Strasburg, pronounced ‘Strazburg’ names itself as the most historic town in PA Dutch country dating back to 1693. Some think Strasburg has a strong Amish background, which it does, but this town was founded by Frenchman Pierre Bezaillion. Who knew!
I lived in Adamstown all my life (Northern Lancaster County) and I have never been to Strasburg. My parents took my sister and brother to the Strasburg Rail Road™ before I was born so I was more than excited to experience the rich culture and heritage of this Lancaster town.
As I turned off of Rt. 30’s shopping strip (Tanger and Rockvale Outlets are awesome, btw) onto a country back road I was eased by the calm, winding roads and ready for this day trip to unfold. Since Strasburg is known for trains, I had to get a feel for it. As I walked up to the Choo Choo Barn I was greeted by Krisiti, daughter of Tom Groff (artist and ‘operator’ of Choo Choo Barn). As you enter the model train layout room it could be mistaken as a set for an “I Spy” book. This space is impressive and very detailed. Tom hand crafted all animations and sets! Kristi mentioned her father, Tom uses all found objects to create the displays. Now until January 3 the Choo Choo Barn will be open from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
Heads up: Animations refer to any movement in the layout. Since none of the displays are from model sets, movements are hand wired by Tom and his father when the space originally opened in 1961.
Isaac’s Famous Grilled Sandwiches is conveniently located in the same shopping area as The Choo Choo Barn so I made my way into the rail road inspired Isaac’s. This restaurant serves delicious sandwiches, soups, and salads. My favorite sandwich is the Rainbow Parrot. This sandwich is loaded with savory corned beef, melted Muenster, topped with a heap of coleslaw, lettuce, tomatoes, and onions between toasted pumpernickel. The portions are large and the service is quick at Isaac’s. Isaac’s in Strasburg is open Monday through Thursday 10:00 AM till 9:00 PM, Friday and Saturday 10:00 AM till 10:00 PM and Sunday 11:00 AM till 9:00 PM.
Local history: The original Isaac’s was located inside Central Market Mall in Lancaster City since 1983. Now they have over 15 restaurants in the Central PA location.
After Isaac’s, I stopped by The Barn at Strasburg Bed and Breakfast. This country chic bed and breakfast in a renovated barn is the perfect mix of Lancaster; urban and rustic. This tucked away B&B is private and luxurious space. Erin & Jeff Hoenshell, hosts of the B&B are wonderful and do a great job at keeping the space a Lancaster oasis. The Master Suite is equipped with an oversize whirlpool tub & king size bed. The Garden Suite is furnished with a pillow-top queen bed and features a romantic, claw-foot bathtub. The Shaker Suite is inspired by the uncluttered & simplistic styles of those historic craftsmen, retains the most noticeable attribute of the original structure. For availability, click here.
Did you know: The barn served as the location for a stone mason’s business nicknamed by the locals as “The Brickyards.” Plenty of cut & dressed stones (some still partially buried) give proof to that.
Next activity on the itinerary was the Ghost tour of Strasburg. This one hour tour takes you back to the historic times of Strasburg. Kim, our tour guide, experienced encounters with the spirits of Strasburg working at the historic Strasburg Inn and when she was leading her first ghost tour. Locals hear the clops of horse hooves trotting down Main Street. Further down Main Street, we stopped at the well-known Gonder Mansion. Annie Gonder, the “crazy sister-in-law” still haunts by scaring men of the house. This tour balances history and haunting of Strasburg, making it a truly enjoyable and spooky time. The Strasburg tour is held Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 PM. On Saturdays at 8:00 PM there is a ghost hunting tour where they take EMF meters to wake the spirits!
Don’t startle: Make sure you call or order your tickets online for this tour ahead of time. They do not take walk up guests. Also, wear some comfortable shoes and bring your camera. You might catch an orb or two in your photographs!
Strasburg is a hidden gem filled with unique activities that will interest all ages. This town is rooted in its historic past creating an enriching environment. From railroads to ghost tours and much more to see and do, I will definitely be coming back!
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.