Blake Walsh

20 Free Things to Do in Lancaster, PA

  • Published 2022/12/16

Whether you’re a history buff, nature enthusiast, or a fan of arts and culture, Lancaster has something to offer that will delight you without a doubt or a price tag.

Buckle up, and let’s dive into the free things to do in Lancaster, Pennsylvania!

While we’ve highlighted some must-visit spots, it’s imperative to understand that these recommendations are shaped by personal opinions and experiences.

There are countless other wonderful places awaiting your discovery. Our goal isn’t just to point you to the well-trodden paths, but to inspire you to explore and truly immerse yourself in the city’s essence.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: Lina Herring, Jose Cook, Mya Gardner, Rafael Ortiz, Zoe Taylor, Eduardo Price and Aria Herring.

Spend the Day at the Hunsecker’s Mill Covered Bridge

Entryway of Hunsecker's Mill Covered Bridge

Paula Stephens /

If you’ve ever strolled down the quiet lanes of Lancaster County, you’ve probably noticed our little slice of history – the Hunsecker’s Mill Covered Bridge.

It’s a charming old bridge that seems to transport you back in time with its quaint charm.

I often walk my dog near the bridge. He loves the water.

It’s one of the few remaining covered bridges in Lancaster, adding a nostalgic touch to the landscape.

The bridge not only offers a scenic view, but it’s also a treat to drive through. It’s a one-car drive-thru bridge, which is a unique experience.

You can imagine the old days when horse-drawn carts would slowly meander through this covered passage.

Side view of Hunsecker's Mill Covered Bridge

Photo by and (c)2006 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man), CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

The bridge is nestled amidst some gorgeous houses that are so well-kept they add to the overall charm of the place.

And if you’re lucky, you might spot the sunflowers that bloom nearby – they’re a sight to behold!

You must be aware that private properties surround the bridge, so you must respect the boundaries.

It’s all worth it for a glimpse of this beautiful old bridge and a peaceful day in the countryside.

View of the water from Hunsecker's Mill Covered Bridge window

Photo by and (c)2006 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man), CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Stroll the Artistic Alleys of Gallery Row

Whenever I need to clear my mind or gather some inspiration, I find myself drawn to the artistic haven of Gallery Row.

This little stretch of creativity in Lancaster, adorned with unique shops and galleries, is the perfect blend of trendy and quaint.

Just a short stroll away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, the Row offers a tranquil escape filled with stunning works of art.

With each visit, I immerse myself in the diverse array of pieces on display – from abstract paintings to intricate sculptures.

Every corner of Gallery Row is a delightful discovery.

After a day of wandering through the galleries, I usually have a bit of treasure or two to elevate my home decor.

Sometimes, it’s an eccentric pottery; other times, it’s a vibrant painting by a local artist.

And the best part? Each of these pieces comes with a story, a conversation with the artist or the shopkeeper, making them all the more special.

It’s my go-to spot for finding unique gifts in the holiday season.

Last Christmas, I found the perfect pendant for my daughter there. It wasn’t just the pendant that made it special.

Still, the whole experience of choosing it, the sparkle in her eyes when she unwrapped the gift and visited Gallery Row, was an unforgettable memory.

What makes the Row even more charming is its vicinity to some of the best restaurants in town.

Nothing beats a day of art hunting followed by a delicious meal at one of the local eateries.

However, if you’re planning a visit, remember that some shops and galleries are only open during specific times of the month.

Every visit to Gallery Row is a unique experience, and each trip brings new surprises, making it one of my favorite corners of Lancaster.

Enjoy the Day at Buchanan Park

Just a stone’s throw away from my house lies the heart of our community, the enchanting Buchanan Park.

It’s a sanctuary where I find solace, fun, and community.

As soon as you step into this haven, you’ll notice a well-maintained playground teeming with laughter and joy from children of all ages.

It’s a perfect spot to unleash your inner child, from the swings that cater to the littlest of babies to the gigantic slide that thrills even the grown-ups.

Just a few steps away, a pavilion is often the hub of our community events.

You might have heard about the ones like the Vegfest, where locals and visitors come together to celebrate our shared love for all things plant-based.

Of course, it’s not just about humans at Buchanan Park.

Our four-legged friends are more than welcome here.

My dog adores the water play area, and the way the park is split into zones for large and small dogs shows the thoughtfulness behind its design.

Sports enthusiasts are also catered to, with well-maintained tennis and basketball courts ready for a friendly match.

