Lancaster, Pennsylvania has a ton of places for people to see, both tourists and natives.
The whole county is home to the Amish, of course, but it also contains Lancaster City, Lititz, and a whole slew of villages that most visitors never get to see.
So what are the best places to visit when you’re in Lancaster, PA?
Here’s 15 — just to get you started!
#1. Central Market
Central Market is located in Penn Square in Lancaster City.
Central Market is famous for its age and history like a lot of other places in the county.
Unlike other places in the county, Central Market was commissioned by King George II on May 1, 1742.
So 34 years before the United States became an independent country, there was a market in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
And that same market still runs today.
Isn’t that freaking nuts?
While the market is best known for its Amish vendors, the truth is that they only make up a small percentage of the market’s sales.
Central Market also houses vendors selling German, Greek, Slavic, Ethiopian, Middle Eastern, and Slavic cuisine, among others.
As a result, Central Market is a surprising look into the diversity that Lancaster County has, but no one ever sees when they visit.
Strangely enough, this tiny south-Pennsylvania city is quite diverse ethnically, religiously, and politically. It makes for a flavorful and fun experience when you get to mix all of those ideas into one location like Central Market.
Plus, once you’re in Central Market, you’re in the heart of Downtown Lancaster.
Pick up a coffee and take a walk because it’s gonna be a good day!
#2. Strasburg Railroad
The Strasburg Railroad (chartered 1832) is the oldest continually-operated rail line in the Western Hemisphere.
So, yeah, Lancaster’s kind of proud of it.
The steam engines are definitely the main attraction here, but there are also train museums and a small town complete with hand-made Lancaster trinkets and furniture that work perfectly as souvenirs.
It’s not quite as exciting as visiting Lancaster City, but it’s a solid choice for any family that wants to do something fun with the kids.
Intercourse (ha, we know) is a tourist trap town that’s complete with some of the most well-known businesses in Lancaster County.
Kitchen Kettle Village, Amish Tours, walking tours, and Rumspringa craft brewery all make their homes in Intercourse.
It’s a small town, but there’s such a variety of businesses that you’re sure to see something you haven’t before — even if you’ve been to Lancaster already.
It’s not necessarily “authentic” as far as Lancaster living goes. But if you’re mainly going to Lancaster to experience the Amish, Mennonites, and poor urban planning, then Intercourse has you covered pretty well.
#4. Bird in Hand
Bird in Hand is a tiny village with all of the quaint charm you could want from local Mennonites.
In Bird in Hand, you’ll find some Mennonite cooking and a whole lot of different craft vendors that sell authentic Lancaster goods.
Quilts, baskets, hexes, coverings, and a whole bunch of other memorabilia are all available in a town smaller than most city blocks.
There’s an inn, a mini golf course, and a whole lot of Amish farms bordering the outskirts.
If you want to see authentic Lancaster County without falling into a ton of tourist traps, Bird in Hand is a decent place to make your home away from home.
#5. Tanger & Rockvale Outlets
Tanger Outlets and Rockvale Outlets are competing strip malls that house some of the country’s most popular brands selling products at discount prices.
As a result, the outlets (as they’re collectively known) field thousands of tourists and locals every summer.
They’re conveniently located on Lincoln Highway (Rt. 30), which you’ll probably drive on at some point during your time in Lancaster.
Rt. 30 cuts straight through the heart of the county and leads directly into York. You’ll pass through or near Intercourse, Lancaster City, Salunga, and a whole lot more just from one road.
SkyZone of 1701 Hempstead Rd. is located in the village of Greenfield, just outside Lancaster City.
It’s a place where the floors and walls are literally made of trampolines.
I feel like that kind of covers why you should go there.
#7. Fulton Theatre
Fulton Theatre is a Lancaster historical landmark. In fact, it’s one of only eight theaters in the entire United States that’s recognized as a national historic landmark.
It served as an armory and hospital during the Civil War. It was the site of a massacre of the Conestoga tribe. In fact, its impressive history stretches back all the way to 1852, when its first concert was a benefit for a nearby settlement of Scandinavians.
Now, the Fulton has been home to hundreds of theater stars including local theatre wünderkind Jonathan Groff.
So catch a show, if you can. And if you can’t, just enjoy the building, the history, and the statue of founder Robert Fulton, famous for the commercialization of the steamboat and presumably interested in theatre somehow.
Wheatland is the home of James Buchanan, 15th President of the United States.
