Top 8 Things that Make Lancaster PA Unique

Lancaster County and the central City of Lancaster it surrounds are places like no other.

A unique history that includes a (very short) stint as the capital of the United States in its earliest days, as well as a deep-rooted agricultural tradition, thanks to some of the most fertile farmland in North America, make this place special.

Lancaster is home to a large Plain sect population, as well, and the humbleness of these people make it so most non-locals might not discover our uniqueness on their own. In that spirit, today we’re doing a little bragging about sets the Lancaster region apart to show why it makes such a great place to call home.

1.      The food

Like chocolate and candy? How about snack food like pretzels and potato chips? The Lancaster region is a major producer of all of these delicious treats, and has been for much of its history!

It’s true that Milton Hershey, the famous cocoa baron who set up a global chocolate production enterprise in nearby Dauphin County, actually found his first success making caramels in Lancaster. While Hershey’s Lancaster Caramel Company business was sold way back in 1900, chocolate produced by the Hershey Company and many others has remained a staple of the Lancaster County economy up to the present day, from Wilbur in Lititz to Klein Chocolate (eventually sold to Mars, which still has production on site) in Elizabethtown.

It’s true that the prevalence of dairy farming in the area supported these chocolate-making ventures (lots and lots of milk is needed to make chocolate, after all), and both industries were able to prosper because of Lancaster’s uniquely fertile land.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lancaster has become a destination for people who love a good restaurant meal, too. Farm-to-table has always been a way of life here, and the broader popularity of this movement has brought lots of fantastic new restaurants to the area. The restaurant scene in downtown Lancaster now is particularly robust, and even has fans among certain celebrity chefs!

2.      The farmers markets

With all of the farming activity and food production that goes on in the Lancaster area, a lively farmers market culture has long been part of the social fabric here. In fact, Lancaster City’s Central Market has been continuously operating longer than any other in the USA. The market house it occupies in the heart of downtown itself has been in use since 1889 and is a beloved institution among city-dwellers and the larger county population, as well.

Root’s Country Market and Auction (open year-round every Tuesday) is another notable market that attracts locals and tourists alike. Interestingly, it is home to one of the best New York-style pizzas available literally anywhere. If you want a taste, though, you need to get there early. These award-winning slices typically sell out each Tuesday well before the lunch rush!

3.      The history

As we’ve touched on, Lancaster’s history runs deep. It’s intimately connected to feeding and growing the region and nation, of course, but did you know that it’s also important to our federal government’s history, too?

Indeed, Lancaster was the capital of United States for exactly one day during the American Revolution — September 27, 1777. (The 2nd Continental Congress moved on across the Susquehanna River to York the next day because Lancaster was too close for comfort to the British-captured Philadelphia.) Capital Day, as it’s known around the area, is now marked with some fanfare every year, and Lancastrians are proud that their fair city served the nation in this way.

Some other historical highlights include:

  • Lancaster is home to a US president – the only one who hailed from Pennsylvania – James Buchanan. Visitors can tour his lovingly preserved mansion at Wheatland, on Marietta Avenue, and his grave across town at Woodward Hill Cemetery.
  • Art history buffs may recognize Lancaster from one of the greatest works of American art: My Egypt, by Charles Demuth. The reference was to famed American modernist’s hometown. Demuth’s one-time home is now a museum, which displays his work and hosts contemporary exhibitions, as well.

4.      Easy access to major urban centers on the East Coast

Just as the early leaders of our country were concerned that Lancaster was too close to Philadelphia to keep the invading British troops away, it’s true that Lancaster is conveniently close to just about every major metropolitan area in the Northeast. DC, NYC, Philly, and Baltimore are all within easy reach by car, bus, or train, as we’ve often talked about here on the blog.

Many other great destinations, like the Atlantic beaches of Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey, are also just a day trip from Lancaster!

5.      Highest-quality healthcare options

We are proud that Lancaster was just named the Best Place to Retire in America for 2019 by U.S. News and World Report. As we discussed in a recent post, this win was primarily based on Lancaster’s outstanding score on the Healthcare Quality Index portion of the 2019 Best Places to Retire rankings – an impressive 9.3/10.

Because Lancaster County is so close to some of the largest cities (and their world-class health systems and hospitals) along the East Coast, residents have access to nearly endless choices when it comes to doctors and treatment options. Of course, Lancaster’s local healthcare resources, such as the Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health network, are also improving and becoming more sophisticated all the time. Certainly, if you are facing long-term care needs or diagnosis for a chronic condition, there are few better places to be than Lancaster County.

6.      Commitment to “being green”

If you care about sustainability and try to live the green life, you’ll find that you’re in good company in Lancaster County. In addition to the City of Lancaster recently earning a Gold certification from the LEED for Cities program, smart growth, farmland preservation, and conservation of woodlands are definite priorities for many local decision-makers.

While Lancaster does have its share of congestion and traffic in several areas, there are still many acres being farmed and dedicated to outdoor recreation, too.

7.      Fun outdoor recreation

On the topic of fun outdoors, Lancaster County offers everything from miles of hiking trails to river-based water activities like boating and fishing to more off-beat pursuits like hot air ballooning! That’s right – Lancaster just so happens to be the home of the United States Hot Air Balloon Team, whose experienced pilots are ready to take you for a soar over the beautiful local fields and towns!

No matter how you like to get outdoors and enjoy nature, you’ll discover that Lancaster has plenty to offer.

8.      Amazing retirement communities

Here at Explore Retirement Living, we know that a few of Lancaster’s best kept secrets are its fantastic independent retirement communities.

These gracious and beautiful campuses located all around Lancaster County are ready to welcome you as you get acquainted with living your retirement life to its fullest! Each is unique, but all of our communities share a common dedication to providing comfortable housing options, high-quality healthcare choices, and life-enriching experiences to all their residents.

Get in touch with us for more on what it means to come home to Lancaster County and to one of our fantastic retirement communities!