20 Best Things to Do in Lancaster, PA

lancaster pennsylvania

Welcome to the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country - Lancaster.

This is a place that has a charming rustic vibe with a dash of modern sophistication.

I've called this place home for years, and each day, I uncover something new that adds to the richness of this vibrant community.

Lancaster has a way of encapsulating both the simplicity of the old and the thrill of the new, making it a delightful place to explore.

Whether you're a history buff, a food lover, an art enthusiast, or an outdoor adventurer, this captivating city has something waiting for you just around the corner.

So, join me as I share the best things to do in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

About this article: This article was written by a local contributor based on their own experiences and those around them. While this list showcases some remarkable places, it's important to note that this is an opinion piece, and there are many other exceptional places to visit that are not featured here.
Our aim is not just to guide you to popular places but to encourage you to venture out and experience the city for yourself.

Peruse the Stalls at Lancaster Central Market

Visitors purchasing at Lancaster Central Market
George Sheldon / Shutterstock.com

Every Saturday morning, just as the sun is starting to peek over the horizon, I find myself drawn to an old 1800s brick building nestled in downtown Lancaster.

It's not just any old building but the hub of the community; Lancaster Central Market.

Stepping inside, the buzz of the market hits me instantly.

The vendors are setting up their stalls, the air is rich with the smell of fresh produce, and there’s a palpable sense of anticipation for the day ahead.

My routine?

I start with a piping hot cup of the best java in town; there's nothing quite like the aroma of freshly brewed coffee to kickstart your day.

Soon, I find myself wandering through a maze of colorful stalls, each one offering its own unique feast for the senses.

The aisles might be a bit tight, but trust me, the sheer variety of vendors more than makes up for it.

Shops at Lancaster Central Market
George Sheldon / Shutterstock.com

From local cheeses and meats to a myriad of ethnic cuisines, there's always something new to discover and savor at Lancaster Central Market.

You haven’t truly experienced Lancaster until you've felt the crunch of a fresh-picked apple or tasted the tangy sharpness of artisanal cheese from the market.

The ready-made foods, too, are out of this world; perfect for those days when you don't feel like cooking.

Beyond the food, there's the vibrant atmosphere, the friendly banter with stall owners and fellow shoppers.

It's not just a market; it's a cozy gathering of community, camaraderie, and tradition.

And did I mention the convenient location? Smack dab in the heart of downtown, surrounded by a host of shops and restaurants.

Exterior view of Lancaster Central Market
James Kirkikis / Shutterstock.com

Solve Puzzles at Escape on Queen

You know, sometimes you need a break from the humdrum of everyday life. And let me tell you, that's exactly what I got when I decided to give "Escape on Queen" a shot.

It's a local escape room experience located right in the heart of our town. If you're curious, you can find more about them on their website, Escape On Queen.

It was a regular weekend when my wife surprised me with tickets she had won.

We decided to bring some friends along and take on the challenge of the Shipwrecked room.

Picture this: puzzles, locks, riddles, and only one hour to break free.

It was a mind-bending exercise that had us stumped at times.

Good thing the game master was there to nudge us when we needed a little help.

The camaraderie between us as we worked out the clues, deciphered the puzzles and moved closer to our escape was something I will not forget in a hurry.

It was more than just a game.

It was an experience that brought us together and had us laughing, gasping, and cheering each other on.

And let's not forget about the place itself. Escape on Queen was impeccable.

The staff was incredibly friendly, and the facility was clean and well-organized. They even had lockers for storing personal items.

Plus, I was pleased to see the welcoming atmosphere they maintained for everyone, being a great advocate for the LGBTQA+ community.

I remember walking out of there, my mission failed, but my spirits were high, already planning when we could come back for another escape room experience.

The game master was encouraging, even though we didn’t make it out in time, and ensured the experience was enjoyable.

Play a Ball Game at Buchanan Park

If there's one place where you can feel the spirit of community and fun, it's Buchanan Park.

The sunny days at this park are the epitome of suburban life.

