Things to do with kids in Lancaster PA | Amish Country
Discover the best things to do with kids in Lancaster PA. Plan the perfect Amish vacation with Amish attractions, train museums, farm-to-table food and farm stays. It’s the perfect escape from the city and an extremely family friendly area to explore.
Pennsylvania Dutch Country is home to 75,000 Amish families (almost 25% of the population). There are plenty of opportunities to learn about the Amish culture and their simple life.
In addition, Lancaster County is home to the Strasburg Railroad, which is the oldest continuously operating railroad in the western hemisphere. Sprinkle in theme parks, farmers markets, and a huge adventure farm, you can see why Lancaster, PA is a top family destination.
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Verdant View Farms Bed and Breakfast Lancaster PA
Visiting Lancaster PA had always been on my list, so when my husband had to travel for work and we still had 3 more weeks of summer, my son and I took off on a mother-son trip around Pennsylvania together. We started driving up to Diggerland (click the link to read more) in New Jersey, through Philadelphia to the outskirts to play at the Legoland Discovery Center (click the link to read more) and then down to Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Planning on combining this trip with a trip to Philadelphia, check out these tips on what to see.
We spent 3 nights at the Verdant View Farm doing a farm stay. If you want to read more about the farm stay, click the button below. I highly recommend Verdant View Farm because we were able to have the farm experience, a farm-to-table breakfast and a wonderful location to explore each day. My son always enjoyed finding new friends and playing with Scooby, the farm dog.
Best Things to do in Lancaster, PA
Looking for the best Lancaster, PA attractions? The following Lancaster activities are perfect for the whole family! I’ve included some free things to do in Lancaster, PA as well as many things to see in Lancaster, PA that have paid admission. I’ve also divided the Lancaster attractions by theme, feel free to use the table of contents below to jump to a particular section of interest.
Looking for books to learn more about the Amish or perhaps a fun read about the area? Check out some options below.
Learn about the Amish culture and way of life. There are multiple Amish tours in Lancaster, PA, but I’m only going to suggest the ones that we visited personally. I read reviews and asked locals, so I can say that the following Amish things to do in Lancaster, PA are the best options for learning about the Amish.
This historic site is dedicated to to sharing information pertaining to the practices of the Amish. You have a few options to visit, but we chose the guided tour of the home and visit to the farm with the one room schoolhouse. They also offer bus tours, but we took a few self-drives and would only take a bus tour if we had limited time.
For Kids: Be sure to grab a scavenger hunt before you head outside. Complete it and return to the gift shop for a treat! There are also farm animals to feed, playgrounds to play on and interactive elements like a buggy you can climb into and a cow you can “milk”.
Abe’s Horse and Buggy Rides
Enjoy a private ride through Amish Country on a traditional Amish buggy. You can pick from varying lengths and prices, we choose the 30 minute ride and it was the perfect length and on a nice road passing by farms, a schoolhouse and pond.
We picked Abe’s Horse and Buggy Rides because they offered private rides, a petting zoo, playground and the horses were well cared for. If you choose a different company, please make sure you do your research.
For Kids: Buy food to feed the animals, enjoy the playground while you wait for your carriage ride and take the reins to help drive the carriage!
There are so many amazing train related activities in Lancaster County. The Strasburg railroad is the main attraction with its large black engine and wide variety of train car options to enjoy a 45 minute ride through the Amish farmland. It was one of our favorite Amish country PA attractions. There are also three train museums to enjoy as well as a train themed hotel.
Calling all train lovers! Be sure to catch a ride on the oldest continuously running train in the Western Hemisphere. There are multiple train car options that range from Presidential all the way down to open-air cars to fit any budget. You’ll enjoy a 45 minute train ride through Lancaster County’s scenic farmland on a one-way track.
We chose to sit in an open air car since it was a beautiful day with clear skies and nice temperatures. My son enjoyed laying his head on the window ledge and walking to the front to watch and hear the engine. At the 1/2 way mark, we watched the train uncouple and switch to the front of the train for the return journey.
For Kids: Before or after your train journey, be sure to enjoy the Strasburg Rail Road activities! Visit the large playground, let the kids ride on the mini train or try taking the cranky cars for a spin. There are also shops and cafes available.
Visit the Strasburg Train Museum, which conveniently sits right across from the Strasburg Train station. Take an up close look at the many engines, train cars and passenger trains featured in their interactive exhibits. Don’t miss seeing the restoration work and outdoor train yard.
For Kids: The kids will really enjoy the Stewart Junction area with train tables, electronic trains you can control (for age 8+) and lego train displays with action buttons to push. It was a favorite area for my son! There are also areas to shovel coal, look inside the trains via stair platforms and go underneath a train.
