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Local Treks

Thursday, 14 May 2009

A Weekend in Lancaster, PA

We arrived in western Pennsylvania in dark of night, following a late departure from home.  Our base of operations for the weekend was Olde Fogey Farm, a small family farm and quirky B&B by the roadside to the west of Lancaster, tucked between sweeping acreages and rolling hills.  The attraction? Chores. 

Seriously. 

Olde Fogey Farm, run by Tom and Biz Fogey, encourages its pint-size boarders to rise with the sun and feed pigs, cows, chickens, and goats.  This, for two four-year-old city slickers?  Pure heaven, as long as the big Tom Turkey kept its distance.

The Farm has much to recommend a good bit of hanging out - including a coop-sized playhouse, a stream, and - did I mention?  Barnyard animals.  (There's also an on-call masseuse, for those parents so disposed.)  In addition, it is not too far from the major towns of Amish Country - Bird in Hand, Lancaster City, Strasburg, and more. 

We went with our friends (Sara, the oft-mentioned cruise director for our group of friends, and her family), which gave our daughter someone to run through the mud with.  Sara and I had poked around other things to do - and we wound up doing quite a few of them. 

After chores and a huge breakfast made by Biz on Saturday, we drove to scenic downtown Lancaster to go to the farmers' market (we should have gone to the one in Bird In Hand), and the Quilt Museum.  The farmers' market was crowded and lacking in farmers.  The Quilt Museum was beautifully done: the museum is inside an old bank building, the exhibit gorgeous and spare, with well written curators' notes.  Even better, the old bank vault has been redesigned with kids in mind.  There are magnets that can be organized into quilt patterns; walls painted with the story of a young Amish girl; quilting supplies to touch and see.  The girls enjoyed it, until naptime was well past due.

While they slept, we drove north to Liditz.  There, along the gorgeous historic streets lined with victorian homes and thriving neighborhood shops is the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery - the first pretzel bakery in the United States.  There, our daughters learned to roll pretzels - though not at the rate of pretzel throwers in the 1860s (about 100 per minute) and got official diplomas - another hit.  Then we drove down main street to find the Wilbur Chocolate Factory - where we could watch chocolate treats being created and then buy the results (and many many more chocolate creations as well).  Hits #3 and #4. 

At that point, Sara had negotiated space for us to have supper with a local Amish family.  This was an extraordinary thing - our hosts welcomed us with amazing home-cooked food (I will not weigh myself for a week) and our children played on the backyard swing with several of the family's children, who were about the same age.  While they played, the adults spent some time talking about cultural and family issues - including school and dating in Amish culture (!) and the evening closed with several songs.  The host family gives these dinners regularly - and they are so kind and welcoming it was hard to feel like intruders for long.  We were all on our best behavior though.  Hit #5.

The next morning featured another round of chores - and egg collecting. Then a huge breakfast and we were off to look through the windows at a few craft shops in Bird in Hand PA (because Lancaster is a very religious area, not many shops were open, which was ok.).  The biggest treat was the opportunity to watch the horse-and-buggies drive across the landscape as families traversed back and forth.

We met Sara and her family in Strasburg at the Strasburg Railroad for lunch - and were just in time to catch the noon train and land seats in the dining car.  Hit #6. The ride is 45 minutes long, and lunch was actually good, though quick - it was a fun thing to do (cost for a family of three, not including lunch: $39).  As was playing on the push-trains in the nearby railroad activity area near the shops.  We didn't have time for the railroad museum, but it was a fun way to end the weekend.

Why not enough time?  Because a 6-hit weekend?  Gives you REALLY tired kids.  Happy kids.  But tired ones.  There are a lot of great things to do in Lancaster that we didn't get to (my childhood memories of Dutch Wonderland and Hershey Park notwithstanding) - but we are so glad we went.

(photos to come asap)
Posted in Americas : March-May : Young Child by Fran W. at 12:46 PMPermalink

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