You can find me here on most weekends, joining in a spontaneous game of basketball or even a pickup soccer match in one of the open fields that the park generously offers.

This isn't just any park; Buchanan Park has a personality.

For the kids, it offers a wonderful playground equipped with swings (even one for the little ones) and a huge slide that seems to be the favorite among the children.

The park also houses a pavilion, tennis courts, and of course, the popular basketball courts.

While the playgrounds and sports fields are always buzzing with activity, the tranquility that the park offers is truly something to cherish.

You can peacefully enjoy your lunch in the pavilion or sit there and soak in the quiet, only interrupted by the occasional sounds of a basketball hitting the court or kids laughing on the swings.

The park also boasts a dog park, but be prepared for some canine drama.

There are times when dog owners get entangled in arguments about whose dog did what, but that's an integral part of any community space.

My dog, for one, only has eyes for the tennis balls.

Stroll through Long's Park

Fountain at Long’s Park
Raymond C. Eichelberger / Shutterstock.com

Just the thought of a leisurely walk through Long's Park brings a sense of peace and calm to my everyday hustle.

It's a beautiful 80-acre sanctuary where you can escape the noise of the city and enjoy the simple pleasures of life.

The park offers a wide range of outdoor activities that always keeps me coming back.

A picnic basket, a cozy blanket, and the picturesque surroundings of the park is my preferred way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Long's Park is dotted with picnic areas and benches, making it perfect for family outings or a quiet lunch by yourself.

However, the highlight of this park is its adorable petting farm, a place I've grown particularly fond of.

It's a delightful experience to be surrounded by animals in a setting that's safe and well-maintained.

It's like a mini-zoo in the heart of the city.

Canada Goose at Long’s Park
Raymond C. Eichelberger / Shutterstock.com

The lake, though beautiful, has been a matter of concern for me.

The water seems to be an unusual color, and I've noticed dead fish in there.

I only hope the park authorities are looking into this issue.

In the summer months, the free weekly music festivals at Long's Park are not to be missed.

With live music filling the air, it's a communal celebration of art, culture, and community spirit.

Have a Fun-Filled Learning Science at Lancaster Science Factory

On one of our usual gloomy, rainy days, I decided to take my kids to a place we had never been before - the Lancaster Science Factory.

The moment we stepped in, I knew this was not going to be a typical museum visit.

The air was buzzing with the energy and curiosity of children - of all ages - exploring the hands-on displays.

The Science Factory is a real gem where kids can actually touch, feel and understand the principles of science, engineering, and technology.

The admission price was surprisingly reasonable, and the hands-on displays turned out to be hours of fun for my entire family.

Last summer, my friend bought a Grandparents membership at Lancaster Science Factory and took her grandchildren several times.

They were absolutely thrilled and loved every visit.

She tells me they are planning to return this summer to check out the outdoor activities.

Hike the Lancaster Conservancy

There's a particular thrill I get from being out in nature, breathing in the fresh air, and exploring new trails.

Over the years, I've been fortunate to enjoy such experiences thanks to the Lancaster Conservancy.

They've preserved the beautiful Susquehanna River lands, making them accessible for outdoor enthusiasts like myself.

One of the most remarkable things about Lancaster Conservancy is their commitment to protecting natural spaces.

Because of them, many of the natural spaces in Lancaster County continue to flourish and remain available for us to enjoy.

I've spent countless hours hiking, immersing myself in the beauty of the county, and enjoying the serenity that only nature can offer.

Spend an Afternoon in Lancaster County Central Park

Mile creek tunnel at Lancaster County Central Park
Raymond C. Eichelberger / Shutterstock.com

On a sunny Sunday last month, I decided to spend my afternoon in Lancaster County Central Park, a place that has always been close to my heart.

I strolled through the picturesque garden of Five Senses, an oasis of tranquility even on the busiest days.

The Garden's gazebo is a charming spot, perfect for intimate gatherings like small weddings.

