Central PA, made up of 14 counties including Lancaster, Lebanon, and York, offers a wide range of exciting activities, attractions, and restaurants year-round. In fact, Lancaster, PA has consistently ranked as one of the best places in which to retire for the past three years, according to U.S. News and World Report.
While most commonly known for its rolling farmland and Amish countryside, Central PA is also home to a variety of historical and cultural points of interest. Whether you’ve grown up in Central PA or recently relocated, we’ve uncovered 11 hidden gems in your backyard to visit.
Lancaster’s Hidden Gems
Lancaster County, PA-a fusion of small town charm and big city amenities-offers a handful of unique historical tours off the beaten path.
Ghost Tour of Lancaster, PA
With over 300 years of history, the Red Rose city’s past offers dozens of haunting tales and mysteries to explore. Starting at Penn Square, follow your spirit guide after the sun goes down on a candlelight tour. As one of America’s oldest cities, downtown Lancaster’s Ghost Tours provides thrilling tales to historians and ghost-chasers alike.
Historic Ephrata Cloister
A focal point of religious and cultural significance, the 288-year-old Ephrata Cloister survives as a historic site for interested travelers to learn more about the community’s unique lifestyle. In 1732 the founder of Ephrata, Conrad Beissel, created the site to live out his own religious ideals, seeking to be a hermit. After 20 years, over 80 Brothers and Sisters had come to join him in his quest to lead a disciplined earthly life, preparing for a spiritual union with God by sleeping little, eating strict diets, and performing labor such as farming, papermaking, and carpentry. During the Revolutionary War, the Ephrata Cloister served as a hospital for nearly 260 soldiers.
As a result of the cloister, Ephrata is credited with the creation of the German calligraphic art of Frakturschriften, considered to be the first of this folk art produced in America, in addition to thousands of original a-capella compositions and an ambitious printing establishment that published the largest book printed in colonial America.
Today, visitors can tour the site with both self-guided and guided tour options. During Christmas, the cloister decorates for the season and holds special events.
Wilbur Bud Chocolate Store
Who doesn’t like chocolate?
Established as a way for factory workers to buy smaller quantities of the candy they were manufacturing, the Wilbur Bud Chocolate Store soon rose to popularity in the surrounding community and opened its doors to the public. As years went on, items were donated to the store to create a candy museum, a Candy Kitchen was opened, and even more people experienced the joy of Wilbur Bud’s chocolates.
Located in the heart of Lititz, the Wilbur Bud Chocolate Store offers free samples to all who enter, as well as an exciting opportunity to visit, shop, and learn about the delicious history of confectionary manufacturing. The store also participates in monthly and seasonal events.
Lebanon’s Hidden Gems
Berry Patch Bed & Breakfast
For a bed and breakfast destination close to attractions like Hershey Park and Gettysburg, the Berry Patch Bed & Breakfast is a quaint, unique, and affordable choice for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Spacious guest suites, appointed with antique furnishings, offer beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. The main feature of the Berry Patch Bed & Breakfast is the dining. From a full country breakfast, to locally-made Whoopie Pies and fresh pastries baked daily, this bed and breakfast’s menu offers all the comforts of Pennsylvania Dutch cooking. During the day, visit a range of nearby farms, theaters, vineyards, and more.
Pennsylvania National Guard Military Museum
Preserving the history of the Pennsylvania National Guard and Fort Indiantown Gap, the Pennsylvania National Guard Military Museum showcases items and weapons spanning several wars and depicts the history of its namesake. The museum, set up in two-story barracks from 1941, houses items from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, in addition to items from private donations. Admission to the museum is free.
Special events and organized outings are coordinated in conjunction with the exhibits, with proceeds benefitting the museum.
York’s Hidden Gems
The Weightlifting Hall of Fame
Situated two miles north of York off of Exit 24 on Route 83, York Barbell’s Weightlifting Hall of Fame provides one of the most comprehensive visual histories of strength sports. From its roots in mythology to the current specialized Olympic sports of weightlifting, powerlifting, and bodybuilding, the Weightlifting Hall of Fame gives visitors a deep look into triumphs and tragedies, actual weights used in record-breaking shows of strength, and interesting information spanning hundreds of years of weightlifting.
The museum is located on the first floor of York Barbell’s corporate headquarters and invites visitors to amble through its 8,000 square feet on a self-guided tour.
Nixon Park Nature Center
As York County’s only park preserved for wildlife and education, the Nixon Park Nature Center offers 6 miles of foot-traffic-only trails for an exciting hike through woods, hillsides, and meadows. Be ready to see a range of animals, from wood ducks to snapping turtles. The Nature Center also features a museum with several display rooms, presenting a collection of game mounts from both Pennsylvania-inhabiting animals and mammals from across the world.
Naturalist-led programs are available for groups of 10 or more.
Perrydell Farm Dairy
Ever wonder what happens day-to-day on a dairy farm?
At Perrydale Farm Dairy, experience a self-guided tour through the farm to watch cows being milked, calves being fed, or milk being bottled. As visitors stroll through the self-sufficient dairy farm, they can feel free to pet the calves and animals or treat themselves to a cone of homemade ice cream. Perrydell Farm Dairy is a proud member of the Buy Fresh Buy Local® program and sells a variety of local producers’ goods along their own farm’s fresh products.
Stay Close to Home with Smartlife
With so much to discover and experience in Central PA, retiring at home makes all the difference. SmartLife VIA Willow Valley ensures members stay independent, enjoying vibrant lives in their own homes with the peace of mind that should enhanced care ever be needed, their Lifecare contract has them covered. For more information on how to join SmartLife, attend one of our upcoming seminars.