Featured Story


The Beauty and Diversity of Lancaster on Instagram

Due to the recent success of Discover Lancaster’s #Lancastergram contest on Instagram, this past fall the Ephrata Merchants Association and the Historic Ephrata Cloister decided to launch #Ephratagram, a photography contest (also on Instagram) designed to showcase the beauty and diversity of Ephrata. During the contest, Instagram users tagged their favorite Ephrata photographs with the #Ephratagram hashtag. Three local photographers blindly judged the 238 entries that were submitted. The judges scored all entries and selected ten finalists and five honorable mentions. All fifteen photos are featured here and will be on display at the Historic Ephrata Cloister during the month of February. The winning photographs will remain on display for the rest of 2015 at various Ephrata businesses. The grand prize winner has been featured on a special note card set that the Ephrata Merchants Association has been selling at local businesses to benefit area non-profits.

Several photographers who had “finalist” photos for both #Lancastergram and #Ephratagram contests have also been featured by @DiscoverLancaster – specifically, @SethDochter and @Dave_Berk. Seth and Dave can be found documenting local landmarks throughout the year and at all times of the day. The Instagram community in Lancaster is very active, sponsoring Photo Walks and meet-up events throughout the year.

For this – the Locals Love Lancaster blog – the photography is just as important to me as the words. I use Instagram as a way to showcase where I live, my personality, and interests. Feel free to follow along @urbansocialblend.

Remember to use the hash tags #localslovelancaster and #discoverlancaster. We can’t wait to see your photos!


Overnight in Bird-in-Hand

Being newlyweds with busy schedules, my husband, Ashlin, and I make it a point to getaway at least once a month. This month we decided to stay local, so I reserved a night at Greystone Manor Victorian Inn in Bird-In-Hand.

Pulled in different directions that day, my husband and I decided to meet at the B&B. I was the first to arrive.

When I arrived, I was immediately greeted with a freshly baked cookie and a tour of the B&B which included a convenient refreshment bar where Ashlin and I could help ourselves to hot coffee, tea, and snacks at any time during our stay. After the tour, I settled into our room (#3), which was so spacious and cozy. It was beautifully decorated with a set of stained glass windows directly in back of a massive wooden canopy bed (seriously, I have never seen a bed more majestic looking!). I took advantage of the time I had before Ashlin arrived to watch some TV (we don’t have cable at our house), so this was a treat.

Once Ashlin arrived, I showed him around and we made plans for the rest of our weekend. Then, tired from our day, we called it a night and crawled into our bed. The bed had the most comfortable pillows ever (hello, memory foam)!

The morning came too quickly, and we had no desire to leave those memory foam pillows. But once we both work up and got dressed, we made our way downstairs for breakfast.

Angela, the innkeeper, greeted us with a big smile and told us all about breakfast. It was a massive buffet full of fresh fruits, muffins, pastries, and a bunch of other goodies from Bird-In-Hand Farmers Market, located right down the road from them. I had such a hard time picking what I wanted. Everything looked scrumptious! In addition to the buffet, Angela also offered us freshly made bacon & cheese quiche. It was which was unbelievable!

After breakfast, Angela said we could look around the house and see the open rooms… I never turn down the chance to be nosy. I loved every single room I saw, each had their own unique Victorian character.

We absolutely loved our getaway at Greystone Manor and will be telling our friends to take their own getaway there, too.

Abby Hollinger and her husband, Ashlin, live in Lancaster County. They enjoy outdoor adventures, overnight getaways, and spending time with friends and family.


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.


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!


A Cottage suitable for a King

No strangers to the bed and breakfast experience, my husband and I recently added an excellent inn to our list of favorite places, King’s Cottage Bed and Breakfast. Our stay could not have been more memorable – a historic inn, beautiful room, and welcoming inn keepers.

Owners and seasoned innkeepers, Janis Kutterer and Ann Willets originally hail from different directions of the east coast but found each other and quickly became friends in North Carolina. Twelve years ago, a much needed change prompted Janis and Ann to acquire the King’s Cottage property and since then they have become a leading bed and breakfast in the Lancaster area belonging to multiple organizations including the Select Registry.

With eight rooms, each decorated in a unique royal fashion and equipped with personal fireplaces, guests are sure to find the right fit for their night or nights away. Our room appropriately entitled “The Majestic Chamber” was simply that, majestic. We walked into the room and noticed immediately the large ornately carved king bed, a side table beautifully set for an “in-room” breakfast option, and a warm fireplace. However, the true star of this room was the en suite bathroom where a large double whirlpool tub plus shower awaited us. Ann and Janis quickly let us know this is the “romantic” room often frequented by honeymooners, couples celebrating anniversaries, and those looking for a luxurious night away. This was a first for us, never had we been treated to such luxury and service in an bed and breakfast.