Lancaster, PA beckons visitors to enjoy the great outdoors. The blue skies, fluffy white clouds and crisp green grass welcome you to feel the sunshine upon your skin and slow down. Two wonderful family friendly attractions located close to Lancaster are the Crest View Adventure Farm and Refreshing Mountain.
Looking to let the kids run off a bit of steam? Cherry Crest Adventure Farm was one of our favorite family activities in Lancaster, PA. It is a 300 acre family owned farm with tons of great activities for kids. Visit with the farm animals, wander the maze, crawl through hay tunnels and jump on the jumping pillow! Great for toddlers up to elementary aged children.
For Kids: Everything! Don’t miss the slingshots, baby chicks inside the Discovery Barn and the Sproutsville mini town with interactive activities inside each building.
Refreshing mountain retreat and adventure center is located 30-45 minutes north of Lancaster County. The center is surrounded by 80 acres of beautiful Pennsylvania woodland and the adventure center offers ropes courses, rock walls, outdoor pools, giant swing, archery and a wildlife center.
The adventure center is best for ages 5 and up (minimum age for most activities). There is a nice playground area for younger children to wait while older children take part in activities.
My son and I participated in their ropes course with zip-lines and giant swing. It was a bit challenging and I’d only recommend it for adventuresome children since you are quite high in the air and children must follow all safety directions. The giant swing was a highlight for my son and he had no hesitation in pulling the cord.
Buffet Restaurants and Must Try Treats:
Home cooked food is a specialty in this area and it is featured at “all you can eat” buffet restaurants, also called smorgasbords. During our stay, buffet restaurants were perfect dinners for the two of us, so we tried quite a few options in the area. I’ll share my favorites!
We also asked the locals for the best places for ice cream, pretzels and lunch. All of those recommendations were spot on, so I’ll share all those spots with you.
Buffet Restaurants (Smorgasbords)
Smörgåsbord actually originated in Sweden, when buffets were served with multiple hot and cold dish options to guests. Lancaster takes this tradition and puts a “home cooked” spin on it.
Make sure you are nice and hungry before you arrive because you’l be greated with buffet stations full of soups, salads, meats, vegetables, h’orderves, ice cream, pies and more!
We visited three different buffet restaurants: Millers, Bird-in-Hand and Shady Maple. They were all a bit similar, but Shady Maple and Millers were favorites for their food quality and taste. We also liked the salad/soup option at Millers, for those that want a buffet without quite so much food.
Miller's Smorgasbord Restaurant
Lincoln Highway East, Ronks, PA
$3 online coupon
Soup/Salad Buffet Option
Wide Variety of Foods
Bird-in-Hand Family Restaurant
Old Philly Pike, Bird in Hand, PA
Kids Buffet Option
Soup/Salad Buffet Option
Food was a bit bland
Shady Maple Smorgasbord
Toddy Drive, East Earl, PA
Nightly Dinner Feature
Thursday Kids Night
Many seating options
Pretzels, Ice Cream and more!
One of my favorite parts of Lancaster was the access to so many wonderful markets, roadside stands and locally made products during our visit to Amish Country, PA. Traveling with a young son means plenty of times for snacks! So where are the best places to eat in Lancaster you ask? Here are our favorites.
Fox Meadows Creamery: (2475 W Main St, Ephrata, PA 17522)
The ice cream is made daily and in-house with milk from the farm’s cows. You can see the process through the glass windows in their shop with locally sourced specialty foods. With so many ice cream choices, you might need a scoop or two! Be sure to ask for a waffle cone too.
There is ample seating on the wrap around porch, in the garden or out near the playground. You’ll have views of the surrounding farms while you enjoy your tasty selection of ice cream.
Bird-in-hand Bakeshop: (542 Gibbons Rd, Bird in Hand, PA 17505)
This is where you go when you need to pick up gifts for friends and family or some treats for yourself. They specialize in making homemade baked goods with a large selection of breads, cinnamon buns, cookies, whoopie pies, shoo-fly pies (voted #1 ten years in a row), and more! There is also homemade ice cream, seasonal crafts, gift items, canned goods and a playground nearby with picnic area and petting zoo.
*Please note the address, this is not the bakery located off Old Philadelphia Pike.
Another favorite is the pretzel truck that sits just outside. Be sure to bring cash and purchase a few pretzels because they are THAT good! Open only Wednesday-Saturday, so plan accordingly.
Achenbach’s Pastries: (375 E Main St, Leola, PA 17540)
Everything is delicious and homemade! We picked out a few donuts for a late morning treat and each one was moist, flavorful and melted in our mouth. They are also well known for their muffins, pies, cookies and custom cakes.
Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery: (219 E Main St, Lititz, PA 17543)
Want to learn how to twist your own pretzel? You can take a tour at the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery for a few dollars. You’ll also get a history of the bakery, the process for making hard pretzels and then get a little bag to sample.
Lancaster Central Market
One of the oldest markets dating back to the 1800’s. The gorgeous brick building houses produce from local farmers, local meat shops, cheese shops, as well as Amish and Asian snacks. It has become a multi-cultural market over the years.
My son and I enjoyed walking the aisles to see the variety of produce before making our selections for lunch and snacks. We ate at Lancaster Salad Company with their delicious made-to-order salads and soups. Then we each picked out a sweet treat from the many desert vendors.
Indoor Activities (Lancaster, PA):
Looking for some fun indoor things to do in Lancaster, PA? The area features multiple children’s museums, play areas and indoor attractions for the whole family. The following Lancaster kids activities are highly recommended for visitors with children and multi-generational trips.
Check out this massive 17,000-sq.-ft. center exploring ice cream & iced tea making with interactive activities and classes that you can sign up for. My son and I both really enjoyed the interactive experience where you can explore, play and learn about ice cream and iced tea production (and more), with unlimited free samples!
We also signed up for the ice cream making class where you mix your own flavors, toppings and inclusions to make you very own flavor! It was a highlight and recommended for ages 4 and up since it takes about 40 minutes.
Check out this great museum where the kids can explore hands-on displays to learn about science, engineering and more. It’s perfect for Pre-K up to Middle school students with wind tubes, airplane launch zones, water labs, building zones with k’nex, musical stations and fun illusions.
Even with younger kids, you can help bring the fun down to an age appropriate level. Be sure to take your time to explore all the various areas, but you’ll likely only spend a few hours since it is a smaller space.
Let’s the kids run in a town that’s just the right size for them! Tiny town is one of the best things to do in Lancaster with kids because kids will love the tiny fire station, hospital, garage, cafe, market, theater and more!
The best part, a cafe area for adults to sit and enjoy a coffee or snack with free wifi and the ability to see all the play areas.
Free Activities (Lancaster, PA):
Looking for some free things to do in Lancaster PA? I’ve got you covered. There is plenty to visit in Lancaster that doesn’t cost any money. Taking a nice driving tour of the backroads, driving under covered bridges and have a picnic at the park while the Strasburg Train rolls by is all light on the pocketbook, but packed with fun.
Lancaster County is home to dozens of beautiful wooden bridges and each one is a bit unique in it’s own way. We decided to take a scenic drive through the back roads on our way down from Philadelphia and enjoyed stopping to admire multiple covered bridges and I’ll share some of my favorites.
Zook’s Mill Covered Bridge (1049 Log Cabin Rd, Leola, PA 17540)
- Originally built in 1849, this covered bridge has a wonderful history.
- There are two pull offs before and after the bridge, as well as a plaque.
- Hunsecker’s Mill Covered Bridge (1335 Hunsicker Rd, Lancaster, PA 17601)
- Constructed in 1848, it is the longest single-span covered bridge in Lancaster County.
- There is a slight pull off on the West side of the bridge.
Kurtz’s Mill Covered Bridge (Kiwanis Dr, Lancaster, PA 17602)
- Built in 1876 at another location, then repaired in 1975 and moved to its present location.
- Located inside a park, so less traffic and better photo opportunities.
Strasburg Rail Road: Groff’s Picnic Grove
Do your kids love watching trains and playing outside? Be sure to visit Grodd’s Picnic Grove located close to the Cherry Crest Adventure Farm. Pack a picnic to enjoy the shaded grassy fields with picnic tables and play structures for the kids.
Another delight is when the Strasburg Train passes through the Picnic Grove, picking up and dropping off passengers to enjoy the farm nearby. Hear the puffing of the engine and the toot of the horn as it passes through multiple times a day.
I hope this post provided some great suggestions on fun things to do in Lancaster, PA. My son and I really enjoyed our visit with the variety of attractions and ability to be outside with farmland for miles. The people were friendly, the little shops were fun to visit and there was plenty to keep us busy.
Feel free to leave me a comment or message if you have any questions.
Plan This Trip!
- Check out some family-friendly hotels in Lancaster.
- Before you go, check out the PA Dutch Country’s Website for information about the Amish’s history, beliefs, customs and traditions. Please remember that Amish and Mennonite residents do not want their photos taken, especially of their faces. Also keep in mind Amish run businesses will be closed on Sundays.
Like this trip and want to see some of the other places that we’ve traveled? Head to our menu to explore. Like being outside and having family friendly attractions? We loved our trip to Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. A beautiful area to visit, especially in the summer. Click on the links to read all about our trip to Maine.
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