Category Archives: Kids & Family

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Outdoor Dining Experiences in Lancaster

The chatter, laughter, and warmth fills outdoor dining areas in Lancaster during this time of year. From local foods, live music, and tasty treats, everything seems to be more enjoyable outside. In this post, we’ll tell you about unique outdoor dining options for a night out with your friends, a romantic evening with your significant other, or a joyful time with your family.

Are you and your friends looking for a place to “chill” and enjoy some craft brews outside? Look no further than Lancaster Brewing Company. With an outdoor patio and a wide variety of beers, it’s a perfect place to quench your thirst and kick back. While you’re there enjoy some delicious food like the homemade artisan sausage dish.

If your friends are into roof spaces, check out Tellus360′s roof bar equipped with a plenty of seating and beautiful views. Tellus360 teamed up with local, 100% natural juice business, Rijuice, to create a line of signature cocktails. Take a look at the green roof grill menu, order a drink, and  enjoy the sunset!

Now, if you and your friends are into history and home brews you got to check out Bube’s Brewery in Mt. Joy. The Biergarten, the outdoor dining area, is one of the many remarkable spaces within Bube’s Brewery. This space is loaded with neat things, like a human-sized chess board, original boiler and smokestack used to create the steam power necessary to run the brewery.

For a couple’s night out, relax in Steinman Park, The Pressroom’s outdoor dining area. You’ll find  an oasis complete with a waterfall and plenty of shade. Enjoy their zing on American cuisine; we promise, it will be time well spent.

For an cosmopolitan eatery on Gallery Row visit Pour for fresh seasonal flavors, wine, beer and cocktails. Share one of their famous charcuterie boards in warm and artistic ambiance.

blog-templateFamily-friendly outdoor dining includes Loxley’s, a premier outdoor dining experience. On the grounds of the restaurant lies an extravagant tree house for the kids to explore, delicious flatbread pizzas, and absolute fun!page-loxleys

If you’re looking for more a meal in the country, check out Bird-in-Hand Bakery and Cafe. They recently opened a second story patio for their guests that overlooks Lancaster farmland.

There is no lack of outdoor dining experience here in Lancaster. From local favorites to “I never knew this was here,” these outdoor spaces add versatility and excitement any dining experience. Discover it on your own!


The author of this post, Julie Press, is currently the Marketing Intern at Discover Lancaster. She encompasses the Lancaster brand. Growing up in a farm house in Adamstown, she identifies with the rustic, homegrown feel Lancaster brings. Now relocated only minutes away from Lancaster City, she feels a strong connection to the City’s creativity, culture, and innovation. Julie studies Public Relations at Millersville University.

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An authentic Amish experience

For an authentic Amish experience that’s guaranteed to put a smile on the faces of the entire family, be sure to visit the Lil’ Country Store and Miniature Horse Farm. There’s nothing cuter than a miniature horse and even cuter yet is that right now (as I’m writing this in May) three of the tiny horses have newborn babies; with two more foals on the way! These creatures are friendly as they are adorable and as we walked through the barn, they poked their sweet noses through their stall doors to say hello. I couldn’t help but smile as my 1 ½ year old son squealed with delight as one foal nuzzled his hand.

The barn houses about 8 mini horses (not counting the foals), two full size horses, and in the nearby pasture are some playful goats. You can browse the barn on your own and spend time interacting with the horses, as well as seeing the pony carts, two Amish buggies, and the tack used to saddle and bridle the horses for riding. For young horse enthusiasts, a private pony ride is only $5.50 per child! And for a more hands-on experience, you can call ahead to reserve a private workshop session where you get brush a pony, ride them, feed them, and learn about horse care. The workshops generally last about an hour, and (parents beware!) are sure to be so fun that they’ll inspire your child to add a pony to their Christmas list. You can also elect to try a ride in the single or double pony cart which takes you on a ride through the farm to the dairy area. You’ll be happy to know that for safety reasons, no pony cart rides venture onto the main roads. Also, please note, the weight limit for riding these little guys is approximately 70lbs. There’s no age limit, but for my son, I decided to wait until next year to let him ride, since as a rambunctious little boy his idea of fun would probably be to dive off the poor unsuspecting horse into the mud! Oy-vay!

The best thing about this particular location is that it’s located at the home of Henry and Linda Stoltzfus, an Amish family who opened their property to the public in 2009. It’s “as real as it gets” here in Lancaster County. To get to the farm, you drive through rolling acres of corn and tobacco crops, and as we pulled our car in to the driveway, we were greeted by three Amish children who were playing in the front yard of the home. The Lil’ Country Store is in the garage of the property, and features handmade gifts and crafts, as well as a variety of baked goods and a fan-favorite,he home-made root beer. You can enjoy taste-testing locally made cheeses and potato chips, or satisfy your sweet tooth with a whoopie pie or locally made ice cream. There’s also a wood shop on the property, and you can observe the men working as they create beautiful hand made furniture and accessories that are available for sale in the shop.

