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Awesome Zip Lining in the Tree Tops

Lititz is known as America’s Coolest Small Town. Having lived here most of my life, I’ve got to admit it just keeps getting cooler. If you haven’t visited, you should. If you have, you should come back. Just recently I discovered something else about this coolest small town when my wife asked, “Did you know we’re only about 5 miles from the zip lines?”

“Seriously? No way!” I responded.

Sure enough we live just over 5 miles from Refreshing Mountain and their amazing zip line experience. I’ve been running and biking past it for years and never realized how close I was. My daughter, Jen, is home on fall break so we decided to check it out. With two daughters in college and our third in graduate school, my first thought was it would be way too expensive. Surprisingly it cost a lot less than I thought. Zip lining is super popular, so you have to make a reservation. We just went to their website, checked availability, and made a couple of reservations for the 12:30 PM Monday tour.

It turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous day. Temps in the mid-60s, bright and sunny, very little breeze. It was perfect! The first thing we did was step into a full torso rock climbing harness that turned out to be quite comfortable. It included two safety cords and a zip line pulley with a handle. We were in a party of 8 plus 2 guides.

After a short walk through the woods we climbed about a dozen stairs into the trees. The very first thing our guides did was clip our safety cords to a cable. From that point on we were safely attached to cables the entire time. It couldn’t have been safer. When I asked how business was they said 20,000 people had been there over the summer. These folks know what they’re doing when it comes to providing an awesome yet safe experience.

We made our way up a rope bridge to a platform and the first of 7 different length zip lines. For the next 2 hours we zipped from tree to tree like a giant playground in the heavens. Half the fun was just hanging out on the platforms talking to the other people in the group, checking out the tree tops and the surrounding woodlands. It was amazing!

When we all got to a platform, a guide would zip to the next one. His job was to help escort you as you came in. To get started you stepped up onto a box directly under the zip line. The second guide fastened your zip line pulley/handle on the cable and secured the safety cords. They you just stepped off the platform and ZIPPED through the forest. It was incredible! I simply can’t describe it. You have to go and do it yourself.

Honestly, some of the people in our group were apprehensive at first. There were several people asking, “What on earth was I thinking?” But by the end of the experience everyone was relaxed, psyched, and having a blast. Even the most apprehensive were having so much fun they zipped upside down!

Afterwards Jen and I made our way back to Lititz and grabbed some lunch at Chocolate Café. It was an awesome way to wrap up an awesome experience.

Next time you’re visiting Lititz add a Zip Line experience at Refreshing Mountain. Or if you’re headed to Refreshing Mountain for a Zip Line experience be sure to drop in on Lititz, America’s Coolest Small Town.


Horses and a Ranch – a brides dream wedding

I grew up riding horses, living and breathing horses, obsessing over horses. So when I was asked to tour the grounds of Ironstone Ranch, I thought, HECK YES! Perhaps I could get some “horse time” in Lancaster, something I have been dying for since I moved here. Little did I know I’d have that opportunity in Elizabethtown, a place I had been only once before.

The long stone driveway was intimidating at first. I was unsure of whether I was in the right place, passing from a town center surrounded by businesses and winding my way down a long, secluded drive. But then I saw it. I was first greeted with a beautiful green and off-white barn, a picturesque farmhouse, and two Texas Longhorns peeking over the fence in the front pasture. I hadn’t expected to see such a beautiful property. I guess I had mainly been focused on the potential for taking a trail ride in the woods.

Mark, the ranch manager, greeted me with a warm and friendly manner, a horseman by passion and training; we talked about his life before the Ranch. Mark had trained a special team of horses to provide the opportunity for special needs children to ride therapeutically. In fact, this was the connection that brought him to Ironstone, having met the owners of Ironstone, the Abel family, while working with their first adopted daughter, Brittany. Brittany was the inspiration for Brittany’s Hope Foundation, “a non-profit 501 (c) 3 foundation dedicated to aiding and facilitating adoptions of special needs children from around the world.” All profits from Ironstone Ranch go directly to Brittany’s Hope Foundation. “Events With A Purpose” has become the tagline of the Ranch, embodying the spirit of having a greater benefit to offer the world at large than just a wedding venue or a trail ride. I found that to be a pretty good reason to plan any type of event there.

