Around Towns

The patchwork of towns and villages that dot the countryside of Lancaster County contribute much to its character. While visitors identify this area with the Amish farmlands, our towns and their citizens each have a unique history and “sense of place” for visitors who take the time to discover them.

From its beginning over ten years ago, Amish Country News recognized this. We were perhaps the first, and are still the only, local visitors guide to spotlight these places in our special town sections. We provide a map, brief overview of the town, and information on some of its attractions, all organized into one convenient section. In this way we hope to encourage you not just to see the “big attractions,” but also to explore lesser known sites, museums, restaurants, and shops… to “become a local” for a few hours.

This special issue on Strasburg is a case in point. Most visitors think of trains when they think of Strasburg, and rightly so. But take some time to do more. You can spend an entire day riding the railroad, visiting the museums, getting some ice cream, exploring the Main Street shops, checking out Amish quilt shops on nearby farms, taking a buggy ride, and finishing the day with miniature golf or a theater production. It’s all possible within about a mile radius of the center of town!

Just this year, our County Planning Commission published a guidebook titled HISTORIC TOWNS AND VILLAGES OF LANCASTER COUNTY. Spotlighted are Lancaster City and ten surrounding towns. The guidebook is filled with beautiful photos and interesting commentary, so that even the “armchair traveler” would enjoy spending some time exploring its pages. Historic timelines, events, and maps are included for each of the towns.

The book includes some of the towns familiar to visitors (Strasburg, Lititz), as well as some less familiar, such as Columbia, Marietta, and Mount Joy. Of special interest are the many historic buildings located in these villages, particularly those meeting the authenticity guidelines and criteria of the Lancaster County Heritage program. “To be included in the program, these sites, services, and events must be open to the public with regular, established hours and provide authentic interpretation of local heritage.” They can be recognized by the official Lancaster County Heritage logo. In addition, sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places are also included.

Each resident of Lancaster probably identifies certain places or activities with specific towns. Let me share a few of my personal observations on just three of them…

Marietta isn’t far from where I live on the west side of the county. I used to go there to the old movie theater, where a church organist played the theater organ before the movie, and often provided live accompaniment to the “silents.” There are many wonderful old homes in the town, an excellent restaurant, and a delightful Christmas tour.

My favorite place in Mount Joy is surely Bube’s Brewery. Beer is no longer brewed here, but the big barrels remain, and the Catacombs restaurant deep underground provides a truly unique, candlelit-dining experience. When someone says “I want to eat in a place unlike any other restaurant I’ve been in,” this is the one I take them to.

Columbia makes me think of clocks and bridges. If you think a museum filled with timepieces would be boring, you need to spend some time at the National Watch and Clock Museum. Adults and children will be fascinated, and the display is first-class. The old bridge across the Susquehanna River makes for a nice stroll, and there are lookouts and hiking courses through the hills just north of town.

If you don’t have enough time on this trip, you owe it to yourself to come back and discover the many towns and villages that comprise the fabric of Lancaster County.

The HISTORIC TOWNS & VILLAGES guidebook is sold at the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau just off Route 30 on Greenfield Road, or through the Planning Commission at the Lancaster County Courthouse (717-299-8333) or at


Amish Country News Publisher's Message by Brad Igou (2003)


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