There are also plenty of open fields for a football or soccer game or just for running around and basking in the sun.

So, if you’re ever in our neck of the woods, drop by Buchanan Park for a slice of suburban paradise.

Spend a Day at Ewell Plaza

There’s something about the energy of Ewell Plaza that makes it one of my favorite places in Lancaster.

Every time I visit this beautiful, inclusive, and relaxing public place, I feel like I’m witnessing a new scene unfold.

As you stroll through the wide walkways, you can find locals and visitors using them for everything from casual strolls to skateboarding.

The trees and landscaping add a touch of tranquility to the bustling city.

This isn’t just any ordinary plaza; it’s a community hub.

Right in the heart of the plaza is the new Lancaster Public Library, a beacon of knowledge and learning for all ages.

Not only is it a place to find a good book or research, but it’s also a great spot to relax.

The library comes complete with benches, planters, tables, and chairs.

Plus, you’ll find a covered piano that adds a whimsical musicality to the scene during summer.

One thing that stands out at Ewell Plaza is the incredible statue of Barney Ewell, an Olympian, a Lancastrian, a role model, and a friend to all.

It’s hard not to be inspired by his legacy.

But Ewell Plaza isn’t only about daytime activities.

The plaza lights up at night with beautiful colored outdoor lights, creating a magical ambiance.

Moreover, the outdoor stage brings entertainment to life, frequently hosting concerts, plays, and other performances.

If you’re interested in experiencing all of this for yourself, visit Ewell Plaza.

Discover Lancaster’s Hidden Gem: Long’s Park

Pond fountain at Long’s Park

Raymond C. Eichelberger /

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve wandered through the 80 glorious acres of Long’s Park, taking in only nature’s tranquility.

Nestled in the heart of Lancaster, it’s my go-to escape when I need a breather from the everyday hustle.

There’s always something to see, from the ducks waddling by the lake to the animals in the petting farm.

As for the playgrounds, they’re a child’s paradise, but honestly, I’ve seen quite a few adults getting in touch with their inner child there, too!

You can’t miss the beautiful fountain and the picturesque Gazebo structures.

They’re perfect for grabbing a bite, resting, or watching the world go by.

And let’s not forget about the numerous clean and well-stocked restrooms and dog-friendly picnic areas scattered all over the park.

Ducks at Long’s Park

JNolt, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

But what I truly look forward to every summer are the free weekly music festivals.

These are magical evenings filled with music, laughter, and community bonding. It’s something you wouldn’t want to miss.

Long’s Park is a treasure trove of activities and relaxation, a sanctuary in our bustling city.

There’s just something about this park that keeps pulling me back.

Visit the Heart of Amish Country

Living in Lancaster County has taught me that there’s truly no place like it in the world.

It’s where time seems to slow down, and tradition stays strong.

One of the best ways to immerse oneself in this unique culture is to visit the Mennonite Life Visitors Center.

Only here, in the heart of the oldest existing Amish settlement in the world, can one gain such vital insight into the Amish and Mennonite heritage.

I’ve been several times now, sometimes even playing tour guide for out-of-town friends.

One of my favorite parts of the center is the full-sized Biblical Tabernacle reproduction.

You’re transported back in time as you step into this replica, created by a Baptist minister in the late 1940s and then purchased by Mennonites.

It’s an educational and enlightening experience, enhanced by the presentation guides, well-versed in the scriptural context.

The center is also home to a beautiful bookstore, where you can find a vast array of literature and handicrafts that further enrich the understanding of these fascinating cultures.

So, if you drive through Lancaster, carve out some time to visit the Mennonite Life Visitors Center.

Explore Art at Lancaster Museum

Since moving to Lancaster, I’ve turned the Lancaster Museum of Art into my quiet refuge.

It’s a small, charming museum in a former Musser Park mansion.

Every visit feels like a new experience, with a constant rotation of regional, national, and international exhibits.

The museum allows me to explore the world without leaving my small town.

One of my favorite exhibits was when they displayed artistically reimagined musical instruments.

The creativity and craftsmanship on the show were inspiring. Each instrument, from the violin to the drum, was transformed into a piece of art with a unique story.

It was an intersection of music and art that I had never experienced before.

The museum also offers workshops, which I’ve found to be a great way to engage with the art and the community.

Yet, despite my numerous visits, the Wooded Wonderland exhibit and the Permanent collection remain my favorites.

The Wooded Wonderland exhibit is a serene and calming experience that allows you to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature.