As we toured the grounds, I imagined what it would be like to be a bride on the search for the perfect venue. Mark walked me through the entire process, from start to finish, no detail left untold. He has actually thought of everything, and I don’t say that lightly. From the details of the bride quarters, including places to hang your dresses, a vanity hidden behind a dry goods display for the day-of primping needs, to the entrance the bride will make in a white, horse-drawn carriage, he’s literally thought of it all.

You can be wed under a gazebo in the orchard, or if it suits you better, in the mini barn with a picture window looking over the fields and 275 acre property. After the ceremony, the newlyweds are whisked away in their marriage carriage, the wedding party following in a horse-drawn carriage of their own. Both carriages make their way down a trail through the woods, following an old railroad that once carried Lincoln’s body during his funeral procession. Large stone walls, intimate groves of tall trees, wide open fields, I couldn’t count on all my fingers and toes, over and over, how many places existed for beautiful photos on this one trail.

Now you may ask, well what do the guests do while the married couple and wedding party are off exploring? Mark’s thought of that too. Cocktail hour by the barn, lawn games to be played, Banjo and Sweet Tea the miniature donkeys are there for a pet, a fire pit for those more inclined towards a quiet moment, and don’t forget and orchard and ranch to explore. All your guests will want not, that’s for sure.

The reception seems like it would be no less spectacular, with carriages unloading the newlyweds and their wedding party in front of the large barn where their guests are anxiously awaiting their entrance. Cue the large barn doors that open to reveal the bridal party and groomsmen, followed by the newly married couple. The stage is a large, restored barn, the wooden structure itself providing a beautiful environment. New and old rustic touches are on display: an old carriage, whiskey barrels and worn hutches. A bar is constructed of reclaimed wood and the ceiling of the barn strung with beautiful lights. Each piece of this beautiful picture placed perfectly.

Mark walked me through the day, start to finish. I could imagine the groomsmen hanging out in the stables of the mini barn, relaxing before the next event. I could imagine taking my bridesmaids on a trail ride the day before, spending the evening in the old farmhouse, enjoying my last moments of singledom. I could imagine bouncing around in a white, horse-drawn carriage down a winding trail. I could imagine how this could be the perfect place for some, with a beautiful mission that inspires “Events with a Purpose.”

Now you may be asking, did you get to actually ride any horses while you were there? The answer is no, but I was welcomed back, whether I was a potential bride or not.

I’m ready for some “horse time!”


Annual American Girl Fashion Show

At a certain age many girls are nearly inseparable from their favorite doll. Their mini sidekick becomes a best friend, someone to learn about life with and take on adventures together. Thanks to Hands-on House Children’s Museum of Lancaster girls – and their dolls – will be treated to the ultimate girls’ night out to celebrate growing up as a girl at the American Girl Fashion Show.

The American Girl Fashion Show is an interactive opportunity for girls and their families to learn about the stories of growing up as a girl throughout history and today. Girl “models” will walk the runway as fashion, music, and lively commentary bring to life historical events from the 1700s through today while showcasing the cultural influences that have shaped American history.

After the fashion show, girls can enjoy refreshments and have the option to treat their dolls to a visit to the Doll Salon.

The American Girl Fashion Show will be held November 14-15 at the Conference Center at IU13 in Lancaster. Tickets are $35 per person and include admission to the show, refreshments and an American Girl goodie bag. For more information, show times and to purchase tickets, visit www.handsonhouse.org.

Girls and their families will not want to miss this limited opportunity for fun and fashion at the American Girl Fashion Show!

Written by Victoria Hill, Scheffey Integrated Marketing


Our enchanting overnight stay

I wanted to take my husband on a local overnight getaway for his birthday. I was envisioning a relaxing, carefree, and welcoming environment. I got just that when we stayed at the Australian Walkabout Inn Bed and Breakfast.

When I booked our stay, I spoke with Lynne. She could not have been nicer. Lynne and Bob are the Innkeepers and are especially gifted at making their guests feel like family. I was impressed with her ability to be professional yet warm. I booked our stay in the Outback Cottage because it had a private hot tub. I also booked a couples relaxation massage.

When my husband and I arrived, we were greeted by Bob. He explained that he was taking another couple to their room and he would be with us shortly. We walked into the front door to wait for Bob. When we entered, Matt and I were impressed with the decorations. They were done with great detail and thought. It was obvious that the innkeepers wanted their place to feel like home but also elegant. We had made our way into the sitting room to wait for Bob. Only a short time later, he arrived. He offered us coffee and began explaining where the massage would take place, what time breakfast would be starting, and gave us our room key. He then led the way to the Outback Cottage.

