We just got back from our 4th Lancaster Family Vacation in 3 years and I simply can't recommend it highly enough as possibly THE BEST quick, easy, fun, and cultural getaway for New York City families! After just a 3 hour drive, you'll find yourself in serene Pennsylvania countryside, surrounded by farmland, Amish horse-drawn buggies, and countless family-friendly activities to choose from. It might feel overwhelming to plan your Lancaster Family Vacation, but we're here to help!! Below are the places we visited this summer and highly recommend for you to add to your agenda! Be sure to scroll through each photo gallery and watch each highlights video to get a better feel of what each place has to offer for both kids and adults! Additional activities and our past years' Lancaster family vacation guides are linked at the bottom of this post, as well.
Disclaimer: We were provided complimentary tickets in exchange for including most of these places in our guide, but we reached out to them with interest, and all thoughts and opinion are our own and completely unbiased!
Whether you have a train-obsessed child in your family or you just enjoy unique hands-on museums, the Railroad Museum of PA is sure to please! Once you enter, go straight to the elevator, upstairs, and across the bridge for an "OHHHHHH MY GOSH!!!!!" reaction from your entire party as you overlook the massive museum, with 100+ locomotives and cars from the 18th and 19th centuries!
After meandering your way through row after row of trains, some which you can board, and many hands-on-activities and learning stations, be sure to stop by the Stewart Junction, a special place for kids to build and play with motorized LEGOS, see huge model train displays, and more. We spent a good portion of our museum visit in that section, the kids couldn't get enough!
Located at 300 Gap Road, Strasburg PA, the museum is open Mondays - Saturdays from 9AM - 5PM and Sundays from noon - 5PM, but closed on Mondays in November - March. Admission is $10 per adult, $9 for seniors, $8 for youth, and free for ages 2 and under. They also have great membership options if you plan to go more than once a year!
The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania is right across the street from the Strasburg Rail Road, and whether or not you plan to actually take a ride on that (which we covered in our 2017 Lancaster Vacation Guide), it is really fun to just go over and watch the huge train depart, screaming whistles and all. There's also a great free playground over there, as you can see in our video below, and Strasburg Rail Road hosts A Day Out with Thomas, if you can time your getaway right!
If you end up getting rained out during your trip, or simply need a nice place to let the kids have some fun indoors, then Tiny Town Indoor Playplace is going to rock your world!! It is huge, brand new, so clean and organized and full of ways for your children to explore and imagine! It features a "Tiny Town" of 11 luxury play houses - we're talking an animal & human hospital, fire station, library, market, theater, Grandma's house, salon, and more! There were dress up clothes, books, toys - more than my kids could ask for in their wildest dreams. Not only did they have a blast, so did us parents!! Just watch my hubby trying to juggle in the video below LOL!!
I love how parent-friendly this place is as well, with a full coffee bar and snack bar (and you can BYO but keep in mind they're a nut-free facility), and lots of tables to spread out and relax (or work?) while the kiddos play. Shoes are kept on so no need to worry about whether or not you brought socks (a common mistake and added expense in summer)! They also have a little baby and toddler area gated off in the middle of the massive playplace.
Located at 533 Janet Ave in Lancaster PA, Tiny Town is open Mondays - Saturdays from 9AM - 4PM, and closed Sundays for parties. Admission is $10 for children (free for 12 months and under) and $8 for adults, and it's good for the whole day! So you can go and come back as you like!
This was our 4th visit to the best agri-tainment in the area, Cherry Crest Adventure Farm. Set on 25 beautiful acres with over 60 farm fun activities, games, and rides, it's always a highlight of our Lancaster vacations! But, this year was the hottest it's been during our visit - sunny and about 90 degrees! YIKES! They have a bit of shade here and there, and a huge mist fan which is nice, but it is outdoors with lots of walking and moving around, so take note. Thankfully our kids weren't bothered by the heat and I am incredibly glad we didn't cut it from our schedule - 100% worth the sweat haha!!
