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Only in Lancaster: 15 things you can only do in the county

  • 6 min to read

With an eclectic mix of city living, suburbia, and Amish countryside, Lancaster County is like no other. 

The county is full of places to go and things to do that are unique to the area.

Where else can you visit the oldest rail road in the United States, eat a pretzel at the oldest pretzel bakery in the world and see a musical in a theater that was previously a jailhouse?

Only Lancaster County.

We've compiled a list of Lancaster-specific attractions that you can't experience anywhere else. 


Shop at the oldest farmers market in the United States

Last Day Market

John Stoner, right, chats with former Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray, left, at Stoner's Homegrown Vegetables inside Central Market Friday, Dec. 28, 2018. The Stoners have sold their stand at Central Market which will be under new ownership in 2019.

Central Market is the oldest farmers market in the United States.

Founded in 1730, the market was a hub for farmers from all over Pennsylvania. King George II dubbed Lancaster as a "market town" due to Central Market’s positive impact — and in Lancaster’s charter as a borough, it was proclaimed that Lancaster was to hold two markets each week. 

It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

Today, Central Market is home to 65 different stands — each selling unique Lancaster goods.

Information: Tuesday and Friday, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. | 23 N Market St., Lancaster | Website


Visit the oldest original Mennonite meeting house

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The Hans Herr House is pictured along Hans Herr Road in Willow Street on Monday, March 4, 2019.

Built in 1719, the Hans Herr House is not only the oldest surviving house in Lancaster County, but it’s also the oldest original Mennonite meeting house in the Western Hemisphere. Mennonites, a sect of Christians, hold beliefs similar to Quakers. At the Hans Herr House, you can learn about how Lancaster Mennonites lived and practiced their faith.

Information: Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. | 1849 Hans Herr Drive, Willow St. | Website 


Eat at the world’s 'largest chicken BBQ'

Sertoma Chicken BBQ

Pallets of charcoal are seen in front of the pits cooking chicken at Sertoma Chicken BBQ at Long’s Park, Saturday, May 18, 2019. The event uses nearly 40,000 pounds of charcoal to cook the chickens.

Lancaster County is home to the self-proclaimed world’s largest chicken barbecue. The Lancaster Sertoma Blessings of Hope World’s Largest Chicken BBQ, founded in 1952, served up 19,000 chicken halves this past May. The annual event donates 70-percent of the proceeds to the park — so you can not only enjoy some record-breaking chicken, but also help your community.

Information: May 16, 2020 | Long's Park, Harrisburg Pike, US-30 | Website


See a musical at a jail-turned-theater 

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Cast of Alice in Wonderland at the Fulton Opera House.

Originally home to Lancaster’s pre-Revolutionary jail, Fulton Opera House is now a regional theater, featuring shows such as “Once, the Musical,” “Sophisticated Ladies” and “42nd Street.” In 1763, at what is now the Fulton Opera House, a vigilante gang called the “Paxtang Boys” murdered the last Conestoga Indians who were being held in the jail. This traumatic event became the premise for one of the first plays ever written in America, “A Dialogue Between Andrew Trueman and Thomas Zealot About the Killing the Indians at Cannestogoe and Lancaster and The Paxton Boys, A Farce.”

Information: Tickets | 12 N Prince St., Lancaster | Website


Visit the largest watch and clock collection in North America

Engle Clock

Randall Cleaver does restoration work on the Engle Clock at the National Watch & Clock Museum in Columbia.

Located in Columbia, the National Watch & Clock Museum is the home of all things horology, which is the history, science and art of timekeeping and timekeepers. The museum is currently the largest and most comprehensive horological collection in North America, with over 12,000 items in the collection.  

Information: Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, 12 to 4 p.m. | 514 Poplar St., Columbia | Website


Learn how to twist a pretzel at the first commercial pretzel bakery in the US

Pretzel fest

The Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery on Lititz’s Main Street, marked by the big pretzel, is one of the stops where visitors can get a pretzel sample during Saturday's Lititz Pretzel Fest.

In 1861, Julius Sturgis opened the first commercial pretzel bakery in America. Over 150 years later, you can tour the bakery, learn how to twist a pretzel with a play dough mixture, watch bakers make the pretzels by hand and (of course) chow down on some historic pretzels. 

Information: Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. | 219 East Main St., Lititz | Website


Tour President James Buchanan's homestead

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President James Buchanan's Wheatland.