While he’s notorious for basically allowing the United States to crumble into civil war, he’s still a president — so his home just outside Lancaster City is well-maintained.
If you’re the kind of person who gets angry about 200-year-old mistakes someone made, this probably isn’t the place for you.
But if you’re a presidential historian, Wheatland is a must-see.
#9. Franklin & Marshall College
Franklin & Marshall College is a four-year post-secondary institution of higher education based in Lancaster City.
The entire campus is about two city blocks, but it has a ton of history packed into it.
Also, the college was technically founded in 1787 with a grant from Benjamin Franklin himself. The first classes started July 16, 1787 that included Richea Gratz, the first Jewish woman to attend an American college.
You’ll find statues of Franklin and Honorable John Marshall, a Supreme Court Justice from the 1800s, around the campus. That’s because Franklin’s college and Marshall College joined in 1853 where future president James Buchanan sat on the board of trustees.
With so much history packed into a few city blocks, F&M is a must-see for any American history buff.
Plus, there’s a museum on campus, which is fascinating in its own rights.
#10. Bull’s Head Pub
The Bull’s Head Pub is located at 14 E. Main St., Lititz. It’s one of the best places to eat in thew “coolest small town in America,” which just so happens to also be a British pub.
Bull’s Head doesn’t brew anything or distill liquors, but they have some incredible food and an outstanding selection of beers.
It’s a great place to grab a table and feel the sense of community grow around you.
That’s partly because Bull’s Head is all of, like, 1,000 sq. ft. on the interior.
It’s rare to get a full table to yourself, and it’s even rarer to have seats for everyone with you, but it’s well worth a night out!
#11. Thaddeus Stevens
Thaddeus Stevens is a local technical college that’s renowned throughout the country as one of the best institutions of higher education that isn’t a four-year university.
While it’s technically a community college, Thaddeus Stevens has a stellar reputation for teaching students everything from career and technical education to STEM subjects.
The institution itself is named for Senator Thaddeus Stevens, a US senator from Lancaster who was an abolitionist in addition to being a pretty great guy all around.
The college, by extension, is pretty amazing too. Go take a tour and check it out to learn you some Lancaster history!
#12. Thistle Finch
Thistle Finch is Lancaster’s local whiskey and vodka distillery.
Located at 417 W. Grant Street, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere as you try to find Thistle Finch.
Unless you know where to look, it’s a challenge to pick out from a driver’s seat.
Still, once you find it, you can check out the premier source of Lancaster’s local liquors.
Plus, you can check out Wacker, another brewing company that has a rich history in Lancaster.
#13. St. Boniface
St. Boniface is a local microbrewery based out of Ephrata on Main Street (Route 322) in business since 2010.
They brew a range of tasty and innovative beers. IPAs, normal ales, stouts — they’re all made and served right in Ephrata.
As a result, St. Boniface is one of the hottest spots in Ephrata. It’s also an underappreciated tourist destination for Lancaster visitors.
Carve out an evening for yourself, your spouse, or your family. St. Boniface is awesome (and they have good food too).
#14. Gallery Row
Gallery Row is the name of the various art galleries lining Prince Street in Lancaster City.
Gallery Row includes Red Raven, CityFolk, and Artisans.
Half a block to the east on Water Street, you’ll also find the Lancaster Marionette Theatre, Friendship Heart Gallery, and Zoetropolis.
Altogether, it’s a varied (and kind of bizarre) collection of local businesses that focus on art, eccentricity, and keeping Lancaster weird.
#15. Oregon Dairy
Oregon Dairy is a family-owned grocery store / restaurant combo run by the Hurst family of Lancaster, PA.
Even with big-chain grocery stores like Giant, Whole Foods, and Wegman’s moving into Lancaster, Oregon Dairy has retained a loyal base of repeat customers and earns a fresh stream of new tourists every summer.
Full disclosure: I actually used to work at Oregon Dairy. It gets crazy in the summer, and the reason is that OD (as we used to call it) has it all.
The grocery store is just one part. There’s also a restaurant with down-home Lancaster Mennonite style cooking.
Then, there’s an ice cream shop with fresh-made ice cream using milk from the farm just down the lane.
Last, there’s a kid-friendly playground and petting zoo, complete with an albino deer.
It’s a great place to take the family if you’re looking for something to do in Lancaster.
More importantly, going there means you’ll support a native Lancaster business and those who’ve run it for decades.
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