Fort Meade is ideally located near so many attractions that it makes it difficult to choose one destination at a time.
However, Lancaster, Pennsylvania makes for easy travel and a must do for a day or weekend trip. The culture, landscape, and food are just a few of the reasons to head up north about two hours and spend the day savoring the experience.
The Amish community is thriving in Lancaster and is a central part of the city’s commerce and tourism. There are many options to experience the Amish way of life, both planned and spontaneous. Private tours in traditional horse drawn buggies can be arranged, but personal exploration on foot or in a car throughout the small local towns yields glimpses into their everyday lives, as well as an understanding of their cherished history.
Here are a few recommendations for your explorations of Lancaster, Pennsylvania:
- Amish Farm and House in Lancaster offers tours of a farmhouse complete with animals, a tobacco room, and a blacksmith forge. Guided and bus tours are available.
- Amish Farmland or Visit in Person tours give guests firsthand information on the daily lives of the Amish community.
- The small hamlets and villages of Intercourse, Bird-in-Hand, Lititz, Strasburg and Paradise provide every option to taste traditional Amish food and baked goods. Several family style restaurants greet tourists heartily. Plain & Fancy, Good’ N Plenty. and the Bird-In-Hand Bake Shop are just a few of the many options for dining in the area.
- Country Stores and Antique Shops are found everywhere and sell hand-crafted items, holiday décor, the famous Amish quilts, and other items produced by the locals.
- Lancaster Central Market is a historic institution in the area that brings locals and tourists alike to shop for fresh products found in the region, with nearly 100 booths to pick the best offerings of the day.
- Covered Bridges of Lancaster County are a huge draw for visitors. With more than two dozen to visit, the “kissing bridges” are a must see attraction with driving tours dedicated to admire them all.
Be aware that the Amish observe Sunday as a day of worship, and most related stores and attractions will be closed. Sunday would be the perfect day to spend tasting ice cream at the Turkey Hill Experience in nearby Columbia, Pennsylvania. Active duty military (serving member only) are free to enter and pay only $4.95 to create custom flavors of ice cream in the Taste Lab.
Don’t have time to travel to Lancaster? Fort Meade NSA has two (LUCKY!) Amish markets within a 20-minute drive. Both are not to be missed!
Laurel, Maryland-Dutch Country Farmer’s Market has an over-the-top baked goods department with everything from bread, donuts, cakes, and the traditional Shoo Fly pies. Produce, a butcher counter, and prepared foods fill the large store to capacity. Breakfast at the small diner is always at treat, but expect a wait Saturday mornings.
Annapolis, Maryland-PA Dutch Market has much of the same as its neighbor in Laurel, but boasts most products are directly from Lancaster. Additionally, they have Milwood Furniture on display for purchase, made from craftsmen in Lancaster.
It’s easy to get lost enjoying the lush farms, roadside stands, and quaint shops dotted throughout the city and its close neighbors. Come hungry and ready to experience a quiet way of life. It will be a great break from the hectic schedules military families often endure.
P.S. Pack a cooler in the warm months to safely transport whoopie pies back home. It takes a strong, strong person to eat just one!
Photo credit: Flickr user David Wilson