Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Lancaster, PA

  • Published 2022/10/10

Situated 71 miles west of Philadelphia is the mesmerizing city of Lancaster in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

The Dutch initially inhabited the area, originally called “Hickory Town.”

It became the county seat in 1729 and earned its current name, thanks to John Wright.

Lancaster played an important role during the Revolutionary War, as it served as a munitions center.

It also served as the national capital of the American colonies when the Continental Congress fled British forces.

Today, you’ll still see many historical sites tied to Lancaster’s importance in American history, but there are also several attractions you won’t find anywhere else.

Here are the 15 best things to do while in Lancaster, Pennsylvania:

Shop at Lancaster Central Market

Visitors purchasing at Lancaster Central Market

George Sheldon /

You might think visiting the local farmer’s market isn’t considered something tourists would want to do, but that won’t be the case when you’re in Lancaster.

The Lancaster Central Market on N Market St is the oldest farmer’s market in the entire country, which has been operating since 1730.

Similar to other farmer’s markets, you’re bound to find a wide variety of fresh produce sourced from local growers, but other than that, the area also caters to over 50 stand holders.

Shops at Lancaster Central Market

George Sheldon /

The Lancaster Central Market is open three days a week, giving you plenty of time to visit the stalls and find a bunch of unique products you won’t find anywhere else but Lancaster.

As you wade through the streets, you’ll find almost anything you can think of一crafts, collectibles, home decor, pastries and chocolate, specialty cheeses, ethnic food, and much more.

Exterior view of Lancaster Central Market

James Kirkikis /

Explore Phillip’s Museum of Art

Lancaster is swarming with art galleries and museums, and the Phillips Museum of Art at Franklin & Marshall College is just one of the many attractions you should visit while in the city.

You’ll find various artworks covering different time periods, ranging from historical art to multicultural and contemporary works.

Phillip’s Museum of Art has four galleries for you to explore and a permanent collection that displays works from contemporary artists.

An impressive sculpture collection, along with a Tercentenary dedicated to Benjamin Franklin, can also be found across the college grounds.

Phillip’s Museum of Art also features rotating exhibits that change throughout the year, providing something new for visitors whenever they stop by.

Take a Look at Exhibits from the Demuth Museum

Exterior view of Demuth Museum

iheartPhotOle, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lancaster is swarming with art galleries and museums that highlight creativity in all its forms, and if you swing by E King St, you’ll find one of the many art havens across the city.

Named after American modernist artist Charles Demuth, the Demuth Museum features over 55 of his original artworks in the permanent collection, mostly watercolor paintings and drawings.

The Demuth Museum also features rotating exhibits that shine a light on the talents of budding and international artists.

Once you step outside the museum, you’ll be directed to the Demuth Garden, where you’ll see flowers such as tulips, roses, and zinnias, which also inspired most of Demuth’s paintings.

Walk around some more, and you’ll also see the Demuth Tobacco Shop, which is said to be one of一if not the oldest—tobacco shops in the country.

Take Your Kids to the North Museum of Nature and Science

Don’t let your kids miss out on the fun when visiting Lancaster, and have them experience the wonders of the North Museum of Science and Nature.

Situated along College Ave, the North Museum of Nature and Science introduces children to the world of the natural sciences in several interactive ways.

Let your kids learn more about the cosmos by taking them to the planetarium, and let them fly through the universe with Spitz’s SciDome XD projection system.

Next, you can check out the museum’s permanent collection of over 84,000 objects that make up over 500 million years of history.

The museum also has a live animal room, which lets you watch the swimming turtles, pet a snake, or get up close and personal with a lizard.

Learn about the Tales of the Historic Rock Ford

Entrance to Historic Rock Ford

George Sheldon /

You’ll find historical sites everywhere when in Lancaster, but perhaps one of the most eye-catching destinations you’ll see would be the Historic Rock Ford.

This site along Rockford Rd takes tourists on a historical tour that revolves around the life of Revolutionary War General Edward Hand.

