Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lancaster County Parks

~A Day in the Park~
As the temperatures in Lancaster County soar to unseasonal heights, the number of people getting out and about in the great outdoors is increasing. For some it is doing gardening work, for some taking a long walk. Others spend the afternoon in the park, strolling, relaxing, playing and eating.

Lancaster County offers many resources for those who wish to take advantage of the weather and spend a few hours in the fresh air. The beautiful parks teem with life from the squirrel to the children. Here is a suggestion for a day you will never forget. Enjoy your day in the park!

First stop: food. Lancaster County is filled to overflowing with restaurants, grocery stores and bakeries, but here are a few favorites. Begin your afternoon by picking up tasty pre-made sandwiches, deli salads, fruit and drinks from Stauffers of Kissel Hill. With locations in Lititz, Roherstown, and Lancaster, Stauffers is near several lovely parks.

You may also wish to try Issacs Deli. Their fresh, made-to-order sandwiches may necessitate pre-ordering, however their locations are very convenient. Issacs has locations scattered across Lancaster County, in Ephrata, Lititz, Mt. Joy and Strasburg, to name a few.

Second stop: recreation. It wouldn’t be a picnic without a ball or Frisbee!

Last stop: choose a park. Lancaster County is a wellspring of open spaces, even in the area of downtown Lancaster. There is still an element of nature in Lancaster’s Central Park. Named for its central location in the county, the park covers 544 acres and has six pavilions. There are playgrounds and the park is home to the community pool along with several ponds and water features.

A quiet spot, located on the banks of the Susquehanna River, Chickies Rock County Park is a low key, natural setting. Visitors can view the shore of York County from the park’s overlook of the river.

The Speedwell Forge Park offers much more than a picnic table and a few trees. This 415 acre park is located between what used to be Speedwell Forge Lake and the Furnace Hills State Game Lands. The park is mostly undeveloped, however there are hiking trails and open spaces throughout it. The diversity of habitats, from wetlands to deciduous woods, leads to a diversity of animal life as well. Among the animals routinely seen at Speedwell Forge are deer, ruffed grouse and several species of woodpeckers.

If you are looking for a shorter trip, or a smaller, more developed park, try one of these: Lititz Springs Park, Manheim Community Park, or New Holland Park.

These are just a few of the many beautiful parks in Lancaster County. For a list of more parks and information about them, visit the Lancaster County Department of Parks and Recreation website.  

Friday, April 20, 2012

Lancaster County's Covered Bridges

Lancaster County has 29 covered bridges, and many of the Lancaster County Bed and Breakfasts are located along these historic covered bridge tours. They were built in the 1800s, at a time where Pennsylvania had about 1,500 bridges. They were made entirely of wood because it was inexpensive and readily available. The actual construction of these bridges took lots of time and were often funded by the government or landowners who built bridges across their land. To protect the wood and help it last longer, the bridges were covered from the weather. Over time, floods and fires destroyed bridges that were later replaced with concrete and steel materials, leaving only 200 covered bridges in Pennsylvania today.

I encourage you to spend time exploring these countrysides and staying at many of the nearby bed and breakfasts. The following list details pre-planned tours that include bridges, unique places to shop and dine, and a nearby place to stay. Ask your innkeepers if you need more information on the local tours.

Starting at the PA Dutch Visitors Center, this tour includes four historic covered bridges. Meander your way through north Central Lancaster County countryside and the town of Lititz, with its galleries, and treats! Conclude this tour with a stay at either Swiss Woods Bed and Breakfast, E.J Bowman House or Alden House Bed and Breakfast .

Begin your journey in the town of Ephrata and travel past Amish farms and five covered bridges. Along the way, enjoy a hearty meal at a popular smorgasbord, stroll around a farmers' market and learn about a 1700s religious community. This tour is near the Hurst House B & B, Inn at Twin Linden, Brownstone Colonial B & B, Kimmell House Bed and Breakfast

Beginning in Strasburg, travel beautiful back roads, passing four historic covered bridges, one-room school houses and farms. During your journey, stop in Christiana and learn about its history and role in the Underground Railroad and then spend the night at Pheasant Run Farm B & B or the 1786 Limestone Inn.

Starting at the PA Dutch Visitors Bureau, journey through picturesque Southern Lancaster County countryside to explore seven historic covered bridges.  You’ll find yourself in Strasburg and Downtown Lancaster, near After Eight B & B or Flowers & Thyme Bed and Breakfast.

As you travel between five covered bridges throughout western Lancaster County, stop and experience the historic towns of Marietta, Columbia, Mount Joy and Manheim. You will come across Rose Manor B & B in Manheim. Along the way, you'll enjoy the Susquehanna River, unique museums, a brewery and family attractions. Make sure to reserve your room at the Hillside Farm Bed and Breakfast.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Greenhouses and Garden Centers in Lancaster County, PA

A crescendo of color has hit Lancaster County. The advent of spring has brought out the best in everything—especially the flowers. Everywhere you go, you see beds filled with the cheerful blooms of the daffodils and the shy tulips, the subtle touch of color provided by grape hyacinths in the grass.

The sights and sounds of spring get into everyone’s blood. In the aftermath of a dreary winter, the sunshine draws us outdoors. This spring, don’t let the warm daffodil days pass you by.

Hoovers Farm Market and Greenhouse has recently opened their doors for the season. The market, set in the middle of a large farm, is situated just north of Lititz, in the Rothsville area. As they say, it is well worth the short, scenic drive through the country. The greenhouses offer a wide variety of plants, from vegetables to trees and some of everything in between. Their plants are generally very healthy and do well. Also, when you get hungry, stop by the farm market for quality produce, home baked goods and cheeses.

Esbenshade’s Garden Center and Greenhouse has several locations, the nearest of which is located west of Ephrata on route 322. Esbenshade’s is expansive with a large garden center and several large greenhouses. They also offer an outdoor nursery and fish displays. Families may enjoy this outing, even without a purpose in mind. There is so much to explore and discover at Esbenshade’s.

Stauffers of Kissel Hill, which started with a family fruit stand on the side of the road in 1932. There are now nine locations, several of them in Lancaster County. Though Stauffers is a grocery store and garden center, it has also become a local destination. Many people go there just for the experience. It’s not your usual grocery store or garden center: it’s unique and worth exploring. With locations in Lancaster, Lititz and Rohestown, Stauffers is an accessible adventure.

Create your own orchestra of growing things by visiting one of these greenhouses or the many others in Lancaster County.