Category Archives: Holiday


Don’t miss Santa’s Paradise Express

I took my daughter and one of her friends to the Strasburg Rail Road for Santa’s Paradise Express. The kiddos, both 4-years old, were very excited about riding the train, but even more excited about seeing Santa himself. We boarded the train and waited about 5 minutes before the train whistle blew and we slowly took off. It wasn’t long before Santa and two of his helpers came aboard our car. It was a joy to see all the children’s eye light up. Santa greeted each child, posted for a seasonal iconic photo, and gave each an old-fashioned train which doubled as a pencil sharpener. After Santa, two tuba players made their way through our car playing happy holiday tunes, then a couple of carolers who insisted that we sing along with them in merriment.

While we had the opportunity to climb aboard the Tinsel Trolley, a self-propelled motor car, my kiddos wanted to warm up in the heated stationary Caboose while listing to a costumed character read Christmas classics. Afterward, the children made their way to Mrs. Claus who was at the station helping children finalize their letters to Santa.

This experience was wonderfully magical and fun. There’s no way that one can leave this place without a fond memory.

There’s only two days left to ride this train – December 20 and 21. Don’t miss out! Click here to learn more.



Every candle you can imagine

MMMMMmmmm, you can smell it from the parking lot. That wonderful, warm, inviting cinnamon apple pumpkin spice smell that says “welcome!” and “make yourself at home.”  It’s the lovely aroma that always makes me want a pumpkin latte, some mum plants on my porch, and my wool scarf. That lovely aroma only got better as I walked into the Old Candle Barn. It is seriously one of my new favorite places. Forget big chain stores, the Old Candle Barn is family owned and operated, and is the real deal! Hand-made right on the premises, their candles feature that extra special local Lancaster flair that make them unique and special.

Jar candles, hand-dipped tapered candles, pillars, votives, even flameless candles made with real wax for a realistic look; every kind of candle imaginable. During my visit, I learned that a popular new trend is the “lumpy” candles. Also hand-made on the premises, they feature a more rustic and visually interesting look that pairs well with a display of fall leaves and gourds or even winter greens and berries. Most of their popular fragrances are inspired by baked goods – apple pie, pumpkin pie, vanilla sugar cookies, and cinnamon spice – all which invoke nostalgic memories of happy holidays with family and friends.

I was surprised to learn that in addition to an amazing selection of candle fragrances, potpourri, and fragrant oils, The Old Candle Barn also features a broad selection of seasonal home décor, furniture, rugs, and lovely accessories that make you want to redecorate your home – as soon as possible!

After browsing through the store, I took a few minutes to explore the candle making area. While this is not technically an “exhibit” (meaning, it’s not always in operation), you can still see the large drums of wax, the metal “trees” where the hand-dipped tapered candles hang, and the small round molds where the votives are made. But, if you’re lucky, you might just see candle-making in action!

So, if you’re looking for that perfect gift, little (or not so little) indulgence for yourself, or just a simple candle to welcome the season, make sure to check out the Old Candle Barn in Intercourse, PA!


Made by hand (and passion)

Eldreth Pottery was started over 30 years ago in a dank cellar by Dave Eldreth, who at the time, was a full-time teacher trying to supplement income to support newly born twin daughters.

Without much money, he was motivated to make things work. His first potter’s wheel was an improvised conversion of a washing machine. His first pottery kiln was borrowed. He dug his own clay from a local Southern Lancaster County quarry. With many years and many fortunate twists along the way, Eldreth’s determination, ambition, and creativity drove his company’s growth.

When it was time to expand into a larger space, he went to see the local banker, who as luck would have it, just started collecting Eldreth’s pottery. The banker believed in the vision, and put money behind the ideas.

Eldreth recounted a few other serendipitous stories including the time he hired a mason to build a salt-kiln. The mason abruptly quit because he didn’t want to do that kind of work. Devastated, Eldreth thought his plans to set up a pottery factory were doomed from the start. Fortunately, his neighbor turned out to be a distinguished engineer who built the kiln, and then wouldn’t accept payment for his work other than “the first four pots that come out of the kiln.”