Walk around approximately 33 acres of land surrounding Central Park and get a good look at the property that played an instrumental role in shaping Lancaster’s history.

Snow covered Rock Ford

Andrej Safaric /

The 1794 Hand Mansion is the main attraction of Historic Rock Ford, where you’ll get a glimpse of its furnished rooms and antique collections during the tour.

You’ll also see the John J. Snyder, Jr. Gallery of Early Lancaster County Decorative Arts, an 18th-century reconstructed bank barn.

Make Learning Fun at the Lancaster Science Factory

Lancaster is definitely a place that anyone can enjoy, including your kids!

So if you ever embark on a family trip to Lancaster, you might want to bring your little ones to the Lancaster Science Factory on New Holland Ave, where learning is all about having fun!

The Lancaster Science Factory is an interactive science center for kids that offers a variety of STEM educational programs and workshops.

Hands-on educational plays await your little ones, with topics ranging from structural engineering to fluid dynamics and environmental sustainability to electricity and magnetism.

And if you’re planning to stay in Lancaster for a while, the Lancaster Science Factory also offers programs, camps, and field trips for your kids to enjoy.

Attend the Festivities at Long’s Park

Fountain at Long’s Park

Raymond C. Eichelberger /

There’s always a little something for everyone to enjoy in Lancaster, especially at the famous Long’s Park along Harrisburg Pike.

Long’s Park is Lancaster’s very own cultural center celebrating the city’s heritage by hosting various events.

If you consider yourself an art aficionado, you’ll definitely have a blast during the annual art festival, which features over 200 artists showcasing various works in the form of jewelry, paintings, pottery, furniture, and more.

Canada Goose at Long’s Park

Raymond C. Eichelberger /

Long’s Park is also home to the summer music series, a yearly concert headlined by local and international singers and bands.

But other than housing these events, Long’s Park is also a space for hosting galas supporting Lancaster’s music and arts programs.

Take a Stroll at Gallery Row

Art is everywhere in Lancaster, so much so that there’s an entire street dedicated to various crafts.

Located on the first and second block of N Prince St, Gallery Row is a popular attraction showing why Lancaster is considered a nationally recognized art center.

There are over 10 galleries on Gallery Row, covering different art forms, like watercolor paintings, sculptures, pottery, and much more.

Enjoy going on a relaxing stroll on Gallery Row, and you’ll understand why Lancaster is considered an art haven for many.

You might even find something worth taking home as you visit one of the shops, making it the perfect souvenir to commemorate your visit to the city.

Wander the Halls of President James Buchanan’s Wheatland

Facade of President James Buchanan’s Wheatland

Smallbones, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Step back in time, and marvel at the majestic Wheatland that belonged to James Buchanan on Marietta Ave.

President James Buchanan’s Wheatland was built in 1828 for lawyer and bank president William Jenkins and covers a total of 156.5 acres of land.

After going through several ownerships since its inception, the Wheatland was purchased by the Junior League of Lancaster to preserve its historical significance.

Nothing comes close to the grandeur of this estate, sporting a Federal style that embodies some elements of Greek Revival architecture.

Take your time wandering the halls of President James Buchanan’s Wheatland, which consists of a mansion with two main floors and two outbuildings that come with an icehouse and smokehouse.

Discover the Stories of LancasterHistory

Lancaster dons an incredibly warm and authentic atmosphere that will make you want to learn more about its humble beginnings.

And if there’s one place that will give you all the information you need, it’s LancasterHistory on N President Ave.

Lancaster’s non-profit museum takes visitors on an educational journey that tells the city’s story dating to over 200 years ago.

Rotating exhibits grace the museum, featuring collections on various time periods in Lancaster’s history.

You’ll also enjoy walking around LancasterHistory’s Louise Arnold Tanger Arboretum, an 11-acre property that houses a variety of flora and fauna.

