South of Reading, US-222 runs along the western edge of the Amish- and Mennonite-influenced Pennsylvania Dutch Country. The heart of this region is due east of Lancaster, but the area north of Lancaster also holds a number of related sites often missed by visitors. The most appealing of these is the Ephrata Cloister (632 W. Main St., 717/733-6600, daily summer, $10 adults), just west of the town of Ephrata. Founded in 1732 by a communal society of religiously celibate German pietists, the Ephrata Cloister consists of nine log, stone, and fachwerk buildings dating from 1734 to 1837 and which housed dormitories, bakeries, and a printing shop where the commune produced some of the finest illustrated books of the colonial era. Across from the entrance, the Cloister Restaurant (607 W. Main St., 717/733-2361) serves good home-style food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in an overgrown 1950s diner.
If you happen, or can manage, to be in Ephrata on a Friday, there’s no more authentic Dutch Country experience than the once-a-week Green Dragon Farmers Market (955 N. State St., 717/738-1117), a chaotic complex of some 400 different fresh fruit and vegetable sellers, sausage and hot dog stands, pizza places, and bakery outlets, covering 30 acres in seven buildings, just over a mile north of town. Many people here are truly Amish, so obey the second commandment and resist the urge to take their photo.
West of Ephrata, eight miles north of Lancaster via Hwy-501, the delightful though tiny town of Lititz (pop. 9,369) is dominated by the huge Wilbur Chocolate Candy Store (45 N. Broad St.), which liberally perfumes the air with the smell of hot chocolate. Lititz, which is packed full of stone buildings and carefully tended gardens, also holds the nation’s oldest operating pretzel factory, the Julius Sturgis Pretzel House (219 E. Main St.), where you can twist your own. Lititz also holds a huge 4th of July party every year—well worth planning a trip around.