Many who choose Lancaster County as their home in retirement already know that it’s “close to everything.” A mere three-hour journey from both our nation’s capital in Washington DC and one of the significant cultural centers of the world in New York City, as well as an easy drive of two hours or less from both Philadelphia and Baltimore, Lancaster County offers endless opportunities for exciting day trips.
Maybe you’ve recently relocated to the area to enjoy the carefree living and amenities offered at one of our local retirement communities. Or maybe you’ve always lived in Lancaster County, but you’re looking for new adventures now that you have more free time to travel. Whoever you are, and whatever your interests, there are so many mini-vacation options close to home – no overnight stay required!
Use our list of some favorite day trip destinations to discover new fun. And then connect with us over on our Explore Retirement Living Facebook page to let us know your top day trip picks.
While Pennsylvania does not have the good fortune to be an ocean-front state, it does offer its citizens in the eastern regions a wide variety of choices in close-by beach destinations in adjacent New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware. The amazing number of beach towns on the coasts of all these states assures that there is at least one that will be “your beach” in no time. Let’s take a look at a few of the best-loved.
New Jersey beach favorite: Cape May (approx. 3.5 hours from Lancaster)
Cape May, NJ is a different kind of beach town from many others along the Jersey shore. At the state’s southernmost point, Cape May has lovingly preserved an enchanting small town feel from a bygone era. The entire city is a designated National Historic Landmark and possesses one of the most extensive collections of 19th-century frame buildings in the USA. Grand Victorian homes and hotels line the streets and create a unique atmosphere that causes many to fall in love. The beaches themselves are pristine and perfect for sunbathing and relaxing.
Delaware beach favorite: Rehoboth Beach (approx. 3.5 hours from Lancaster)
Featuring an award-winning mile-long boardwalk that will delight kids of all ages, Rehoboth Beach has that traditional summer vacation mecca feel that will bring back great memories. It’s also known for its artsy shops in the downtown area and popular restaurants that many people make the trip just to visit.
Delaware beach favorite: Indian River Inlet (approx. 4 hours from Lancaster)
This one is just for our fishing and outdoors enthusiasts! The Indian River Inlet is part of the large Delaware Seashore State Park and features the Indian River Marina and boat ramp. Access to the Indian River, inland bays, and the Atlantic Ocean is all right here for boaters. Anglers, sunbathers, and ocean swimmers will also be delighted with this outdoor recreation paradise. Nearby shopping at Tanger Outlets is also a draw, as Delaware has no state sales tax.
Maryland beach favorite: Ocean City (approx. 4.25 hours from Lancaster)
Making your way to OCMD for a day trip may make for a bit of a long day due to the drive time required. But we wanted to include it on our list for its world-famous 3-mile long boardwalk full of restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues! Ten miles of free-access beach for relaxing and sunbathing, as well as several championship golf courses in the local area also make Ocean City worth the trip.
Destination: Big City Adventures
Even if you’ve lived in Lancaster County your entire life, it’s possible that you haven’t taken full advantage of our close proximity to some of the most significant cities in the United States. If the most recent trip you’ve made to Philadelphia or Washington DC was for a school field trip, you need to experience these cities again now! Our east coast cities are cleaner and more visitor-friendly than ever before. Whether you love restaurant dining, seeing theatre shows, cheering on your favorite sports teams, or just strolling through leafy, historic neighborhoods, a big city adventure is bound to be a great time. Where will you go first?
Philadelphia – the closest big city for many in Lancaster County, Philadelphia is just a short drive of about an hour and a half, or a quick Amtrak train ride of just over an hour from stations in Lancaster, Elizabethtown, or Mount Joy. Once in Philly, you can satisfy just about any interest you may have. Foodies will delight in the hundreds of restaurants from gourmet fine-dining establishments to cheesesteak shops. Music lovers can take in performances of all sorts from classical concerts at the Kimmel Center to rock shows at the Fillmore and the Electric Factory. Sports fanatics can cheer on the Phillies, the Flyers, the 76ers, or the Eagles (fresh off of their biggest win of all time)! And, everyone will love the historic Reading Terminal Market for shopping and eating. Open daily, the Market offers an incredible variety of restaurants under one roof, or just sample as much locally grown and exotic produce as you can from all the various stand holders!
Baltimore – another close big city, the Maryland metropolis features several unique attractions you can’t find anywhere else. The National Aquarium and Inner Harbor are great places to take the grandkids to explore marine life and even take a boat trip. Baltimore also features several fantastic art museums, including the Walters Art Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art. And for an off-beat experience that art lovers won’t soon forget, check out the American Visionary Art Museum.
NYC – this one speaks for itself with Broadway shows, some of the world’s best shopping in just about every neighborhood, any type of food you could want or imagine, and some of the most famous museums on Earth. A newer destination that you may not yet have visited, though, is the High Line, which is a unique public park created from a once hard-working train line. It began opening in stages starting in 2009 and has been fully open since 2014.
Washington DC – the capital of our country is just a little over three hours from home! Tour the buildings where our nation’s leaders work and live, check out the museums at the Smithsonian, or take a stroll through historic, walkable neighborhoods like funky Adams Morgan and upscale Georgetown.
Lancaster – haven’t been downtown lately? While not a “big city,” Lancaster offers some serious bang for your day trip buck, just minutes from home! Cultural attractions like Central Market (open year-round on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturday mornings) and museums like the Lancaster Museum of Art and Demuth Museum give the bigger cities in our region some serious competition. Our recent blog post on fun in Lancaster County has even more ideas about what exciting things be found nearby in Lancaster.
Destination: the Sweetest Place on Earth
File this day trip destination under guaranteed fun with the grandkids. Hershey, Pennsylvania, the town named for the world-famous chocolate that is still produced there to this day, is home to a large number of world-class attractions in a very compact area. Arguably, the most famous of these attractions is Hersheypark, a huge theme park with 14 roller coasters, a water park area, and an 11-acre zoo with more than 200 North American animals in the collection. Hershey’s Chocolate World, The Hershey Story Museum, Hershey Gardens, Troeg’s Brewing Company, and the Vineyard and Brewery at Hershey are more attractions you won’t want to miss (with or without the little ones).
While we’ve given you more than a few ideas for day trips above, there are also many more locations that rank as favorites among other retirees in Lancaster County. A few of these include Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, and Valley Forge National Historical Park in Valley Forge. Last, but certainly not least, our Explore Retirement Living 8th Annual Open House makes a great day trip! Mark October 20, 2018, from 10am-4pm on your calendar now and plan to tour our communities with friends and family.
Like to travel with a group or don’t love to do a lot of driving? You’ll find that our local retirement communities always have fun day trips planned. Even if you don’t currently reside in one of Lancaster County’s 18 continuing care retirement communities, these welcoming organizations sometimes open events and trips to non-residents. Contact us now for more information on how you can get connected to one or more of our communities and learn what they have to offer.