We enjoyed our weekend in Lancaster last summer so much (see here) we decided to pretty much copy cat our own trip again this year! As far as budget-friendly family vacation destinations within a few hours drive of NYC go, this is one of the best. A MUST for any NY / NJ / PA family with kids in the range of about 2-10 years old.
In exchange for our honest reviews, we were provided free admission to Cherry Crest Adventure Farm & Dutch Wonderland, and complimentary accommodation at Bird in Hand Family Inn, but don't worry, all opinions are unbiased - we don't sell out guys! Read on for details on each place, and don't miss our 2 great videos below!!
Cherry Crest Adventure Farm is one of the most unique places we've ever been. It's outdoors, set on 15 acres of peaceful beautiful Lancaster farmland, chock full of 50 kinds of activities, games and rides that encourage movement, creativity, and teamwork! Children 2 and under are free, and others can get a day pass for $17 ($30 ticket allows you to come back an unlimited amount of times in the year - open from end of May til start of November!), and there are a few other passes that include extras such as apple launcher and shooting range, which are great but not necessary for families with young kids in my opinion.
Here are my families' personal favorite things to do at Cherry Crest Adventure Farm:
Starting July 3 you can visit their 23rd Annual Amazing Maize Maze, "a gigantic, 5-acre Board Game Madness design created from 2.5 miles of paths and tricky turns!! This sounds SO COOL and we hope to go back later this summer to finally check it out (the past 2 times we've been was technically "spring" seasons, before the maze opens).
**Edited: We finally went during Labor Day Weekend!! Check out our video highlights from the Amazing Maize Maze and more!
CLICK BELOW TO WATCH
highlights from Cherry Crest Adventure Farm!
Whether seeking thrill rides, toddler & baby friendly calmer rides, animatronic dinosaurs, water park, or shows - Dutch Wonderland has got them all!!
We found our 36" 2.5 year old twins could ride a ton of things this year, compared to last year. And our son, now 46" could ride all but 1 ride that he wanted to, except for wooden Kingdom Coaster (minimum 48"). You can see the height requirements for all rides here, and at each ride they'll have a sign up so you can quickly see if your kids can ride.
I was shocked that my son was tall enough for the new hanging Merlin's Mayhem rollercoaster, but the way the seat is built and with the backup old-school lap belt, it felt super secure and i wasn't the least bit nervous of him flying out. If you have a kid tall enough (minimum 39", under 48" must ride with a "responsible rider") definitely prioritize it, that ride is super smooth and crazy fast. SO much fun!!
I'm totally bummed both times we've been, late May last year and early June this year, it wasn't quite warm enough to use their water park, which looks amazing. So, we're hoping to go back later this summer! Also very unlucky was the massive rain storm that met us at the park - it started pouring after just 3 hours. After checking the radar, we called it a day at 1pm and heard later they ended up shutting down the park at 2:30pm.
We did squeeze in a show and were very impressed with the level of entertainment. The story was the "Adventures of the Frog Prince", and included lots of silly but skilled divers. My son enjoyed sitting in the front row (by himself) and getting soaked! Don't worry, they paint the benches by color code so you can sit in a dry or wet section, as per your heart's desire! You can check out showtimes before visiting here.
Kids 2 and under are free, but don't worry, there's still plenty they can do as many rides allow children of any height as long as they can walk (but keep in mind, not many allow lap babies). For ages 3+ you can get a day pass for $45 or a season pass from $97~, and you can even get a season pass that combines Dutch Wonderland and Hershey Park!! Also, keep your eyes peeled in the spring for early bird discounts!
CLICK BELOW TO WATCH
highlights from Dutch Wonderland
& Bird in Hand Family Inn!
Last year we stayed at the Doubletree, which was wonderful - we especially loved their indoor splash zone at the pool. But this year we wanted a bit more of a local experience and we were HIGHLY impressed with Bird in Hand Family Inn, our new recommendation for the best family-friendly hotel in Lancaster!!
Featuring 2 indoor pools & a jacuzzi, a zero-entry outdoor pool, one of the most impressive playgrounds I've ever run across, a delicious breakfast buffet and dinner smorgasbord (with ala cart menus as well), live evening entertainment (not included), free tours of Amish farms, set in an incredibly quiet and beautiful backdrop, you really can't go wrong with the Bird in Hand Family Inn. All this and rooms go for under $200 a night!! Total win!!
We got a double queen room with a view of the pool - it was clean, modern, and comfortable. We did have a bit of hallway noise at one point, but nothing too bothersome (we're New Yorkers, don't forget haha). The buildings are a bit spread out but we enjoyed walking around to explore, there's farm land all around, you'll hear Amish riding by in their buggies, and Waters Edge Mini Golf is right on site as well! They also sell different packages and experiences, such as hot air balloon rides, wine tastings, and talks on Amish History and Beliefs.
Live close by or are considering a longer Lancaster vacation than just a weekend? Here are some other great places to check out:
Amish / Pennsylvania Dutch Experiences & Activities:
Pennsylvania Dutch Smorgasbords:
Other Local Dining Experiences:
Have you been to Lancaster or any of these places? Planning to go soon? Have another place to recommend? Be sure to leave a comment below!! And if you live in New York City or the Tri-State area, don't miss my massive list of the best family-friendly destinations with 3 hours drive of NYC!!
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!