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Buggies and Boutiques: Lancaster is the Best Small Town for Christmas Visits & Beyond

Perhaps one drawback to Lancaster having the largest and most vibrant Amish community in the United States is that outsiders tend to think it’s the only reason to visit Lancaster. In reality, Lancaster uniquely combines seeming opposites as strikingly as the scene of a horse-drawn buggy next to a world-class mall, modern attractions with simple charms. Since Lancaster was named among the top 21 towns to visit during the holiday season, one might say that this year-round destination is an indispensable experience around Christmastime. By choosing to spend part of your holiday in Lancaster you could truly have it all: topnotch entertainment, fabulous dining, and spectacular shopping all with a Christmas flair—and yes, even the Old-World comfort of Amish cuisine and handmade quilts.

For the traditional lover of all things Christmas, the Strasburg Railroad offers a variety of Christmas train rides in vintage steam locomotives, the most notable being the “Night Before Christmas” train ride, in which Moore’s renowned poem is enacted and guests are treated to milk and cookies. As for holiday shows, the selection ranges from the classic “A Christmas Carol” at Fulton Theatre to the nostalgic “Home for the Holidays” at the American Music Theatre to the eclectic “Holidays” at Mount Hope Dinner Theatre.

For the intellectual, the planetarium of the North Museum of Nature and Science is hosting “Season of Light,” a show tracing the development of all varieties of light-based holiday traditions. At the Wheatland, the 1828 home of the former U.S. President James Buchanan, visitors can take advantage of the “Yuletide at Wheatland” guided tour to learn about how holidays were celebrated in the time of the 15th President.

For the more active Christmas lover, adventure seekers can attain an elevated perspective on the season at the “Let There Be Light” ropes course at Refreshing Mountain, where nighttime climbing within thousands of dazzling lights creates the impression of being within a spectacular Christmas milky way.  Or for an exhilarating yet grounded outdoor experience, from November 18 through February 26 a full-sized pop-up skating rink—completely supplied with holiday lights and décor galore, wintery beverage and snack stands, and skate rentals—is opening at the Park City Center. Weekly events at Lancaster’s Flight on Ice will include Sunday Family Fundays for special 4-pack ticket discounts, free movie nights on Wednesdays, and two-person packages on Fridays for a romantic holiday-themed evening. Please be sure to book in advance especially during peak holiday hours.

With all the spectacular Christmas goings-on in Lancaster, it may be possible to overlook a unique Amish experience, but the Amish Christmas Cookie Tour is not one to be missed! And even if you can’t make it for the holidays, rest assured that Lancaster’s many spectacular attractions provide plenty for travelers looking for a unique experience over Martin Luther King Weekend, President’s Day, and Valentine’s Day.

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