When we opened the door to the cottage, I was struck with how lovely it was. Immediately we saw a fire place, a Keurig, and a private hot tub – score! But the best part of the room was the completely inviting king-sized bed.

A short time later we were to arrive for our massages. We went into the main house and walked up the stairs to the third floor. The massage therapists were there waiting for us. The room was very relaxing. We were ready to put our cares and worries behind us for just one hour. The massage therapists did a great job by relaxing us and we felt so comfortable in their care. Once the massage was over, we went out to dinner and then arrived back at our room.

We turned on some music, along with the fire place, and got in the hot tub. It was so nice that I tried to coax my husband into redoing our bedroom to model this one. He didn’t budge. We then went to bed and we both slept like babies because of how relaxed we were from the massage, hot tub, comfortable bed, and perfect room temperature.

In the morning we took our time getting up, made some coffee, and then got ready. We painfully said goodbye to the best room we have ever stayed in. We walked into the main house and were greeted by other guests as we waited for breakfast. The other guests were quite pleasant and very interesting to talk to. We all went into the dining room and sat down at the two large dining room tables. The tables were decorated in a charming way and I was eagerly anticipating what lovely food we might be served. I had previously discussed with Lynne that I must eat gluten free foods and am very sensitive to even the smallest amount of gluten touching my food. She said it would not be a problem. I was anticipating that we would have eggs, bacon, etc. for breakfast so, imagine my surprise when Lynne brought out a piping hot baked oatmeal dish. It was so delicious – I could have eaten the whole batch!

We had a wonderful experience and could have easily stayed there for a week. My husband and I both decided that every year for our anniversary, we will stay at the Australian Walkabout Inn and request the Outback Cottage. It was an absolutely enchanting experience. One that I more than ready to repeat again!

This post was written by Julie Iddings.


Fall Fun at Cherry Crest Adventure Farm

My 4-year-old daughter, Sophia, and I went with her daycare to Cherry Crest Adventure Farm for a half day field trip. Our group of preschoolers and toddlers were so excited to explore the farm. While there are over 50 farm fun activities included in the admission, the first thing they wanted to do was see the animals in the Farm Animal Center. From funny goats to friendly pigs, the kiddos giggled with delight and petted the animals with wonderment. Sophia’s favorite animal was the chicks; she was thrilled that she was allowed to hold them. With gentleness, she nuzzled them and held them close.

Even though the kids would have been completely content staying with the animals, we knew that there were a lot more age-appropriate fun things for them to see and do. Although the Farm is well-known for its Amazing Maize Maze (an incredible activity for older kids and adults), it also has many other wonderful activities such as the Farm Tour Wagon Ride and Wagon Express Ride, Hay Maze, jumping pillows, giant slides, giant sling slots, playground, Singing Chicken Show, and much more. Sophia’s favorites were the jumping pillows (like bouncy castles without walls), the giant slides, and the hay maze.

It didn’t take long to work up an appetite. While Cherry Crest offers hearty lunch and dinner menus of Angus burgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken, fries, salads and wraps, pizza, and more, we chose to pack our own lunches. Under a large tent with picnic tables, we enjoyed our lunches. It was the perfect moment… the day was beautiful, the sun was shining, the wind was blowing gently, and our bellies were full.

After lunch, we only had a few minutes before we had to leave. Since the Farm Animal Center was so close to where we were eating lunch, the children all wanted to go back to see their barnyard friends one last time. Of course, Sophia made a bee line to the chicks. (She asked if she could take one home with her… I’m sure you can guess my answer.) Before we left, each child was allowed to pick their own small pumpkin to take home. What a special and unexpected surprise!

We had a great time. My only complaint… I wish that we could have stayed longer!

If this place sounds like fun to you, keep in mind that Cherry Crest Adventure Farm is a great place for field trips, company picnics, corporate events, and teambuilding. You can even ride the Strasburg Rail Road to the farm if you’d like!

This place is perfect for any age and is the perfect a Fall day excursion. Don’t miss their freshly made cider donuts and farm fresh roasted sweet corn – yum!

Click here to learn more about Cherry Crest Adventure Farm: www.cherrycrestfarm.com


Overnight at the DoubleTree Resort Lancaster

My friend Jessica and I decided to introduce our 4-year-old girls to “girls night out.” We thought an overnight stay in a hotel would be a blast. We knew the girls would enjoy a swimming pool and we wanted some luxury, so we landed on the DoubleTree Resort Lancaster.

