Here at Explore Retirement Living, we’re always looking for fun things to do in Lancaster, PA, that showcase the special beauty and character of this place.
Today’s blog post offers up eight unique tour and local travel ideas that allow you to experience Lancaster County—and even some of the wider region—by land, “sea,” and air! This list is by no means exhaustive, of course. There are also plenty of ways to see Lancaster County on foot, by car, or even by Amish buggy ride.
(Please note that some tours may be temporarily suspended or altered due to COVID-19. Visit the linked websites for each business or service to get updated information on their operations before visiting.)
Explore by Train/Rail
Rail travel has long been an essential mode of transportation to, from, and within Lancaster County. In fact, did you know that the small town of Strasburg is home to America’s oldest operating railroad? And you can climb aboard for a memorable excursion through the countryside!
Strasburg Rail Road
If you’re not familiar with the Strasburg Rail Road, you’ll want to read our previous blog post all about why you should check out this fabulous train-centric attraction in southern Lancaster County. Resurrected by a group of dedicated railroading enthusiasts in the 1950s, the Strasburg Rail Road is still going “full steam ahead,” operating five restored steam locomotives and 20 passenger cars that visitors can pay to ride nearly every day.
In addition to the typical excursion train schedule that the Strasburg Rail Road operates most days, there are many popular and seasonal theme trains that run as immersive special events, and visitors are invited to book online.
Website for More Information: strasburgrailroad.com/ride/operating-schedule
Amtrak Service to/from Lancaster Train Station
Lancaster is conveniently located along Amtrak’s Keystone line, which offers quick and affordable service between Harrisburg and New York City. Many locals use this service to commute to and from the state capital or Philadelphia and the several stops along the way. In Lancaster County, for instance, the towns of Mount Joy and Elizabethtown also have Amtrak stations, and several trains every day travel through the lush Lancaster County countryside to connect with nearly anywhere you want to go!
Website for More Information: amtrak.com/stations/lnc
Explore by Plane or Helicopter
Lancaster County is home to the public-use Lancaster Airport, which offers regional flight options connecting to several international airports. For locals, though, it is mainly home to Fiorentino’s restaurant, where diners can watch planes and small jets take off and land. (Or, if you’re a small plane owner/pilot in Lancaster, you will likely be taking off and landing from this airport!)
A few miles away in Smoketown, PA (close to Strasburg) is another small airport, which is home to Smoketown Helicopters, a local tour operator offering unforgettable helicopter rides!
Get a bird’s eye view of Lancaster County, complete with “informative in-flight commentary provided by the pilot for an insightful and memorable helicopter experience.” Smoketown Helicopters offers several tour itineraries to choose from, including a River Tour and a Farmland Views Tour. If you’re feeling even more adventurous, you can also select one of several Philadelphia tour options.
Website for More Information: smoketownhelicopters.com/lancaster-tours
Explore by Hot Air Balloon
If you’re looking for a truly unique perspective, you may want to experience the high-flying adventure that can only be had in a hot air balloon.
Luckily, Lancaster County is home to the United States Hot Air Balloon Team, which launches sightseeing trips just outside of Lancaster along the Old Philadelphia Pike. All you need to enjoy a soar over the beautiful local farmland is a reservation. You can even schedule a private, romantic hot air balloon ride for two!
Website for More Information: ushotairballoon.com/hot-air-balloon-rides
Explore by Bicycle
Lancaster County is famous for its peaceful backroads and bike trails, where you can pedal for miles while taking in all the best views. But what if you want to enlist the services of an experienced bicycle tour guide to help you ensure you find all of the best scenery AND comfortable cafe stops for refueling? Bike Works—with locations in Intercourse and Lititz, PA—is the name to know.
Whether you prefer to pedal a traditional bike or would rather buzz along on a premium electric bicycle, Bike Works has got you covered. Or, touch base for information on self-guided bicycle tours, too!
Website for More Information: lititzbikeworks.com/bike-tours
Explore by Bus Tour
While Lancaster County is certainly a bus tour destination for groups from all over the country, there are also a few local tour providers offering countryside bus rides to view the Amish farms spread throughout the area. Our favorite provider is The Amish Farm and House, which is also a fantastic destination in itself for getting the inside scoop on Amish and Old Order Mennonite traditions and culture.
Bus Tours by The Amish Farm and House
With guided tour options that feature drives through local, covered bridges, and stops at real, working Amish businesses, the Amish Farm and House bus tours provide an immersive experience you won’t be able to find anywhere else. When available, you can also choose tour experiences that include enjoying a meal prepared and served inside a real Amish home!
Website for More Information: amishfarmandhouse.com/tours
Explore by Trolley
Traditional railway trolleys may be a thing of the past, but don’t be surprised if you see a trolley-style bus tooling around on local roadways. Especially in northern Lancaster County, that trolley is probably Kreider Farms’ farm tour vehicle—and you’re invited to hop on!
Kreider Farms Tour Trolley
Since 1995, Kreider Farms has been inviting visitors to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of their real, working dairy farm in Manheim, PA. This one-of-a-kind guided tour features a high-tech view of farming, including a trolley drive through the middle of Kreider Farms’ “Cow Palace” barn and a bird’s eye view of the milking carousel where 1,700 cows are milked three times every day.
Kreider Farms notes, “Our 90-minute tour is a great activity for students, seniors, and other groups. We can take 29 people at a time in the trolley, plus 29 people on the bus, or you can also take a personal tour in your own vehicle with our guide via Bluetooth or your cell phone.”
Website for More Information: KreiderFarms.com/farm-tour
Explore by Power Scooter
An innovative touring option that’s great for couples and families, Strasburg Scooters offers fun guided tours of Amish Country on 2-wheel scooters or 3-wheel “scoot coupes” (50cc), allowing guests to get up close and personal with Lancaster County.
From an exclusive covered bridge tour to “date night in Amish Country” to the “spooky scoot” (visiting historical graveyards), Strasburg Scooters has a variety of touring options you’ll be talking about for years to come!
Website for More Information: strasburgscooters.com/tours
Explore by Kayak
Perhaps one of the most unique features of Lancaster County is that it’s separated from adjacent York County along the western border by the Susquehanna River. And while the Susquehanna is wide, it is not a particularly deep river in most sections, which makes it excellent for kayak exploration. Shank’s Mare Outfitters is the name to know for paddle tours and gear.
Shank’s Mare Paddle Tours
Located in an 1880s-era general store building on the York County banks of the Susquehanna River—just across from Columbia, PA—Shank’s Mare Outfitters specializes in sales and rentals of recreational, touring, and fishing kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), and other outdoor recreational gear. The keyword there is “touring.” When you want to get out on the water—safely and with the bonus of an educational experience—Shank’s Mare guides are ready to lead you with private or group tours!
Website for More Information: ShanksMare.com/paddle-tours–trips
Don’t Forget to Explore Retirement Living at Our Excellent Retirement Communities!
When you’ve seen Lancaster County from every angle, we guarantee you’ll want to call this wonderful place home in retirement! Get in touch with our ERL-affiliated retirement communities throughout Lancaster County to schedule an in-person or virtual campus tour!