Whether you're looking for exciting outdoor adventures, historical tours, foodie activities, Amish encounters, or just want to relax and swim at a beautiful hotel in the quiet farm-filled rolling countryside of Pennsylvania, Lancaster County is the perfect destination for your next multigenerational family vacation. Seriously, from babies to grandparents, there are endless options here for everyone!
We've been going to Lancaster PA annually for 6 years, driving just 3 hours from NYC and now from NJ (our old getaway guides are listed at the bottom of this one). We just love the area and all if has to offer! So kick back and enjoy our highlights video from this summer's trip below (we brought my parents along for the ride this year for the first time) and read on for more details and links, which we hope will be very helpful in planning your own family's visit!!
DISCLAIMER: We were not paid but were provided free tickets, accommodation and meals in exchange for inclusion in our roundup. All thoughts and opinions are my own and completely unbiased :) HUGE thank you to our partners on this trip, including Cartoon Network Hotel, Dutch Wonderland, Turkey Hill Experience, Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre, The Amish Village, Smokehouse BBQ & Brews, and Discover Lancaster - the latter which is a GREAT resource when planning your visit, definitely check out their website, request a visitor's guide, and/or stop by their visitor's center!!
WHERE TO STAY!
Cartoon Network Hotel is the ultimate in kitsch meets cool accommoddations, and you can't beat the location if planning to go to Dutch Wonderland. You can literally walk from the hotel to the theme park and save the DW $22 parking fee (not to mention they have discounted DW tickets for hotel guests and you could even go back to the hotel for a couple hours to rest or let your toddler nap in the room). They have modern and fun cartoon-themed rooms, VR / arcade / and other great activities for kids down in the lobby, indoor and (seasonal) outdoor pools & splash zone, on-site restaurant and coffee shop (the latter turns into a bar at night), gift shop, and more!
This was our 2nd time being hosted by Cartoon Network and we just love it there! Last time we stayed in the Steven Universe Dream Suite and this time we got the Ben 10 Suite (watch the room tours below). SO SO SO thoughtfully designed with great art work, fun wall paper and bedding, and they give you tremendous space with suites featuring a primary bedroom and bathroom, living room and dining area with kitchenette, and a kids' area with 2 bunk beds (each bed has its own TV which is 1,000% my kids' favorite feature in the hotel). Cartoon Network Hotel is hands down my #1 hotel recommendation for families visiting Lancaster. It's such a fun spot, both kids and adults will love it!
BOOK YOUR STAY:
You can book a 384sqft King, Double, or Family room for 2-4 people (from about $147/night) on any site including Kayak, Booking.com, Priceline, Expedia, Hotels.com, etc. But if you have more than 4 people (like my family) you'll want to book a Dream Suite (max 6 or 8 people depending on the suite, from $399/night) directly on CartoonNetwork.com.
WHAT TO DO!
We've been visiting Dutch Wonderland annually since our twins were just 2 years old (when I was first invited to join their Influencer Ambassador Program) and we always have THE BEST TIME!!! It's so fun to back year after year and see them grow taller (see the photos above!) and enjoy different rides and activities each time. Last summer, my oldest kiddo (at 9 years old) was finally tall enough to ride every big ride in the park, which was a really exciting day for him because he finally got to go on their thrilling wooden Kingdom Coaster! This year? He rode it FOUR TIMES (and we all rode my favorite coaster, Merlin's Mayhem) THREE TIMES!
Awarded the Golden Ticket for Best Family Park by Amusement Magazine in 2019, 2021, and 2022, Dutch Wonderland celebrated its 60th Birthday this year! We brought my parents along for the first time this year and they thoroughly enjoyed many of the rides, and while we were off getting soaking wet in Duke's Lagoon and water slides, they explored the gentler rides such as Sky Ride, Monorail, and Turnpike.
While they have top notch big kid/adult coasters, little kid rides, animatronic Dinosaur "island", really exciting (and hilarious) diving shows, and all that fun, they're never crazy crowded like Disney. Most rides have no wait at all. I think the Double Splash Flume was the only time we waited more than 10 minutes in a line this trip! And there were a few that we rode 2-3 times in a row because there were no lines! Can't beat that at a theme park!
Summer hours are generally 11am-7pm daily from beginning of June through August with weekend hours here and there throughout the year including special Halloween Haunting and Winter Wonderland events. General admission $69.99 but they seem to always have some discounts available (currently an "end of summer" 35% off online), and kiddos under 3 years old are always FREE! Check their calendar and current discounts before booking your trip!
This was our second time attending one of the children's theatre lunches at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre and it was just as wonderful as last year's experience!! We got there around 11:30 to get our tickets, the buffet lunch opened at about 11:45. I can't speak of the dinner shows, but the lunch shows for kids has very KID FRIENDLY food i.e. things like chicken nuggets and corn dogs, cup cakes etc. There is a good salad bar, and coffee :) Staff is very quick to keep food available, clear your plates, refill drinks. Overall we enjoyed the food and it's a fun part of the experience - I definitely recommend getting the lunch + show ticket rather than just the show.