On the other hand, the Permanent collection showcases a diverse range of art styles and periods that make every visit an educational journey.

This museum is even more impressive because they don’t charge an entrance fee.

Instead, they operate on donations, allowing you to contribute what you can.

The Lancaster Museum of Art is where I can lose myself in art, learn new things, and connect with my community.

Explore the Natural Beauty of Lancaster Conservancy

From my doorstep, the enchanting beauty of the Susquehanna River lands stretches as far as the eye can see.

And all of this is thanks to the tireless efforts of the Lancaster Conservancy.

As an ardent lover of nature, I’ve had countless opportunities to explore this open space, wander along the river, and traverse wooded trails with my family.

Here, I find solace in the quiet rustling of leaves on a breezy afternoon or the tranquil lapping of water against the riverbank.

Yet, amidst this serenity, there is also a sense of adventure.

The Lancaster Conservancy has opened up numerous opportunities for hunting and fishing, and I’ve spent many a day pursuing game or casting my line.

Likewise, plenty of areas are open for archery, and I’ve found a new passion in the sport.

The Lancaster Conservancy has done a remarkable job preserving most of the natural spaces I’ve grown to love in Lancaster County.

From the river lands to the scenic trails, these are the places where memories are made and adventures come alive.

As a resident, I feel privileged to have this natural wonderland in my backyard.

Embrace Nature at Lancaster County Central Park

Short footbridge at Lancaster County Central Park

George Sheldon /

I often find myself drawn to Lancaster County Central Park‘s lush greenery and serene surroundings.

This sprawling natural haven, nestled right in our backyard, is my go-to spot to unwind after a busy week.

From the moment you set foot in the park, the birds chirping and the leaves rustling in the wind transport you to a world away from the daily hustle.

This park provides a perfect blend of recreational activities for those who love being outdoors.

The skate park is a favorite among the youngsters, and the pool is a delight during the hot summer months.

One of my favorite spots is the Garden of Five Senses.

This peaceful sanctuary, adorned with a charming gazebo, is perfect for a quiet afternoon of reading or meditation.

Nature trail at Lancaster County Central Park

Jon Bilous /

I’ve seen small weddings occur here, and the setting couldn’t be more enchanting.

For fitness enthusiasts, the trails offer an excellent place for hiking or a leisurely walk with your furry buddies.

Remember to pick up after your dog to keep the trails clean for everyone.

If you’re into holistic living like me, you’d appreciate the environmental center and the garden plots that allow us to cultivate our green thumbs.

Lancaster County Central Park is a beautiful slice of nature that adds fresh air to our busy lives.

It’s a sanctuary that brings peace and fulfillment.

Spend a Nice Day at Overlook Park

I’ve always considered myself an outdoor enthusiast, and Overlook Park is a gem tucked away in our Manheim Township.

It’s the perfect mix of tranquility and activity that can satisfy anyone’s taste for outdoor fun.

I’m one of those old souls who still believe in the magic of good old paperbacks, and the park’s library is my haven.

Nestled inside the park, it’s the perfect spot to relax with a good read.

But what’s truly special is its view of the golf course. The green stretch is a visual treat, significantly as the sun dips below the horizon.

Beyond that, the multi-use space thrives with life.

On any given day, you’ll find me either teeing off at the golf course or paddling around the swimming pool.

The miniature golf course is a fun diversion, too; a friendly competition with friends never fails to bring out the laughter.

The dog park is a favorite stop for my pet.

Watching him make new friends while getting his needed exercise is a joy. And the sports fields? They’re always teeming with energy, with local teams battling it out.

The walking and biking trail is another favorite of mine.

It winds around a pond, perfect for those quiet, contemplative walks or energetic biking sessions.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve skipped rocks across the still water, a simple pleasure that never gets old.

No matter the season, there’s something for everyone here.

The skating rink comes alive in winter, filled with children and adults alike, gliding and laughing.

And when the park’s skateboarding facility opens up, it’s a magnet for the thrill-seekers, their stunts a spectacle to behold.

Overlook Park is where I unwind, play, and connect with my community.

Explore the Artistic Haven – The Demuth Museum

Now and then, when I need to immerse myself in some inspiring modern art, I make my way to The Demuth Museum.

It’s not just a museum; it’s the former home and studio of the noted modernist painter Charles Demuth.

Stepping inside, the space transforms into a time capsule, reverberating with the aura of the brilliant artist.

One of my best experiences at the Demuth Museum was taking a walking tour.

