We usually do our annual Family Vacation Guide to Lancaster in the summer and hit up Dutch Wonderland and Cherry Crest Adventure Farm, but when Cartoon Network Hotel invited us down for a winter visit, we were excited to discover what kid-friendly fun was to be had in Amish Country in winter and year round... and to share with you all, of course!!
Watch our highlights video and read on for more details about each of the attractions, restaurants, and hotels!
Cartoon Network Hotel
Whether you have a lover of cartoons in your home or not, adults and kids of all ages will LOVE Cartoon Network Hotel!!
We were provided 2 nights in the Steven Universe Dream Suite in exchange for our review, but don't worry, all thoughts and opinions are my own and completely unbiased. In full honesty... IT IS AMAZING!!!!!
They have 4 dream suites that can sleep 6: Steven Universe, Ben 10, Power Puff, and Adventure Time. Ours had a private primary bedroom for the parents, a huge bathroom with 2 sinks and a shower, a 6-chair dining table, small kitchen with mini fridge / Keurig / microwave, large living room with 75" TV, and kids room with 2 double bunk beds and a TV in each bed (this didn't have a door, unfortunately, but was off to the side so you could have lights and TV on in the living room and it wouldn't bother kids if deep sleepers like ours, or simply head to your own bedroom and close the door ;)
The dream suite costs quite a bit more than the regular rooms that sleep 2 or 4 people, but are the only rooms inside the main building and are totally worth the splurge IMO! The only negative I have is that because it is right over the lobby, we heard the music pumping down there (they were doing karaoke I think?) on Saturday night til 10pm. It didn't bother me and my kids didn't notice and passed right out, but just a heads up. Nothing some ear plugs or white noise app on your cell phone can't take care of!
Inside the main building, you have the Cartoon Kitchen, regular character meet & greets, a cafe, the gift shop (a dream for Cartoon Network fans!!!), Omnicade (arcade), and the favorite of me and my kids: the Toon Room. Here you can play VR (even 2 can play together in the same game/cube), scavenger hunt, arts and crafts, and more!
They have an outdoor pool and splash area open in summer, and they have a lovely heated indoor pool open year round but you have to go outside to get there and ooooooof it can be cold in winter! It didn't have any locker rooms but we changed in the bathroom, not a big deal. Be sure to BYO puddle jumpers / floaties.
Book your room on cartoonnetworkhotel.com or Hotels.com (affiliate link).
There are a ton of companies out there with "Amish tours" and museums and what not. Some are authentic, others not at all. I ran across LoKal Experiences on Discover Lancaster's website and am SO glad I reached out to work together on a review. The "Unique Amish Immersion Experience" tour we were taken on went above and beyond my expectations in teaching us all about Amish / Mennonite history, culture, and such great tidbits. I never realized how misinformed we are about them! Here are some things I found most fascinating:
Mike, the co-founder of LoKal, is passionate about working with local Amish businesses and families, and giving his clients an authentic, memorable, and fun experience. He took us in his beautiful 14 passenger van to several homes (including one that was featured in the 1985 Harrison Ford movie Witness) and farms and even Down on the Farm Creamery that had the BEST ice cream I've EVER had. (Yes, at 9:45am. Don't judge.) He also had these great ear pieces so you could hear him and ask questions no matter how far back in the van you sat, which was really helpful!
They offer tons of experiences and tours, so you can find the best one for your family - from lunch with an Amish family to a Sweet & Savory tour of Lancaster City, even some craft beer & dive bar options for adults!
Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre
Founded 35 years ago and serving 15,000 guests annually, this 328 seat theatre is a great stop on any family-friendly Lancaster vacation!! Check their calendar to see which performances will be held during your stay! Their main theatre lineup includes Singin' in the Rain (~April 16), Rock of Ages, The Little Mermaid, Chicago, Saturday Night Fever, and Elf the Musical. They also have workshops and performances geared more toward children, which is what we were invited to join! I had no idea what to expect but we went for the matinee lunch and show of Pinkalicious the Musical and honestly, I LOVED IT! The buffet for the kids show wasn't spectacular, to be honest, it was "kid-friendly" foods (think hot dogs and fish nuggets) but it did have a salad bar and yummy cupcakes and cookies! The show itself was one hour and pure fun. The acting, set, and music were top notch, and it was, frankly, HILARIOUS. All 5 of us had a fabulous time!! After the show the cast stayed on stage to take questions from the audience, which was a really nice touch!! It's running through April 15, I really recommend it!!
Choo Choo Barn
If you love model trains, the Choo Choo Barn is a MUST!! It's basically 1 HUGE Lancaster County themed train set in a 1700 square foot room! With over 150 hand-built animated figures and vehicles and 22 operating trains. There are buttons to press to activate different parts. Every 10 minutes the room darkens and the ceiling has starts that light up to simulate nighttime. It's just utterly fascinating to examine every single inch of this place! I wasn't sure if our kids would be bored but they couldn't get enough of it either! There's a zoo, ski slopes, airplane, Dutch Wonderland, a house on fire, a circus, so so so so much to see! SO FUN!! For older kids who need some help focusing, they have 2 great scavenger hunt lists - one for first timers and one for repeat visitors.
Aaron & Jessica's Buggy Rides
We had terrible luck with the weather, in the middle of a winter storm when it was time for our reserved time at Aaron & Jessica's Buggy Rides. Despite the wind and snow, they were more than happy to take us out and tell us all about the Amish history and culture. The owner, or "Grandpa," as he said everyone calls him, was our driver and was so great with our kids. He let all 3 pile up front and help him steer the horse. Answering their millions of questions and taking photos with us afterward. I can't wait to go back for a longer ride during nicer weather! They have several tours to choose from such as the 20 minute "Cookie Run" with a stop at a farm stand to the 90 minute "Amish Journey" and private rides as well. Check out their website for hours and more details!
Fulton Steamboat Inn
We already had our accommodation settled for this trip but in all our years visiting Lancaster, we had yet to stop by the Fulton Steamboat Inn! So, I reached out and was delighted to be invited for a hotel tour and dinner! From the moment you see the "steamboat" from the road, til you step foot inside and get immediate "Titanic vibes", it's just one OOOOH after another! It's a truly unique experience and stunning property!
They have an assortment of beautiful rooms, and if going on a couples getaway or momcation, I highly recommend their spectacular rooms on the adult-only sun deck!! They have an indoor pool and jacuzzi, a small game room, a cute playground and pond outside (the Koi fish were wintering but we had fun feeding the ducks)! Dinner was delicious, they had a great kids' menu and coloring activities for them, and we were pleasantly surprised to have pianist Bill Horn playing during our meal! Whether you stay at Fulton Steamboat Inn or just drop in for a meal at Huckleberry's Restaurant, you won't be disappointed! Book your room at fultonsteamboatinn.com or Hotels.com (affiliate link).
Did we manage to squeeze in a TON in just 3 days or what!?!?! We loooooove Lancaster and can't recommend it highly enough for your next family vacation! Are there some must-sees and must-dos we missed? Leave us a comment below!! And if looking for more Lancaster ideas, see our past years' guides below!
Our previous Lancaster Family Vacation Guides:
About Me ^_^
I'm a NYC metro area mom blogger living in NJ with my Japanese husband & our 3 kids (twins plus 1). This blog is chock full of product reviews, family travel guides, and giveaways galore! It's also home to Bay Ridge Families, and several guides focused on kid-friendly activities and guides to South Brooklyn, Hudson Valley, and New Jersey, as well as family-friendly destinations beyond the NYC area (check the menu bar!)