Before leaving I couldn’t resist purchasing a lovely equestrian-inspired leather bracelet, which will always remind me of our fun visit to the miniature horse farm. So whether you’re visiting with children, or just want to feel like you’ve been behind the scenes on a real Amish Farm, be sure to add this destination to your vacation plans!

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Lancaster’s Wolf Sanctuary

There are three sounds I’ve heard in my life that I will never forget: the sound of my mom singing “Day is Done” (don’t ask); the sound of pebbles washing back into the waves on the beach in Riomaggiore, Italy; and the sound of 45 wolves howling at once.

These 45 wolves live a mere 15 miles away from my house, at the Wolf Sanctuary in Speedwell Forge. The sanctuary is a non-profit organization that maintains a natural environment for rescued wolves and wolf-hybrids, educating visitors about wolf culture and the plight of these species – many of which are extinct or endangered.

The day that I visited the sanctuary was muddy. I changed into the boots that I keep in the trunk of my car (doesn’t everyone?). Shortly after, a busload of boys aged 13-16 showed up as part of a school field trip. Now, I have two younger brothers, and I remember ages 13-16. Not pretty! As I walked around for an hour that day, I not only observed the wolves, learning about their histories, personalities, and behaviors. I also observed the students, fascinated by their fascination, respect, and interest in learning about these regal creatures.

If a wolf sanctuary can keep 20+ teen/preteen boys interested, I’m willing to bet almost everyone will love the experience. The sanctuary is volunteer-run and open year-round, offering public tours on Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays (visit their website for registration details). They also run special events, including full moon tours which draws hundreds of people and includes a bonfire and fundraisers like the upcoming Music and Art with the Wolves (May 9, 11am-3pm). If you go, here is my advice:

  • Wear comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy.
  • Go in the winter if possible. The wolves are more active and their coats are full when it’s cold.
  • Bring a camera.
  • Bring all of your friends.

And lastly, ask your tour guide to try to get the wolves to howl together. This is how they communicate with each other within and between packs. To be honest I have never heard a more haunting and beautiful sound.

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Snow Tubing: Not Just For Kids (But They’ll Love It Too)

I didn’t have snow pants. I didn’t have gloves. But that didn’t stop me from reveling in my first snow tubing experience at AvalancheXpress. And I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Here’s what you need to know:

Hot chocolate bar. First things first—there is a hot chocolate bar where you can add your own toppings including sprinkles, whipped cream, smashed up M&Ms and Oreos, and (most importantly) AS MANY MINI MARSHMALLOWS AS YOUR HEART DESIRES.

Racing is a thing. There are 8 lanes at the top of the hill. You can pick a hill next to your friend, launch at the same time, and race to the bottom. If you’re tubing with your lover (also a thing), you can pick a wide lane and hold onto each others tube as you speed to the bottom. If this can’t save a relationship I don’t know what can.

Tow rope-lines. The worst thing about sledding growing up was walking back up the hill. The struggle is real. Not at AvalancheXpress, however. There are two powered rope-lines that will pull you (in tube!) back up to the top of the hill. Of course, fitness buffs can choose to walk up if they choose; it’s a good way to wear your kids out. But being pulled up backwards feels almost like a fun ride in and of itself.

To get to the bathrooms you have to pass right by the hotel bar. Self explanatory, yes?

FIRE. At the bottom of the hill (protected by nets and bumpers for those exuberant tubers) are four fire pits, complete with chairs. It’s the perfect spot to stop between downhill trips to warm your hands and thaw your face. And if tubing isn’t your thing, it’s the perfect place to watch the fun.

Night tubing. Did I mention I did all of this at night? AvalancheXpress does night tubing from 8-10 PM (weekdays & Sundays) and 9-10 PM (Fridays & Saturdays). It’s so worth it. I only had to stand in line once, with about 5 people in front of me. There were very few children. Plus, hurtling through the darkness?? Nearly indescribable.

Make no mistake, this hill is BIG. It was intimidating at first, then immediately addictive. I couldn’t stop laughing each time I flew down, and by the end of the night, I wasn’t sure if my face hurt from the cold or from smiling.