Now with about 35 talented artists and three locations, Eldreth Pottery is a renowned name in the pottery business showcasing creativity in salt glaze, redware, and stoneware. They’re known for many different items and varying styles sure to fit everybody’s tastes. Their most popular pottery are painted birdhouses, and their annual limited edition carved Santas.

Every piece is made by hand in Lancaster County. All of the pottery is one-of-a-kind as every single item gets hand-painted.

The showroom and factory in Oxford at 902 Hart Road is stocked to the brims with high quality ceramics. You can also get a tour of that factory generally anytime between 10:00-3:00 PM from Monday to Friday. Watch the pots being made or glazed by the studio artists. Explore the studio space, which includes old clay molds, kiln room, potter’s wheels, etc.

If you’re visiting the Oxford location in early May, don’t miss their annual Open House, which includes demonstrations, kids’ pottery wheel activities, pig roast, and more.

Eldreth Pottery also has a showroom in Strasburg at 246 N Decatur Street. If you’re looking for a good time of year to visit there, go on the second weekend of November to catch their annual Holiday Open House to see all of the new limited edition Santa creations.

Either way, seek them out. Reconnect with craft that’s locally made by hand. Eldreth’s passion is contagious, and I think you’ll find his pots as inspiring as his story.




The perfect Valentine’s Day

About mid-January Valentine’s Day hit my radar screen. I discovered years ago that if you want a nice dinner out and overnight accommodations, you have to plan ahead because things book up quickly.

Since I started my search early, I found a restaurant that I knew my wife would love and made reservations. The next challenge was to find nearby accommodations.

I was a worldwide sales manager for many years and I’ve literally stayed in more hotels than I can remember. Consequently, I’ve come to appreciate the uniqueness, charm and hospitality of Bed & Breakfasts and boutique hotels. I checked out regional accommodations, but nothing jumped out as unique or special. I continued looking for B&Bs online but was having a hard time figuring out how far away they were, if they required two night minimums and whether or not they were clean, well-kept and hospitable.

When I was at the Lancaster County Visitor Center for a meeting, I decided to ask if the travel consultants could recommend a B&B. Bingo! These Lancaster County experts grabbed a Getaway Guide, pulled out the map and we took a look together. There were several B&Bs in the area, but the one closest to our restaurant was Airy View Bed & Breakfast.

I’ve stayed in B&Bs when traveling, but this was my wife’s first stay at a B&B and she was delighted. Our room was warm and very comfortable and included a Jacuzzi bath. The sitting room is large with a cozy fireplace and surrounded with windows overlooking a pond with a resident swan, Joey. The entire experience was delightful!

The past two years our Valentine’s Day had been disappointing. In fact, last year we’d decided to avoid going out all together. But this year I decided to give it one more try and with the aid of the Visitors Center staff and the hospitality of Airy View B&B, our Valentine’s Day was absolutely perfect!

This blog post was written by the Visitors Bureau’s Board Chair, Scott Miller. Scott is the Chief Marketing Officer at Garden Spot Village.


Do the Amish celebrate Christmas?

Yes, the Amish celebrate Christmas!

They observe Christmas as a sacred holiday with simplicity and tradition. While some are influenced by the traditions of their English friends, many do not get caught up in the modern-day commercialism as we experience it. Most don’t include Santa Claus, electric lights, flashy tinsel, fancy wrapping paper, or Christmas trees. Rather, they focus on the reason for the holiday– Jesus’ birth.

Because Christmas is so important in the Amish community, it is celebrated for two days. On December 25, they fast, meditate, and read Scripture; on December 26, or “Second Christmas,” they celebrate with family and friends with festive gatherings, great feasts, and gift-giving.

