Leave the Laptop at Home: Lancaster County in a Day

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You know you’re in Lancaster County when a horse-and-buggy pulls up next to your SUV. But animal-powered rides and charming farmhouses aren’t the only reasons to take a trip to Pennsylvania Dutch Country. The historically Amish town, which is just two and a half hours from D.C., is chock-full of kid-friendly amusements and activities. And not a single one of them requires a charge station or wireless connection. Read on for three ways you and your kiddos can unplug and experience life sans modern conveniences (think: TV, fast food, and mega malls), without feeling the least bit deprived. We swear!Screen Shot 2013-09-20 at 2.15.17 PM

Explore the simple life
The Amish are a community of people who settled in Lancaster way back in the 1700s. They live a life today that is not that much different than the life they lived back then (read: no stress). Take a guided tour of an Amish house at Plain & Fancy Farm to see how the community stays so zen. Or explore on your own, with a visit to The Amish Village, a 12-acre farm that houses a one-room schoolhouse, horses, and still-operating buggies. You can even spend a night (or two) at a local working farm.

Insider tip: The easiest route to getting there is to follow I-83 north for 90 minutes from Baltimore, then take exit 9 and go east on Route 30 from York into the county.

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Ride the rails
Both big and little kiddos will love riding the train powered by a restored steam engine at Strasburg Railroad. Trains run on-the-hour starting at 11:00 am and the ride lasts 45 minutes. Back at the station, visit the train store for a large selection of Thomas the Tank Engine products and toy trains. But beware, your kiddos might not ever want to leave!

Insider tip: Get there between 10:00 am (when ticket booth opens) and 10:30 am, when lines are shortest, to purchase tickets for an 11:00 am train ride. You’ll also get to watch the steam engines get hooked up to the train cars!

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Be a thrill seeker
Dutch Wonderland ($35.75/anyone 3 and over) is a parent’s and kid’s dream—free on-site parking, short lines for rides, and plenty of attractions for the toddler. What sets this theme park apart from others is that there are more than 25 “family rides”—including a family ‘coaster, merry-go-round, and log boats—that parents and kids can enjoy as a group.

Insider tip: The longest wait is for the Sunoco Turnpike Ride, a mini-car go-round, but the smile from your kiddo is well worth it.

Has your family ever been to Lancaster County? Tell us about your trip in the Comments section below. 

—Lisa Ng

Photos by Lisa Ng