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Visiting the Amish Village

When I was six years old, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than by hanging out with animals, especially horses. I jumped at any chance I got to see them. And of course, like most young kids, I loved learning about new things from a hands-on experience. Well I’m not a child anymore (though my older, wiser siblings might disagree with this), but as an Aunt to five wonderful nieces and nephews, I have the opportunity to see their faces light up when running around a playground or petting a live animal much like mine did at their age. So when I got the chance the visit the Amish Village, I thought it would be fun to take my oldest nephew, Silas, along for the ride!

Strolling through the Village

When we first arrived at the Amish Village, Silas and I were greeted by a friendly staff member who assisted us in a quick registration before directing us to the Village. We were free to explore many different buildings that are part of their Amish community. Silas thoroughly enjoyed feeding the horses and roosters in the barn. And I loved that we were free to visit each area of the Village at our own pace. There were always staff members available to answer any questions we had about a particular tool or building but no one made us feel rushed. Silas and I checked out a real Amish buggy and got an up-close look at Amish farm tools and equipment in the blacksmith shop. After snapping a few photos in the Village, we headed toward the property entrance to meet our driver for the backroads bus tour.

 Our Backroads Bus Tour Excursion

While the animals may have been the highlight for my nephew, the bus tour was my favorite part of the visit! Our tour guide was incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. She took us to parts of the county I had never seen before—and remember, I am Lancaster born and raised. We stopped at an Amish bakery along the way as well as a small Amish farm that sold handmade crafts and homemade snacks. I couldn’t resist a pint of fresh-squeezed lemonade for the ride. It was delish! We saw children riding through cornfields on carts pulled by miniature ponies, we passed buggies, and we drove through the rolling hills of Lancaster County’s countryside for about 90 minutes. It was quite picturesque, and everyone on the tour thoroughly enjoyed the experience. NOTE: The backroads bus tour is not recommended for children under five.

After we arrived back at the Amish Village, Silas and I decided to take one last look around the grounds. It was neat to see what an Amish schoolhouse looks like from the inside—Silas was very intrigued by the reading and math exercises displayed on the chalkboard. We made sure to check out the water wheel during our visit as well. Did you know that even today most Amish farms use a water wheel and windmill to operate a pump that provides water to animals in the barn? Fascinating stuff!

Planning Your Visit to the Amish Village

If you’d like to experience an authentic Amish property, Silas and I recommend visiting the Amish Village. It’s a great place for both kids and adults to learn in a fun, hands-on environment. They even offer a 25-minute farmhouse tour in addition to the bus tour we were on. You can find all of their tour package information and rates on the Amish Village website. Experience how the Pennsylvania Amish really live today!

Emily Long is a Lancaster County native, singer/songwriter, and all around music lover. She is an Online PR Specialist and, on the side, works at her family’s business, Long’s Horseradish, at Lancaster Central Market. To learn more about Emily, visit her website: www.EmilyLongMusic.com.

Emily Long is a Lancaster County native, singer/songwriter, and all around music lover. She is an Online PR Specialist and, on the side, works at her family’s business, Long’s Horseradish, at Lancaster Central Market. To learn more about Emily, visit her website: www.EmilyLongMusic.com. – See more at: http://padutchcountryblog.com/pedal-preserve-lancaster-county-farms/#sthash.yrgaTAWZ.dpuf
Emily Long is a Lancaster County native, singer/songwriter, and all around music lover. She is an Online PR Specialist and, on the side, works at her family’s business, Long’s Horseradish, at Lancaster Central Market. To learn more about Emily, visit her website: www.EmilyLongMusic.com. – See more at: http://padutchcountryblog.com/pedal-preserve-lancaster-county-farms/#sthash.yrgaTAWZ.dpuf
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Creative indoor fun… and shopping

Lancaster Creative ReUse (LCR) is like heaven for crafters and creators. It’s filled with an inexpensive yet vast array of everything from buttons to wallpaper. It’s the Good Will or Salvation Army of the craft world. LCR is a non-profit creative supply thrift shop and Open Craft Table. LCR’s nonprofit mission is to inspire creativity, increase access to the arts through affordability and to encourage reuse.

One thing I love about this place is that while I rummage through the shop, my daughter can hang out at the Open Craft Table and for only $2 she can make her own craft(s). It is stocked with a variety of up-cycled materials, scissors, and glue for kids to create anything they dream up. This time, Sophia painted a flat, wooden swan cut-out, dressed “her” in several cut-up pieces of fabric, and hot-glued a magnet on the back… the perfect project for display on our kitchen fridge.

LCR is easy to find and they have plenty of on-site parking. Best of all, the staff is extremely friendly and knowledgeable.

This place is a treasure that everyone should know about it. I  highly recommend that you check it out.

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Indoor fun at a trampoline park

Sky Zone is the world’s first indoor trampoline park featuring an array of fun, fit, and low-impact activities. They pride themselves in being the inventors of “fun fitness” and the “wall to wall” jumping experience. Now, Lancaster has its own Sky Zone – YAY!

