.” Today guests can tour the home as guides share Buchanan’s family story. He was known as a stern, but lovable bachelor uncle who raised orphaned nieces and nephews while being a successful attorney. Wheatland is also famous for serving as Buchanan’s presidential campaign headquarters in 1857. Located at the bottom of the Wheatland driveway is the well known Frog Pond, beloved by Buchanan who requested a drink from its spring before he passed away.
230 North President Avenue, Lancaster, PA 17603, 717-392-4633
14.Hands-on House, Children's Museum of Lancaster
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Created for children aged 2-10, the Hands-on House features self-directed exhibits designed to encourage adults and children to learn and play together. The museum is a non-profit organization built around the philosophy that learning lasts longer if it’s fun and it’s more fun if it includes doing. The exhibits, classes and programs focus on interactive, participatory activities while adults are encouraged to enhance the children’s visit by joining in play, asking questions and allowing children to lead their way. Birthday party packages include the Pee Wee Party, Birthday Blast or Deluxe Theme options and the entire museum is also available to rent for private events.
721 Landis Valley Road, Lancaster, PA 17601, 717-569-KIDS
15. Historic Rock Ford Plantation
© Historic Rock Ford Plantation
Dive straight into the history of Lancaster Country in Pennsylvania with a visit to the Historic Rock Ford Plantation. The plantation is a house that was inhabited by Adjunct General of former president George Washington and Edward Hand, and dates from the 18th century. Part of the National Register of Historic places, visitors to the plantation can tour the property taking in the period features that have been painstakingly preserved, as well as viewing examples of historic art work that decorate the mansion. Georgian in style, visitors here will get a firsthand walk through of one of the most original and well-restored domestic examples of rural life in the 18th century.
881 Rockford Road, Lancaster, PA, 717-392-7223
16.The United States Hot Air Balloon Team
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The U.S. Hot Air Balloon Team is the East Coast premier balloon company. They have been providing memorable, safe and entertaining experiences for nearly three decades. All of their pilots are FAA commercially approved and have more than 10,000 hours of combined experience. Rides begin on the ground where guests can help assemble the balloon and take pictures. Actual flight time is about one hour with majestic views of Lancaster County, Intercourse, Bird in Hand and Strasburg. Landings often include children chasing the balloon across fields and meeting the local farmers. Rides are followed by a light snack and champagne toast.
162 E Main Street, Elverson, PA 19520, 800-763-5987
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17.Lancaster Marionette Theatre, Lancaster, PA
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Unleash the child in you with a trip to the Lancaster Marionette Theatre, a quirky restored space that specializes in theatrical performances with marionette puppets. The brainchild of Robert Brock, a passionate puppet aficionado, there are performances that both children and adults will enjoy, as well as specialized shows for adults that also integrate live performance elements. Before each show you will be taken on a guided tour of the theatre including backstage to learn how the marionettes are made and to learn about the history of the building and the restored period features within such as the stained glass walls and ceiling frescoes. The theatre also leads to the John Durang Puppet Museum where you can learn all about the history of puppets.
126 N.Water Street, Lancaster, PA 17603, 717-394-8398
18.Things to Do in Lancaster, PA: Caribbean Indoor Water Park
© Caribbean Indoor Water Park
Proudly credited as the first water park in Lancaster and open all year round, Caribbean Indoor Water Park provides fun for all the family and is open to guests staying at the adjacent Budget Host Inn & Suites lodging. Guests of all ages will enjoy the water park with features such as wading pools and dumping buckets to splash you as you swim, and activity pools that allow you to play basketball or other games using inflatables. If you want something to really get your pulse racing then there are slides that lead to plunge pools, as well as obstacle courses like the Water Walk Pool. If you want to relax then head for the spa and waterfalls section and enjoy the soothing waters. Dining options are also available onsite.
2100 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster, PA 17602, 717-397-7781
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19.Clipper Magazine Stadium
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Home of the Lancaster Barnstormers, Clipper Magazine Stadium is a 6,000 seat baseball stadium that opened in May of 2005. It was honored as “Ballpark of the Year” by the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball in 2013 because of its excellent grounds keeping and stadium operations. With two main concession stands and a variety of specialty stands and portable vendors, the stadium offers a true “Taste of Lancaster.” Tickets are available online or at the box office and parking is free. The stadium also includes a Team Store as well as the B.R. Kreider & Son Kid’s park complete with inflatables and a carousel.
650 North Prince Street, Lancaster, PA 17603, 717-509-4487
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20.Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society
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The Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, dating from the 1950s, has a mission to preserve and educate regarding the Mennonite faith communities in and around Lancaster. With this in mind, visitors can tour the Historical Society Museum to learn all about the historical significance and culture of the Mennonite communities, and there are different temporary exhibitions that change throughout the year. The museum aims to tell the stories of these communities through preserved cultural relics and art works in order to bring greater understanding to this faith. Not just a museum, the Historical Society also has events such as book evenings, folk art exhibitions, music nights and field trips for those wanting to know even more about the fascinating history of Lancaster Mennonites.