One thing I love about the DoubleTree Resort is their signature chocolate chip and walnut cookie that greets you at check-in (so delicious, warm, and gooey!). We were not disappointed – as soon we were handed our room key, we got our cookies. My friend Jessica has a gluten-free diet… she thought she was going to lose out on the coveted treat, but to her surprise, they offered her a nice selection of her favorite gluten-free cookies of which she could choose any one she wanted. Nicely played, DoubleTree!

We walked through the beautiful hotel lobby and rode the elevator to our floor. Our kiddos ran ahead of us eager to find our room. As soon as we located the room and opened the door, the girls each claimed a bed and began jumping up and down while Jessica and I allowed our bags to fall off our shoulders and onto the floor. We breathed a sigh of relief. The fun can now begin!

Within a few minutes we out in our swimming suits and headed to the pool area. What a cool place! They have a “grown up” pool area that includes a hot tub and a “kid-friendly” area that is 0-4 feet and has fun, age-appropriate water playground. We laughed and played for over an hour. Then we grabbed fresh towels to dry off and headed back to our room for a pre-bedtime snack. Before long, the kiddos dozed off, so Jessica and I watched TV from the comfort of our beds.

The next morning we headed down to Cafe 24 Hundred for breakfast. We chose the breakfast buffet which featured everything you’d hope to see or have for breakfast. The girls downed their breakfast and chocolate milk like it was their job while Jessica and I enjoyed our breakfast slowly and sipped our freshly brewed coffee. The food and the servers were fantastic!

After breakfast we headed back to our room to let the girls watch cartoons while we each took a nice long shower. Sadly, though, it wasn’t long before we had to pack up our things and start our day. We had a great night’s sleep and the girls had a fun time together. This is definitely something we’d do again with the girls.

Next time you’re looking into hotel for an overnight stay, I highly recommend the DoubleTree Resort Lancaster. I understand why it’s considered a premier meeting destination and family resort. The friendly service and host of on-site amenities – including a golf course, two restaurants, state-of-the-art fitness center, and indoor water playground – promise a great stay for everyone. Plus, the resort is only minutes from Lancaster’s most popular attractions.

To learn more about the DoubleTree Resort Lancaster or to book your stay, go to www.doubletreelancaster.com.



FAQ about the Amish

Below are frequent and interesting questions we, the Visitors Bureau, are asked by visitors to Lancaster County. Have you ever wondered about the answers to these questions?

Q: Do you have electricity?
A: Yes, most of us in Lancaster are not Amish.

Q: Are you Amish?
A: No.

Q: Can I become Amish?
A: Sure, but it’s not easy and it’s less appealing once you know all that’s involved.

Q: Can we drive in Lancaster County?
A: Yes.

Q: What type of clothes do we need to wear when we visit?
A: Your normal, everyday clothes are fine. However, you may want to check the weather report to be sure you’re dressing comfortably.

Q: Are motorcycles allowed?
A: Yes, and we even have places you can rental motorcycles for the day.

Q: Where is Amish Town? What is the fee at the gate to get into Amish Town?
A: There is no such thing as Amish Town. The Amish live throughout Lancaster; they live, work, and play among us.

Q: Do you have hotel or motels in your area? Are we able to stay overnight in the area?
A: Yes, of course! Check out our extensive list.

Q: Can I have an water front room?
A: Only if a small lake counts. We are not near the ocean. The largest body of water in Lancaster is the Susquehanna River.

Q: Can I meet or will I see Lebanon Levi?
A: No. All the Amish reality shows on TV are actually fake. Sorry.

Q: Can you give me an address to find a covered bridge?
A: No. You’ll just have to follow directions or look at a map.

Q: Is there really a town called Intercourse?
A: Yes. Click here to learn its history.

Q: Can an Amish horse and buggy to pick me up at the train station and take me on a tour of Lancaster County?
A: No, but you can take a horse and buggy ride or a guided tour, visit a replica of an Amish Village, and walk through a replica of an Amish home. Click here to see more.

To learn more about the Amish, click here.


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!


