Lancaster, with 55,550 residents, is the center of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, a rich farming and popular tourist region settled by conservative Amish and Mennonite Germans, and other religious groups in the early 1700s.
Today, the horses and buggies that many of the “Plain People” use instead of automobiles, as well as their simple attire and picturesque farms, are reminders of a simpler time and lifestyle. The area’s family-style Pennsylvania Dutch restaurants are famous for serving up platters of meat, home-baked breads, potatoes, fresh vegetables and other farm-country foods.
Lancaster served as the capital of the fledgling United States for a day during the Revolutionary War. Congress fled Philadelphia as British troops approached, stopping in Lancaster on September 27, 1777, on its way to York. From the 1760s through the early 1800s, Lancaster was the largest inland town in the American colonies and the country.
A block west of the city’s hub, Penn Square, one of the country’s oldest enclosed markets, is the Fulton Opera House, built in 1852 and named for the inventor Robert Fulton. The central market, located off Penn Square, dates back to the mid-1700s. Each Tuesday and Friday it comes alive with farmers, bakers, and butchers selling their products. Trinity Lutheran Church, also off Penn Square, is Lancaster’s oldest congregation, dating back to 1729.
The Amish Farm and House, a working farm 5 miles east of Lancaster, has exhibits depicting the Amish way of life.
The Landis Valley Museum, just north of Lancaster, has a “living history complex” interpreting rural Pennsylvania-German life from 1750 to 1940. Its historic buildings include farmsteads, a tavern and a country store. The Historic Rock Ford Plantation, in Lancaster County Park, is the preserved eighteenth-century plantation of Edward Hand, adjutant general during the Revolutionary War.
Wheatland is the 1828 Federal-style mansion of James Buchanan, the only Pennsylvanian to become president of the United States (1857-61). Costumed guides conduct 1-hour tours, including tours by candlelight during the first two weeks of December.
Lancaster is located in southeastern Pennsylvania between Philadelphia and Harrisburg via US-222 and US-30. Rail and bus service is available.