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Delicious PA Dutch Food is plentiful here

The other day I realized that I have never experienced Pennsylvania Dutch food, which is odd since I grew up near Lancaster County. If you are even slightly familiar with the Lancaster area, you know that food is part of the culture. Because I love food, I decided to give it a try. I invited my friend Jason to go with me to Good ‘N Plenty Restaurant and Bakery.

Good ‘N Plenty is a Pennsylvania Dutch restaurant with two dining options and a bakery. We had the choice of traditional dining or an all-you-can-eat, family-style dining (family-style dining is the most popular). There was no question about it. We were hungry and ready to try something new – family style dining was the clear choice!

Family style dining is one of the most unique dining experiences I have ever had. We walked into a huge, open room with rows of long tables. Each table had seating for 12 people. The hostess seated us next to a young couple and shortly after another couple joined us. As we waited for the meal to be brought to us, the table had a few of Lancaster’s favorite appetizers such as chow chow and pepper cabbage along with fresh baked bread accompanied with fresh apple butter. As we ate the appetizers, we got to know the others at our table. Both couples were from out of town visiting Lancaster County, one from Georgia and the other from New York.

After a few minutes of learning more about each other, bowls among bowls of food were brought to our table. Everything you could imagine of the home cooking variety was placed in front of us including meats, vegetables, and my personal favorite, mashed potatoes. The food was delicious. After everyone at our table helped themselves to the endless amount of food, it was time for dessert. Our waitress brought five different desserts to the table, including pies, homemade ice cream, and cheesecake.

Choosing my favorite part of our dining experience is extremely hard to do. Family dining is a unique experience that everyone should try. Good ‘N Plenty did a great job preparing delicious Pennsylvania Dutch food that was served hot and quickly replenished when empty.

After dinner, be sure to stretch your legs by walking out back and visit the petting zoo!


2015 #Lancastergram Winners

And the 2015 #Lancastergram winners are…

FIRST PLACE:  atglennite


- See more at: http://www.discoverlancaster.com/instagram-contest.asp#sthash.DKFhST6W.dpuf

And the 2015 #Lancastergram winners are…

FIRST PLACE:  atglennite


- See more at: http://www.discoverlancaster.com/instagram-contest.asp#sthash.DKFhST6W.dpuf

This past summer for a period of seven weeks, we invited residents and visitors to post unique Lancaster-specific photos on Instagram using the hash tag #Lancastergram. All the photos that were tagged properly, fell in line with contest rules, and were taken within the defined time frame were entered to win amazing prizes. During the seven weeks, over 6,000 photos were submitted. The contest judges were faced with a difficult challenge… to select the Top 10. The Top 10 were then reveal at Tellus360 on First Friday, September 4. On that same day, Rick Gray, Mayor of Lancaster City, proclaimed September 4, 2015, #Lancastergram Day!

Without further adieu, here are the 2015 #Lancastergram winners…

FIRST PLACE:  @atglennite


















Check out www.discoverlancaster.com/instagram-contest.asp to:
- See Runners Up photos and the Weekly Top Picks photos
- Read the #Lancastergram Day Proclamation
- Learn more about the awesome prize packages the winners received

Be sure to participate in next year’s contest. You never know…. your photo might be picked!


An avant-garde take on theatre

Lights dim. The crowd hushes. Then suddenly beams of light flood the aisle of the breath-taking St. James Episcopal Church. Show time!

Children of Eden is a musical written by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell) and is under the creative direction of PRiMA-affiliated director, Kristen Brewer. This show, loosely based on the stories from the Book of Genesis, is a heartfelt musical dealing with the difficulties of parenting, breaking generational patterns, and the power of second chances. The vocals are dynamic and emotionally-fueled. PRiMA’s production utilizes the whole space creating an enriching and unique experience. Children of Eden sheds a positive light and insight to the hiccups in life. There’s only two more performances: September 13 or 20 (Sundays, 2015) at 7:00 PM. Don’t miss the opportunity to see this show!