2215 Millstream Road, Lancaster, PA 17602-1499, 717-393-9745
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21.Holtwood Dam, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
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For those who want to get out and about in Lancaster, come to the Holtwood Dam area to enjoy the outdoors. Depending on your enthusiasm and level of ability, you can choose from over 30 miles of hiking trails and undertake anything from a gentle ramble in the rustic and rocky terrain, to a more challenging and strenuous day hike past craggy scenery and stunning vistas. One of the highlights of the area for experienced hikers is the Conestoga Trail of approximately 15 miles that winds past the Susquehanna River and Lake Aldred. Whatever you choose to do, you will find quaint picnic spots, camping grounds and picturesque pavilions along the way.
22.Lancaster East Side Market
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Located in Musser Park and held every Sunday, Lancaster East Side Market is on a mission to create a vibrant sense of community spirit by providing a space in which local vendors can sell their wares and showcase the best of the local Lancaster produce and craftsmanship. Not just a farmer’s market that focuses on simply selling local fruit and vegetables, Lancaster East Side Market also features fun activities for children, musical performances and even skill share sessions where visitors can learn about the arts and crafts of the region, many of which are centuries old. There are even live animals for children to pet at the market to learn more about the local farming community as well as an emphasis on promoting sustainable development in the region.
Corner of Lime and Chestnut Street, Lancaster, PA 17602
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23.What to Do in Lancaster, PA: The Demuth Museum
© The Demuth Museum
Art lovers are sure to enjoy a day out at the Demuth Museum, dedicated to the art work of Charles Demuth, a 19th century American modernist artist from the Lancaster area. The museum has a range of stunning collections, many of which feature watercolor paintings and examples of the Precisionist style, and there is a museum gift shop that sells exquisite silk scarves printed with works by Demuth. The museum is housed in the artist’s original home and visitors can tour his studio as well as the lush and well maintained flower gardens from which he took inspiration. Some of the buildings featured in the collections in the museum also still stand on the property today providing an architectural perspective of historic Lancaster.
120 East King Street, Lancaster, PA 17602, 717-299-9940
24.Sehner Ellicott von Hess House
© Sehner Ellicott von Hess House
Dating from 1797, the Sehner Ellicott von Hess House is famous for being the home of Andrew Ellicott. It was also the base where Meriwether Lewis studied surveying in preparation for the Lewis & Clark Expedition into the territories to the west of Lancaster, and as such is a place of great historical significance in the Lancaster region. The house built by Gottlieb Sehner, a German architect, has been lovingly restored and preserved in order to educate visitors on the historic and cultural background of the area. There are tours of the property available through the Historic Society for those who want to delve into this history firsthand.
123 North Prince Street, Lancaster, PA 17603, 717-291-5861
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25.Historic St. Mary's Church, Lancaster, PA
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St. Mary’s Church is a breathtaking example of Catholic architecture and a pillar of the Lancaster community. The church is said to be the spot of the fourth oldest Catholic parish in the whole of the United States, and visitors wishing to combine the spiritual with an architectural tour will find much to enjoy here. The church is still very much in working order and is headed by Father Leo who leads mass every week for the local community and visitors to Lancaster alike. There are a wealth of period features here for visitors to enjoy such as the stained glass windows that depict key scene from the Bible, as well as ornate carvings and stonework.
119 S. Prince Street, Lancaster, PA 17603, 717-392-2578
25 Best Things to Do in Lancaster (PA)
- Long's Park, Photo: Courtesy of Gennadiy Poznyakov - Fotolia.com
- Dutch Wonderland, Photo: Courtesy of mashiki - Fotolia.com
- Central Market, Photo: Courtesy of Christian Hinkle - Fotolia.com
- Amish Farm and House, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Photo: Courtesy of lspi138 - Fotolia.com
- Things to Do in Lancaster, PA: The Phillips Museum of Art , Photo: The Phillips Museum of Art
- Landis Valley Museum, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Photo: Landis Valley Museum
- North Museum of Nature and Science, Photo: North Museum of Nature and Science
- Mennonite Information Center, Photo: Mennonite Information Center
- Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre, Photo: Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre
- American Music Theatre, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Photo: Courtesy of magicbeam - Fotolia.com
- Things to Do in Lancaster, PA: Fulton Theatre, Photo: Courtesy of Jaroslav Machacek - Fotolia.com
- The Lancaster Science Factory, Photo: The Lancaster Science Factory
- Wheatland, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Photo: Courtesy of lspi138 - Fotolia.com
- Hands-on House, Children's Museum of Lancaster, Photo: Courtesy of sabdiz - Fotolia.com
- Historic Rock Ford Plantation, Photo: Historic Rock Ford Plantation
- The United States Hot Air Balloon Team, Photo: Courtesy of AGcuesta - Fotolia.com
- Lancaster Marionette Theatre, Lancaster, PA, Photo: Courtesy of Jeanette Dietl - Fotolia.com
- Things to Do in Lancaster, PA: Caribbean Indoor Water Park, Photo: Caribbean Indoor Water Park
- Clipper Magazine Stadium, Photo: Courtesy of Michael Flippo - Fotolia.com
- Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, Photo: Courtesy of ivanes1989 - Fotolia.com
- Holtwood Dam, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Photo: Courtesy of carl - Fotolia.com
- Lancaster East Side Market, Photo: Courtesy of annalovisa - Fotolia.com
- What to Do in Lancaster, PA: The Demuth Museum, Photo: The Demuth Museum
- Sehner Ellicott von Hess House, Photo: Sehner Ellicott von Hess House
- Historic St. Mary's Church, Lancaster, PA, Photo: Courtesy of Christian Hinkle - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of pabrady63 - Fotolia.com