A Tour of Hershey and the Amish Towns
This trip combines a visit to the town of Hershey, the original home of the famous American chocolate, with a visit to Amish towns where it seems like time has been standing still for centuries.
Hershey is a
small touristy town whose entire tourist appeal is based
solely on its chocolate factory. The actual Hershey’s
chocolate factories have long ago moved elsewhere, but
the town remains loyal to the company and to the many
tourists flooding their town. Many interesting
attractions now stand where the factory used to be. The
main attraction is Hershey’s Chocolate World, where you
can take a 12-minute tour in trolleys moving along a
chocolate assembly line, starting with cocoa beans and
ending with the finished product. The tour is free and
ends in a big and colourful Hershey’s chocolate store.
Nearby are several other attractions: There is a large theme park called Hersheypark, open from mid-May to early September. It features over 50 rides including 6 roller coaster and 6 waterslides. Another attraction is the Hershey Gardens, botanical gardens which are also open from mid-May to early September. Finally, there is The Hershey Story, a museum about the history of Hershey’s chocolate.
The Amish Towns
In the midst of fertile farmlands in Lancaster County lies Pennsylvania Dutch Country, dotted with Amish villages and farms. The Amish are a Christian subgroup who fled from Europe to America due to religious persecution in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Amish live their lives almost exactly as their forefathers did several centuries before. Despite living in the middle of the very modern US of A, they don’t use electricity, drive buggies instead of cars and work their land with the simplest traditional farming tools.
They wear plain
clothes which they sew themselves: Men wear dark
trousers , dark vests and broad-rimmed black or straw
hats; women wear long, plain dresses with an apron and a
cape. Married men grow long beards (without moustaches)
and children all dress alike.
The Amish are pleasant, friendly people who coexist in peace with their modern neighbours. A few Amish villages in this area are Bird-in-Hand, York, Lititz, and Strasburg. The best way to tour the Amish country and take in the unique atmosphere is in a buggy – a little black car hitched up to a horse, the Amish’s main form of transportation. There are several buggy tour companies in the area. Aaron & Jessica’s Buggy Rides and Abe’s Buggy Rides, both in Bird-in-Hand, are the biggest and best ones.
Bird-in-Hand has other tourist attractions which teach about the Amish way of life. There is the Plain and Fancy Farm, which features a model Amish home called Amish Country Homestead where you can take a tour and see what the inside of an Amish house is like, complete with furniture and other household items. You can take a 30-minute guided tour through the house. The farm also houses the Amish Experience Theatre, which shows a teenage Amish boy’s struggle to pick between the Amish way of life and the modern world outside. Close to the farm is a small school called the Weaverton one-room Schoolhouse, where you can learn about the school life of Amish children through a combination of animation and wax figures. Open from April to October.
You can also learn about the Amish way of life in the city of Lancaster, in the Amish Farm and House. The place offers 45-minute tours in the house and the farm. Various Amish customs and traditions are explained throughout. Open all year long.
People who like tours of factories should not miss out on a visit to Anderson Bakery Company in Lancaster. This is a bagel factory where you can take an independent tour and follow the entire production process through glass windows. Entry is free.
Lovers of trains would not miss a visit to Strasburg, where you can take a 45-minute ride in an old, well-preserved steam locomotive. The railroad has been around since 1832. The town is also home to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania and the National Toy Train Museum.
There are other attractions for the whole family in the area and I recommend spending at least one whole day there. You can find plenty more information on the Pennsylvania Dutch Country website and the PA Dutch Country Welcome Centre website.