This year we were most excited to try their brand new Cherry Crest Feed Mill which is a giant kid and adult friendly obstacle course type thing with rock climbing, cargo nets, ropes and tires to balance and navigate across. Very fun!! We also were sure not to miss our tried and true favorites - the Hay Chute Slides, the Corn Crib (like a HUGE sand box filled with dried corn kernels instead of sand!!), the giant bounce pillow, and the Little Sprouts kids' village of outdoor luxury play houses.
We did nix a visit to their 24th Annual Amazing Maize Maze due to the heat (you can watch our trip through the corn maze last year here), but this year's "Man on the Moon 1969-2019 Corn Maze" design is in honor of their collaboration with NASA this year in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. Behold their "5-acre corny version of outer space":
From 1-3PM on Friday, July 19, NASA will broadcast LIVE from Cherry Crest on NASA TV, NASA's website, and the Discovery Science Channel, with NASA Astronaut Colonel Alvin Drew and NASA Chief Technologist Douglas Terrier introducing a special exhibit and programs on NASA Spin-off Technologies used by farmers today. There will also be a series of informal talks and photo ops with NASA astronauts on July 19 & 20! Learn more about that here! The NASA Apollo 50 Celebration is free and open to the public, but regular entrance fees apply for Cherry Crest Adventure Farm activities and fees.
Located at 150 Cherry Hill Rd in Ronks PA, their hours vary by time of year so check here, but during summer season they're closed Sundays and Mondays. Children ages 3 and under are free, and adults are $16 online or $19 at the gate in summer. It's pretty all-inclusive and you can easily spend half a day with just the basic pass, but there are certain add-on activities you can pay for individually or purchase a more expensive pass that includes them. For example, their priciest pass is $31 online or $35 at the gate and includes the Apple Blasters, Battle Zone, Paintball Range, hand-make rope or gem-mining, and a souvenir cup drink or kettle corn.
Looking to get hands-on with some adorable farm animals, then you gotta schedule a tour at Verdant View Farm, a pasture-raised grass-fed beef farm and bed & breakfast, family-run currently by its 4th generation of farmers! They have a selection of tours to choose from, including the Farmer's Apprentice Tour which we did (watch below for a good laugh and to learn a good bit, too!) as well as homemade ice cream tasting and demo, artisan cheesemaking and tasting, goat's milk soap making, and farming 101.
I wasn't really sure what to expect, and it was a HOT day, but we just had the most interesting and fun time, and learned a lot about raising cows on a dairy vs. beef farm, that most of the corn in Lancaster is actually for the animals (what!?!?!), and general life on the farm. We got to milk a cow, bottle feed baby cows, hold chickens, and play with baby goats (who climbed on our backs - ouch)!! For such city slickers as ourselves, this was just such a unique experience we will never forget!! You can even book a room there for a more immersive experience - you can help collect the eggs they'll serve you for breakfast, and have milk fresh from the cow, can you imagine!? Talk about Farm to Table! I'm definitely going to consider this for our next trip to Lancaster!
Located at 429 Strasburg Road in Paradise PA, tours are held Mondays - Saturdays in June - August and Saturdays in Spring and Fall, and go for about $10 - $25 per person.
Last year we stayed at Bird-in-Hand Family Inn (read our review and see our tour here), and this year we were thrilled to go back for their amazing authentic Pennsylvania Dutch cooking Smorgasbord dinner followed by their "Magic & Wonder: IMAGINE" show! You can buy tickets for the show only, but I highly recommend the package including the Smorgasbord (packaged prices for $21 - 27 for children, $39 - $49 for adults). I recommend giving yourself 90 minutes or so to eat before the show starts. We sat down for dinner at 4PM, finished around 6PM, killed some time at their huge free on-site playground, and our show started at 7PM. Timing was perfect!
The Bird-in-Hand Smorgasbord is huge with a great variety of foods, a little kids' section with staples that'll suit picky kids' tastebuds, and a to-die-for dessert bar! The whoopie pie cake, omg guys, a must! If you're not up for a buffet, you can always order a la carte, check out their menu here!
