A full day experiencing the Amish community in Lancaster, PA. A route exploring its culture, history and even a ride in a buggy!
We decided to take advantage of the fact that Abby’s parents live less than an hour away from one of the largest Amish communities of the United States, and after a year living in New York, I still hadn’t seen Amish Country. So we went to immerse ourselves in Amish culture and learn more about this interesting community. The Amish community has dispersed a bit due to the price of land and many other factors. In Pennsylvania, almost all of them live in and around Lancaster County, in an area known as “Pennsylvania Dutch Country.” It’s about two and a half hours from New York, and a great get away that we strongly recommend!
First off, I want to clear up two misconceptions that I had before this trip. The first is that the area, although it has the word “Dutch” in the name, which one would think refers to people from Holland, it actually comes from the word “Deutsch” (german or germanic). There was a misunderstanding when people heard the Amish say that they spoke “Deutsch” so from then on, they were known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, and now that there is so much tourism, the name is there to stay. However, we want you all to know that the Amish are german descendants and actually speak the dialect of High German.
The second misconception we want to clear up is the difference between the Mennonites and the Amish, although they might seem very similar to an outsider. Although this post explains the differences in more detail, the main points are that the Mennonites can use electricity, cars and attend college and live in cities. Basically, they are two very different communities. The Amish think that they have taken a step into the future by beginning to use diesel motors for machines such as the washing machine, dryers and refrigerators. We want to thank the Amish who spoke with us, showed us their home and opened their hearts to allow us to get to know them better. These five experiences in Lancaster will give you enough to enjoy a day in Amish country.
Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum
Landis Valley is a town transformed into a museum where we can learn about the basics before continuing our trip. It is not exclusively Amish, but rather, it shows us the Pennsylvania German history. We had the good fortune to have a personal guide who explained everything to us. Thanks to her we learned about the difference between the mennonites and the Amish, how they came to live in Pennsylvania and what life was like for them in this area.
There are 23 buildings, each one representing some part of life in these communities from 1740 to 1940. What surprised me most was the blacksmith who continues to work in the trade. He told us about the importance of his work, and how in the past almost everything required some sort of tool from the blacksmith’s shop. Another interesting thing about these communities is that in the past they planted and grew tobacco for cigarettes. There are still some remains of the factory and you can see how they did this.
Another building that sparked my curiosity was the gun maker’s. In the past, the Pennsylvania Long Rifle, also known as the Kentucky Long Rifle, came from this area. The rifles were used in the 18th Century for wars including the American Civil War. This established their place in history. You will need about 2 hours to wander around all of the complex, but we are sure you will love it from the very start.
- Address: 2451 Kissel Hill Rd
Lancaster, PA 17601
- Telephone: (717) 569-0401
- Rates: Adults $12; Seniors $10; 3-11 years old $8; Younger than 3 years old free
- Hours: (Mon-Sat) 9:00am – 5:00pm; Sunday 12:00pm – 5:00pm
- Official website of Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum
Amish Farm & House
Although it was hard to find, being in the middle of a forest that you can’t see from the road, the experience was worth it. It replicates an Amish farm with a house that serves as a museum. The museum reflects how everyday life was (and still is) for the Amish. First we had a guided tour with an expert who explained the Amish ways and also taught us how every bit of the house including the utensils were used, how they dressed and what toys they had.
When the tour ended, we went outside for some fresh air and to explore the other parts of the Amish farm. We were able to see the forge, the church (those who can afford it can have a private tour), we got lost in a maize labyrinth and we also saw the animals. One of the goats got their heads stuck in the gate and we had to help it get out, poor thing! I also noticed that they had alpacas. Apparently the Amish use their skin and milk.
But if anything surprised me, it was that there is now a trend among the Amish to breed camels. Yes, you read correctly, camels! Apparently camel milk is highly prized and can sell for up to $100 dollars. How entrepreneurial the Amish are! You will need about an hour and a half to complete the visit and soak up their way of life fully. Remember, we will visit a real farm later, but let’s continue reading!
- Address: 2395 Lincoln Hwy E
Lancaster, PA 17602
- Telephone: (717) 687-8511
- Rates: From $9.25 (depending of the ticket. You can send us an email)
- Hours: (Mon-Sun) 9:00am – 5:00pm
- Official website of The Amish Farm & House
Here you will find a lot of information about the attractions in the area. Also there is an Amish-style horse cart in the parking lot where you can pose for a photo. Take advantage of the sticky buns (cinnamon rolls) sold by a Mennonite family at a stall close to the parking lot. They have picnic tables and the menu has lots of options to accompany the rolls. We ordered a classic cinnamon roll with nuts. Rusko didn’t like the rolls much, but his travel companions assured him that they were very tasty. If you like these type of rolls, it’s a delicacy you won’t be able to deny yourself while travelling in Lancaster County!
It is a real farm, established in 1840, where you can learn a lot about the Amish history and their everyday life today. It’s very interactive. You can attend an Amish class and see what they learn. At Christmas time, the village is decorated with typical Amish Christmas decorations creating an authentic spectacle of all sorts of colors and shapes! There are guided tours around the farm to find out more about this curious community, done in a different style than the Amish Farm and House.
- Address: 199 Hartman Bridge Rd Ronks, PA 17572
- Telephone: (717) 687-8511
- Rates: From $9 (depending of the tour. You can send us an email)
- Hours: (Mon-Sat) 9:00am – 6:00pm; Sunday 10:00am – 6:00pm
- Official website of The Amish Village
Aaron & Jessica’s Buggy Rides
This has to be one of the most authentic and special experiences we’ve had with El Boquerón Viajero. Aaron and Jessica had the idea of bringing the Amish culture to the people as well as sharing it in a way that they could earn a living. They do this by giving tourists rides in their wagons as well as showing them where they live. We got on a private wagon for 2 people (they have them for bigger groups as well). I sat in the front seat and it was very exciting (except for when the horse disposed of what it had eaten beforehand)!
The Amish man told us about his way of life and answered all of our questions. When we arrived at the farm he invited us to see how they tend to the animals and how they harvest the crops. We met his family all of whom work on the same farm. When the sons and daughters marry, they have children and as the parents get older, the grandparents move to a smaller house on the farm and the sons and daughters move to the farmhouse. Truth be told, it was an unforgettable experience and it allowed us to learn and have a deeper understanding of this unique culture.
- Address: 3121 Old Philadelphia Pike
Bird in Hand, PA 17505
- Telephone: (717) 768-8828
- Rates: From $14 (depending of the buggy and the number of people. You can send us an email)
- Hours: (Mon-Sat) 9:00am – 7:00pm; Sunday 10:00am – 5:00pm
- Official website of Aaron & Jessica’s Buggy Rides
And to eat…Plain & Fancy Farm Restaurant
Before going on, here is my first warning: Amish food, as much as I love it, is very filling. Take into account that after eating, the Amish go back to energy-consuming tasks in the countryside and they need plenty of get-up-and-go. You may well be thinking that a day out warrants a heavy meal but be careful, you may need a nap! Amish food bases itself around meat, potatoes, fresh vegetables and uses butter in just about everything. At least there’s one consolation, you won’t find fresher or more organic produce anywhere!
- Address: 3121 Old Philadelphia Pike Bird in Hand, PA 17505
- Telephone: (717) 768-4400
- Price per person: $20
- Hours: (Mon-Sun) 11:30am – 8:00pm
- Official website of Plain & Fancy Farm Restaurant