Spring is here, and with it comes the urge to get out of town. While international travel isn’t a wise choice right now, close-to-home day trips are a great way to see something new while keeping yourself and others safe. Known for its bucolic farmlands and Pennsylvania Dutch community, Lancaster is roughly an hour and a half from Philadelphia, just far enough to feel like a whole new world.
While Lancaster might have a relatively sleepy reputation, there’s plenty of warm weather activities to enjoy in the county, from farm visits and buggy rides to antiquing and plenty of good eating. The region’s iconic buffets are open for business, but there is also no shortage of options for outdoor dining and drinking in this close — but still very different — city.
Like the rest of Pennsylvania, there is an abundance of breweries to check out when visiting Lancaster. Instead of choosing one, why not embark on the Lancaster Ale Trail? It’s a guided map of 20 breweries, cider houses, and distilleries spread throughout the region. The itinerary includes well-known and worth-visiting spots like Troegs and Stoudts alongside newcomers to the region like Wacker Brewing and Mad Chef Brewing Co.
Local roasters Passenger Coffee have a roastery and coffee bar in Lancaster that’s a minimal cafe offering a tight menu of drinks made from sustainably sourced beans and teas. Its newly opened storefront — the Passenger Coffee & Tea Showroom — is the perfect place to duck in for an early morning macchiato. Passenger Coffee is currently takeout only and its selection of beans and tea blends can be purchased at its showroom.
Cedric Barberet has been bringing downtown Lancaster a taste of France for more than 25 years. His current offerings include a patisserie and bistro located at 26 East King Street. The bakery offers various viennoiseries, macarons, and eye-catching pastries alongside light cafe fare. During lunch hours, the bistro puts out regional French dishes rarely seen around these parts, including quenelle de brochet, Alsacian flammekueche, and tartiflette. Reservations are recommended. The restaurant upstairs — Altana — is also worth a visit for its rooftop bar and burger.
Lancaster Central Market dates back to 1889 and is the country’s longest running indoor farmers’ markets. Take a look at the current roster of vendors and it’s clear that the market has certainly kept up with the times. Look out for everything from Lancaster produce, grown both traditionally and hydroponically, to Cuban and Puerto Rican food stands, old fashioned horseradish and pickle purveyors, and timeless candy stands. These days the market is open Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Grab takeout here and head to Lancaster County Central Park to enjoy an al fresco breakfast or lunch.
Weathered Vines is more than just a tasting room. Guests can while away an afternoon in the outdoor courtyard of this Ephrata destination. The winery is putting out some interesting takes on PA made wines — think unoaked Chardonnay, dry Riesling, and a Chamborcin rosé — all available for sampling. Those that aren’t up for swishing and swirling can kick back with cocktails featuring locally distilled spirits or beers from various Lancaster breweries. A full Mediterranean menu is available and the live music provides the soundtrack on weekends. Call for more information.
Coming up on its five-year anniversary, Luca has been a fast favorite since its opening back in 2016. The restaurant brings together the bounty of Lancaster County with a passion for wood-fired Italian-inspired eats. The result is a menu that’s heavy on local produce, handmade pasta, and masterfully made pizzas. In addition to a crowd pleasing menu, Luca is the only place in the area boasting an outstanding natural-leaning wine list. Check Luca’s website for hours and reservations.