Covid-19 Disclaimer: Make sure to check the status of the states, regions, and establishments in which you’re planning to visit prior to travel. Many regions continue to see high infection rates and deaths, while many states and counties remain under varying stay-at-home orders. Those traveling from areas with high rates of Covid-19 should consider avoiding travel for now in order to reduce spread. 

Rolling green hills and patchworks of farmland, pocket woods, and bubbling streams—it’s hard to imagine such an idyllic place exists anywhere near the nation’s capital. But that it does, in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County, less than two hours away. We have the Amish to thank for much of that, who have tilled these fields since they first arrived in the 1700s, using age-old methods apart from the modern world. It’s also prime territory for long bike rides, scenic drives, kayaking, wine-tasting, and hot-air ballooning.

The anchor is Lancaster, a vibrant city with a fabulous weekend market and a walkable downtown. And if that hasn’t convinced you of the merits of this supreme weekend getaway, you’ll also find here Hershey’s legacy, a whole town built on chocolate. Checkmate.

GETTING THERE

You will need a car for this getaway. Lancaster is about 90 miles or two-and-a-half hours from Washington, D.C. You can go the quick route, via I-83 from Baltimore. Or go the bucolic route, following I-270 to U.S. 15 to U.S. 30, which adds on about half an hour—but quickly gets you in the mood for a quiet weekend getaway. U.S. 30 is the main artery through Amish country—which can become clogged with cars, especially in summer. It’s best to stay off of it as much as possible. Get more info here.

If you’ve opted for the slow route to Lancaster County, the drive from D.C. wanders through gorgeous rolling hills, setting the mood for the weekend ahead. Head for Strasburg, a historic little town with a quintessential Main Street lined with hip boutiques and antique shops. It’s also ground zero for train lovers, starting off with Strasburg Rail Road, the nation’s oldest short line. Hop aboard a vintage steam train for a chug through farm country. Here, too, are the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, the Choo-Choo Barn (a 1,700-square-foot custom model train display), and the National Toy Train Museum. 

Get lunch at the Speckled Hen on Main Street, which partners with local farmers and purveyors to ensure the freshest ingredients. This is the place for gourmet sandwiches, scratch-made soups, seasonal salads, and more.

Then, explore some of the surrounding pastoral back roads, by bike or car.  Aiming for the town of Intercourse, delve into the Amish farmlands on country byways, where stunning country-scapes unfold around every bend. Feel free to venture down any of the Amish farm driveways that have signs for homemade root beer, handmade quilts, fresh baked goods, and more.

Intercourse, named for the colonial term for intersection, is a hub of Amish life. It’s fun just to stroll its streets, peeking into shops and seeing what’s going on. Don’t miss the landmark Old Country Store, where you’ll find handcrafted quilts, folk art, and other items made by local Amish and Mennonites. At Kitchen Kettle Village, you’ll see local Amish women in the Canning Kitchen making the iconic KKV jams, jellies, and sauces that have been a staple of the region’s hand-crafted foodie scene for 60 years.

Meander your way to Leola, where dinner at the Log Cabin is sublime. Originally a log cabin dating from 1929, it operated as a speakeasy during Prohibition. Today, the restaurant specializes in local farm-to-table fare amid the log-cabin ambiance. House specialties include two-day marinated fried chicken, duck à l’orange, meatloaf, and the cabin burger, which contains candied apple smoked bacon and Roquefort cheese. On a nice evening, enjoy romantic dining on the patio.

Today you need to set the alarm clock, but it’ll be worth it because you’re going on a hot-air balloon ride with U.S. Hot Air Balloon Team. Drift with the wind as you look down on the patchwork of farms in the morning’s early light. On clear days, you can see as far as the Chesapeake. Takeoff is an excruciating 6 a.m. from Bird-in-Hand.

Then head for the Romanesque Central Market in Lancaster, where you can gather breakfast items fresh from the farm. Starting in the 1730s as open-air stalls, the market was granted permanent status in 1742 by none other than King George II. Today, more than 60 market stands purvey locally grown fruits and vegetables, homemade breads, cheeses, meats, flowers, and coffee. Note it’s open only on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

Gallery: 20 Ultimate Things to Do in Washington, D.C. (Fodor’s)

  • Slide 1 of 20: 20 Ultimate Things to Do in Washington, D.C.