After we took in the majesty of our room, we explored the inn then sat down with Janis and Ann who were more than eager to share their knowledge of the local community, things to do, and places to eat. While we talked, I enjoy a glass of wine and fresh pumpkin pie that the inn keepers made for their guests. We also snuggled with the inn’s resident pet greeter, Sampson. The hospitality and genuine nature of these two ladies makes you feel at home. My husband and I enjoyed learning about their history and that of the inn.

Most people enjoy the room and the local area, but what they really want is a good breakfast and the King’s Cottage does not disappoint. My husband and I were treated to a two-course meal starting with a parfait made with local fruits, Greek yogurt, and granola from a local bakery. However, the star of the meal was the french toast, beautifully constructed with fresh orange, orange liqueur, and topped with pecans and Lancaster maple syrup, it was unlike any french toast I have ever had. Combined with a nice cup of hot tea, we sat in bliss in the dining room and enjoyed the view from the large glass windows while Sampson snuggled at our feet.

Unique to the inn were the small nuances in personalized tea bags, warm coffee mugs, local crafts, and Lancaster chocolates found as you browsed the great living room and covered outdoor patio areas. In addition to these small surprises, Ann and Janis also offer spa packages with a multitude of massages and treatments to choose from.

This inn truly is spectacular and I highly recommend it as a stay for anyone looking for a downtown experience that still remains relaxing and very enjoyable.


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).


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.



A White Christmas in Lancaster

I am not ashamed to admit this:  I have a love affair with old movies. Any type will do, but I especially love classic musical theater. (Nope, not ashamed to admit that either!) While most little girls in the 90′s fantasized about meeting New Kids on the Block, I dreamed of one day meeting Gene Kelly or Danny Kaye. There’s just something about classic musicals that is uplifting and magical to me. One of my all-time favorites, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, is currently on stage on The Fulton Theatre. So I reserved two tickets and told my husband it would be our first official Christmas activity for the 2014 holiday season.

Since moving to Lancaster, I’ve always been in awe of the grandeur and beauty of the historic Fulton Theatre. I was beyond excited to finally experience one of their productions. We picked up our tickets at will call and made our way up to the mezzanine to our seats. The theater, which is decorated in reds and golds, is both very beautiful as well as comfortable – a perfect mix of Victorian elegance and modern convenience. Before the show began, we walked around to different parts of the theater to get a feel for different audience perspectives. We did not find one seat in the the whole theater without a full view of the stage.

The lights finally dimmed and the orchestra started playing the intro. The stage adaptation of the original 1954 movie tells the story of a famous entertainment duo (Bob Wallace and Phil Davis) and a lesser know sister act (the Haynes sisters) that, through a series of comical twists and turns, come together to save a declining Vermont inn – which just happens to be owned by the famous duo’s former commanding Army general.

The entire show was wonderful, funny, and engaging. The dancing was incredible! My favorite part of the production was the actor playing Phil Davis (originally played by Danny Kaye in the movie version.) Everything about him reminded me of Mr. Kaye.

The staff at the theatre is extremely customer-focused. They even started offering the service of pre-ordering concessions, so that you’re not waiting in a line during intermission. This definitely contributes to an even better guest experience.

In addition to high-quality, Broadway-caliber productions and great customer service, the Fulton Theatre embraces and invests in the surrounding community. They offer theatre academy and training programs, partnerships with schools, pay-what-you-want performances, and more.

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is playing at the Fulton Theatre now through January 4, 2015.  Click here for the full 2014-2015 production schedule.



Marietta has the perfect B&B for you

Marietta is a quaint town that I’ve always loved to visit, but I’ve never spent more than a couple hours there. So when I was given the opportunity to stay at B. F. Hiestand House Bed & Breakfast (located in Marietta), I jumped at the chance. Being a photographer, I could tell the story better with photos… but I’ll do my best with words.

After a friendly hello from Quincy, a sweetheart of a lab, the human owners of B. F. Hiestand House B&B, Dallas and Pam, greeted my husband Jesse and I with freshly baked cookies. (I knew immediately that I was going to love this place!) After Dallas gave us a tour, we settled into our room.

Our room – The Susquehanna Room – was bright and airy and the bathroom was spacious and immaculate. It was love at first sight. The sink and wall tiles are original to the house which was built in 1887. Original hardware is always a plus – and it’s fun to photograph.

For dinner we decided to try a local tavern. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming; the food and beer were fabulous! A perk of staying at the B&B was a nice 10% discount. After dinner, we retired to our room where we got cozy in the four-poster bed and watched TV. The bed was so comfy – and the sheets, too! It was lovely!

