It is hard to imagine a place in the world today where people are not glued to their smartphones, tablets, laptops and televisions, but a short car trip to the Pennsylvania Dutch Country in Lancaster
County, PA, will give you just that: a glimpse of Amish culture where humility, modesty, family, community and separation from the modern world are the core values that make up the simple life of
this insular community. The oldest and largest Amish settlement in the United States fled to this hilly farm region in the early 18th century to escape religious persecution in Europe and live a “Plain” life of farming and worship. They rejected modern technology, such as electricity,telephones and automobiles, in order to stay true to their religious beliefs. The Old Order Amish (as well as the Old Order Mennonites) dress in plain, dark clothes and are still seen riding in their preferred mode of transportation, the horse and buggy. They are wary of outsiders and eschew social media, but
there is some use of technology to live and work in order to survive in the modern world, as long as it does not disrupt the stability of the community.
A spring or summer trip to the towns around Route 30 – Bird-in-Hand, Christiana, Intercourse, New Holland and Strasburg – will give visitors a fascinating look at the “Plain” life and a chance to experience Amish home life, farm life, and culture. There are many attractions in the area. For an authentic experience, choose one of at least half a dozen buggy ride companies, led by Amish or
Mennonite tour guides, that will take you through the historic farmlands, often stopping at working farms and craft shops. Touring an Amish Homestead, such as Amish Village in Ronks, Amish Farm in Lancaster, and House, or Amish Country Homestead at Plain and Fancy Farm in Bird-in-Hand, allows visitors to explore the typical Amish farm lifestyle, complete with a variety of animals, barns, blacksmith shop, milk house, schoolhouse and sometimes a covered bridge. Inside the home, the expert guides explain the history, customs, clothing and culture of a traditional family of the time. To learn about the religious beliefs of the culture, the Lititz Moravian Church Square Archives and
Museum in Lititz, established in 1756, provides a self-guided tour through the congregation, including musical instruments, paintings and artifacts displaying the rich heritage of the community.
Don’t miss the gift shop’s famous Moravian Stars, cookies, handmade crafts and jewelry. Train lovers will want to ride on the Strasburg Railroad, America’s oldest operating short-line railroad.
This authentic steam railroad, dating back to 1832, boasts five locomotives and 19 passenger cars. The 45-minute, round-trip ride through the Amish countryside to Paradise and back has an audio
soundtrack providing information about the surrounding landscape and history. When scheduling a visit to the Amish Country, be mindful of the adherence to the Sabbath on Sundays and respect the
people’s privacy by not taking photographs of them without permission.
Of course, you have to eat, and there is no scarcity of food here. America’s first commercial pretzel bakery, Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, began here, and pretzel lovers may want to tour the Herr’s Snack Factory in Nottingham. Smorgasbords abound throughout the region (choices of carved meats, chicken pot pie, roastedchicken, vegetables, homemade mashed potatoes, hand-rolled pretzels, and sweet endings) and there is plenty of homemade delights and farm produce to take home from the Lancaster Central Market, established in the 1730s.Kitchen Kettle Village, an outdoor village of more than 40 shops in Intercourse,includes the famous Jam and Relish Kitchen, bakeries featuring shoofly pie and whoopee pie, hand-twisted soft pretzels, kettle corn, smoked meats, and shops selling leather goods, pottery, specialty yarns, candles and furniture, as well as the famous Amish quilts.
The Amish Country experience can be a one or two-day trip with plenty of hotel options to suit a variety of sizes and budgets. Consider spending part of Spring Break or Memorial Day weekend getting away from technology and learning about a simpler way of life. And bring us back some pretzels!