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Always on a Sunday
How to Make The Most of a Weekend in Pa.'s Amish Country

By Sue Kovach Shuman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Washingtonians travel to Lancaster County, Pa., about 2½ hours from the Capital Beltway, for a glimpse of Amish life. Horse-drawn buggies. Men in broad-brimmed black hats. Women in bonnets and long dresses.

And don't forget those "No Sunday sales" signs.

Lancaster is home not only to Amish but also to Mennonites. Sundays, many locals go to church and relax . . . and close up shop for the day.

So how do you pack the most into a Pennsylvania Dutch weekend if many things are closed half the time? Not to worry.

Lancaster is quiet, but we found plenty to do on a Sunday. Tip 1: Make the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention & Visitors Bureau (800-723-8824, http://www.padutchcountry.com) on Route 30 your first stop.

1. Learn about the Amish. At the Amish Experience (Route 340, Bird-in-Hand, 717-768-3600, http://www.amishexperience.com), you can see a 40-minute film ($9.95), visit an Amish home ($8.95) and tour farms via bus ($28.95). The film "Jacob's Choice" is about a 17-year-old's decision to join the Amish church. It's shown in an "experiential" theater where five projection surfaces propel you through 400 years of history while you're pummeled by thunderous sound effects.

Other attractions open Sundays include the 1805 Amish Farm and House (Route 30, Lancaster, 717-394-6185, http://www.amishfarmandhouse.com; $7.75) and the Amish Village (Route 896, Ronks, 717-687-8511, http://www.800padutch.com/avillage.html; $7.75).

2. Look for covered bridges. We counted 45 buggies along roads with more cows and donkeys than people as we sought out the area's covered bridges. Pennsylvania once had about 1,500 covered bridges; 28 remain in Lancaster County. Pick up a map at the visitors bureau.

3. Ride a buggy. Experience the ultimate Amish-country cliche with Aaron and Jessica's Buggy Rides at Plain & Fancy Farm (Route 340, Intercourse, 717-768-8828, http://www.amishbuggyrides.com; $10). During the week, Amish drivers provide the rides for tourists, said Bobbie Nikodemski, who has been at the reins for 20 years. On Sundays, you get the same 3 1/2 -mile ride through farmland -- minus the Amish clothing.

4. Shop. Bargain hunters head to Adamstown before 7:30 a.m., when Renninger's Antique and Collectibles Market (Route 272, 717-336-2117, http://www.renningers.com) and Stoudt's Black Angus Antiques Mall (Route 272, 717-484-4386, http://www.stoudtsbeer.com/antiques.html) open. Both have hundreds of indoor vendors, plus hundreds outside starting at 5 a.m. some Sundays. (Bring a flashlight, Jim Renninger advises.)

Other Adamstown shops open at 9 or 10, as does Cackleberry Farm Antique Mall in Paradise (Route 30, 717-442-8805). It's smaller -- 125 dealers -- but draws G.I. Joe doll and toy train aficionados.

And, yes, you can get your kitsch fix. At Dutch Haven in Ronks (Route 30, 717-687-0111), warm, gooey shoofly pie was shoved at us. It worked: We bought a pie ($9.99), then browsed for hex signs and T-shirts ("Virginia is for lovers, but Pennsylvania has Intercourse").

5. Amuse the kids. The North Museum of Natural History and Science (400 College Ave., Lancaster, 717-291-3941, http://www.northmuseum.org; $7) has a T. rex skull hologram in the dinosaur room, while discovery drawers hold dead bugs and bats.

The National Christmas Center in Paradise (Route 30, 717-442-7950, http://www.nationalchristmascenter.com; $11) is a museum dedicated to the holiday. See Santa's workshop, walk through a Tudor town and see what customs immigrants brought to America.

Travel in a steam train from Strasburg to Paradise on the Strasburg Railroad (Route 761, Strasburg, 717-687-7522, http://www.strasburgrailroad.com). Rides start at $12. The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania (717-687-8628, http://www.rrmuseumpa.org; $8) is across the road, and the National Toy Train Museum (300 Paradise Lane, 717-687-8976, http://www.nttmuseum.org; $5) is nearby.

Dutch Wonderland (Route 30, Lancaster, 800-386-2839, http://www.dutchwonderland.com; $29.95) opens May 3 with roller coasters and funnel cakes.

6. Explore Lancaster City. At Southern Market Visitor Center (100 S. Queen St., 717-392-1776), pick up a free brochure for a self-guided tour or show up at 1 p.m. for a 90-minute guided walking tour ($7).

Built in 1730, Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity (31 S. Duke St., 717-397-2734) is Lancaster's oldest church; tours are given at 9:45 a.m. and noon Sundays. Louis Tiffany designed the "Return From the Cross" stained-glass window.

The cemetery at St. James Episcopal Church (119 N. Duke St.) holds the raised tombs of Revolutionary War Gen. Edward Hand. His mansion, Rock Ford Plantation, is on the banks of the Conestoga River (881 Rock Ford Rd., 717-392-7223, http://www.rockfordplantation.org; $6).

At Franklin and Marshall College, see the Protest Tree, where students have gathered since the Vietnam War to voice opinions, and the Phillips Museum of Art (717-291-3879, http://www.fandm.edu/phillipsmuseum.xml; free), with works by Rembrandt, Goya, Cézanne and Dali.

The Demuth Museum (120 E. King St., 717-299-9940, http://www.demuth.org; free) is in the house where modernist artist Charles Demuth found inspiration. Across the street, the sculpted head of "the eavesdropper" watches pedestrians.

7. Drink wine. Grab a Pennsylvania Touring Guide and Directory of Wineries at the visitor center and start tasting. Options include the Nissley Vineyards (140 Vintage Dr., Bainbridge, 717-426-3514, http://www.nissleywine.com), which makes more than 25 wines and has free sampling. Twin Brook Winery (Route 741, Gap, 717-442-4915, http://www.twinbrookwinery.com) is Pennsylvania's largest producer of pinot gris; sample as many as 14 wines for $5.

8. Drink beer. Follow the visitor center's "Foodie's Guide" Ale Trail to microbreweries. Stoudt's Brewery in Adamstown (Route 272 North, 717-484-4385, http://www.stoudtsbeer.com) has made European-style lagers and ales for 20 years; 1 p.m. guided tours are free. Bube's Brewery in Mount Joy (102 N. Market St., 717-653-2056, http://www.bubesbrewery.com) started making beer in 2001, but the building is a rambling 19th-century brewery that's on the National Register of Historic Places.

9 Eat, eat and eat. On Sundays, finding the iconic all-you-can-eat gorgefests can be a challenge. At 10:30 a.m. we were among the last guests at Intercourse's only choice, Harvest View Family Restaurant (3370 Harvest Dr., 717-768-7253), where the farmland view was priceless but the $5.95 buffet (scrapple and pumpkin syrup) mediocre.

Places with smorgasbords ("Eat yourself full," servers say) include Strasburg's Hershey Farm Restaurant and Inn (Route 896, Strasburg, 800-827-8635) and Miller's (Route 30, 717-687-6621).

The quilt shop next to Miller's is open Sundays. But grab a gratis pair of gloves at the door or your sticky-bun fingers could buy a $3,000 bedspread.

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