Over Mother’s Day weekend my girls and I took a fun mother-daughter trip to the Washington, D.C. area to visit two of my dearest lifelong friends who had also served as bridesmaids at my wedding 18 years ago.
Since my daughters and I had visited many of the popular D.C. sites on a previous trip, my former maid of honor suggested that we turn our attention on taking a day trip away from the busy city.
And what better way to enjoy a short weekend jaunt from the nation’s capital than embarking on a 2-hour excursion to Lancaster County to experience and explore how the Pennsylvania Amish really live today.
As we meandered through the backroads and rolling hills dotted with cultivated farms, covered bridges and picturesque towns with quaint names like Bird-In-Hand and Paradise, we were transformed through time.
This is where 18th century living meets the modern world.
Shopping malls are replaced by produce stands and strip centers fade into rolling green hills of lush crops.
We found ourselves right in the middle of one of the best places in the country to see a community of people known for their religiously-focused culture, plain dress and lack of modern conveniences.
They are the Lancaster County Amish.
This gorgeous Amish Country, also known as Pennsylvania Dutch Country, includes a 7,100 square miles located in Lancaster County. Movie fans might remember this region was made famous by the 1985 film Witness starring Harrison Ford.
The Amish, Mennonites, and Brethren of the Dutch County represent more than 75,000 of Lancaster County’s 500,000 residents. It’s a small group that continues to live a gentle life centered on family cohesiveness and religious worship.
As we wound our way through the scenic countryside on this spring afternoon, we saw firsthand how life shifts from the speed of the freeway to the clip-clop of horses’ hooves on paved roads as Amish villagers make their way in carriages through town.
I like to use our road trips as a chance to better understand the history and culture of an area, and Lancaster was rich with both.
The unique towns in the county offered all sorts of family-fun activities including amusement parks, buggy rides, interactive farms, train attractions, pretzel and chocolate factories, local sports and so much more.
Whether you’re a first time traveler or a frequent visitor to the region, you’ll be sure to find something new and unexpected when you arrive.
Here’s Our 3 Top Picks for Amish Experiences and Eateries in Lancaster County:
Learn About Amish Life
The Amish Village
199 Hartman Bridge road
Ronks, PA 17572
A trip to The Amish Village tops our list when visiting the heart of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country. It’s a great first stop to get grounded in what you’re seeing and offers an excellent overview of the Amish community before you start exploring the area.
The Amish Village is an authentic look at today’s Amish lifestyle. Located on 12 scenic acres, the village lets visitors tour an authentic property including a one-room schoolhouse, barn with farm animals, blacksmith shop, smokehouse market and more.
Your local tour guide will explain the history of the Lancaster Amish and some of their religious traditions. They also offer a variety of experiences for every budget and interest level.
If you have more time, you might want to check out one of their guided bus tours. It allows visitors to travel off the beaten path, past working Amish farms and along country roads. Each bus tour includes at least one stop at a local Amish business.
Enjoy Authentic Amish Cooking
200 Hartmon Bridge Road
Ronks, PA 17572
After touring The Amish Village, we worked up an appetite. And fortunately for us, one of the area’s most popular restaurants was just down the road.
Katie’s Kitchen, an Amish owned and operated family restaurant features authentic Amish cuisine. These included many Pennsylvania Dutch favorites like oven roasted chicken, beef and noodles or the quintessential dish known as “Amish casserole” with chicken and celery-based stuffing.
Business was brisk and they really get busy during the summer months. Be sure to check out their website or call ahead to make sure they’re open because the restaurant is typically closed a few times a week in observance of religious days.
Try A Slice of Shoo-Fly Pie
Bird-In-Hand Bakery and Cafe
2715 Old Philadelphia Pike
Bird-in-Hand, PA 17505
Of course, after eating a hearty Amish meal we decided it was time dessert – Amish style.
We traveled to the next town over to visit the Bird-In-Hand Bakery and Café. They’re known for their freshly baked breads, buns, and rolls and most famously for their wet bottom shoo-fly pies and artesian homemade ice cream. Other famous delicacies include their oversized apple dumplings, whoopee pies, fresh pumpkin pie made from their homegrown pumpkins and moist red velvet cake and much more.
We also enjoyed browsing through the Bird-In-Hand’s country store, stocked with a full variety of locally made arts crafts. After grabbing our treats, we sat out on the picnic tables while other guests strolled the grounds which included a petting zoo and playground.
These incredible experiences and eateries were splendid ways to sample local culture and cooking in the Amish countryside.
My daughters and former bridesmaids agreed, that when asked if we wanted to return to the Pennsylvania Dutch Country – we’d definitely say “I Do” all over again.