Because the Pennsylvania Amish have been greatly influenced by German Christmas traditions, they often decorate by lighting candles and hanging stars, angels, greenery, and holiday cards. Most families exchange gifts and usually pick names out of a hat so each person receives one gift each year. Gifts are not always of the old-fashioned handmade variety. Sometimes they give gifts such as Barbie dolls (dressed Amish), board games, and toy tractors. In addition, homemade cookies, candy, and stamped Christmas cards are very popular. Often Amish owned stores sell these homemade items.

At the Amish schoolhouse, a Christmas program is usually planned and is one of the most anticipated events of the year. The Amish community enjoys watching the children sing, read poems, and perform Christmas plays.

And, when it happens to snow, the children enjoy playing outside. They race down the hills on their sleds, ice skate, play ice hockey, and of course, have snowball fights and snowman building competitions.

While we, the English, enjoy our traditions at Christmas, the Amish, too, will be enjoying their holiday traditions, but always with Jesus at the center of their celebration.

To learn more about how the Amish celebrate Christmas, listen to Ada’s story.


Get in the holiday spirit with American Music Theatre

The first time I visited American Music Theatre (AMT), it was love at first sight. I was so impressed with the gorgeous lobby, the elegant bathrooms (yes, the bathrooms are really elegant), and the staff in tuxedos, I told myself I had to work there. Five months later, I was fortunate enough to land a position as a member of their management team.

I had the privilege of working at this world-class theater for over two years, during which time I discovered AMT is much more than just a “pretty face.” In addition to the beauty and comfort of this state-of-the-art, 1600-seat theater, the shows they produce are of unparalleled quality. Besides hosting celebrity concerts such as Frankie Valli, Vince Gill, Foreigner, and more, they also write, choreograph and produce their own Original Shows, the most popular of which is the annual Christmas Show.

The 2013 show theme was “The First Noel.” While every year the show has a different storyline, they all have several things in common: top-calibre vocalists and musicians, talented dancers, and beautiful set designs and costumes. The show features both secular and sacred music, and is ideal for guests of all ages, from families with young children to seniors.

This year’s show did not disappoint and had the perfect blend of singing, dancing, and light-hearted moments. The vocals were fantastic, as was the AMT Orchestra. The set resembled a perfect family fireside, and everything from the lobby to the theater was decked out in lively red & green seasonal decor.

AMT’s annual Christmas Show rivals any holiday show you’ll find in a major market. They hire outstanding talent from all of the country (sometimes all over the world), and the scenery, lighting and costumes are some of the best I’ve ever seen.

Attending this production is a wonderful way to get into the holiday spirit and spend a quality afternoon or evening with your family or significant other. There are so many restaurants nearby that it’s easy to make a night of it and eat out before you attend. But just in case you don’t have time, AMT does have a fully-stocked snack bar (as well as a gift shop with a wide variety of merchandise for last-minute holiday shopping).

Visit for more information on upcoming shows.


Christmas in Lancaster

My husband and I have an annual Black Friday tradition. Instead of shopping for gifts at crowded stores, we shop for the perfect Christmas tree at our favorite little tree farm. We love to enjoy Christmas decorations for as long as possible; so the day after Thanksgiving, the tree must go up, and all the decorations must come out.

This year we decided to start another tradition. Since our daughter is now a preschooler, we thought that having an activity-based Advent Calendar would be fun. As we thought through ideas, we knew that caroling, making cookies, watching classic Christmas movies, seeing Santa at Park City, reading about the birth of Jesus, and driving through neighborhoods to see Christmas lights were non-negotiable. We also wanted to include fun and unique adventures. After some brainstorming, we came up with some great ideas like going to see a Christmas show at the Fulton Theatre, taking a trip to the National Christmas Center, enjoying Christmas-themed rides and activities at Dutch Wonderland’s Winter Wonderland, ice-skating at the Lancaster Ice Rink, going for a ride on Santa’s Paradise Express at the Strasburg Rail Road, and strolling through the Country Christmas Village at Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before we had more than 25 ideas. The hard part was narrowing down the list—there are so many fun Christmas events and activities to choose from.