I still remember how serene it looked when I attended a friend's wedding there a while ago.

As I walked through the park, I passed the skate park, a favorite spot for the local youth.

Even the swimming pool was filled with families enjoying a leisurely swim.

The park has an Environmental Center, a hidden gem that offers environmental education - a fantastic place for young ones to learn and interact with nature.

The park has several hiking trails that lead to beautiful sceneries.

This time, I decided to take one of these trails, hoping to explore a bit more of the park.

Water fountain at Lancaster County Central Park
Raymond C. Eichelberger / Shutterstock.com

The trail led me to a scenic covered bridge, a picturesque spot ideal for lifestyle branding or beautiful personal photos.

Rest assured, if you're planning a picnic, the park has got you covered too.

There are dedicated picnic areas with ample space for families to spread out and enjoy a warm sunny day.

However, keep in mind to clean up after your picnic; let's keep our park clean for everyone to enjoy.

Remember, the park is pet-friendly, so feel free to bring your furry friends along, but please pick up after them.

This gesture keeps Lancaster County Central Park enjoyable for everyone and protects our local wildlife.

Finally, don't forget to check out the park's basketball courts, a perfect place to engage in a friendly match with friends or other park visitors.

Wooden pedestrian bridge at Lancaster County Central Park
George Sheldon / Shutterstock.com

Experience the Artistic Side of Lancaster at the Museum of Art

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, I decided to indulge in a bit of culture and headed over to the Lancaster Museum of Art.

What a treat it was!

You'd be amazed at how a small museum like this, nestled within a former mansion in Musser Park, can house regional, national, and international artworks of such diversity and beauty.

The museum is a gem in our local community.

As I strolled through the exhibit rooms, I was particularly captivated by the artistic reimagining of musical instruments.

It was as if the artists were playing a symphony of creativity, transforming the old into something extraordinary.

The reused old musical instruments turned into art were indeed the stars of the show.

The museum is small, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in the quality of its exhibits.

The Wooded Wonderland exhibit was intriguing, and the Permanent collection offered an extensive array of wonderful artworks.

I must admit, I spent more than 30 minutes mesmerized by the art pieces and didn't even notice the ticking of the parking meter outside.

Luckily for everyone, the Lancaster Museum of Art doesn't charge an entrance fee.

Though donations are always welcome, the museum is committed to making art accessible to all.

Whether you're a passionate art lover or just looking for a leisurely activity, the museum promises a lovely experience.

Just remember to pay for parking and take your time to soak in the beauty of art.

Discover the Versatility of Overlook Park

You won't believe the charm of Overlook Park until you've experienced it firsthand.

It's the perfect place for all kinds of outdoor activities.

One day, you might find me practicing my swing on the golf course. It's a great place to unwind and work on your game.

Whether you're a sports enthusiast or enjoy the outdoors, Overlook Park has something for everyone.

My Saturdays are often spent cheering on the local sports teams from the sidelines of the many sports fields.

And if you're a dog owner, you'll love the dog park as much as your pet does!

My dog, Bella, always has a blast, romping around and making new friends.

During the warmer months, my family and I love to cool off in the swimming pool, which is a real godsend during those scorching summer days.

And let's not forget the skating rink, a winter wonderland where we lace up our skates for some icy fun.

Step back in Time at Historic Rock Ford

Entrance to Historic Rock Ford
George Sheldon / Shutterstock.com

Every year when spring unfurls, and the glorious weather settles in, from April through October, a trip to Historic Rock Ford becomes an essential part of my itinerary.

This 18th-century plantation nestled in the heart of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, offers an unforgettable journey into the past that never fails to leave me mesmerized.

I've had the pleasure of joining the guided tours, always led by a knowledgeable guide who knows the plantation and its fascinating history inside out.

These tours are a wonderful mix of architecture, history, and storytelling.

They take you through a meticulously preserved home, each room filled with remnants of the past.

The stories of the Revolutionary War and the family who lived here during that turbulent time always give me goosebumps.

