My children were fascinated with Amish country. What do you mean no TV?! Not even DS?! Confusion abounded that such a world existed today and not in the time before dinosaurs (when their mother was a little girl).
With the children’s curiosity piqued, our family really enjoyed the sights of Lancaster county. We drove through towns with colourful names like Intercourse, Bird-in-Hand, Ronks and Paradise.
While we were waiting for a buggy ride with Aaron and Jessica’s Buggy Rides, the children spotted an old-fashioned candy store (conveniently located near the waiting area).
The Lollipop Shoppe is a large purple house which allows you to pick and mix candy bought by weight.
The driver was friendly and knowledgeable and took us on a little tour of the nearby farmland. We saw a one-room schoolhouse which is still in use. There is one teacher who teaches all the children together. Amish education focuses on the traditional subjects of reading, writing and arithmetic because most of the children will remain on Amish lands and become farmers or farmers’ wives. We also passed a mechanic shop for buggies which captured the children’s attention. Old horseshoes are painted and handed out to tourists as souvenirs. Of course, we bought one!!
At the farm, the horses and cows were inside the barn cooling off because, as usual on a scorching hot July day, the temperature hovered around 38 celsius. We were told the animals are allowed outside to roam only in the evenings. We were also shown the barn’s cooling system which uses hydraulic power to operate large fans.
While we were visiting the farm, the milk truck came to take out all the milk which the cows had produced.
Peppered amongst the fields which seemed to stretch for miles were the farmhouses and silos.
The Bird-in-Hand Family Restaurant and Smorgasbord was recommended for lunch. Its owned by the Smucker family who have had their homestead across the street since 1911. Great Grandpa Smucker operated a coach stop for the early Conestoga Wagon travellers heading west. Can you imagine loading up all your belongings in one of these wagons and heading off with your family into (probably hostile) parts unknown? Those early pioneers had tremendous amounts of courage.
Many of the travellers couldn’t read but they recognised the tavern sign of a hand holding a bird. After travelling for miles of hostile territory, the sign must have been more than welcome.
The food at the restaurant was generally pretty good. My kids had hot dogs (of course). We tried out some of the Amish food which involved meatloaf, pork meatballs and delicious apple sauce. The recipes are supposed to have been handed down in the Smucker family.
Our search for a covered bridge proved futile. The one we wanted to see had been blown down in a storm and was being reconstructed. I suggest going to the Visitors Center before you get lost and waste half the day (Ahem).
The Bird-in-Hand Farmers Market is open Wednesday through Saturday for traditional Amish giftware such as quilts and food. Kitchen Kettle Village is a much larger shopping complex with similar items. I found their woodwork beautiful and bought a couple of hand-crafted items.
After all that educational sight-seeing, our children deserved some down time. The Dutch Country Wonderland was a terrific playground for them. Although expensive (but not more so than other theme parks), the park was not as crowded as other parks. The waiting times were reasonable for young children and the area small enough to keep an eye on them. Many of the rides are geared for the younger child and I think tweens and older would find it a bit tame. The park has many different parts – usual theme park rides, a water park and a mini-golf area.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdO4M7Oj240&w=560&h=315] We had a great time in Lancaster county! There’s plenty to keep the children amused – we only had a couple of days but you could easily spend a few days here.