PRiMA Theatre is celebrating their fifth year providing “fresh theatrics” for a multitude of audiences. Their avant-garde take on theatre and performance environments has impressed many. PRiMA Theatre’s upcoming performances will be a contemporary spin to the holidays. On the weekend of Halloween, join PRiMA for a “chic cabaret featuring songs from the Great White Way’s darkest characters.” In the middle of December, “Experience a world premiere immersive theatrical event in this limited engagement. Meet legendary holiday figures as they create chaos and fun at the Snow Queen’s Party.” For more information, visit primatheatre.org.

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.


My favorite place for PA Dutch Specialties

If you’ve traveled to Pennsylvania Dutch Country you may have heard about the custom of putting seven sweets and seven sours on the table at mealtime. The idea of putting such variety on the table is to provide a varied and balanced diet to a hard working family.

If you think it is hard to come up with seven sweets and seven sours for a meal, look no further than Intercourse Canning Company. Located at 13 Center Street, just off the Old Philadelphia Pike in Intercourse, PA, this store features everything you need to set a PA Dutch inspired table.

When you walk in the door you will be greeted by their helpful staff and rows upon rows of colorful jars filled with amazing new things to try. Intercourse Canning Company offers over 300 varieties of canned goods and other products and has samples for you to test of many of their top sellers.

My family is partial to their pickled beets and Jalapeno Pepper Jam. However, to get the true PA Dutch experience you must try the chow chow and the apple butter, two staples of Lancaster County cuisine. Boxes and rows of jellies, relishes and salsas fill the aisles just waiting to go home with you.

I can a little bit myself, but I learned even more on my visit. Did you know that Napoleon was a big part of canning history? Intercourse Canning Company offers lessons in canning history with their educational video which runs every day. They also have a demonstration kitchen which showcases their Amish canning kitchen cooks whipping up batches of homemade goodness for your table from April through December.

Not sure you have room in the car for that case of canned deliciousness? No worries, Intercourse Canning Company will ship to your home or a friend’s home. And if you eat up all that great Amish Meatloaf sauce (trust me, it is amazing) you can order some from your comfy couch using their online ordering at their website.

I highly recommend that you visit Intercourse Canning Company and plan to spend at least an hour browsing and tasting your way through the store. In addition to canned goods they have candy, homemade noodles, gourmet mixes, and delicious coffee (ever have Whoopie Pie coffee before?). If you have holiday shopping to do, Intercourse Canning Company makes it really easy on you with gift baskets and smaller sizes of jars if you want to make your own.

Though my family was just there in mid-summer, we plan to go again closer to Christmas since their stock and specialties change with the seasons. Next time I go I’m going to make sure I pick up two jars of their Amish Sweet Mustard. It goes great with my kids’ favorite snack of bologna and cheese. Definitely give it a try!


covered bridge

Covered Bridges of Lancaster County

Covered bridges are an iconic symbol that bring to mind a more simple time, a more simple way of life. Pennsylvania has approximately 219 covered bridges that have withstood the test of time, more than any other state. Lancaster boasts over 25 of those bridges, each with its own unique story.

The purpose of the covering is to protect the wooden structural members from the weather. Uncovered wooden bridges have a life span of only 10-15 years because of the effects of rain and sun. Thanks to the covering, we have many bridges that have been around a long time.

The longest covered bridge at 5,960 feet once spanned the Susquehanna River from Columbia to neighboring Wrightsville in York County. Built in 1814, it was unfortunately destroyed by high water and ice in 1832. But, many others remain, ready for you to discover and enjoy.

We’ve developed five driving tours of covered bridges in Lancaster County. For a PDF version, click here. If you prefer to use our Google Map tours, click here and choose the tour that most interests you. To learn more about our covered bridges, be sure to stop the Discover Lancaster Visitors Center to purchase the book, Covered Bridges of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.


chiques rock

A Day of River Therapy

I love the Susquehanna River, but I don’t spend as much time on or near it as I should, considering how close to home it is. One Saturday evening, I set out to remedy that by going on a Chiques Rock Outfitters’ 5:00 pm “Therapy Float.”

