4 Fantastic Food Road Trips
Step Back in Time in... Pennsylvania Dutch Country
Drive the oldest highway in the U.S. and explore the scenic farmland and rolling hills of Pennsylvania, while enjoying charming antiques shops and the unique, German-influenced cuisine of the area.
Mileage: Approximately 250; Days: 2-3
Starting from Philadelphia, head East on US-30. As you pass out of the city and into the countryside, the highway will join with the original Lincoln Highway, the first paved road in America. This road stretches from New York to San Francisco, and the section in Pennsylvania passes through the Lancaster, home of the Pennsylvania Dutch community. The majority of the community is made up of Amish and Mennonite traditions, who shun electricity and modern conveniences to varying degrees and live a primarily agricultural (and tourism) funded lifestyle. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Ad Meskens)
Along the way, you’ll pass farm stands selling produce of all kinds, especially sweet corn, and fields on fields being worked by the Amish and their teams of beautiful horses. Since the Amish drive their buggies on the road, be aware that they have the right of way, and you must take care passing them. (In addition, for religious reasons, they do not want their faces photographed and will turn away if you try to take their pictures.)
Downtown Lancaster is filled with a variety of antiques shops, boutiques, and gift shops, where you can buy local traditional goodies and crafts, from quilts to jars of chow-chow, a type of pickled relish made from vegetables. Stop by the Pennsylvania Dutch visitor's center for a map and spend the next couple of days driving around the area’s many winding farm roads and discovering the small towns. You can even get a ride in a horse and buggy, if you wish. There are lots of quaint bed-and-breakfastswhere you can stay, but be sure to call ahead for reservations, as lodging fills quickly.
Great food activities abound, including visiting a working Amish farm to learn about their no-electricity methods of farming, trying handmade ice cream and waffle cones at the Strasburg County Store & Creamery, or visiting the Central Market, the country’s oldest continually operating farmers market, which has been in existence since the 1730s.
For a fun side trip for the kids, drive a little further west to Hershey, home of — you guessed it — Hershey’s chocolate. Here, in "the sweetest place on Earth," you’ll find a chocolate museum, a tour of the chocolate factory, and a fun amusement park complete with occasional visits from walking Reese’s cups and Hershey Kisses. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/roboppy)
Before you leave the area, be sure to dine at one of the many Pennsylvania Dutch style restaurants in the area. My favorite is the Good & Plenty, a family-style meal where you’re seated at a long communal table. The menu changes daily, but here you’ll find the best fried chicken I’ve ever had, six different desserts (at one sitting!), and traditional Pennsylvania Dutch favorites, like pork and sauerkraut, chicken pot pie, and corn fritters, made with the best and freshest produce right from the surrounding farms. A slice of shoo fly pie with a tall glass of milk as you laugh and talk with your fellow diners is just the way to experience Amish hospitality at its best.