Annual Fall ArtWalk in Downtown Lancaster

Art Walks have a long history in the City of Lancaster. Back in 1965, the first art walk was organized by the Community Gallery, now the Lancaster Museum of Art. The event was called Art Sunday and occurred on the first Sunday in October. It was a special day for promoting local artists and galleries, and included both city and county venues. Arts venues were fewer and farther between at that time. Downtown was a quieter place and there were no First Fridays. Thanks to the Community Gallery/Lancaster Museum of Art, Art Sunday continued every year and became well-established in the yearly calendar of events. Over time, Art Sunday grew and became more diversified in the types of venues participating.

Leap forward to 2014, and ArtWalk buzzes with energy two times every year. One ArtWalk in the spring, and one in the fall. This year’s Fall ArtWalk features 35 stops within 4 square blocks. You could say Lancaster’s art community is highly concentrated in the center of town.

The best part about ArtWalk is it’s yours to shape as you wish. Some people go for the exhibitions, some go for the activities, and everyone plots their lunch/coffee/ice cream breaks in between.

There are 35 stops, which can feel daunting, but you truly can do all of the stops. But don’t get hung up on the achievement, the day will unfold with unexpected surprises along the way. Linger in the galleries as long as it feels right. ArtWalk is meant to be a contemplative tour. No hurrying necessary.

Seek out the stops that offer a lot of activities such as the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen who on this instance have a blacksmithing demonstration in their back lot on Saturday. Inside they’ll have a group exhibition titled Unmasked, and they’ll also have fraktur, and needle felting demonstrations.

From there you can head to Building Character for more demonstrations in their courtyard, scoot down the Market Street alley to Hidden Treasures to shop an outdoor arts market, and walk across Prince Street to Isadore Gallery to see pottery by Angela Suehr and paintings by Steve Wetzel, one of the highlight exhibitions of the weekend.

Now you’re on Gallery Row, so continue south on Prince Street to see the Gallery at PA College of Art & Design, City Folk, Freiman Stoltzfus Gallery, Liz Hess, Red Raven Art Company, and Christiane David Gallery. You get the idea. This town is a buzz with things to do during ArtWalk.

For a full listing of activities, events, and exhibitions, visit LancasterArtWalk.org or follow the hashtags #lancartwalk and #lancphotowalk on Twitter and Instagram.


The Ephrata Cloister’s unique story

My dad, a history buff, and I decided to spend the morning together. Because of the busyness of life and work, we have to be intentional about getting together when we have free time. Since we both love history, we regularly pick interesting historic locations to explore and experience together. Not entirely sure what to expect, we signed up for the walking tour of the Ephrata Cloister, a National Historic Landmark founded in 1732. I always admired the beauty of the buildings and the lush grounds on which they set, but I didn’t know the story behind it all. Today’s visit was going to change that.

We gathered in a room with the rest of our tour group to watch a brief movie about the Cloister’s origin and history. We learned that the Cloister was one of America’s earliest religious communities and was founded by German settlers seeking spiritual goals rather than earthly rewards. Conrad Beissel, founder of Ephrata, was the key player in the development of this unique and strict religious community. The community consisted of celibate Brothers and Sisters and a married congregation of families. This community was at its peak from 1740-1750 when about 300 members worked and worshiped together. Their daily schedule, sleeping and eating routines, and simple clothing were beautifully bizarre and wonderfully intriguing. If you love history, I suggest clicking here to reading more about the history of this interesting place.

After the movie we met our guide, Nick, and embarked on our walking tour. Nick was dressed as one of the Brothers. He was knowledgeable and witty. He took us through the restored buildings, provided insight into the culture of Cloister, and answered a plethora of questions. The Cloister not only has a rich and unique history, the architecture is amazing. The Brothers and Sisters who built and maintained these structures also created original music, printing presses, and fraktur (a style of lettering and a highly artistic and elaborate art form), all while living a strict religious life style that included sleeping on beds made of wood.

After our tour ended, Dad and I walked the grounds. We wondered through the cemetery and through several other buildings. It was a beautiful day! The sun highlighted the gorgeous and strong architecture of the Cloister (by the way-the beauty of the Cloister makes it an amazing wedding venue). Making our way indoors, we meandered through the free exhibit, then popped into the quaint souvenir store where we nosed around for a while – of course, buying a few items to remember our trip.

This landmark is currently administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and is open daily for reasonably priced tours and special events. On-going research continues so that visitors can learn more about Ephrata’s surviving legacy and the people who built it.

I would highly recommend taking time to visit the Ephrata Cloister next time you’re in Lancaster.

To learn more, go to www.ephratacloister.org.


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