Summer / Fall Family Trip: Lancaster, PA

Family fun with adventure farms and Amish dinners

By: Reyna Gobel

Family fun changes when your offspring are college students. However, some places combine bringing back all the fun of childhood with adultish bonding. And who better to tell you about such an experience than a writer who worked for a human foosball company in college? So now, let’s jump in a giant pit of corn kernels. Seriously.

Cherry Crest Adventure Farm

Yep. An adventure farm. Slide down a  giant slide in burlap sacks. Jump in a pit of corn kernels. It’s way more comfy than you think it would be. It’s basically like sitting in a cloud of uncooked popcorn. Bounce on a bouncy house floor just for adults and blast apples from cannons. You’ll also see pigs race on land and by sea through a mini pool. When you’re tired, jump on a wagon for a tour of the working farm or challenge yourself to put together a puzzle in the #1 corn maze in America. It’s relatively cheap compared to theme parks. Burgers are under $10. The sweet corn they are known for is $3 per ear. Tickets are $17.95. It’s about $4 to $5 for a few special attractions like the Apple Blaster. And if you happen to live close enough to go regularly, you can purchase season passes for $40 each.

Hershey Farm Restaurant & Inn

Despite the name, it’s nowhere near Hershey, Pennsylvania. You’ll have to drive 40 minutes for the chocolate factory tour. The motel / hotel hybrid is a 10-minute drive from the adventure farm and surrounded by Amish attractions and culture. The farm setting has goats, alpacas, bunnies, etc. to feed. Feed costs $1 per bag. Over the course of a few days, it’s easy to go through a dozen bags. You get to eat, too. There’s a free elaborate breakfast buffet with dessert for breakfast.

Expect chummy neighbors as the farmhouse has a courtyard and the pool is family friendly. There’s free coffee and tea in the lobby with a lodge-like feel and a Wii playstation.  Homemade ice cream and smoothies are available from the front desk 24 /7 for $6.

Amish Attractions

You can get a feel for Amish culture with prices ranging from $5 for a bottle of jam to $60 for the Amish Experience in person tour. Amish families that sell to the public are very friendly. Thus, they may even show you their home when you buy a bottle of jam from a farm by the side of the road. You can also swing by a range of Amish businesses. The Amish Village is a living display of Amish life set up for the public for about 10 bucks each. For $60 per person, the Amish Experience will take you on a three-hour tour to ask businesses, farmers, and families what their life is like. It’s very organized. It takes the work out of the hunt for information if you don’t feel like exploring on your own as much.

Amish Food

In downtown Lancaster you can find James Beard farm-to-table restaurants. In Ronks, where the hotel and other attractions are located, it’s Amish food or chain restaurants. And going to chain establishments in Amish country is like going to Rome or NYC and scouring the city for Dominos pizza.

For Amish food, we liked Hometown Kitchen. Amish food is meant to feed a farmer for the whole day. We don’t need farm level calories. Thus, be prepared to split entrees.  A $12 to $13 meatloaf plate will easily feed two people for dinner. But the lattes are the big surprise. Amish milk is practically a delicacy, and it shows in the rich flavor that highlights the espresso. The murals on the wall showcase Amish life with push scooters instead of bicycles and the oldest pretzel shop in the country.

Other Stuff

You can find anything from canoeing to caves to explore within an hour’s drive. Sugarplums and Tea is a nice relaxing place surrounded by trees if you’re into enjoying an afternoon tea service with scones and such. And they let you pick and choose what you order. The base 3-tier tower is $35 and you can add people for just a few dollars, which basically just covers their tea. Then order additional tiers of what you want. it’s a way to get a tea service in a beautiful setting for a fraction of what it costs in a major city.