Part of the tour was in the family’s former tobacco shop, where you’re greeted with the warm, sweet smell of tobacco and cabinets made of dark wood.

It truly feels like stepping back in time.

One shining aspect was how the tour brought Demuth to life.

Through stories, photos, and points of interest, he became more than just a name in art history.

The museum does a beautiful job of blending the past with the present, showcasing Demuth’s work and pieces from local artists.

Moreover, it houses an impressive collection of Demuth’s artwork and a film about his life.

I especially enjoyed the exhibit about drawing on the Susquehanna.

At the end of the tour, a gift shop offers prints, postcards, totes, t-shirts, and books, including one written by the tour guide.

It’s an enriching experience that deepens my appreciation for Demuth’s work and legacy.

Every visit, I leave with awe and a newfound appreciation for art.

Dive into Art at the Phillips Museum

One of the highlights of my week is always a visit to the Phillips Museum of Art at Franklin & Marshall College.

It’s like a treasure trove of creativity tucked away in the heart of the campus, displaying a fascinating blend of fine art in both permanent and temporary exhibitions.

This museum is extraordinary not just for the art but for being a real testament to the talent of local students and artists.

I’ve discovered some breathtaking pieces from these young minds that radiate innovation and passion.

One such artist whose work I can’t help but admire is Angie Hohenadel.

Her exhibit, in particular, was a fantastic showcase of her creativity.

The colors, the story, the emotion – every aspect of her art spoke volumes and left me in awe.

My experiences at the Phillips Museum of Art are enriching. It’s genuinely one of the gems in our town that I would recommend to any art enthusiast.

Take a Stroll Through Lancaster’s History at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument

Daytime view of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument

Andy Sutherland /

Have you ever had the feeling of stepping back in time?

That’s how it feels whenever I walk by the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the heart of Lancaster City.

There’s no better place to soak up the history and heroism of our veterans who served from the American Revolution to the present.

The monument is more than just a local landmark. It’s a reminder of the brave souls from Lancaster who dedicated their lives to the cause of freedom.

It sits in the middle of a bustling traffic roundabout, but don’t let that deter you.

With caution, you can navigate to the monument’s base, and it’s well worth the effort.

On quiet afternoons, you’ll find locals and tourists alike reflecting on the monument’s significance.

Its location makes it a natural starting point for a walking city tour, and you’ll be amazed at the stunning architecture nearby.

Top part of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument

Sunstopper1st /

Even on busy days, like Labor Day, you’ll find the nearby parking pretty convenient.

One of my favorite things about the park surrounding the monument is the sense of community it fosters.

Some days, you might stumble upon a piano set up for anyone to play.

These little surprises make the monument a symbol of our past and a living part of our present.

For anyone who wants to look at this piece of Lancaster’s history, here is the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.

It’s like a history lesson that stands tall, reminding us of the courage and sacrifice of our veterans.

See it and feel the connection to Lancaster’s rich history.

Go on Adventures at Musser Park

Since 1995, visiting Musser Park has been an adventure for me.

It’s one of those parks that insert into your life and become a part of your story.

The park is the site of numerous events throughout the year.

Something always happens here, from bake sales raising awareness for various causes to beer gardens and concerts.

It’s like the park itself is a living, breathing entity constantly evolving and offering something new to the folks around it.

Like everyone else here, my dog and I have our little routine.

We love playing frisbee here.

The open, green space and the friendly vibe make it a perfect place for such activities.

And hey, if you’re lucky, you might find yourself having an impromptu picnic with your pup and fellow park-goers.

If you have kids, they might find the park a bit hot in the summer.

There aren’t many shaded areas, which the park could improve on. But don’t let that deter you.

The park’s beautiful landscape more than makes up for it. The environment might feel rough around the edges, but that’s just part of its charm.

To anyone out there looking for an adventure or just a nice place to hang out, I highly recommend Musser Park.

Take a Walk Through Reservoir Park

Reservoir Park is my favorite spot in Lancaster City.

It’s a place close to my heart because I spent most of my childhood days playing street hockey, splashing around in the wading pool, and shooting hoops on the basketball courts.

The pavilion always had this inviting charm to it.

There was nothing like running around the grassy fields, hiding behind the trees during snowball fights in winter.

When summer rolled around, the park transformed into a canvas, showcasing an array of beautiful flowers.

The local kids and I would play football and soccer matches or lazily sit around on blankets, enjoying ice cream.

