Sunday, May 27, 2007

Our Trip To Amish Country

We left for Lancaster, PA, on Thursday morning at 6:30. When the alarm clock went off at 5:30 I was ready to go! Why is it that getting up at 5:30 on an average day would be torture, yet when you know you're going on vacation it doesn't seem that early? :o)

We crossed the Pennsylvania line around 10:30 and stopped at the Visitor's Center. We perused the brochures and found one for the Hershey Chocolate Factory. Hershey wasn't on our itinerary, but when we found out it wasn't too much out of the way, we decided to add it! We hopped back in the car and a little over an hour later we were in Hershey, PA! We went to the Chocolate Factory and did the free stuff. :o) Which was quite fun! The kids got to package Hershey's Kisses and received these adorable hats:

Of course when you're almost 13 it doesn't seem so "adorable." But 9 year old boys think it's cool! So cool in fact that he now has two (the other donated by said "almost 13 year old.")
Then we went on a ride that took us through the "chocolate factory." We were able to see the entire process from picking the beans to packaging the candy. It really was fun to watch and the best part came after the tour...SAMPLES! :o) When we left the tour and were making our way to the gift shop, a lady stopped the kids and asked them if they were between the ages of 8 and 12. After assuring her they were, she asked if they would like to participate in a taste test. Now, how many people would say no to a taste test at Hershey?!!!
She guided us to a small room where the kids were seated with a partition between them. They were given strict instructions not to compare answers, and then they were given a saltine cracker and a cup of water. I could see the questioning look in Ben's eyes, but I didn't say anything. We later told him it was to clean his palate and he just said "ooohhhh." Then they were each given two kisses. They ate them and then filled out a two page survey. Then they were each given one more cracker, a cup of water, and two more kisses. Then filled out another sheet comparing the two samples. That was it. They had fun, we got free chocolate, and everyone was happy! :o)
Then we left for the gift shop. I let the kids get two candy bars each, I got one for me and a jumbo size dark chocolate Hershey bar for Neal. Mom got a couple of bars for herself and some things to share. I had never seen such a selection of chocolate and they had great prices too!
After we finished there we drove another 40 minutes or so to Lancaster. We stopped at the visitor's center there and were helped by a very nice man by the name of Jim. He gave me a map of Lancaster County and showed me where some of the Amish owned shops were. The map is really simple to follow and we had no trouble finding the places we wanted to visit.
The first thing we did after leaving the visitor's center was to find a place to eat. We went to the Bird-In-Hand Restaurant. They have a wonderful smorgasbord, but you can also order off the menu. We arrived just in time to receive the lunch price, so we were able to get the buffet for $9.95 (less for the kids). Their buffet also included the drink, so it was a really good price. The food was excellent and I would highly recommend that restaurant to anyone! After eating we took off for a ride in the country and went to a couple of Amish farms that had stores on their property. The countryside is so beautiful, and it was fun to see the horse and buggies everywhere. There were also many Amish boys, girls, men and women travelling around on scooters. (the push with your foot kind of scooter) And many of them were barefoot! Some of the scooters had baskets on the front and it was not uncommon to see a toddler sitting in the basket.
We looked through the stores at their crafts, quilts, etc. I had hoped to find something to hang over my bed, but I couldn't find anything in the size I needed that was in my price range. That's okay though, it was still fun looking! I did buy a potholder that was made like a quilt. Maybe I'll take a picture of that later and put it on here. The one I purchased had a spice packet in the middle so that you could use it as a hot pad. It smells really good. I also bought one for my mom and my friend Jackie. Jackie had planned on going with us, but ended up travelling to Florida to see family the same day we were leaving. So I bought her a little souvenir since she didn't get to go.
While we were driving around Thursday evening we saw lots of signs for yard sales. My mom and I LOVE yard sales! So we made note of where some of the sales were and made plans to go there on Friday morning. We then drove on to the hotel and checked in. We stayed at the Best Western in Paradise. It's not a fancy hotel, but it was very nice and clean. I would go back there another time. They had an excellent continental breakfast, so that helped on our trip budget! Everyone found something they liked to eat!
Friday we hit the yard sales bright and early (they start at 6:00 am there!). We didn't get to them until about 8:00 though. At the second yard sale I hit the jackpot! They had lots and lots of clothing in Beth's size. I bought her 5 pair of jeans/pants -- name brands -- sizes 00, 0, and 1 -- for $4.50. I ended up buying for Beth: 4 jeans, 1 pants, 1 shorts, 5 belts, 4 or 5 scarves, two pair of sandals, and 3 or 4 shirts. For Neal - 1 shirt. For kitchen: 2 containers with lids. For school: 3 or 4 books. I paid $13.25! I couldn't believe how nice everything was and how cheap! We stopped at a few other yards sales and picked up some odds and ends, but mostly had fun looking.