While my husband and I enjoy all the buzz and excitement that the Christmas season brings, it’s most important to us as a family to create our own traditions and memories. Because of that, we love living in Lancaster County where Christmas feels warm, sentimental and genuine.

Whatever your plans are for this month, plan some time to slow down, reflect on your blessings, and spend time with family and friends. And, when you have a chance, come visit us. We look forward to having you!


Buy your favorite Lancaster items without leaving home

I’ve made my gift list and checked it twice. Now I’m ready for the busiest shopping days of the year. Though I love the festive atmosphere of the local stores, all the driving and walking in the cold weather sometimes gets to be too much.

Thankfully my best friend absolutely loves visiting Lancaster County and sampling all it has to offer. This year I’m going to be shopping for her from the warmth of my favorite chair in my living room by visiting Dutch Baskets, an online gift company featuring only products made in Lancaster County.

If you visit the Dutch Baskets website you can see all the beautiful baskets they offer filled with tasty goodies from companies like Wilbur Chocolate, Stoltzfus Meats & Deli, and more. Not only do they feature foods from Dutch Country, they also have candles from the Old Candle Barn and art from local artists.

I honestly had no idea they offered so many different gifts, not just for the holidays, but all-year round. They have a large variety of baskets in different sizes and themes. Their special Holiday Basket is made just for this festive time of year and includes a set of locally made sleigh bells.

I also have a friend who has always wanted to visit Lancaster but hasn’t quite made it yet – for her the Lancaster Countian Basket would be a good fit, letting her sample both a whoopie pie and a shoo-fly pie. Or maybe I should get her the huge Dutch Feast to share with her entire family on Christmas. That basket has everything including Amish dolls, a straw hat, and local honey!

For my husband who can’t go a day without candy, there is the Chocolate Lover’s Basket featuring delicious Wilbur chocolates. For my in-laws who like to snack, there is the Meat and Cheese Basket with bologna from Stoltzfus Meats & Deli, horseradish mustard, and artisanal cheeses.

And for my best friend? She loves to bake, so the Premium Bakers Basket would be great. It includes a cookbook, baking supplies and mixes, and an Amish basket large enough to hold a 9×13 pan for her famous brownies.

Not only did I find great gift baskets at Dutch Baskets, but they offer items for individual sale as well, so I can add a few things to the baskets I’m making at home and tuck a little Lancaster County into someone’s stocking on Christmas Eve.

So if you can’t make it to Lancaster County before the holidays, don’t fret. A trip to the Dutch Baskets website from the comfort of your own home will help you find great gifts for everyone – without needing a scarf. Happy Holidays everyone!

To learn more about Shawn Marie, read “The Bloggers” page.


Shopping off the beaten path

If you are looking for a place off the beaten path to do some holiday shopping, head to Country Creations.

As I was driving, I saw a huge bank barn on the right side of the road and thought I had come to the wrong place, but no, Country Creations is indeed a huge store in a beautiful barn. There is a lot of easy parking and no traffic; it is so peaceful compared to the bustling outlets.

Country Creations, although housed in a huge barn, is an intimate shopping experience, warm with the sights & sounds of the holidays, and festive with the chatter of happy shoppers. I was lucky enough to visit as they were setting up for the Festival of Trees, so I got to see some beautiful displays ranging from whimsical to breathtaking. There is just something about a holiday tree that makes you smile.

It took me ages to walk through the first floor of Country Creations. It is full of so many different kinds of things, I’m sure I didn’t see it all. A wonderful candle display held a few of my favorites – including a S’more candle that smells just like toasted marshmallows (mmmm…). Another area held jewelry and clothing plus other personal accessories perfect for gift giving.

I stopped to admire a red and gold Christmas tree with a fellow shopper, and we both agreed it was one of the prettiest in the shop. Just past the tree was a display of hard-to-find picture and dish hangers.  I have tons of pieces that need to go on my walls, but it wasn’t until I stopped at Country Creations that I found hangers that fit my needs at reasonable prices.

