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Is Amish country a tourist trap?

Austin, TX
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Is Amish country a tourist trap?

I am a bit dismayed by the sites I'm finding for visiting Amish country. It all looks garishly touristy. We are middle aged couple who like authentic local experiences, whether food/lodging/activities. Will be there very early June for a couple of days, so will any farm stands be operating that early? Any truly authentic PA Dutch food to be had? I am staggered by how expensive the rooms are in B&Bs, and how uneven the reviews of small older motels are, which we thought we might find scads of. All suggestions appreciated!

Loch Arbour, New...
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1. Re: Is Amish country a tourist trap?

Yes, most places are tourist traps. The Amish are not animals in a zoo, so having a true Amish experience is not possible.

You can enjoy driving around the countryside and stopping at Amish shops, but that is about as authentic as it gets.

And, I am Pensylvanis Dutch, to be perfectly honest, the food isn't that good! Maybe my own homemade Chicken Pot Pie, but that's about it.

Baltimore, Maryland
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2. Re: Is Amish country a tourist trap?

It must be incredibly challenging to try to live a simple life with highways and outlet malls surrounding you. As a cyclist,i have an appreciation for horse and buggies trying to survive speeding cars. With that, the Amish are an insular community. The country side is beautiful, there are restaurants with Amish food. It is worth visiting but you are no more likely to have an authentic experience than you would with the orthodox Jews in borough park or ranchers in Texas.

NY
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3. Re: Is Amish country a tourist trap?

I don't understand why people say they don't want anything touristy... If you are visiting from a different place, you are a tourist. The towns in the Amish Country area are very pretty . There are the tourist places on route 30 and routes 340. There are tourist shops (very nice ones I might add). If you enjoy country and primitives, you won't find a better place to find these. Most tourist towns have gift shops with junk...The gift shops along route 340 have beautiful primitives and collectables. Driving around the farmland is beautiful and relaxing.The Amish are farmers, and their food is basically good old country cooking which you can get in some of the local restaurants like Dienners.There are some tourist places to learn about the Amish, and they are interesting and well done.It's a nice part of the country to visit, but yes it's touristy.. If it wasn't why would anyone want to visit?

Bucks County...
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for Philadelphia, Train Travel, Bucks County
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4. Re: Is Amish country a tourist trap?

I agree with SusieQQ. You'll be hitting mostly tourist traps. If you enjoy driving around endless farmland looking at mailboxes with the names Miller and Stoltzfus (that's almost all of them), a very occasional hex symbol on a barn, and eating mediocre food at unauthentic diners, then this is for you. That being said, many, many people enjoy it. Obviously, I am not one of them.

Austin, TX
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5. Re: Is Amish country a tourist trap?

Point well taken, MittMott, we are tourists. But we still don't want to visit an outlet mall or theme park. We're interested in seeing the countryside and eating any noteworthy local food, without someone else interpreting the experience for us.

Others, any suggestions for good detours around all this, esp if its overrun w/"tourists" in early June? The point of this trip is Phila on one end, Pitt on the other, Gettysburg in the middle, and hitting the historic Lincoln Hwy corridor on either side of Bedford (which will have its own tourist schtick, I'm sure). Any route suggestions appreciated, esp for food worth stopping for & non-chain lodging that isn't $200/nt or wretched.

Austin, TX
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6. Re: Is Amish country a tourist trap?

PS to OWLYN: since we aren't interested in driving Rte 30/Lincoln Hwy nearer Pittsburgh (just suburban sprawl, it seems from looking at satellite maps), we might go N out of Philadelphia first, toward your neck of the woods, then dip down and catch 30 after Lanc/York area. Would love any tips you have for Bucks Co area food. lodging or scenic routes.

Central PA
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7. Re: Is Amish country a tourist trap?

I can help you out around Gettysburg, check out the Federal Pointe Inn, the site of the former Meade School for accommodations tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g60798-d3225354…

Walkable to town, with plenty of dining options. We like Garryowen Irish pub and the Blue Parrot bistro, as well as the Springhouse Tavern below the Dobbin House. Cashtown Inn on the west side of Gettysburg off Rt 30 is nice as well. Several small wineries offer weekend entertainment and worth a look. http://www.adamscountywinery.com/

http://www.hauserestate.com/

The Harley Davidson York plant also on Rt 30 offers tours harley-davidson.com/en_US/…york.html

New Oxford has many antique shops http://newoxford.org/

Edited: 06 April 2013, 15:01
Elizabethtown...
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8. Re: Is Amish country a tourist trap?

How to get an authentic experience in Lancaster Co.? Hmm... as a local, I find this interesting. To be honest I have never even visited any of the "about the Amish attractions" because they are people I have been around my whole life, so why would I need to? However, if you want to learn anything about the religion and the lifestyle in a relatively short period of time, you really need to visit one of the "touristy" sites, because as a tourist, you don't have time to develop those relationships and get to understand what it is really like. And what they are, "really," like is just people that are doing their best to support their families while maintaining a stricter level of humility and simplicity than society as a whole.

You can avoid the outlet malls and Dutch Wonderland by avoiding Rt. 30 between Rt. 896 and Lancaster City. A stop at the Visitor's Center for a map to help you in driving the back roads. Farm stands will definitely be open in June, strawberries will particularly be at their peak if the weather is good. Almost any road you drive on in farm country will have a stand at some point. Some will be Amish, many will be Mennonite. Speaking of Mennonite, the Mennonite information center offers great information, videos and guided tours of the area in a much less "touristy" atmosphere than some of the other spots. www.mennoniteinfoctr.com/guided-tours.asp

As far as food goes, your best bet is to avoid places that have huge billboards advertising their "smorgasbord." Once upon a time, Betty Groff did it best, but no one kept up her wonderful legacy. Perhaps look for one of her cookbooks in a local shop. Personally, I like Country Table in Mount Joy, but that is a little out of your way. Closer is Oregon Dairy - use the menu, not the buffet. Part of the key is knowing what is really PA Dutch food, and what it not. . . . that's not always easy for the visitor to figure out. As Mittmott said, it is primarily country cooking, which isn't all that different from country cooking in many parts of the US - hearty food made with what was most easily available. Exchange some black-eyed peas, sweet potatoes and greens for noodles, dumplings, dried apples and cabbage and you would be eating classic Southern foods.

I can't help you with specific lodging. However, I don't believe the rates are out of line with the region and the demand. Good luck, I hope you find the experience you are looking for.

Loch Arbour, New...
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9. Re: Is Amish country a tourist trap?

Between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, a worthwhile area to visit is the Laurel Highlands. Lots of interesting places there:

www.laurelhighlands.org

Including Johnstown which has so much history, particularly of the Johnstown Flood:

www.visitjohnstownpa.com

And one of my favorites is the lovely small town,Ligonier:

www.ligonier.com

Edited: 06 April 2013, 15:31
gettysburg, pa
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10. Re: Is Amish country a tourist trap?

To answer your farm stand question: Yes, the larger ones will be open. Not much local produce at that time of year except for local strawberries, which are delicious. If you're coming to Gettysburg, you may want to visit Hollabaugh's:

http://www.hollabaughbros.com/

You can get shoofly pie and whoopie pies there. :)

And if you are taking 30 from Gettysburg to Bedford, you can also get great local food at the Butcher Shoppe in Chambersburg. It's a good stop to stock up on car snacks for the long trip across 30.

http://mybutchershoppe.com/

You can also get a good meal at the attached cafe:

http://bigoakcafe.com/menu/