Breakfast the next morning was wonderful: poached pears, muffins, South Western fritatta, sausage, and au Gratin potatoes. Quincy decided that I was the best person to sit under as he thought I couldn’t possibly finish everything on my plate (smart dog!). We met some of the other guests and had a nice conversation with Pam about the area and her family. We lingered long after breakfast – it was really nice out-of-the-ordinary experience for Jesse and I.

We spent the day doing things we don’t often get to do – see a movie in a theater, met up with some friends for drinks, then ended the day with dinner at a local pub.

Breakfast on Sunday morning was another marvel. Pam prepared it early for us as we had to pack up and leave… broiled blueberries with cream and brown sugar and French toast. It was heavenly.

We had a lovely time at B. F. Hiestand House B&B. We fell in love with the character of the house – the veranda, the dark wood staircase leading to the second floor, the original tile work in two of the many bathrooms, and so much more. This 127 year old house is beautiful and beautifully kept.

Jesse and I highly recommend an overnight stay, and we guarantee that Dallas and Pam will make you feel welcome.

This post was written by guest blogger, Aubri Porter. Aubri is a professional photographer who loves crafting and lives in Lancaster City with her talented husband, young son, and sweet pooch.

To learn more about Marietta, click here.



The Grand Vineyard at Grandview

I remember the first day I fell in love with wine – October 15, 2011. I was touring Virginia with my husband when we happened upon a multitude of vineyards. Some were 100 acres vineyards, some small wineries, some cultivating grapes planted by Thomas Jefferson, some growing anything but grapes; but all introducing me to this new world of flavors. Back here in Lancaster, I find the vineyards just as unique and The Vineyard at Grandview is no exception.

A recent trip to this family owned and operated 5.5 acres vineyard in Mount Joy was filled with wonderful flavors, eccentric stories, and beautiful views. I was greeted by owner Marilyn Kennel and her daughter, Sarah Haines, who combined with patriarch Larry Kennel, Scott Haines, and Fran and Steve Kratz make up the family staff. Marilyn quickly filled me in on the history of this new vineyard, opening only in 2009. The Vineyard at Grandview has quickly figured out the wine making process utilizing both steel and oak aging techniques. Their motto in running such a small vineyard is to produce quality over quantity, a slogan that has been proved successful by the complete sell-out of each of their wines.

As the tasting room began to fill with guests for the day, Marilyn passed the story telling off to her daughter, Sarah, who was eager to relay the unique family history behind the vineyard and its wine recipes. Sarah regaled stores how her father and wine maker, Larry Kennel’s, background lies not in viniculture but veterinary medicine, however, his passion has kept him constantly attending his vines and searching for local grapes to sustain their new popularity. Familial stories then flowed from Sarah as she introduced me to Grandview’s Heritage” collection consisting of three wines: Mom Kennel’s Blackberry, Pop Umble’s Black Cherry, and a Limited Release Black Jack Cherry. The story goes that matriarch, Grandma Kennel, was a strict and frugal woman of faith who kept the family strong but had a few secrets of her own in journals and recipe books. A particular recipe is now the base for Grandview’s Mom Kennel’s Blackberry wine staying true to “top-shelf” ingredients and avoiding any inferior products. Larry Kennel utilizes this recipe everyday ordering premier blackberries from Oregon and Washington to maintain the sharpness and flavor in Grandview’s specialty fruit wine. Also distinctive to this collection is the Limited Release Black Jack Cherry, a wine aged in Jack Daniels oak barrels, which create flavors not readily found mixed into the wine world.

Once Sarah was done introducing me to the history behind the vineyard, she gave me some insight into their wine collection. Producing mostly red varietals on site such as Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cab Fran, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdo, and one white, Chardonnay; Grandview has successful mastered sweet, dry, and the obscure fruit wines. While tasting, I experienced an array of flavors from their blended varieties as well as a superb Pinot Noir from their 2013 collection ( a MUST if you stop to taste). Additional offerings at Grandview include a cheese/chocolate pairing for your tasting as well as Rock Candy Spritzers. These spritzers combine the sweet varieties of the Rock Candy Gem Collection with soda and locally made rock candy for a fun presentation and bubbly taste.

Of course, those who read my blog about wine understand I am about the full package. I appreciate great wines and knowledgeable service, but I love a good atmosphere and Grandview does not lack in this department. The atmosphere is relaxing as you enter the open and naturally lit tasting room or exit onto the sprawling outside deck that overlooks the Lancaster landscape and vines. Snacks are welcome by guests and events are frequent as the vineyard partakes in both the Hershey/Harrisburg and Mason Dixon Wine Trails.

The Vineyard at Grandview possess all of the qualities essential to convert the non-believer. The wine, the staff, the location, and the pride in their products shine through leaving little room for the visitor to not fall in love with this wonderful Lancaster vineyard.

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