Summer’s coming. We live in an area where people come with overstuffed cars prepared to wait in long lines. Lines that don’t exist for the rest of the year. We like the beach but avoid the tourists. That’s why we head out of town on nice weekends. Last weekend we ended up in Lancaster PA.
Lancaster, known for it’s Amish residents, who spurn material things and it’s outlet stores that sell materials. Go figure. It also sports beautiful backroads and hundreds of picturesque farms. None of these things are of any interest to three year olds.
Kids like trains, incredible gluttonous meals and kid friendly resorts. This area has this in spades. It also has a bunch of chocolate factories. More on that later.
We hit up the Rail Road Museum on day one. If your child is a train lover and you live in the Northeast, add this to their bucket list right now. It includes an incredible collection of full-sized trains, model and lego versions in the museum. Almost everything is hands on. Make sure you get there early to allow enough time. I was particularly in love with their gigantic train warehouse.
Across the street at the Strasburg Rail Road they have a real working steam engine built in 1914. You can take a 45 minute ride into the Pennsylvania countryside. The conductor will give you some info on the train, this history of the area and the even some insight on the Amish lifestyle. It’s a bit of history worth the price of the ticket. You can bundle the ride and museum together and save a couple dollars.
Certain times of the year they have a Thomas the Train that kids can see and ride. You could be classified as crazy if you go on the weekend when Thomas is there. Take a day off and go on a Tuesday if you have a extreme Thomas fan in your home.
We ended up spending most of the day at the museum. That night we went to Good ‘n Plenty, a down home dining restaurant between Strasburg and Lancaster. It is an AAA top ten down home dining restaurant and worth the experience. You can choose regular menu ordering or family style. We opted for family style or as I like to think of it – the Michael Phelps 10,000 calorie option.
We had twelve at our party and we sat down to a loaf of white and wheat bread. The topping options were turkey salad, butter, apple butter and something called chow chow. I tried a bit of everything and was already pretty full.
Then came dinner. That evening it meant a table full of fried chicken, ham and meatloaf. It’s been about a decade since I had fried chicken and ham. I enjoyed the chicken especially as the skin was not greasy in the least and was simply prepared. The ham was okay and the meat loaf was good. There was gravy, veggies and some other items I can’t remember due to a caloric coma.
Desert was like the movie Boogie Nights, but instead of sex and drugs it was pies and cakes. There were cheesecake with and without cherries. Cracker pudding, likely invented during the great rice shortage of 1962. It was much better than my taste buds expected. Shoofly pie which is some sort of fruitless pie with sugar in different forms. Apple pie, which is pretty explanatory and ice cream.
Need a cheat meal? Go to Good ‘N Plenty.
We stayed at the Eden Resort at Best Western. The hotel has huge rooms available and is dog friendly. We left the Milo at Victory Farm and stayed in their smallest room but still managed a great time. Sunday, the kids played at the resort’s Pirate playground. They have basketball, bocce, outdoor pool tables and shuffle board for older kids. In the next week or so they’ll be opening their outdoor pool as well.
The weather was killer so we headed to Litiz, PA for lunch at Appalachian Brewing Co. I love to hit up craft brew joints on the road with or without kids in tow. They almost always have the best food and are kid friendly. They make their own birch beer, root beer and diet root bear so you don’t even to drink. Just buy a growler of beer to drink back at the hotel like we did.
Appalachian gives the kids some cheese, crackers and orange slices to hold them over till the food comes. That’s a big plus. Excellent food. I had the Jalapeno Blue Cheese Burger and the Honey Wheat Ale.
We walked around the quint little town of Lititz and spent a few hours at their beautiful park. The park abuts a chocolate factory all though we skipped that tour. Lititz has coffee shops, lots of restaurants, ice cream shops and boutiques. That killed another day.
The hotel restaurant, Garfield’s, is pretty decent. It’s clear they’re used to kids. We had people coming and going, the kids were on sugar high’s and they put up with us. Looking for a healthy meal, get the Monterey Chicken. Chicken breast with broccoli and baked potato. I made the “mistake” of ordering the strawberry shortcake. Best value on the menu. For 4.50 you get a desert served in a bowl the size of a basketball.
Huge downside to the hotel. The fitness center was lacking. I did get to travel through the German mountainside on their elliptical machine, but no free weights. A bench and free weights(go up to 70lbs) would be a huge plus. Next time we’ll have to find a local gym to work off the ridiculous meals I ate.
The next day, we took a dip in the pool before heading out to Hershey. The park was closed, but the tours go all year and are free. A lot has changed since the last time we where there to milk out a few bucks. They have a lot of other add on’s such as a 4D movie and a chocolate tasting experience. We skipped those.
I have to say, in the last decade or so Hershey’s quality has suffered. The chocolate contains too much artificial crap to be actual food. I’m glad the kids got to take the tour as that’s fun, but I had wish we took the tour of Wilbur’s Chocolate in Lititz while we where there.
In the town of Hershey’s we ate at The Chocolate Avenue Grill. We sat outside with the roller coasters in full view. Super creative menu with a coconut breaded chicken salad. As well as a steak salad that replaces croutons with French fries. That is an upgrade.
Great weekend. Though, I wouldn’t drive more than four hours to visit Lancaster, unless you have a train or Amish fanatic in your house.