The Therapy Float is a guided trip on the Susquehanna River from the southern end of Marietta down to River Park in Columbia, where I parked my car at the Chiques Rock Outfitters rental shop.

I was equipped with a solo kayak, paddle, life jacket, and dry box for my camera. When we put our boats in the water, there were no others in sight, but we did spot a great blue heron fishing off a rock not far from shore. My guide, Ranae Tibbens, co-owner of Chiques Rock Outfitters, gave me a refresher on how to steer since it had been at least twenty years since I’d last been in a kayak. Then we were off to explore the river.

We paddled under the railroad bridge, where Chiques Creek empties into the river, to take a look at the water level and a new pedestrian bridge. As we headed out to the middle of the river, a bald eagle came swooping down over the water.  He came close enough overhead to be seen in detail, but I was too slow getting my camera out of the dry box to be able to get a good shot of him. He was very shortly joined by another, and we watched the two of them fly circles above the river and the shoreline for a few minutes, before flying away.

Getting out of the kayak during the trip is not only acceptable, it’s encouraged. We pulled up on an exposed stretch of pebbles, then waded out to a rock to examine someone’s 100+ year old script signature etched into the surface. We also examined the bore holes at the base of the rock, worn by the action of small pebbles in the current over time. Some rocks on the river seem to be more hole than rock, honeycombed by friction of stone and water. After taking photos from the top of the rock, we climbed down and waded back to our boats, thankful for the traction of water shoes on slippery rocks.

Shortly before sunset, we stopped at the boat launch by John Wright Restaurant for a few minutes then we took our time crossing to the other side of the river. We stopped often to take photographs of pink and orange light reflecting off of the bridge piers and the water.

When we pulled our boats in at the launch at River Park again, I was pleasantly exhausted and happy to have explored a couple of miles of the beautiful river in our backyard.

To learn about other water activities in Lancaster, click here.


Through Our Eyes: 2015 #Lancastergram Contest

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” ~ Elliott Erwitt

Did you see that Lancaster made The New York Times this past week? The article featured some of my favorites: Lancaster Central Market, Prince Street Cafe, Thistle Finch Distillery, and PhotOle Photography. Entitled, “Amish Country Embraces Farm-to-Table,” the author praised some of our new businesses and art studios, joking that Lancaster had become more instagrammable than ever as a result. Why yes, we sure have! Did you know that the hashtag #Lancastergram currently has almost 17,000 entries? 

That is why I was particularly thrilled that The Times decided to highlight Ole Hongvanthong and his photography studio and store on West King Street. Like other Lancaster photographers, I initially discovered Ole through Instagram @photole_photography and was immediately intrigued by both his work and the restored cameras that he was selling. When I reached out to Ole, he was already familiar with my work on Instagram @urbansocialblend (which made my day) and offered to capture my likeness downtown.

I start with Ole because he is just one member of our very active and growing photography community here in Lancaster. Lancaster has a great support system, both professional and personal, for photographers at all levels of experience and with diverse interests. At a professional level, PCAD offers a degree and continuing education opportunities in photography, Sunshine Art + Design has a darkroom available for its members, and The Perfect Image has photography equipment available to purchase or to rent.  At a personal level, one can sign-up for photo walks at the Lancaster County Photography Meetup page or simply reach out to the many Lancaster photographers that you will see working offline or online. I have watched Nikki Weems in action at Lancaster Transplant events, seen Seth Dochter from the Amish Road Show capture the Ephrata landscape, and literally posed for Ole in Steinman Park. I have found that Lancaster’s photographers are more than willing to share their craft with you and help you in any way that they can.

You will also discover that Lancaster’s photography community is very active on Instagram and quite enthusiastic about showcasing the faces, places, and spaces that make our community so special to others. This is one of the many reasons that Discover Lancaster decided to launch the #Lancastergram photography contest last year and to publicly recognize those efforts.

