The Pittsburgh Post Gazette
HOLTWOOD — Drive the quiet country roads of Lancaster County, and chances are you’ll spot its most famous tourist attraction: the simple-dwelling Amish who arrived here in the early 1700s and make their way still without the modern conveniences of electricity or telephones.
We saw many on our way to the Pinnacle Overlook in this little hamlet on the Susquehanna River late on a Sunday afternoon.
Despite light but steady rain, we started our weekend getaway with a hike from the Rocky Lookout, which offers stunning views of the meandering river about 380 feet below. It’s especially spectacular in the fall, when the valley erupts in a riot of reds, oranges and golds, making it a delight for peepers.
As we crossed the Norman Wood Bridge and climbed the winding hills to the park parking lot, we passed buggy after Amish horse-drawn buggy ferrying worshipers home after worship services in a slow-moving convoy, complete with taillights turn signals through the mist. It was more of a welcome.
As our hike from the lookout through the woods along the Conestoga Trail would soon prove, Amish culture is far from the only thing to explore in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country.
There are miles of hiking and biking along railroads, wooded hiking trails, and public green spaces in and around the county.
Among the most beautiful is the Lancaster County Northwest Multi-Use Trail, which follows the route of the historic Pennsylvania Mainline Canal for 14 miles along the banks of the Susquehanna.
Pleasantly flat, with scenic views aided by porta potties and benches along the way, it is extremely user-friendly. Plus, well-marked access points lead to the charming river towns of Columbia and Marietta, so you’re never far from a pub or restaurant.
I also had a great time hiking the old streetcar line to Chickies Rocks, a colossal (and spooky) outcrop of quartzite that towers 200 feet above the river. While the final stages required the agility of a mountain goat – man, is it steep and rocky – the view rivals that of Pinnacle Overlook, making it the perfect spot for a fall foliage selfie .
Are you traveling with children who love animals? Eastland Alpacas in bucolic Mount Joy is worth a visit. Kevin and Sue Zurin started the 30-acre farm 20 years ago with two alpacas and now has nearly 100 long-necked woolly mammals, plus a llama.
Visitors are allowed to pet, feed and snuggle with the friendly animals, and there’s a store selling yarn, rugs, socks and other fiber products made from the 300 pounds of fleece the farm has to offer. harvest every July. (Fun fact: It only takes Zurin 3.5 minutes to tame an alpaca.) Tours are offered on Saturdays, and there’s also an annual open house with wagon rides, demonstrations, and a food stand. the first two weekends of November.
Or maybe you’re looking to follow a morning of fall colors with a cultural afternoon.
Given its rich and varied history dating back to the early 1700s, it’s no surprise that the county is home to more than a dozen museums.
You can explore President James Buchanan’s Wheatland home, board a caboose at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, or take a walking tour of the historic Ephrata Cloister, a monastic settlement dating back to 1732.
Lancaster also has the most (29) 19th-century covered bridges in the state, which can be explored by car or, if you’re more adventurous, by scooter.
Strasburg Rail Road in Ronks offers a moving story, with rides through the scenic countryside in its steam locomotives and restored carriages.
No vacation is complete without a bit of shopping, and yes, Lancaster has all of those outlets. But it’s also a great base for a lazy afternoon of shopping for quilts and local crafts at Lititz, Bird-in-Hand, and Intercourse, or picking among pumpkins at a roadside market.
For antiques, the Antiques Capital of the United States is 8 miles north of Ephrata.
Adamstown is nationally known for its more than 5,000 antique dealers who set up shop in dozens of antique stores, galleries, malls and flea markets along Route 272.
Some of the larger markets, including Renniger’s Antique Market in Denver, offer one-stop shopping with hundreds of merchants under one roof.
You’ll want to spend a morning at Lancaster Central Market (open 6am-3pm every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday).
Opened in 1730, it’s the nation’s oldest public farmers’ market, with 60 local vendors offering everything from Amish baked goods to locally sourced meats, poultry and cheeses.
Another local favorite is Hammond Pretzel Bakery.
The family business has been making hard pretzels since 1931, and visitors can see them twisting by hand and rolling on the conveyor belt. You can buy them by the bag, right out of the oven, in plain or seasonal flavors.
Speaking of great things to eat, downtown LUCA’s farmer’s menu, which includes Neapolitan-inspired pizzas and handmade pastas, is definitely worth booking (our seat at the bar was delicious).
Bube’s Brewery in Mount Joy is an entertaining place to drink a pint while enjoying a portable sammie.
Founded by German immigrant Alois Bube in the 1870s, it’s the oldest intact pre-Prohibition microbrewery in the United States, according to manager Jeffrey Woodman.
Its stone-lined basement still holds eight original 4,000-gallon barrels, and free tours also include a look at the original cooper’s shed.
What really makes for a unique dining experience are the large vaults dug 43 feet below the brewery to store Bube’s German-style lagers.
They are now part of “The Catacombs”, an underground restaurant featuring fine dining by Chef Tylor Fleenor and special events such as “Dracula’s Feast” during Halloween.
Yes, it’s a bit creepy, but it’s also incredibly cool and romantic.
It’s also a perfect place to see one of the ghosts discovered by paranormal investigators from SyFy’s “Ghost Hunters” show.
Not a believer? The brewery offers official ghost tours every Friday and Saturday at 10 p.m. ($10) to convince you otherwise.