In 1848, James Buchanan bought 22 acres in Lancaster. Eight years later, he was elected as President of the United States. While he spent a majority of his presidential term in the White House, he relocated back to Wheatland, where he stayed until he passed in 1868. Get a taste of the presidential life and visit Wheatland! 

Information: Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. | 1120 Marietta Ave., Lancaster | Website


 Ride in a buggy in the largest Amish settlement in the world

HEY MOM, I'M BORED: All aboard a buggy / Abe’s Buggy Rides offers entertainment and education

 

It's OK to admit it: you've always wanted to take a ride in an Amish buggy. Well, here's your chance! According to Elizabethtown College's Young Center, Lancaster County has the largest Amish settlement in the world, with over 39,000 members. Lancaster has several places you can ride in an Amish horse and buggy: Abe's Buggy Rides, Aaron and Jessica's Amish Buggy Rides, Ed's Buggys, and AAA Buggy Rides.  


Eat at at a smorgasbord with 200 feet of Pennsylvania Dutch classic food

Shady Maple Smorgasbord

Shady Maple Smorgasbord breakfast buffet

If it's good enough for the Fonz, it's good enough for you! Shady Maple Smorgasbord is a must when visiting Lancaster County — with 200 feet of Pennsylvania Dutch classics, Shady Maple is a smorgasbord like no other.

Information: Monday to Saturday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. | 129 Toddy Drive, East Earl | Website


Scoot coupe your way through Lancaster

Strasburg Scooters

Scoot coupes in the Strasburg Scooter tours drive down one of the back roads in southern Lancaster County on Wednesday, July 10, 2019.

Only in Lancaster County can you ride scoot coupes under covered bridges. Strasburg Scooters offers not only scoot coupe tours, but also scooter tours. Take your pick and enjoy the beautiful Lancaster countryside at sunset. 

Information: Tickets | 249 N Decatur St., Strasburg | Website 


Admire the home and art of Charles Demuth

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The garden at the Demuth Museum.

Visit the home and studio of renowned American modernist painter Charles Demuth. The museum has over 40 of Demuth's works, as well as an extensive archive and library. You can also enjoy the Demuth gardens, featuring flowers that are included in the painter's works. 

Information: Tuesday to Thursday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. | 120 E King St., Lancaster | Website 


Get sweaty at the largest indoor sports complex in the US

On rainy day, active fun moves indoors

Justin Lichtenwalner, 12, swings for the fences at Spooky Nook Sports Saturday. (Andy Blackburn photos / Staff)

As the largest indoor sports complex in the United States, Spooky Nook Sports has a more than enough to keep you entertained. The expansive location hosts several facilities including: 10 basketball courts, four field hockey fields, 10 volleyball courts, six soccer fields, a 200-meter indoor track, a baseball infield, a fitness center, a climbing center, numerous meeting and party spaces, a food court and an arcade. Spooky Nook is also home to the USA women's field hockey team. 

Information: Monday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. | 75 Champ Blvd., Manheim | Website 


Get scared at the best extreme haunted attraction in the United States (according to USA Today readers)

Field of Screams

Heinous hillbillies on the Wasteland Trail at Field of Screams in 2016.

In 2015, Mountville's Field of Screams was voted best extreme haunted attraction by USA Today's 10Best Readers' Survey. In 2019, the attraction was nominated once again. With four different haunted experiences — the haunted hayride, two haunted houses and the wicked haunted woods — you're bound to leave Field of Screams terrified. 

Information: Opens Friday, Sept. 13, 2019 | 191 College Ave., Mountville | Website 


Visit America's oldest operating railroad

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Joel Mumma is a red cap at the Strasburg Railroad.

Take a ride into the past at the Strasburg Rail Road. Visitors can ride on the almost-two-centuries-old locomotives at the railroad, which dates to 1832. While visiting the attraction, you can enjoy a 45-minute round-trip ride through the Lancaster countryside. 

Information: Tickets | 301 Gap Road, Ronks | Website 


Buy a car at the world's biggest auto auction 

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The next bid for this 2015 Maserati Quattrop was $100,000 from this view behind the auctioneer at the Manheim Auto Auction Thursday afternoon.

At the Manheim Auto Auction, approximately 8 million cars are registered for auction every year, according to their website. They have a wide variety of cars, from Maseratis to Hondas, for purchase by dealers. 

Information: Monday to Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. | 1190 Lancaster Road, Manheim | Website 


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