And we are at it once again… from June 21 to August 9, Discover Lancaster, in partnership with consultant Paul Anater, will be sponsoring the second annual #Lancastergram contest! I am thrilled to be a part of the Locals Love Lancaster team and honored to be one of the judges for this year’s contest. I invite, encourage and challenge you to respond to our call for photographs. We are looking for local and visiting photographers, amateur and professional photographers, portrait and landscape photographers, and everyone in between, to participate this summer and to start tagging their Lancaster photos with the #Lancastergram hashtag. Be creative! I want to see Lancaster through your eyes and am particularly interested in new perspectives. Participating photographers will automatically be eligible to win amazing Lancaster County prize packages, be featured in a gallery show this fall, and recognized at a public event on September 5, 2015.  For official details and to read this year’s press release, please click here.

Click here to see Top Picks from each week of the #Lancastergram contest.


Back-to-School, Lancaster style

Come to Lancaster to get all your tax-free, back-to-school clothing and supplies. Since your coming to Lancaster anyway, might as well make it a fun family trip. From outlet shopping to family-friendly attractions and restaurants, why not make it a fun experience for everyone?

Suggested outlet shopping:

  • Tanger Outlets: Buy directly from more than 60 brand name manufacturer and designer stores featuring Brook’s Brothers, Gap, Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, Banana Republic, and more. 20% Off Coupons (limited time only!)
  • Rockvale Outlets: Shop at more than 90 brand name factory direct stores including Carter’s, Hartstrings, Disney, Under Armour, Gymboree Outlet, and more. FREE Coupon Booklet

Suggested  fun and educational attractions:

Suggested restaurants:

Back-to-School shopping tips:

  • Before shopping, know what you need and what you already have on hand. Not sure what you need? Check out this list from RealSimple.com.
  • Make a list and set a budget — then stick to it.
  • Shop around for the best deals; most can be found online even before getting in your car.
  • To save money, check out consignment stores and/or browse Craigslist.com.
  • Get your kids involved; decide in advance what items they can choose and which ones must involved compromise.
  • When it comes time to packing lunches, think reusable and plan a menu in advance.
  • Enjoy the process!

(Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)


Waltzing through the Vineyards

Around 3:00 PM on Saturday afternoon myself, my wife, Cheryl, and our two adult daughters stopped by Waltz Vineyards Estate Winery in Manheim to check it out. Cheryl and I joined their wine club after attending a wonderful dinner that Waltz hosted at the General Sutter Inn earlier in the year. This was our first visit to the vineyards. You don’t have to belong to the wine club to visit, the tasting room is open to the public, but as you’ll see we discovered some awesome benefits to having joined the club.

We turned onto a narrow drive that led up a hill among open fields. As we crested the hill the vineyard appeared in front of us and to the right was a beautiful estate house. At first it felt like we were driving up to a private residence until we saw the tasting room just beyond the house with several cars parked beside it. For me, I describe it as a delightfully enchanted setting with old world renaissance charm and a contemporary twist. The buildings are new and contemporary, but they are surrounded by vineyards, rolling hills, and shaded woods. You can book a picnic on the grounds or you can simply buy a bottle of wine and find a quite delightful spot to share it with a friend or your special someone.

As we stepped into the tasting room we were greeted by a very friendly hostess. The room was awesome. Beyond the cash register was a tasting bar where people were merrily (they all seemed to be in an extraordinarily good mood) fixing tasting flights, preparing cheese slates, and pouring glasses of wine. A huge colorful painting behind the bar adds an artsy feel to the atmosphere. The room is very well done. There were four or five tables in front of the bar; a couple of them were high tops with stools. All the tables were spoken for, so the hostess invited us into the Tank Room where fermentation tanks lined the walls. She explained that they typically use the barrel room as overflow. However, they had just bottled 2,000 cases of wine, so the barrel room was a bit full. Before long, a table was available to us.