  • Slide 2 of 20: Visit the Smithsonian (and Other) Museums

  • Slide 3 of 20: Celebrate Black Culture

  • Slide 4 of 20: Get Lost in the World’s Largest Library

  • Most Comfortable Shoes: “These Shoes Are Like Walking On Clouds”


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  • Slide 5 of 20: Reenergize With Panamanian Coffee

  • Slide 6 of 20: Brush up on Your American History

  • Slide 7 of 20: Stroll Through District Wharf

  • Slide 8 of 20: Experience a Traditional Moroccan Body Scrub

  • Slide 9 of 20: Step Back in Time at Ford’s Theater

  • Don’t Borrow From The Bank – Borrow From Yourself


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  • Slide 10 of 20: Stay in Iconic Accommodations

  • Slide 11 of 20: Discover La Cosecha

  • Slide 12 of 20: Play With Your Food at El Cielo

  • Slide 13 of 20: Stop and Smell the Flowers at the U.S. National Arboretum

  • Slide 14 of 20: Sip on Refreshing Beverages

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  • Slide 15 of 20: Wander Through Georgetown

  • Slide 16 of 20: Treat Yourself to the Flavors of Michelin-Starred Cuisine

  • Slide 17 of 20: Peruse Union Market

  • Slide 18 of 20: Take Photos of the Cherry Blossoms

  • Slide 19 of 20: Sample Incredible Restaurants

  • Slide 20 of 20: Revel in Nature at Rock Creek Park

20 Ultimate Things to Do in Washington, D.C.

What to see, do, and eat in the Nation’s Capital.

We all know Washington, D.C. as the nation’s capital city and the epicenter of American politics, but there is so much more life to this city that demands to be noticed. The side most travelers see is a city overflowing with memorials and museums; the side we want to share with you is a city that also happens to be lively, hip, enticing, entertaining, and memorable. There is an abundance of options on and off the beaten path for every type of traveler to The District—if that sounds overwhelming don’t worry, we’re here to help. Here is our list of insider’s top choices of places to eat, drink, play, visit, and stay while in Washington, D.C.

Visit the Smithsonian (and Other) Museums

Whether it’s your first time visiting Washington, D.C., or your tenth, you will find a wide array of the nation’s best museums to explore on each visit. In fact, there are so many outstanding museums to select from, we have narrowed the list to our absolute favorites. Spoiler alert, you won’t be able to see them all in one visit, which means you’ll have to return to this beautiful city for more! You can never go wrong with any of the Smithsonian Museums . Our favorites include the National Museum of Natural History , the National Museum of African American History and Culture , the National Air and Space Museum, and the National Museum of the Native American .

Although not a part of the Smithsonian, the National Gallery of Art is a must-see. If the quality of these museums isn’t incentive enough, consider that they are also free! Other highly recommended and genuinely memorable museums are the International Spy Museum (with an entrance fee) and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum .

Celebrate Black Culture

The District’s U Street Corridor, once known as Black Broadway , was one of the most established and exciting areas in the country to celebrate Black culture in the first half of the 1900s. U Street was influential in the music and performing arts scene as theaters like Lincoln opened–iconic artists such as musician Duke Ellington and poet Langston Hughes launched their careers here. Over the past two decades, U Street has become a vibrant center for art, culture, and African American heritage. A new generation of artists has revitalized the area, making it the favored neighborhood for art and music, especially jazz.

Get Lost in the World’s Largest Library

Books worms, look no further! The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with over 170 million books, recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps, and manuscripts. Each day they receive around 15,000 items and add more than 10,000 items to its collections! The Library even houses materials in approximately 470 languages. The catch? All books can only be used on the premises and cannot be checked out. But don’t let that deter you from a visit; the impressive architecture of the building and the expansive collection of artwork is enough to make it worth a visit.

Reenergize With Panamanian Coffee

Café Unido is a high-end Panamanian coffee shop committed to roasting and serving exclusively Panamanian coffee beans. The team at Café Unido has developed strong relationships with farmers in over 15 different farms in Panama to source beans for their pour-overs, espresso blends, nitro coffee, and cascara (coffee cherry tea). Beans are sourced from diverse climates (volcanic, oceanic, and highland) to produce an array of flavors. Unido also offers the exclusive and sought-after geisha bean, a Panamanian-grown variety of an Ethiopian strain that is the most expensive coffee in the world. This bean thrives in Panama’s soil and climate and is glorified for its rare flavor with notes ranging from floral and fruity to jasmine tea and lemongrass. Café Unido has also implemented an initiative to support migrant coffee-harvest families by developing schools near the farms for children who must travel to the farms with their parents.