Last June, we had a pop-up beer garden event, a smash hit!

Seeing the community come together, enjoy the outdoors, and sip on the local brew was a reminder of how great the park was.

Spend an Afternoon at D.F. Buchmiller County Park

We’re blessed with many beautiful parks in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

One such is D.F. Buchmiller County Park, a place I’ve come to know and love over the years.

This 79-acre paradise is my sanctuary for a few hours of peace, relaxation, and fun.

The first time I visited the park, I was immediately captured by its serene beauty.

It has well-maintained tennis and volleyball courts ready to host a friendly game.

Moreover, the park also boasts a disc golf course – a fun and challenging way to exercise while enjoying the outdoors.

I’ve had several memorable disc golf games here with friends and family.

There’s also a nice playground for the little ones – my kids adore it.

They always want to go straight to the playground whenever we visit, where they can swing, climb, and slide to their heart’s content.

It’s a safe and clean area, perfect for a fun day.

D.F. Buchmiller County Park isn’t just about sports and games.

There are also small trails to enjoy leisurely walking and soaking in the tranquil atmosphere.

I’ve spent many afternoons strolling these trails, lost in thought or sometimes just enjoying the sounds of nature.

One of my favorite features of the park is the pavilions they have for cookouts.

There aren’t many, but they’re a great spot to gather with friends and family for a picnic or a BBQ.

Everyone will love grilling burgers and hot dogs in the great outdoors, surrounded by the park’s beautiful scenery.

D.F. Buchmiller County Park also has six dedicated pickleball courts, a game I’ve recently taken a liking to.

It’s a fun sport that anyone can play, regardless of their skill level – all are welcome, and the local players are always friendly and accommodating.

I highly recommend visiting D.F. Buchmiller County Park if you’re ever in Lancaster County.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Explore the Beauty of Kellys Run Nature Preserve

Scenic views from Kellys Run Nature Preserve

Bo Shen /

You never truly know the allure of Kellys Run Nature Preserve until you lace up your hiking boots and embark on the entire loop trail.

I’ve hiked this trail countless times; each experience is a new adventure.

Navigate the steep hills and observe the grandeur of nature while engaging your muscles in an intense workout.

The trail might be challenging, yet the breathtaking views at Pinnacle Point make every drop of sweat worthwhile.

Once, I encountered a massive black snake on my way to Pinnacle Point, but then again, we were in their home.

It’s a part of the thrill, so remember to tread carefully.

The path narrows at specific points, and the brush becomes dense, making it an authentic nature experience.

On hot summer days, I relish taking a dip in the creek to cool down. It’s invigorating and offers a much-needed break from the rigorous hike.

I always come prepared with plenty of water, a snack to keep my energy levels up, and a pre-downloaded map for navigation.

Don’t forget the sunscreen, bug spray, and a stick to swat some pesky bugs away.

Wearing pants is also a good idea to protect your legs from the brush.

And when you finally make it to the pinnacle point, don’t just stop there.

There’s another hidden overlook further down the hill. It’s the perfect spot to sit on the rocks and marvel at the picturesque gorge view.

Kellys Run Nature Preserve offers one of those experiences that truly encapsulate the beauty of Lancaster County.

Embrace Nature at Five Senses Gardens

Water fountain at Five Senses Gardens

Raymond C. Eichelberger /

Now and then, I find myself craving an escape from the city’s hustle and bustle, and that’s when I head over to the enchanting Five Senses Gardens.

Nestled within the confines of the city, this place is a hidden gem that offers a refreshing breath of fresh air.

To reach this haven, I park my car in the Green Belt parking lot and then cross the road.

As I step into the garden, calmness washes over me.

While traffic occasionally breaks the tranquility, it’s surprisingly soothing, reminding me of the coexistence of man and nature.

Walking around, I often find myself surrounded by many birds and butterflies, their flutters and chirps adding to the garden’s charm.

One Sunday morning, I decided to start my day with a visit to the Five Senses Gardens.

Trust me when I say the timing couldn’t have been better.

The garden was peaceful; its unique energy was palpable and serene, leaving me rejuvenated.

A stroll here cleanses my mind as I soak in the lush greenery.

I highly recommend this garden, especially for kids who enjoy nature.

Final Thoughts

Living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I am constantly amazed by the abundance of free activities available.

This place truly offers an experience that is hard to match, providing a perfect blend of nature, history, culture, and serenity.

So, consider visiting these locations the next time you have a free day in this beautiful city.

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