After those yard sales we drove over to Strasburg and purchased our tickets for our ride on the steam train. It was a fun 45-minute ride through the countryside.
Mom, Ben and I before we left the station.
Mom and Beth during the ride.
One shot (of many) of the gorgeous countryside!
Ben and Beth with the conductor. He laid some pennies on the train tracks behind them and let the train run over them. Then Beth and Ben got to pick up the flattened pennies and bring them home as souvenirs. We all enjoyed the ride on the train. We purchased tickets for the open air train and it felt really good on a hot spring day!
After the train ride we decided to eat lunch. We had asked a lady at a yard sale earlier where her favorite restaurant was and she said Deinners (pronounced Deaners). It's a Beachy Mennonite restaurant/smorgasbord. It was good, but we all agreed we liked the Bird-In-Hand restaurant the best. Prices were comparable too, since beverages were not included at Deinners. It's a good place to eat though.
After eating we went back out in the country and found more Amish farms/stores to visit and we found the Bird-in-Hand bake shop which is out in the country.
I bought Ben an Amish straw hat. Now he and his Daddy will match when they work out in the garden. Beth wanted a bonnet, so I bought her one. Then they each had a little spending money of their own. Ben bought an Amish boy doll, and Beth decided to buy another bonnet. Ben would have spent all of his money at the gas station on the way to Lancaster if I had let him, or he would have spent it at the yard sales, or he would have bought any stuffed animal that I would have let him purchase, but I asked him to please buy something that will be a reminder of Amish country...thus the Amish boy doll. It is cute, but the funny thing is that when we got home and showed it to Daddy we found out that it was made in CHINA!!! LOL Ben also bought his friend Kellen an Amish girl doll. (again...made in China -- but we cut off the tags. ;o) She bought Ben a gift on her last vacation, so we thought it would be fun to get her one.
At our last stop on Friday they were setting up for a yard sale for Saturday. We were able to go through some of their stuff and buy while they were setting up. There were probably 10 or 15 Amish families selling stuff at this sale. Beth bought herself an authentic (not made in China) Amish outfit. The lady said her 14 year old daughter just grew out of it. It's a really pretty deep purple dress with a black apron to put over it. She got the entire outfit for $2.50. I'll have to take a picture of her in it and post it here. She liked it so much that when we went back to the hotel she changed into it. Then we went to Target to buy some water and she wore it there. She really did look Amish and she got a lot of stares. I told her that she now knows what the Amish feel like. They were probably staring even more though because here was this little Amish girl with a group of Englishers! LOL
Saturday came too soon! We did do a bit more shopping on Saturday -- yard sales and the Bird-In-Hand farmer's market. I bought some Whoopie pies. YUM! I like the traditional ones with chocolate cake and white filling, but they also had red velvet, pumpkin, and oatmeal.
Well, that's about all I can think of right now. We had a great time....left Lancaster a little after 1:00 and arrived home at 8:00. We made a few pit stops along the way. Ben got car sick and we had to stop twice just for that. Thankfully he started feeling better and the last hour and a half was pleasant!
Here's a picture of a family carriage. The Amish do not take pictures of themselves and they do not like their pictures taken, so I was careful not to offend anyone by snapping pictures of their faces.
Here's one of the four covered bridges in the area:

Here's the huge Amish yard sale we went to. Mom wanted me to take some pictures because it was so big and she wanted pictures of the pretty flowers they were selling. Again, I didn't want to take too many pictures because their were Amish all around. This is just half of the yard sale...there were several more areas on the right side of where this picture was taken.
I know it was long, but I hoped you enjoyed hearing about our trip to Lancaster. We sure did have lots of fun!


Perri said...

Sounds like a great trip. Now I wish I had made the effort to go to Hershey when we went to visit Linda.

Too funny about the China Amish doll. I was just cracking up.

Yard sales on vacation - now that's a good time, right there. I want to see pictures of Beth in her outfit.

I love train rides too, so I really would have enjoyed your trip -- you did all my favorite things, yard sales, chocolate, trains and whoopie pies.

Glad you all had a good time.

Dancing Boys Mom said...

Wow, you got to go to Strasburg. I'm jealous. We've been wanting to go there since Jr was about 3.

Congrats on the yard sale find too. That's always fun. I wish our yard sales started at 6am. I can never get to any here. On Friday we have park day and on Saturday we have Ice Skating. Oh, well. I guess I'll just stick with the thrift stores for now. :-)

Glad you had a nice trip.

Jeremiah 29:11

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."