You continue sitting at your table during the show which started at around 12:45. They chairs are padded and comfortable, we simply turned them to face the stage so our necks wouldn't give us trouble. There was an intermission, which was appreciated since my kids had been drinking their pink lemonade non-stop!
The sound, the singing, the dancing, the set, the acting - was all top notch! Just terrific performances by all!! This was a summer show and I believe involved the children's theatre camp program, so had some younger actors included, as young as 11!! They all did so great, we just loved it!!
After the show, and I'm not sure if this is for every show or not, but they had a Q&A on the stage so kids (and adults) could ask questions to the cast, and after that the cast came out to the lobby and outside so you could take photos and talk to them. SO COOL! My kids, myself, my husband, and my parents all just absolutely loved this entire experience.
Can't recommend this place highly enough, whether you live in the area or just come for vacation like we do every year!! You can find their main theater 2023 schedule here (including Guys & Dolls, Escape to Margaritaville, and A Christmas Carol), 2024 schedule here (including Mousetrap, The Addams Family, Ragtime the Musical, The Full Monty, The Sound of Music, Jersey Boys, Hairspray, and White Christmas), and their children's theater schedule here (including Santa Claus the Musical, The Rainbow Fish Musical, The Sponge Bob Musical (Youth Edition), and Frozen Jr.)
You can't come to Lancaster and not do at least one Amish-centric activity or tour, but there are SO many to choose from! So, let me make it easy for you in saying The Amish Village is a GREAT one!! We're grateful to Discover Lancaster for coordinating tickets for us to showcase their Amish Village and Farmhouse Tour.
Our guide was so informative, teaching us about Amish life, culture, and religion as she guided us through an old Amish home. One thing that really stuck with me was the meaning I never realized about their women's clothing! At 16 years old, girls are given a white apron to wear to show they are of age to start dating (they encourage dating for a full 2 years before marriage since divorce is verboten). Once married, they're given a black apron to show they're married, since they don't wear any jewelry, including wedding rings or flashy buttons. So interesting!!
It was also fascinating to learn they do use some electricity, just nothing that ties them to a grid. So, utilizing propane gas and hooking up modern appliances to lawn mower motors for example, are quite popular. As are using peacocks as alarm systems, ha! Who knew, they're REALLY LOUD (watch the video!!) After the tour of the house we wandered around the property where they have some lots of animals, an Amish school house, wagons to climb into, and some yummy treats - I highly recommend getting some homemade whoopie pies!!
If you have time, you may want to get a more extensive tour such as their Premium Package Tour that includes a 90 minute narrated bus ride! See ticket and tour options here!
If you love ice cream, Turkey Hill Experience is a MUST DO. When they say that unlimited ice cream samples are included with admission, it's no joke. But they're not samples, they're FULL CUPS, and you can go back for as many as you want, of whatever flavor(s) omgggggg so good!!! Also, unlimited samples of a wide selection of teas and lemonades. Crazy thing is, the ice cream wasn't even the favorite part for my kids!!! It was all of the interactive activities like decorating their own ice cream containers, and filming their own Turkey Hill commercial using a teleprompter, microphone and green screen!!
For me?? It was the Taste Lab where we were schooled about all things ice cream and Turkey Hill and made our own ice cream with a bazillion flavorings, sauces, and mix ins!!! This place was such a fun stop, I can't believe we've been to Lancaster so many times and had never been here before!! General admission is $13.50 but you should definitely get the combo ticket with Taste Lab ($22.50). And be sure to give yourself at least 2 hours to enjoy it all (and make space to get down enough ice cream LOL).
WHERE TO EAT!
Smokehouse BBQ & Brews
Located in a serene area of Lancaster County on the 10 acre Plain & Fancy Farm, Smokehouse BBQ & Brews is a must for BBQ lovers, and really convenient if taking Aaron & Jessica's Amish Buggy Rides or visiting The Amish Experience - they're all on the same property! If their menu doesn't have you drooling, I don't know what will. We were treated to the "create your own platter" and it did not disappoint. I can honestly say, the BEST BBQ OF MY LIFE. So so good! My kids are extremely picky and they were eating off my plate after devouring their kids meals. I couldn't believe it! Don't forget to save space for Shoofly Pie, a Lancaster County favorite!
Whether or not you're staying at Cartoon Network Hotel, if your kids love cartoons or Cartoon Network, this is worth a stop for dinner. Call ahead and see if you can request one of the "Dream Cube" pods, they're super fun for kids!! The dinner menu is not super extensive, but you've got the kid-friendly staples and for adults things like tangy chicken wrap and burger, and some great deserts too! Everyone leaves happy! And if you're lucky, you may get a meet & greet with Gumball or another character while you're there!
OTHER GREAT RESTAURANTS:
MORE FUN ACTIVITIES:
INDOOR ACTIVITIES (Rainy Day Backups):
See and read more in our past Lancaster family vacation guides:
I'm a NYC metro area mom blogger living in NJ with my Japanese husband & our 3 kids (twins plus 1), focusing on fun and honest product and travel reviews, saving moms time finding the best for their families! Find what you need in the menu bar or search section above!