Farms, food and fine crafts are part of any Lancaster, Pennsylvania, getaway. Along with the city’s art galleries, vintage shops and theaters, Lancaster city as well as the county offer all the treats of a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch Country getaway. And that’s part of the fun.
Call us nostalgic, but the region’s landscape of plowed fields, lush in season with corn, alfalfa, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and other produce is soothing, especially when a black Amish buggy pulled by high-stepping horses takes up the foreground.
Many Amish, especially the Old Order Amish, live conservatively, dressing in “plain” clothing and eschewing electricity as well as other modern conveniences. With an Amish population of 30,000, Lancaster County is the oldest and largest Amish community in the U.S.
To learn more about the Amish we take a ride with Aaron and Jessica’s Buggy Rides. Because it was Sunday, the Amish day of rest, buggies aren’t available and we cannot tour the barns. Our 35-minute horse-drawn wagon ride along a private Amish road, proves pleasant, but leaves us wanting more interaction. Our advice: visit any day but Sunday, book an hour tour, or better yet, for a more personal experience, reserve a private buggy ride.
Aaron and Jessica’s rides depart from Plain & Fancy Farm, an Amish complex with a 3-D Amish Experience Theater, a homestead, and of course, a gift shop and restaurant built for bus tours. To sample everything, we select the all-you-can eat, family style buffet. The waitress brings platters of fried chicken, pork sausage, roast beef, noodles, beans, corn and for dessert, three kinds of pie (pumpkin, apple, shoofly) plus ice cream.
For more food, both contemporary and traditional, visit Lancaster’s Central Market, one of the U.S’s oldest farmers’ markets. Along with flower stalls, and depending on the season, you can purchase farm fresh apples, cherries, pears and peaches as well as broccoli, lettuce and other vegetables. A variety of delis sell sausages, mustards and fried herring, as well as thick pastrami sandwiches and potato knishes. Other vendors offer Feta cheese, corn dogs, soft pretzels and samosas seasoned with African spices. The place is a feast for the senses.
For us, it wouldn’t be a classic Lancaster weekend, if we didn’t search for crafts. On this trip we discover Witmer’s Quilt Shop, New Holland. For more than 40 years Emma Witmer’s been selling quilts. Her shop is noted for both the abundance of work—hundreds of quilts—as well as the wide variety of styles.
Witmer designs the items. “I love putting colors together,” she says. Along with traditional log cabin, flying geese, wedding ring and other patterns, she creates eye-catching, contemporary versions of classics that ripple with color or feature an unusual border or element.
However, Witmer relies on 30 other Amish women who do “quality work,” she assures me, to piece the quilts (put the patterns together using a machine) and then do the quilting by hand. After poking through the piles of quilts, picking one out and putting it on our “wish list,” we head home, already planning our next Lancaster visit.