Amish Country for the Weekend

While in the Pennsylvania vicinity, I thought my partner-in-adventure and I would spend a nice romantic weekend together in Amish Country. I envisioned buggy riding, eating delectable Amish-cooked food, and a stay in a quaint B&B. Some of you may have caught the error in my planning already. The weekend, while fun, did not turn out exactly as I had imagined.

We left Washington D.C. Friday morning, hit Lancaster in time for a late lunch, and arrived at our B&B around 3pm. When we explained to our hosts that we had come to explore Amish country for the weekend they looked at us gravely. “You better hurry up then. You’ve got about 2 more hours until they shut down for the weekend. They are a religious community, you know.” Doh! I should have thought of that! Nothing in Amish Country is open on the weekends!

We spent the next two hours taking in as much of Lancaster’s Amish country as we could and as fast as we could. As we drove through Bird-in-Hand and on to Intercourse (I couldn’t make up better names if I tried!) we passed horses pulling carriages in the bike lane. Several of these carriages carried men and women dressed in Amish garb, obviously heading home for the weekend. Some towing their hay behind them.

Amish Carriage towing Hay
Amish Carriage towing Hay

We noticed, with some consternation, other carriages with bold signs declaring “CARRIAGE RIDES” which held about 10 people each. Not exactly the romantic carriage ride I had imagined, just a tourism gig. At least we didn’t feel like we were missing much by skipping a ride.

At Intercourse we hopped out of the car to explore the shops with names like “Old Country Shop”. We ran in and out of shops as the keepers tried to shut down for the weekend. The furniture and quilts the Amish are famous for were quite astounding, and equally as pricey. Surprisingly, however, the authentic items were few and far between. Most of what we saw and quickly rejected were cheap Chinese made replicas.  So having found that much of Amish Country has sold out to the tourism business, we went in search of an authentic Amish dinner. This also did not end up exactly as I had envisioned. (More on that in another post.)

So what’s there to do near Amish Country during the weekend?

It turns out that the road along which Bird-in-Hand and Intercourse lay, runs almost parallel with another road. This second road has a strip of American fast-food restaurants and a few mini golf places. So should you find yourself in Amish Country for the weekend, all is not lost.

Amish Country Mini Golf
Amish Country Mini Golf

You can also spend a very entertaining half day exploring Barnyard Kingdom and its summer corn maze, which thanks to our B&B hosts, we did and quite enjoyed ourselves. (Read about our stay at the Manorview Inn and Country Barn here.)

Country Barn, PA
Country Barn, PA

Also, it’s not a far drive to Hershey, Pennsylvania. So guess where we and masses of other apparently non-church going Americans spent our Sunday? We made our way to Hershey, where we first visited the Tröegs Brewery, Hershey Brewery

and then joined crowds thronging to Hershey’s Chocolate World. This is a silly little fake factory tour, but entertaining. You ride through the tour in amusement park like roller coaster cars while watching singing and dancing animatronic cows. You then ride by replicas of Hershey factory machinery in motion. Once released from the ride you’re handed a small Hershey chocolate to take with you on your way.

Hershey Chocolate World
Hershey’s Chocolate World
Inside Hershey's Chocolate World Tour
Inside Hershey’s Chocolate World Tour

After the tour we decided to skip the rest of the park because it was simply so crowded on this particular Sunday. It wasn’t until we returned to our B&B later that night and turned on the TV that we discovered Hershey park isn’t usually THAT crowded. We happened to be there at the same time Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z were in concert! That explains the strange sounds coming from the stadium all afternoon. If only we’d known…

So instead of a very Amish weekend we had a very Americanized tourist weekend. And I’m ok with that. Any day with chocolate and mini-golf is a good one in my book!

Have you been to Amish Country? Do you have recommendations for other places to see in the area? Have you had to spontaneously rethink your vacation plans upon arrival? Tell me about it in the comments below!

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