One of my favorite stops on this tour is the basement kitchen, a remarkable testament to the bygone era, adorned with period pieces that transport you back in time.

Every time I walk into that kitchen, I'm struck by the atmosphere; it's like time stands still in this precious little corner of the house.

Towards the end of the tour, a short walk up the hill takes you to a restored period barn.

Historic Rock Ford has been relocated to the spot where the original barn once stood.

Snow covered Rock Ford
Andrej Safaric / Shutterstock.com

Inside, you'll find an impressive collection of Lancaster area Grandfather clocks and other intriguing pieces that somehow exude an endearing charm.

And let me tell you, the stories about these pieces are almost as fascinating as the items themselves!

The barn also houses the Snyder Gallery, where a great selection of period furniture is displayed.

I remember being particularly captivated by a special exhibition on the long guns of the Revolutionary War.

It's a must-see for anyone with even a passing interest in history.

Just a heads up - while there's a Porta Potty in the parking area, you can find very clean restrooms at the barn building.

The availability could depend on how busy the tours are on the day, so plan accordingly.

Have Some Family Fun at Go N Bananas Family Fun Center

Every Saturday morning, my children wake up ready for a day of fun and excitement at Go N Bananas Family Fun Center.

It's their favorite place in town.

Their eyes light up as we walk through the entrance of this ultimate playground.

With a playground structure, bumper cars, an arcade, laser tag, and a 3D experience, it's like a child's paradise.

My little ones, aged 2 and 4, lose themselves in the world of fundom.

They laugh and giggle as they race their bumper cars, and the look of awe on their faces during the 3D experience is priceless.

For them, it's an absolute blast.

There's never a dull moment at Go N Bananas.

We've been there countless times, but every visit feels like the first.

The only minor issue we face is the unpredictable waiting period for the laser tag.

Sometimes we have to wait a bit before our turn is up, but given how much they enjoy the game, it's a small price to pay.

And did I mention the food?

They've got a great variety of options right on-site.

While it is slightly pricey, it's decent and convenient, saving us the hassle of stepping out to grab a meal.

Unearth Wonders at North Museum of Nature and Science

I've been living in Lancaster for as long as I can remember, and one place that continues to amaze me every single time is the North Museum of Nature and Science.

This impressive three-story establishment, complete with a quaint gift shop, is home to countless fascinating exhibits, ranging from ancient fossils to stunning birds and vibrant reptiles.

A particular favorite of mine - and a hit among the younger visitors, too - is the dynamic dinosaur gallery.

I remember being captivated by it during one of my visits. I must admit, I was anticipating a few more interactive elements, but the sheer magnitude of the displays left me thoroughly captivated nonetheless.

The discovery room is another highlight.

The hands-on experience it offers to kids is second to none.

I've seen their eyes light up as they interact with the exhibits, a testament to the museum's ability to create an engaging learning environment.

If you're seeking a genuinely unique experience, don't miss out on the live animals area.

I still vividly recall the time when the staff brought out a large monitor lizard for feeding and petting.

It was an experience both thrilling and educational, something you don’t get to see every day!

Weekends become even more special with the planetarium shows for kids, which they seem to thoroughly enjoy.

The best part is that the North Museum of Nature and Science keeps things fresh with changing themes every month, ensuring that each visit is a new voyage of discovery.

I remember buying a shirt from their gift shop years ago.

It was a pen and ink illustration with a colored underlay, a fond memento that I still have to this day.

Look into the a Leader's Life at President James Buchanan's Wheatland

Facade of President James Buchanan’s Wheatland
Smallbones, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

I've explored the historical charm of President James Buchanan's Wheatland more times than I can count.

Nestled right here in our Lancaster backyard, it's a forgotten gem that I can't help but revisit.

Every time I step into the house, it feels as though I am traveling back in time.

Each room is rife with national treasures that tell a story about Buchanan and the time he lived in.

The tour guide always impresses me with their immense knowledge and passion.

They explain things in an engaging way, bringing forgotten pieces of history back to life.

