I have always wanted to visit Amish Country, but never had the chance as my trips to New York or Philly were already filled up. But Lancaster County is an easy hour and half drive from Philadelphia, so now I can’t wait to go.
This post is written by one of my awesome freelancers who lived in New York for years and explored the nooks and crannies of the city and surrounding states.
When you arrive into Amish Country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, it’ll feel like you’ve entered an historical movie set.
If you’re visiting Amish Country from a big city like nearby Philadelphia or New York City, you’ll feel like you stepped into a time machine and gone back a few hundred years to visit a completely foreign culture.
But this is why I so want to visit. This is the charm of these unique historical and cultural areas in rural Pennsylvania. You’ll find serene farmlands, a culture steeped in history and faith, and some of the best produce markets in the northern United States.
How to plan the Ultimate Day Trip to Amish Country, Pennsylvania
How far is Lancaster PA from NYC? It’s about 168 miles and will take around 2 hours, 45 minutes if you drive. More info on how to get there below.
Here is a quick guide to everything you need to know to plan the perfect day trip to Amish Country, PA!
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Getting to Amish Country in Lancaster Pennsylvania
Unless you book a tour, like this one from New York City, you will need to drive to get around Lancaster County where Amish Country is.
The Amtrak Train or Ourbus bus (very limited schedules) will take you to Lancaster City but to get to many of the more authentic Amish experiences in the smaller towns in the eastern part of the county, you will need to use the backroads where there is no public transportation.
And since the Amish people are prohibited from using cars (we will get to this and other cultural practices that will seem alien to you later!) getting a cab to take you around will be difficult unless you don’t mind waiting for an Uber each time you need to move. We recommend driving there or renting a car after taking public transportation into Lancaster.
Check out this guided tour from Philadelphia to Lancaster
Tips on planning your Amish itinerary
Give yourself plenty of time to get to different sites
Lancaster County, where the Amish people have their villages and farms, is three times bigger than New York City while being a million times slower. The vast farmlands and slower pace will leave you feeling like you’ve escaped the worries of life.
But with this stress-free pace comes the possibility for random things to slow down your day. For instance, you will likely get stuck behind horse carriages carrying Amish families if you go into the backroads (that thing about prohibiting cars again!). If that happens, you will have no choice but to enjoy the view while slowly making your way to your next activity.
Have a plan
You won’t be able to do things on a whim if you go into the more rural parts of the towns. For example, if you don’t book a tour, you’ll need to plan your day so that by the time you’re ready for lunch you’re either in the center of a town or close to one of the fantastic smorgasbord restaurants as you won’t find restaurants on every corner like you would in Philadelphia or NYC.
Wear appropriate shoes
Make sure to wear shoes made for walking and getting dirty. You’ll see why this is absolutely necessary in the next section where we suggest things to do on your Amish Country day trip!
The best things to do on an Amish Country day trip
Most people take a day trip to Amish Country to see the unique way of life of a people who’ve wholeheartedly held onto the same historical and religious practices they had centuries ago.
The Amish way of life is centered on the things God has provided in nature as they believe modern development and materialism leads away from the spiritual way of life most important to them.
Start your day trip in nature and take a farm tour while you are rested and have the energy to walk a lot. Dairy farms are most popular in the area so expect to get the chance to milk cows, collect organic eggs, and observe the sustainable ways the Amish power their farms (electricity is too far removed from nature to be used as a power source!)
While you’re there you may be tempted to snap photos of the Amish in action. Stop! Don’t do it!
Taking photos isn’t appreciated by the Amish. They are forbidden from having their faces on any image as graven images tempted people away from God in biblical times. The photos you see in the post do not show faces.
● Shop for Amish Crafts and Antiques
After your tour, experience authentic Amish culture at an Amish crafts shop. Since Amish people shun traditional mediums of entertainment, they use crafting as a way to connect socially.
‘Quilting bees’ where groups of Amish women gather while quilting have given birth to some of the nation’s best quilting shops where you can get a famous Amish quilt and wear crafters from all over the US send their own blankets to be finished by hand by these talented needle workers.
Furniture shops are also open to the public if you want to see how the Amish make their popular mission and shaker furniture.
● Take a Horse and Buggy Ride through the Countryside
After crafting, see how the Amish really live by taking a buggy tour past the homes on the backroads. Cars are prohibited in Amish culture as they are considered materialistic and a distraction from community. If you are to get a tour from an authentic Amish person while on your day trip, it’s going to be by horse buggy.
Expect to see streams gurgling by the roadsides if you visit in spring or summer (these are the best times to visit Amish Country). In some spots, for as far as your eyes can see, there’ll only be rolling, green fields. Also look out for Amish families playing games in their yards as they do not use modern gadgets like televisions or video games for entertainment.
● Visit an Amish Market or a Smorgasbord
When it’s lunch time, leave the rural backroads and head into the center of the town where your morning activity is closest to, to experience some of the best small town Americana foods.
The Amish have retained traditional American foods like fried chicken, biscuits, apple pies, and have huge buffet dinners (see a list of Smorgasbords here) that you’ll want to try. The markets are also excellent for an authentic Amish lunch.
For the afternoon of your Amish Country day trip you may want to explore one of the quaint towns on your own or take an organized tour of one of the following villages as the day darkens. See Discover Lancaster for info on tours.
Paradise is perfect for quaint bakeries, quilt shops, and historic covered bridges.
Bird In Hand is the quaint name of our favorite town to explore on an Amish Country day trip because of the cultural experiences around the village. The countryside is idyllic, there’s authentic Amish theater, and a one room Amish schoolhouse!
Strasburg is all about railroad history so the town is a good bet for history buffs. It also has unique shops, corn mazes and an old fashioned creamery.
● Farm & House Tour
Take a tour through an authentic Amish Farm and House. Founded in 1955 in an Amish family home, this “museum” will provide a great educational for life in the Amish community.
A day trip to the small towns of Amish Country is just what you need if you want to experience life in a new way or need a peaceful retreat from everyday life.
If you’re visiting in February through April, you should go to one of the famous Amish Mud Sales. These huge auctions, named for the winter thaw, seem chaotic with several going on at once, but up to 20,000 people come to buy handmade quilts, furniture, antiques and produce. Plus horse and buggies if you need one!
All proceeds benefit the local fire companies. Check out this calendar for upcoming Mud Sales.
Because one post is never enough!
You might like to read my day in Philadelphia post here, covering a dollop of history, some European culture, places to eat and a freaky medical museum!
Or this fabulous shopping day in New York covering the best shops on Fifth Avenue, plus tips for where to stop and eat along the way.