My 4 year-old daughter loved their Toddler/Preschool time. It was time dedicated to her age-group – no “big” kids allowed. She had a blast with other kiddos her age. The staff was very friendly and did a great job interacting with the kids. The kids started in the free-play area and ended in the foam pit jump zone.

In addition to Open Jump and Toddler/Preschool time, Sky Zone also offers dodge ball, Sky Slam (basketball), Skyrobics, and they host birthday parties and team building events. Plus, they have a sensory-friendly jump time – pretty awesome! It’s clear that people of all ages and abilities can come here to get a great workout.

As a mother, I appreciated how clean everything was kept. With kids running around and sweating, one can only imagine how dirty things must get. But this place was spotless. As soon as you arrive, be sure to read and sign their waiver (you can do that at the computers they provide for you). Once that’s done, you can pay for your jump time. Get this – each jumper gets a pair of socks. Yes, a brand-new pair of socks to wear while jumping. Another super sanitary way to keep things clean. Love it!

Now that we have Sky Zone Lancaster, you know where I’ll be taking my daughter and her friends when they need to get some energy out during these cold winter months!

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Live theatre and family fun

My wife and I took my six-year-old to see the Nutcracker at the Fulton Theatre, and we were blown away with the creativity. The Fulton does an amazing job selecting and producing their Family Theatre Series shows.

The dance numbers, slapstick comedy, and riveting action kept my son on the edge of his seat throughout the entire performance, and there was plenty of pop-culture references and subtle jokes for the adults in the crowd. The show moved at the perfect pace and held everyone’s attention the entire time.

If you can’t make it to the Nutcracker before it ends on December 27, there are other family-friendly shows coming up in 2015 including Cinderella (March), Little Women (May), and Peter Pan (June).

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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.

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comedy-show

Dinner and a Show – Lancaster County Style

There is nothing better than a good laugh. One of the many things my husband and I like to do (especially on long car trips) is listen to some of our favorite comedians like Jim Gaffigan, Brian Regan, and Bill Cosby – you know, the ones who are just plain funny without all of the rudeness and profanity. Little did I know that there is a place right here in Lancaster County where you can go for some good, clean comedy. The Lancaster County Comedy Show runs several times a month at the Hershey Farm Restaurant in Strasburg. Always up for dinner and a show, my husband and I planned our night out – although, I don’t think either of us was expecting just how much fun it would be.

We started our date night with dinner at Hershey Farm Restaurant. (I recommend making a dinner reservation as the restaurant tends to be pretty busy.)  The menu selection is pretty big and we were hungry, so we opted for the Grand Smorgasbord.  My husband is a vegetarian, so we sometimes have a difficult time finding things on the menu that he can eat. Not only does Hershey Farm serve traditional PA Dutch recipes, but they have a soup, baked potato and salad bar, daily grill specials, a carving station, pizza, seafood, and of course the dessert bar. You can make your meal as healthy or as decadent as you want, and there is something for every appetite. Just make sure you save room for their famous chocolate cake! The dessert bar was my favorite part of the meal, and I had a hard time not sampling one of every dessert they had.

After stuffing ourselves full of delicious food, we made our way to the theater for the comedy show and took our seats. While we waited for the show to begin, we chatted with the couple next to us who were visiting from West Virginia. None of us had ever see the comedy show so we took turns guessing  what kind of jokes would be told. When the lights dimmed, comedian and ventriloquist Ryan Bomgardner took the stage.

From the second Ryan brought his friend little Jakey out onto the stage, the entire room was filled with uproarious laughter. The show went through an entire cast of characters from Jakey, the 8-year-old-Amish boy, to an elderly couple named Harold and Irene, to some real life “dummies” in the form of participants from the audience. I won’t give too much away, but I will say Ryan and his friends did a great job of giving non-locals a sense of what Lancaster County looks like from a local perspective. I found it pretty funny when the man sitting next to me leaned over and asked what Ryan meant by a “road apple.”  (For those of you not familiar with road apples, they are produced by horses and certainly not edible!) I absolutely loved Ryan’s clean sense of humor and honestly laughed so hard during this show that I cried!

When the show ended, I wanted to meet Ryan and little Jakey so my husband graciously waited with me until everyone left. Not only is Ryan absolutely hysterical, but he’s genuinely nice and took the time after the 85-minute performance to greet everyone who wanted to meet him.

I would definitely recommend seeing this show.  Whether you are young or old, a local, or visiting from out of town, you will have a guaranteed laugh-until-your-cheeks-hurt, tears-streaming-down-your-face, great time!

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