36 Hours – Lancaster County, PA [USA]

I recommend you invoke the little known yet wildly popular 11th Commandment, “Thou Shalt Steal All Good Ideas.”  If you think this itinerary is a good one, help yourself.  Living in Baltimore, MD affords me and my family the opportunity to do some wonderful day trips and one-nighters.  Just north of Baltimore in central PA, Lancaster County offers a lot of bang for the buck.  Aside from seeming a world away from the city, Lancaster is relatively inexpensive, fun and a short car ride away.

As a homeschool mom this year I am have taken full advantage of the flexibility in my schedule.  I planned this trip for my two children ages 10 and 11, but honestly, it would have been great for kids of almost any age.  Having said that, if you have babies or toddlers, you may want to hold off until they reach elementary school.

Our first destination in Columbia, PA – the Turkey Hill Experience.  For those who don’t recognize the name, Turkey Hill makes ice cream (with a worldwide distribution we learned) and they have created a truly unique experience for anyone who wants to learn about how they produce, package, market and distribute their over 100 flavors.  It’s pretty impressive.

Most of the exhibits are interactive, and there is an opportunity to learn a lot about science, history and business, aside from being able to taste as much ice cream as you want.  Yes, I said that.  For an entrance fee, you’ll be able to create your own flavor, design the packaging and even film a commercial!  I also signed up for the Taste Lab where you can make your own flavor and, of course, eat it too.  My family was busy having a great time for over three hours.  Invite a few friends to come along and you’ll have a party!

We paid a short visit to the area visitors’ center (across the street from Turkey Hill) and learned that the National Watch and Clock Museum was around the bend.  Pure serendipity!  This place is awesome; I’d go as far as a Must See.  There is a small fee to enter and the museum isn’t large but it does an excellent job of walking you through time – literally.

You’ll learn about how humans began keeping time from the beginning of time as we know it.  Think ancient civilizations, celestial time tracking devices, water clocks and sun dials – you name it.  As you progress through the exhibits you’ll learn progressively, chronologically.  Don’t miss the live demonstration of the Monumental Clock.

After a very full day we checked into the Australian Walkabout Inn, about a 30-minute drive, but closer to our activities for the next day.  Other than the theme of the Inn there’s nothing “down under” about it.  The hostess is lovely and it was a fine place to spend the night and be treated to a wonderful cooked breakfast in the morning.  For dinner, our hostess suggested we try The Brasserie, which we did.  It had a lively atmosphere and decent pub grub, something for everyone on the menu.

Next morning after a hot breakfast and some school work (much to the children’s chagrin) we checked out, loaded the car and headed for a ride on the Strasburg Railroad.  It’s a 45-minute round trip ride through bucolic Amish Country in an original restored car.  We rode in the authentic Victorian coach (there are other cars) and enjoyed the warmth of the potbelly stove as we chugged along listening to the conductor’s stories and admiring the view.  When you purchase your ticket for the ride, you can also get a ticket for the PA Railroad Museum at a discount, which I chose to do since I knew we’d be headed there next.

The Museum is chock-a-block full of history, locomotives, and interesting facts for the would be train enthusiast.  We did a self-guided tour and the kids enjoyed poking around the trains and boarded all those that were open.  Between the ride and the museum, we spent about 2 hours.  For lunch we opted to eat at Issac’s Deli just down the road in the Shops at Traintown.  They have loads great sandwich combos with reasonable prices and friendly service.

We were now poised to arrive in time (at least 30 minutes prior to the show) for the day’s main event – a showing of Samson at The Sight and Sound Theatre.  I had learned of the theatre years ago yet this was the first opportunity we had to see a show and I knew it would be a treat.  This is the place where the Bible comes alive.  The theatre’s goal is to “visualize and dramatize Biblical truth through live stage productions.”  The productions are sensational in every way you’d expect a Broadway show to be.  They live up to their goal and present the stories of the Bible in a truly impressionable way.

By the time the show ended it was just after 5pm and time to head back to MD.  Satisfied, exhilarated, and saturated from our one and a half days in the lush farm country of Pennsylvania, we began our drive home, audio book on play.


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