Planning a Day Trip to Pennsylvania Dutch Country

Pennsylvania Dutch Country.

Photo: Clark Young

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Visiting Ducth Country PAPhiladelphia, PA - The rolling hills dotted with 19th-century farms and winding rural roads through Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, are a world apart from the rest of the state. Worth the trip, the peace and wonder of stepping back in time steal over you while exploring the Pennsylvania Dutch Country.

Vacation in Lancaster County Dutch Country

You will find more than quaint farms, horses, and buggies. Nineteenth-century covered bridges add charm to the country roads as you search for unique antiques and art. Lancaster County, on the border of the Mason-Dixon Line, played a role in the Underground Railroad.

Many of the farmers in the area are "Plain People," also known as old order Amish or Mennonite. They live the same way past generations have and do not use electricity, telephones, or modern equipment. The Amish are known for their dedication to family, farm, and community, second only to God. They are master craftsmen and artisans, and you will find the most delicious baked goods in Amish country.

Strasburg heads east out of town on Route 741, just southeast of Lancaster, then south on Route 896. After making a left on Route 372, you will find your way to the town of Christiana. On September 11, 1851, four Quaker men and 34 escaped slaves stood up to a southern landowner who came to retrieve the slaves. The plantation owner's men fled, and, in the end, he lost his life.

The Christiana Underground Railroad Center at the historic Zercher's Hotel documents this event and others that led up to the American Civil War. At the time of the resistance, the building was used as a hotel owned by Frederick Zercher. Currently, along with the museum, the building houses the offices of the Charles Bond Company, a manufacturing firm. It has also served as a railroad depot, post office, telegraph office, and jail.

There are several covered bridges in the area, but they can be a little tricky to find and require you to get off the main roads definitely. Following Route 372 east out town for about a mile, at an unmarked intersection, the highway turns right. Take the road less traveled and turn left. Bear right along with the road as it curves by the bridge. Mercer's Mill Covered Bridge was built in 1880.

After seeing the bridge, turn around and begin to retrace your steps back to Strasburg. There are several other covered bridges located within 10 miles. On Ashville Road, the Pine Grove Covered Bridge is the only double-span, double-arch bridge in the county, at 204 feet. It was initially built in 1816 and then rebuilt several times because of flooding. On Academy Road, the White Rock Covered Bridge is the second oldest covered bridge still open for use in the county.

At the Strasburg Railroad, take a 45-minute train ride to explore the countryside on the nation's oldest short-line railway built-in 1832. Near Strasburg, visit the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania just off of Route 741. Venturing back into town, the Strasburg Country Store and Creamery is a fine place to find some old-fashioned sweet treats. It will allow you to explore the other charming shops and local interests.

To indeed surround yourself in the rural culture, consider staying at a working farm bed and breakfast. There are dairy farms, horse farms, farms where you can relax and enjoy the country life, and others where you might join in and help. On the Ben-Mar Farm in Gap, Pennsylvania, you could stay in the family's 1776 homestead and join in the day-to-day operations of the working dairy farm.

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