Brush up on Your American History

To relearn your American history, or to learn more, a visit to some of the nation’s most famous historical monuments will do the trick. Most monuments and plaques can be spotted on the National Mall . Favorites include the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. Tidal Basin is another not-to-be-missed area for seeing Thomas Jefferson , Franklin Delano Roosevelt , and Martin Luther King Jr. memorials. To see them in a different light (literally), return at night and visit the tributes under the moonlight; and to see them from a different perspective, rent a paddleboat and circle around the Tidal Basin.

Stroll Through District Wharf

District Wharf is your all-in-one entertainment stop. Along the marina’s edge lie exquisite restaurants, vibrant bars, shops, and entertainment venues. We suggest enjoying live free concerts that are typically held during warmer months, renting a kayak or paddleboard from The Wharf Boathouse , taking a free jitney ride to East Potomac Park (a man-made island), and visiting The Municipal Fish Market –having opened in 1805, it is the oldest continuously operating open-air fish market in the United States.

Experience a Traditional Moroccan Body Scrub

An unassuming storefront on a busy crowded street in DuPont’s Circle belies the unique services offered at Spa Logic . Owned by Kathy Luu, Spa Logic provides a wide array of exclusive beauty services including Western, Eastern, and Middle Eastern spa selections. Spa specialties include Moroccan staples such as the hammam body scrub and the body scrub with argan oil that are basically facials for your entire body. Spa-goers will enter into a private room with a jacuzzi-like bed where their entire body will be scrubbed of dead skin. With pauses for showers in between and time in the private sauna, guests will leave with incredibly soft (and clean) skin. Eastern treatments include oriental cupping and kinesiology taping. There is an old-fashioned claw-footed tub for specialty baths, a full-service hair salon, and so much more.

Step Back in Time at Ford’s Theater

On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was shot while attending a show at Ford’s Theater . Today, the theater still performs live shows. Visitors can tour the balcony where Lincoln sat, visit the Petersen House across the street where Lincoln inevitably died, and peruse the theater’s excellent basement museum. The tour ends at the Center for Education and Leadership where history buffs can wander through several floors of exhibits that examine the aftermath of Lincoln’s death and his legacy.

Stay in Iconic Accommodations

Stepping into what was once a bus terminal and printing house, guests will immediately notice Eaton’s understated, natural, and vintage decor feels authentic rather than overly curated. The hotel’s aesthetics are inspired by people and places such as the Beatniks and Hong Kong culture. Eaton supports over a hundred community organizations working toward social justice and advocates for the health and safety of the community by working closely with environmental justice groups.

In the heart of Dupont Circle sits a reimagined apartment building that now serves as an unassuming art deco hotel, Lyle . Casual elegance best describes the interior, which is beautifully appointed with abstract artwork, tapestries, burl wood furnishings, rattan seating, Berber carpets, white or natural-toned couches and bedspreads, and delicious smelling bath products. Did we mention the oh so comfy bed and pillows?

Located at the gateway of high-end boutiques and upscale restaurants lies Conrad , an architecturally striking, minimalist expression of purity. Light, neutral colors throughout the hotel evoke relaxation and calmness during visitors’ stay. The hotel’s all-glass conspicuous exterior gives guests a sneak preview of the incredible floor-to-ceiling windows offered in each guestroom. Conrad has partnered with DC Central Kitchen to provide culinary internships for youth and Clean the World to recycle soap from guestrooms.

Discover La Cosecha

La Cosecha is a Latin lifestyle market in the Union Market neighborhood. Besides being home to several delicious Latin American food stalls, two boutiques inside make it worth the trip. Nova Bossa features more than thirty small artisanal brands–approximately 90% women-owned–that celebrate Latin American heritage. The boutique has also developed its own line of eco-friendly handbags, scarfs, notebooks, and home décor. Zona E is a mother and daughter-owned boho-chic boutique with home, interior, lifestyle products, and jewelry from Colombia and around the world.

Play With Your Food at El Cielo

Chef Juan Manuel Barrientos of El Cielo is the first Colombian chef to win a Michelin star for a Colombian concept. The restaurant offers two menus: The Journey Menu is 15 courses and The Experience Menu is 22 courses. The sequence of dishes not only follows a unique journey through Barrientos’s love for his home country, but is meant to thrill all five senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. For instance, both menus involve immersive moments like choco-therapy–a ritual where guests wash their hands with liquid chocolate and then get to taste it straight from their fingers! There’s also Lick Me, a playful dish that requires guests to lick a sorbet-like dessert straight from the plate. The main dining room offers an a la carte menu with unique dishes like Yucca Gnocchi, served with sweet plantain honey and pecorino cheese foam, and Guava BBQ Ribs served with atollado rice and apple. Supporting a good cause, El Cielo foundation provides aid to wounded warriors, former guerrilla soldiers, and indigenous peoples who have experienced violence in Colombia.

