The Pennsylvania Dutch Country
East of Lancaster, toward Philadelphia, the old Lincoln Highway (US-30) runs through the heart of what has become internationally famous as the Pennsylvania Dutch Country. This is a very pretty, almost completely rural region, unremarkable apart from the presence here of various Old Order Anabaptist Christian sects, including Amish and Mennonite groups, who eschew most of the trappings and technological advances of the 21st century, including cars, electricity, and irrigation, and retain their simple ways. Long before the Peter Weir movie Witness gave Amish low-tech lifestyle the Hollywood treatment, visitors have been coming here to see these anachronistic descendants of German immigrants (Deutsche = Dutch) who settled here in the early 1700s, and to whom all outsiders are known simply as “English.”
The best way to get a feel for the Amish and Mennonite ways of life is to follow back roads, by bike if possible, through the gently rolling countryside of Lancaster County, keeping an eye out for their horse-drawn buggies (Amish ones are gray, the Mennonites’ are black). You can cross covered bridges and buy produce, breads, cakes, and shoo-fly pie from the many roadside stands marked by hand-lettered signs.
Most of the many Amish-style restaurants in the region are huge and forbiddingly full of bus-tour hordes. A very good road-food place is Jennie’s Diner (2575 E. Lincoln Hwy., 717/397-2507) in Ronks, open 24 hours every day on the north side of US-30, just east of the Hwy-896 intersection.
Though it won’t give you any great insight into the Amish, one unique place to stay is the Red Caboose Motel and Restaurant (888/687-5005 or 717/687-5000, $95 and up), a mile east of Strasburg on Paradise Lane. All the rooms are built inside old railroad cars, and the on-site restaurant simulates a train journey, with whistles blowing and a gentle rocking vibration to ease your digestion. Strasburg is also home to the Village Greens miniature golf course (717/687-6933), which is so fun and challenging that it was featured in Sports Illustrated.
For complete listings of attractions, restaurants, and hotels, or to pick up handy maps and other information, stop by the helpful Pennsylvania Dutch Visitor Bureau (800/723-8824), on US-30 just east of Lancaster.
Jennie’s Diner (2575 E. Lincoln Hwy.)
Village Greens Miniature Golf Course (1444 Village Rd.)
Red Caboose Motel and Restaurant (312 Paradise Ln.)
Pennsylvania Dutch Visitor Bureau (501 Greenfield Rd.)