Spend an Entire Day at Lancaster County Central Park

Mile creek tunnel at Lancaster County Central Park

Raymond C. Eichelberger /

Many might think that spending an entire day at the local park isn’t something tourists would want to do一unless you’re visiting the Lancaster County Central Park on Rockford Rd.

Covering a total of 544 acres, Lancaster County Central Park is the largest park you’ll find in all of Lancaster County.

Water fountain at Lancaster County Central Park

Raymond C. Eichelberger /

Aside from its convenient location, the park also has the most number of amenities compared to other county parks, making it the most-visited area in Lancaster.

Beat the heat by taking a dip in the county swimming pool or busting out some moves at the skatepark.

Wooden pedestrian bridge at Lancaster County Central Park

George Sheldon /

If you’re looking for an Instagram-worthy spot in the park, head to the Garden of Five Senses and drown in the myriad of colors cascading down the fields.

Also in the area are some camping spots and several trails built for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.

Enjoy Family Day at Go N Bananas Family Fun Center

Make your trip to Lancaster one that you’ll never forget when you spend an entire day with your family at the Go N Bananas Family Fun Center.

Located along Garfield Ave, this Lancaster entertainment center has something for everyone when it comes to having a good time.

Go N Bananas Family Fun Center has attractions for teens, kids, and adults, offering experiences like toddler zones, ropes courses, mini bowling, laser tag, and more.

You’re bound to get hungry after having fun, but luckily, the Congo Cafe is just inside the entertainment center, so you can help yourself to some sandwiches, pizzas, and snacks.

Go N Bananas Family Fun Center is also available for booking when planning parties.

If you’re planning to stay in Lancaster to celebrate a birthday or a different event, this entertainment center is the perfect venue.

Go on the Historic Lancaster Walking Tour

War monument at Penn Square

George Sheldon /

Immerse yourself in Lancaster culture when you go on the historic walking tour that begins at the Lancaster Welcome Center on Penn Square.

The Historic Lancaster Walking Tour has been giving visitors a day to remember since 1976, going around sites like the Central Market and historic houses located downtown.

Enjoy the 90-minute tour with your friends and family, and discover everything there is to know about Lancaster.

As you walk around, you’ll be treated to several tales about how the city played its part during the Civil War and how it became an important area for railroad construction.

During your tour, don’t forget to swing by some shops and buy unique souvenirs you won’t find anywhere else.

Have Fun at the Hands-On House Children’s Museum of Lancaster

When in Lancaster, you’ll realize that museums are not just about observing art and collections一in this city, it’s also about having fun, even for kids!

The Hands-On House Children’s Museum of Lancaster on Landis Valley Rd is an interactive museum designed especially for kids aged 2-10.

Wander around the museum and check out playful exhibits like mini farmers markets, STEM labs, adventure gardens, and much more.

Have your little ones swing by the Clubhouse Art Studio and let them discover their creative side by making artworks from everyday materials.

The Hands-On House Children’s Museum of Lancaster also hosts summer and winter camps where kids can take up different workshops to improve their skills.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Experience Living In The Amish Village

Wind mill at Amish Village

George Sheldon /

See what it’s like to live in the Amish Village in Ronks when you swing by Hartman Bridge Rd.

The Amish Village, about 20 minutes’ drive away from Lancaster, is an authentic destination that takes guests on an intriguing adventure while immersing themselves in Amish culture.

Experience frolicking on Amish farmland and explore the 12-acre village property.

Horse carriage ride at Amish Village

George Sheldon /

During the tour, you’ll witness features like Amish Village shops, blacksmith workshops, picnic grounds, farmhouses, and a lot more.

You can also book a backroad bus tour, which takes you around the village while hearing stories about the Amish community.

Entrance to Amish Market

Rosemarie Mosteller /

Final Thoughts

This city is just a hidden gem waiting to be discovered, and if you’re looking to get the most out of your trip, you have to stick to this list of the best things to do in Lancaster, PA.

Don’t waste another minute and get packing because the adventures in Lancaster are waiting for you!

© All rights reserved.