Stop and Smell the Flowers at the U.S. National Arboretum

The United States National Arboretum is a 446-acre haven of beauty that was established in 1927. The green space is home to the National Bonsai Collection, a mesmeric collection of renowned miniature Japanese and Chinese trees; the Gotelli Conifer Collection, a collection of conifers from the Arctic and subtropical climates; a herbarium and a variety of other flora. The National Capital Columns are also not to be missed as the installation features 22 Corinthian columns that once supported the U.S. Capital but were later removed due to poor construction. They are now one of the most photographed spots in the arboretum. The arboretum is open daily, free to the public, and literally changes with the seasons, so it’s worth repeated visits.

Sip on Refreshing Beverages

Colada Shop ’s colorful café serves a mixture of Cuban delights from coffee to food and cocktails. Think empanadas, pastelitos, piña coladas (in cocktail pouches), mojitos, coladas, and café con leches. Homage to the Caribbean social lifestyle is also paid through the outdoor murals and vibrancy. Lulu’s Wine Garden features three lush garden patios that evoke the atmosphere of a backyard dinner party with earthy color accents, twinkling string lights, a charming flowing fountain, and a wall of dried flowers from Guatemala. An affordable under $50 wine list is available to encourage guests to explore regions and varietals they may not be familiar with without worrying about the cost. Taste your way through Latin America at Serenata , a full-service Latino cocktail bar that crafts outstanding cocktails sourced and inspired by the many countries that make up the fabric of the rich Latin American heritage. Serenata also occasionally donates part of a seasonal cocktail’s proceeds to organizations with causes that are important to them.

Wander Through Georgetown

Georgetown’s cobblestone streets are recognized as one of the best shopping areas in the country. M Street is a good starting point for shoppers with the intersection of M and Wisconsin Avenue being the heart of Georgetown , with mainstream stores and boutique-lined streets extending in all four directions. Exhausted from shopping? Meander through Georgetown Waterfront Park and stroll along the Potamic River for beautiful and relaxing views. If you are feeling energized, visit Thompson Boat Center where you can rent a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard and explore the Potomac.

Treat Yourself to the Flavors of Michelin-Starred Cuisine

Undeniable creativity can be found dining at Masseria . Owner and Chef Nicholas Stefanelli’s southeastern Italian ancestral roots are evident in his traditionally inspired creations; however, his food is by no means limited to this region, as he takes inspiration from the rich culinary heritage woven in the dishes throughout Italy. To indulge your palate in a wide range of sensations and unusual combinations, try the six-course tasting menu with the wine pairing and you will finish your evening satiated and anticipating your next booking.

Bresca takes inspiration from Paris but characterizes itself as taking a more dynamic, experimental, and informal approach to cooking than traditional French cuisine. Ordinary ingredients like beets and tomatoes hold the same value as truffles and caviar in their three or four-course menu. Look around and guests will spot whimsical touches throughout the restaurant–like animal paintings, fish heads, and a moss wall. Even the dishware is quirky, particularly a bee-shaped cocktail glass and vintage china from around the world.

Maydan , meaning gathering place in Arabic, brings attention to wonderous cuisines from parts of the world that remain mainly misunderstood in the U.S. Diners walk on antique Arabian carpets to reach their dining table where herb-drenched cheeses, a variety of flavorful dipping spreads, honey-soaked dates, and mains like spiced fish and chicken thigh can be shared. The faint sounds of traditional Arabian beats will transport guests to the Middle East during this dining experience.

Peruse Union Market

Dating back to 1871, Union Market , once the largest market in Washington, D.C., has been transformed into an urban village that proves to be a gathering place by way of restaurants, shops, workspace, and artwork. One noteworthy boutique is In Seven Words which focuses on giving new life to gently used clothing, footwear, and accessories. Proceeds from sales support N Street Village , a community for empowerment and recovery for women, Women Giving Back provides the first steps to stability for women and children, and Central Union Mission offers shelter, hot meals, medical care, and job training to those in need. Our second recommendation is theTwelve , which offers holistic retail, housewares, live plants, fragrance, and sustainable apparel and accessories. The backroom of theTwelve is also a gallery.