From handmade soaps to textiles to tea, there is no shortage of items for gift basket making and stocking stuffing at Country Creations. I also had fun looking through their collection of Embellish Your Story products which are so fun to use.  If you aren’t familiar with them, they are a collection of magnetic art pieces that you can put together to celebrate special occasions in your life – on your fridge, your wall or wherever – think scrapbooking meets home decor. They are so fun, especially for kids and they have magnets for any special occasion you can come up with.

After shopping myself silly downstairs, I proceeded to the second floor. What I found there was a charming selection of furniture and home accessories. Though the barn doesn’t have an elevator, you can ask at the desk and there is an upper level outside door that can be used to access the second floor for shoppers who are unable to handle stairs.

Touring the inviting furniture, I fell in love with a double sized goose-neck rocker that I absolutely need to replace my own goose-neck rocker which has fallen apart from rocking three babies in it.

There were more trees upstairs and a lot of great decorated homey vignettes to show you how to use all the items you find at Country Creations. Lots and lots of delightful ideas for how to easily brighten up your holiday home can be found on that second floor.

Can’t make the trip to Lancaster but still need ideas and goodies? Check out Country Creations website where you can order their products and also see video of their shop. I have a good friend who loves country decor, but she couldn’t make the trip with me this time.  I’ve already told her we have to go because I can’t wait to share Country Creations with her!


Brighten your holiday shopping

From the flickering lanterns on the porch to the scents of pine and peppermint greeting you at the door, The Old Candle Barn is the perfect place to get into the holiday spirit.  It’s located in the town of Intercourse which makes it so easy to stop by while visiting some of the other great shops in the area like Kitchen Kettle Village, Zooks Fabrics, and Dutch Haven.

I visited on a Saturday and the atmosphere was festive inside with the signs of the season everywhere from Santas to stockings.  Though I had primarily come to look at their candles, I fell in love with the primitive and folk art displays set up in every possible corner of the shop.

In one section of the store, I searched through endless choices of home textiles – rugs, placemats, and other necessities of a well-dressed holiday home.  I was delighted with their selection of potpourri in many scents and sizes since that is an integral part of my holiday gift baskets.  It was so hard to choose which ones to include this year.

Then, tucked away in a corner, I found a line of lotions and soaps with scents so enticing I just had to try a few. The lotion was so beautifully silky and the light scent stuck with me for quite some time that I decided to get a little something for my own stocking. What a treat!

But on to the real reason for my visit, candles.

The Old Candle Barn carries nearly 500 different candle scents to try out so make sure your nose is ready and you have enough time to try them all!  They have scents like Christmas Essence, Banana Nut, Green Tea, Sugar Cookie, Roasted Chestnuts, Red McIntosh, Toasted Coconut, and Winter Wishes.

If you are only used to seeing votives and jar candles at other candle stores, then you will be enchanted with the large variety of candle shapes and sizes from small hand-dipped tapers to large candle blocks.  I was especially fond of the unusual lumpy candles that are so different from a plain barrel candle.

Once you choose your candles, then you can look for the perfect holders.  The selection of black iron holders is wonderful, but there are glass holders as well for a more modern look.

We have several family members with respiratory ailments, so our first choice in candles is always soy.  They are not easy to find in a wide variety of scents.  Thankfully, the Old Candle Barn stocks a full line of their scented candles in soy and palm oil versions for families like mine. They also offer unscented candles if you have people on your gift list who are unable to tolerate the scented ones.

I was surprised to find out that the Old Candle Barn offers many lighting options other than candles as well. You’ll want to check out the selection of Coleman and Dietz products.  With the increasing amount of severe weather in our area, I’m definitely interested in finding other lighting options for my home in times of emergency.  We have small children, so candles are not always the best option in our home.

I had such a great time shopping at the Old Candle Barn for gifts for my family.  Next time you are in Intercourse, Lancaster County, drop on in and try out a few new candle scents for yourself.  Just be sure to allow enough time to shop the entire store, you’ll be amazed at all you will find.

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