The Bird-in-Hand Stage's website touts "broadway-style music theater and magic shows" and it's no joke. The entertainment was top notch - illusionist Brett Myers was spectacular! The fun starts off in the lobby where one of the magicians is doing small tricks for the kids (and selling cool magic tricks to take home as well). The main show itself was exciting, breath-taking, hilarious, and all-around highly entertaining!!! Unfortunately we were not allowed to film or take pictures, so you'll just have to take my word for it, or better yet, go see it for yourself! Do consider your schedule and kids' naps and bedtime though. Our 3 year old twins hadn't napped that day and we went to the 7PM show so you can imagine, it didn't go completely smoothly and we did have to escort ourselves not-so-quietly out of the show before it ended. But, this is life with 3 littles!! The night was fun while it lasted!
This is our 3rd year in a row participating in Dutch Wonderland's summer blogger campaign - it's always exciting to receive their e-mail inviting us back, I'm not sure who's more excited, me or the kids! They call this 43-acre family amusement park a Kingdom for Kids and it really is! My kids absolutely adore it there! I think it's ideal for kids ages 3 - 8, but there is still plenty to do there for littler ones (many rides allow babies in lap) as well as older kids and even adults! Their thrill ride Merlin's Mayhem, for example, is my personal favorite, and you must be at least 42" to ride. We hit the park when they open at 10AM on Sundays and have never dealt with a line for the first hour or two. This allows my son 2-3 rides on Merlin's Mayhem in a row, and then we cram in as many rides as we can before lunch time!
If you get to the cafeteria by noon, it's still pretty empty and you can have a relaxed break eating pizza, grilled cheese, gourmet sandwiches, you name it. Then back to the pavement for more rides, and don't forget to catch some of their live shows, which are another chance to rest your feet a bit. I'm a huge fan of their diving shows, especially "A Dragon's Tale" which had great music and I found it, actually, kind of hilarious!! Be sure to sit in one of the front rows if you enjoy a refreshing splash or two!
With fabulous live shows, over 35 rides, Duke's Lagoon water park, and animatronic dinosaurs in Exploration Island, you really do need to plan a full day at Dutch Wonderland to get as much in as possible. For families coming from NYC, this is even feasible as a day trip (bonus - the kids will sleep the entire ride home!!). If you plan to spend a good amount of time in the water park, I recommend a day and a half or 2 full days at Dutch Wonderland. Or you could go for a season's pass!
Regular pricing is $44.99 for visitors ages 3+, but you can get a special $5 discount with my code here!!
Lancaster's original buffet and restaurant, Miller's started 90 years ago with a simple dish of chicken and waffles, which is still available in their massive smorgasbord and on their a la carte menu today!! It's a must-try, for sure, and you will not be disappointed with their large selection of items cooked from scratch and sourced from local farms! The dinner smorgasbord is $25.49 for adults (they have a $3 off coupon on their website), $9.99 for ages 10-12, $6.99 for ages 4-9, and free for ages 3 and under. You'll find a carving station, grilled veggies, soups, salads, appetizer station, and my favorite, the dessert bar where you can grab a pre-cut piece of cake or pie, or have them slice a warm pie for you (my personal recommendation is the Chocolate Pecan Pie!!!!!), and don't forget to have them add a scoop of ice cream!! We find Miller's the perfect place to visit after a long day at Dutch Wonderland. Then, we pile in the car with pleasantly filled bellies and let the kids sleep the whole drive home! Amazing end to an amazing family getaway!!
So, what do you think of our Lancaster Family Vacation Guide!? Have you been before, or are you planning a trip? Don't miss our past Lancaster vacation roundups here:
A list of activities, restaurants and accommodations you may want to consider in Lancaster (not a complete list, by all means, check out to Discover Lancaster for help researching & personalizing your itinerary):
Amish / Pennsylvania Dutch Experiences & Activities:
Family Friendly Accommodations:
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!