The tour also includes a video at the Visitor's Center, and let me tell you, they have done a marvelous job with it.

It's like a brief, captivating movie that sets you up perfectly for the tour.

But it's not just about the house.

The grounds of President James Buchanan's Wheatland are equally mesmerizing.

With a wide variety of trees and a relaxing environment, a stroll around the property is in itself a delightful experience.

It's not only pleasant but also instructive, as you get to learn about various plant species.

Get Inspired at Phillips Museum of Art

Walking through the ever-busy streets of Franklin & Marshall College is always a delight, but nothing has ever piqued my interest more than the Phillips Museum of Art.

This museum has been my sanctuary for years, a place that promises an escape into the magnificent world of art.

The museum is a wonderland where both permanent and temporary exhibitions of fine art exist in harmony.

Its walls tell fascinating stories that are expressed through the brilliant strokes and colors of local students and artists.

I remember being utterly captivated by an exhibit that showcased the extraordinary talent of Angie Hohenadel.

The arresting detail of her work transported me to different realms and left me awestruck.

I must admit, however, that the museum's operating hours can be somewhat limiting.

Being open for only four hours a day does not give art enthusiasts like me enough time to truly appreciate the richness and diversity of the displayed pieces.

Catch an Event at Musser Park

You know you're in for a fantastic day when you decide to spend it at Musser Park.

There's nothing like the joy of tossing a frisbee with my beloved pup in the soft grass of this park.

It's a great place to have a picnic too. Just me, my pup, and some good friends make for a perfect afternoon.

The park is often bustling with friendly neighborhood folks.

Over the years, I've made some great connections right here.

Musser Park's vibrant community scene is brought to life by the numerous events it hosts throughout the year.

I've attended various awareness-focused bake sales, fundraisers, beer gardens, and concerts. There's always something happening here.

Learn about an Artist's Life at The Demuth Museum

Exterior view of Demuth Museum
iheartPhotOle, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

On lazy Saturday afternoons, I often find myself wandering the halls of The Demuth Museum, a cherished gem in our town.

The museum, once the home of the modernist painter Charles Demuth, now stands as an homage to his brilliance.

The charm of this place lies not just in the display of Demuth's art but also in the experience it offers.

The most magnetic part of the museum for me is the guided walking tour, which always feels like a journey back in time.

I've seen firsthand how the dedicated guide passionately recounts anecdotes from Demuth's life, enriching visitors' perspectives with historical photos and insights.

One of the highlights is the chance to explore the family's former tobacco shop, essentially a time capsule with its warm sweet smell of tobacco and dark wood cabinets.

It's these intimate glimpses into Demuth's life that transform him from a figure in a history book to a palpable, intriguing personality.

The Demuth Museum features a diverse range of Demuth's artistic styles, each revealing unique facets of his creative genius.

However, it's also heartening to see the works of local contributors displayed alongside Demuth's masterpieces.

I particularly enjoyed the exhibit about drawing on the Susquehanna, which showcases the artistry of our local community.

Aside from the enriching tour and art displays, the museum also offers an assortment of prints, postcards, tote bags, and books for sale.

One of my favorite purchases is a book written by the tour guide himself, packed with intriguing insights about Demuth and the museum.

This place indeed offers a completely immersive experience, making it a must-visit for anyone intrigued by art and history.

Experience Bouncing Fun at Sky Zone Trampoline Park, Lancaster

You know those weekends when the kids are bouncing off the walls with energy?

Well, instead of trying to calm them down, I decided to channel that energy into something fun, taking them to Sky Zone Trampoline Park in Lancaster.

Boy, what a fantastic decision that turned out to be!

From the moment we stepped inside Sky Zone Trampoline Park, the kids were in absolute awe.

The place is a haven for kids (and adults!) with its vast trampoline area, foam pits, basketball, rock climbing, and even a dodgeball arena.

My personal favorite has to be their ginormous "bouncy house" area. It is like a dream come true for any child!