Take Photos of the Cherry Blossoms

Every Spring, the city turns pinks during the two to four weeks of cherry blossom season. This is such a highly sought-after occurrence that The District calls it the National Cherry Blossom Festival . The festival commemorates Tokyo’s gift of 3,000 cherry trees to Washington, D.C. in 1912 and it celebrates the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan. In addition to the magnificent flowers, there are several arts and culture events that are free to the public during this time.

Sample Incredible Restaurants

NaRa-Ya is a Japanese eatery that offers a la carte options in addition to three unique tasting menus (including a vegan option). For sake enthusiasts, a carefully curated and limited list of allocated, extremely rare, and seldom available (outside Japan) sake are available. Named for the year Georgetown University was founded, 1789 is the quintessential Washington, D.C. dining experience. The ambiance reminds you of a stately home and the cuisine embodies seasonal dishes such as brioche-crusted halibut with roasted fingerling potatoes, fennel, grilled leeks, and saffron-mussel broth and pheasant ballotine with foie gras, pickled tiny radishes, and mustard aioli.

If you’re looking for a dining experience that embraces true African heritage, look no further than Swahili Village . Kenyan immigrant, executive chef and founder, Keven Onyona, offers diners an immersion into African culture through his wide variety of traditional African dishes. Step into Maketto , an eclectic Cambodian and Taiwanese marketplace, and you may find yourself here all day. Whether you’re stopping in to enjoy fried rice noodles, sip on a refreshing cocktail, reenergize with coffee, shop for new shoes, or listen to classic vinyl, Maketto’s policy is always ‘our home is your home’. Royal is a Latin-inspired, family-owned bar and restaurant where the food and drinks are influenced by the family’s Colombian heritage, family recipes, and time living throughout Central and South America. Guava pastries, egg arepas, pork empanadas, and masa gnocchi are a few of the drool-worthy dishes found on the menu. Makan , which is Malaysian for ‘to eat’, showcases diverse and flavorful Malaysian cuisine. Dishes showcase the complexity of flavors and cooking processes that are unique to Malaysia.

Revel in Nature at Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park is an urban oasis that was founded in 1890 by the U.S. Congress. Visitors can explore 1,754 acres of the park by foot, bike, or horse. With lush greenery, 32 miles of trails, picnic areas, a nature center, an amphitheater, and even a planetarium, the park is open year-round during daylight hours. Other activities available in the park include fishing, tennis, golfing, and boating. For history buffs, the park is also home to a number of Civil War sights that are labeled with plaques or statues.

Lancaster’s historic downtown is emerging as a hip sort of place, making it well-worth a saunter. There are art galleries on the 100 and 200 blocks of N. Prince Street, and funky shopping on the 300 block of N. Queen Street. It’s also home to several breweries, including Lancaster Brewing, producing heavy stouts, and the Wacker Brewing Company, the vestige of 19th-century German immigrants.

Before leaving Lancaster, find lunch at The Pressroom, occupying a historic working microbrewery, near Penn Square. The contemporary American fusion menu offers creative sandwiches (blackened salmon wrap, open-faced tuna melt); burgers (with tomato confit, chimichurri, and sharp cheddar); lunch plates (tacos de asada, BBQ mac & cheese), and more. The open-air Park Bar seating is divine in the warmer months.

Before leaving Lancaster, find lunch at warm and friendly Prince Street Café, offering burritos, rice bowls, salads, and sandwiches (right now they’re only offering to-go). There’s also C’est La Vie, with its ever-changing menu of large and small plates made from the region’s freshest ingredients; choosing between the Tellstar Tune Poke or Boeuf Bourguignon or Crab Cake Sandwich may be the hardest thing you do today.

The Susquehanna River flows nearby, offering a restful afternoon floating on glittering waters. Chiques Rock Outfitters at the Columbia Crossing River Trails Center in Columbia, about 15 miles or 20 minutes from Lancaster, will hook you up with all you need. If you prefer biking or walking, the 14-mile Northwest Lancaster County River Trail kicks off from here as well, following the old route of the historic Pennsylvania Mainline Canal, alongside the Susquehanna River.

Or, go wine-tasting. Grapevines thrive in Lancaster County, producing a variety of different wines. See for yourself at a couple of wineries west of Lancaster, toward the river: Waltz in Manheim and Grandview in Mount Joy.