After we were seated, they asked our daughters for their ID as expected. Becky who is 19 admitted her age directly, but Jen got out her driver’s license. As always, if I’m with someone who gets carded I comment, “Hey, you didn’t card me!” To which our hostess replied, “Well, not yet.” She obviously had a sense of humor.

Before long we were handed tasting menus. They had a “lighter” sampling and a “dryer” sampling, but both included 5 different wines, plus the option of adding cheese. Cheryl and Jen decided to share the lighter flight and I chose the dryer. We added 3 different cheeses that included crackers and chocolate from Miesse Candies. You can order glasses of wine, bottles or, if you really liked what you tasted, cases.

Our flights arrived in test tubes, set upright (of course) in a wooden rack, including a tube of water to rinse your glass. There was a goblet on the table to pour the water into after rinsing. The menu stood up in a holder behind the tubes and the wines were ordered as they were presented on the menu. The cheese blocks were served on slate separated by shaved dark chocolate.

We tasted, shared, and enjoyed the wine and cheese. We discussed what we favored most and why. I did feel a little bad for our 19-year-old daughter because all she could do was watch the fun, but she is a good sport and made the best of it. We had an absolutely delightful 45-minute tasting! It was relaxed, engaging, and highly enjoyable.

Curious about the wines? To be honest, the experience – the hostess and serving staff, the atmosphere and the ambiance – is what inspired me to share this visit because we had such a good time. I knew coming into the tasting that, in my opinion, Waltz wines are out of this world. They have been winning national awards and beating out prominent California wines. I enjoy deep, dry reds and theirs are some of the best I’ve tasted. It’s why we joined their wine club.

When we went to the cash register to check out I mentioned that we are wine club members and to my delight I discovered that my wife and I can stop by any time with two friends and our tastings are complimentary. We paid $3 for the cheese, total bill! Is that awesome, or what!

Whether you have a well-developed pallet with refined taste or you are just beginning to explore the wonders of estate wines, you will love the Waltz tasting experience.

national toy train museum

Strasburg: A Town with History, Part 3

My next stop in Strasburg: The National Toy Train Museum

I was stunned. This museum is huge and filled with a variety of trains, displays, and model layouts. Resembling a Victorian Era California railroad station, it exhibits trains from mid-1800s through present and holds one of the largest collections in the world. This space is covered by famous train manufacturers like Lionel, American Flyer, Marklin, and more.

While walking through the museum, I appreciated the artistic and intricate model displays and their unique paint colors. The toy train industry has mastered the art of incorporating pop culture into their work. Lionel, for instance, saved Walt Disney from going bankrupted by purchasing a copyright to produce the original Walt Disney character-themed trains. Guess who has an original collection? You guessed it – The National Toy Train Museum! Lego also produces a model display for the museum which changes yearly.

After spending a couple hours exploring the museum, it was time to visit another noteworthy Strasburg location – the beautiful and historic 1786 Limestone Inn Bed and Breakfast.

084Growing up in an older farm house, I have grown fond of the beauty and character of older spaces; this was no exception. This B&B was built by Jacob Pfoutz in 1786 and is listed on the National Register of Historical Places and the Lancaster County Historical Sites Register.

As I walked into the side door, I received the warmest of welcomes from Denise, the innkeeper. Denise and her husband had their eye on the home long before they purchased it. These two are passionate about history and Lancaster County as a whole. The primitive, yet comfortable décor create the perfect aesthetic. If you want to learn about Lancaster County, past and present, this is the place for you! Denise is always happy to share detailed facts about the area.

Strasburg is filled with many more places to see and stay. It is a hidden gem filled with unique and historic spaces. Here are more attractions and lodging options to check out when you are in Strasburg:  Eldreth Pottery, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, Verdant View Farm Bed & Breakfast, Village Greens Miniature Golf and White Oak Campground. Check out the Historic Strasburg facebook page for updates.

Have fun discovering Strasburg for yourself!

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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