The best part about Sky Zone Trampoline Park, though, is that it's not just about endless fun.

It's also a great place to get a full-body workout.

We spent 90 minutes there, and trust me; it was worth every single penny.

The staff was always available, ensuring everyone was safe while having a blast.

And for those post-play hunger pangs, there's even a snack shop on-site.

The check-in process was a breeze, and the staff was extremely friendly and helpful.

Marvel at the Charm of the Cork Factory Hotel

Ah, the Cork Factory Hotel.

Nestled in an 1865 landmark, this posh boutique hotel is a sight to behold.

The exterior is a stunning work of art, with its original brick interiors that have stood the test of time.

But its charm doesn't stop at the entrance. Inside, you can find an array of unique features that only add to its appeal.

Here's how my experience played out.

Visiting the Cork Factory Hotel is like taking a step back in time.

The rooms have a vintage charm, although I must mention their charm leans more towards the rustic side.

Little things like a small TV and the lack of a microwave in the room gave it a quirky touch.

Stroll Down Memory Lane at Soldiers and Sailors Monument

Daytime view of Soldiers and Sailors Monument
Felix Lipov / Shutterstock.com

There's something about the Soldiers and Sailors Monument that always makes me pause.

Nestled in the heart of Lancaster City, it's more than just a historical spot; it's a part of our shared identity.

Every time I pass by Soldiers and Sailors Monument, I can't help but feel a sense of solemn respect for the brave men and women who served from the American Revolution to the present day.

You'd often find me on quiet afternoons, strolling around the downtown area, taking in the blend of old and new buildings.

It seems the monument not only represents our past but also the evolution of the city itself.

The top of Soldiers and Sailors Monument
Sunstopper1st / Shutterstock.com

The monument, standing tall amidst the bustling traffic, is like a beautifully resilient beacon that has weathered the test of time.

Some days, it's common to see somebody setting up a piano near the park.

The tune floating through the air adds an ambiance that makes it even more special.

The park around the monument is always a pleasant place to hang out, meet with friends, or watch the world go by.

Go on a Family Adventure at Dutch Wonderland

Exterior of Dutch Wonderland
Sandra Foyt / Shutterstock.com

Every summer, my family and I make a point to spend a day at Dutch Wonderland.

With its 44 acres of fun, the amusement park has become a staple in our yearly traditions.

The thrill of roller coasters, the splash of water slides, the delight of kids' shows - all of it perfectly encapsulates the joy of summer.

Being a stone's throw away from the castle-themed park, my kids start counting days as soon as summer vacations start.

The anticipation for their favorite Merlin's Mayhem roller coaster ride or Duke's Lagoon water park visit is palpable.

Even though ticket prices have seen a hike over the years, the season passes come in quite handy.

It makes our frequent visits more pocket friendly; plus, who could resist those charming smiles and eager eyes?

It's not only the rides that keep us coming back but the overall friendly atmosphere of the park.

A ride at Dutch Wonderland
Alan Budman / Shutterstock.com

We often end up spending the whole day there, thanks to the variety of food options available.

From delicious snacks to full meals, everything is available within Dutch Wonderland, making it super convenient.

Interestingly, the park is not just for the young ones.

There are a couple of more thrilling roller coasters that cater to the older ones and trust me, they are just as exciting!

While my kids are making a splash in the water park, I often sneak off for a quick adrenaline rush of my own.

For those quieter moments or when the kids need a break, there are plenty of calm spaces within the park.

These spots are perfect for a little downtime before heading back into the fun.

Cable car ride at Dutch Wonderland
Alan Budman / Shutterstock.com

Final Thoughts

The charm of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is not just found in its picturesque countryside or its rich history but in the diverse range of activities it offers.

Whether it's the bustling Lancaster Central Market, the educational Lancaster Science Factory, or the fun-filled Go N Bananas, there is always something for everyone in Lancaster.

After years of living here, the best things to do in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, continue to make life in Lancaster interesting and vibrant.

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