Find dinner tonight in Lancaster, at Horse Inn, featuring innovative dishes based on the seasonal fare from local farms. The chalkboard menu changes daily, depending on what’s available. Possibilities might include, Horse fries (with housemade sausage, parmesan, provolone, and garlic heavy cream), asparagus and Carolina gold rice salad, and a hot chicken sandwich (with Nashville-style rub, blue cheese coleslaw, and a sesame potato roll).

Take a morning walk at Lancaster County Central Park, just south of Lancaster. Its network of trails moseys through fields and woods, across quiet creeks. There’s also the Garden of Five Senses here, overlooking the Conestoga River.

Linger over brunch at nearby Max’s Eatery, a modern diner determined to “entertain your belly” with such creative (and stomach punching) delights as sweet potato hash; a burrito jefe with hot sausage, eggs, and crispy tots; and what they call “the Buford Van Stomm Sando”—an ensemble of breakfast sausage, smash burger, and American cheese omelet, topped with an onion ring and bacon mayo, served between two slices of grilled wheat toast (oh my).

And while you’re on the indulgent theme, head north to Hershey, aka Chocolate Town USA. Milton S. Hershey established his company in Hershey in 1903, surrounding it with a model town for his employees, including homes, a public transportation system, and recreational and cultural activities. The town still thrives on his legacy, and it’s a pleasant place to spend a few hours—even if you’re not a chocolate lover.

Today, streetlights are shaped like foil-wrapped candies, and avenues are named things like Chocolate and Cocoa. There are two main sites here: Hersheypark, a theme park with rides; and Hershey’s Chocolate World, where you can learn how chocolate is made and test chocolate-centric drinks and treats. And if those are not your thing, perhaps a chocolate spa might be. MeltSpa by Hershey offers treatments such as dark chocolate sugar scrubs and body wraps, and cocoa massages and facials.

Part of Hershey’s plan was to build an elegant hotel on a hill overlooking his chocolate factory. Today, the Hotel Hershey is a magnificent historic resort—and, if you’re not otherwise engaged at Hersheypark, the perfect place for lunch. It has several restaurants, but Harvest is a standout for its devotion to salads, sandwiches, and entrées using local ingredients. The Hershey’s cocoa barbecue ribs go as far as to use Hershey chocolate in its recipe. When you’re ready, ramble your way back to D.C.

WHERE TO STAY

Lancaster County offers a plethora of bed and breakfasts, working farms, plush resorts, and stately hotels. Lancaster Arts Hotel, occupying a former tobacco warehouse in Lancaster, has an art gallery and organic fine-dining restaurant. North of the city in Lititz, Hotel Rock Lititz captures the local art and technology scene with decor repurposed from concert tours. West of the city in Mount Joy, Rocky Acre Farm Bed and Breakfast is located on a dairy farm, including a creek where guests can kayak. Bird-in-Hand Family Inn, east of Lancaster, is a great spot for families, with three pools, a game room, and an on-site smorgasbord.

WHEN TO GO

Lancaster County is a four-season destination. Midsummer to September can be crowded, but it’s a great time to explore the back roads and enjoy freshly harvested produce, jams, and homemade baked goods. Fall brings spectacular foliage and more crowds. In both of these seasons, you should aim to get off the beaten path as soon as possible. Winter is quiet, and picturesque when snow falls. Spring is beautiful, with blooming flowers and the Amish mud sales—auctions where everything from horses to quilts are sold. Lodging is least expensive in winter and spring.

PIT STOP

After driving about an hour and a half southwest of Lancaster on U.S. 30, you’ll come to the town of Gettysburg. It’s ironic that Pennsylvania’s pastoral landscape hosted one of the nation’s bloodiest battles, when in July 1863 the North and South clashed here, in what would become one of the Civil War’s most important events. Today, it’s a peaceful place again, with monuments and markers remembering what unfolded on those fateful summer days. You can take a self-guided driving tour around the battlefield and peruse interpretive exhibits at the visitor center. And even if you’re not into history, Gettysburg is a charming historic town with plenty of shops, restaurants, and museums to explore. From here, Washington, D.C. is about another hour-and-a-half drive.

WHAT TO LISTEN TO

As you near the picture-perfect Amish lands, put on the Witness soundtrack, from the movie, by talented composer Maurice Jarre. The electric ensemble of synthesizers flows like a waterfall of beautiful notes, embodying amazement and reverance. Most powerful is the album’s main theme, “Building the Barn,” conveying the light-hearted, classical air of a task that most people would consider arduous but is not, thanks to the Amish’s loyalty to community.

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