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Exploring the City of Lancaster, Family-Style

A resurgence in the hospitality sector in the city of Lancaster plus its history, enduring tradition of arts and crafts, and shopping makes it a great destination for your next family weekend adventure!

When we say Lancaster, you’re thinking horse-drawn wagons, farmlands, beautiful produce, and meticulously-rendered hand-sewn quilts. And while Lancaster County is the heart of Americana, in the Lancaster City of today you’ll find a surprising, diverse destination that makes an easy weekend getaway full of activities with both town and country appeal.

Spend a quick two hours in the car, or if you’re traveling light, take the train from the Main Line or 30th Street Station! This city’s seven square miles are packed with art, museums, historical attractions, restaurants and cafes, theatres, shops, boutiques, and nonstop events, rain or shine.

Art, Music, Museums, and More! Out and About with the Kids in Downtown Lancaster

First Fridays on Gallery Row with the Lancaster City Art Galleries

Year-round, you can explore the innovative artistry of Lancaster on First Fridays, from 5 to 9pm. Discover exhibitions, performances, and maybe a new favorite restaurant. Hit Main Line Parent Publisher favorite Red Raven Art Company for a fresh collection of painters and an Emerging Artist Wall. A gem for First Friday visits!

Main Line Parent Publisher Sarah Bond at Red Raven Art Company

Third Friday Music Festivals

If First Friday is synonymous with art, Third Friday now means the City of Lancaster comes alive with Music Fridays. Performances abound throughout the downtown as retailers, restaurants, and other locations host musicians, with extended hours, food and drink specials, and live music.

Fulton Theater

The Fulton can claim its fame as the longest-running theater in America. Stage productions run the gamut from dramas to popular musicals to the family series that includes Snow White, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast.

North Museum of Nature and Science

From ancient fossils to the far reaches of the universe to STEM exploration, the North Museum of Nature and Science offers hands-on fun for all ages. Home to South Central Pennsylvania’s largest Planetarium, a Live Animal Room, the Coding Corner, and more!

Lancaster Science Factory

Think robots, 3D printing, and STEM exhibits! Visit this interactive science center filled with exciting, hands-on, science-y fun ideal for families with kids from pre-K to 8th grade.

Tiny Town

Imagine the indoor playspace of your kids’ dreams. Tiny Town is it! This play-based center with miniature kid-sized everything allows kids explore in a rich environment that stimulates curiosity and creativity through play. Parents can relax in the coffee bar while children play within view. 

Strasburg Railroad

Have you seen enough of Thomas? Check out this historic, restored authentic steam train and try a different line of train fun like the Bonnie and Clyde adventure. Or plan ahead for the Night Before Christmas train! If you’re feeling extra adventurous, make it a Strasburg Rail date night with some friends for their Murder Mystery Dinner Train!

Hands-on House

Hands-on House Children’s Museum of Lancaster is a nonprofit museum designed for children ages 2-10. At Hands-on House, learning and playing go hand-in-hand in exhibits like Little Valley Farm and Right in Your Own Backyard.

Landis Valley Museum

Situated on 100 acres in Lancaster, Landis Valley Museum was once a crossroads village. Now a living-history museum, Landis Valley collects, preserves, exhibits, and interprets Pennsylvania German culture from the 1740s through the 1940s.

Lancaster County Covered Bridge. Photo by Carolyn Clement Photography

Covered Bridges Driving Tour

Discoverlancaster.com brings you five driving tours of covered bridges in Lancaster County. Also called “kissing bridges,” directions to these historic, charm-filled spots will lead you through unique Lancaster County towns and villages lined with restaurants, shops, galleries, and attractions.

Family-friendly Eats and Food Destinations

The New York Times called out the city of Lancaster as an unlikely place for a medley of global foods. From Middle Eastern to Indian to African to Mexican and far beyond, you’ll find street food from all over the world, traditional American eats, and everything in between. With nearly a hundred new and thriving eateries, here are just a few important spots to visit with the family.

Lancaster Central Market

Active since 1730, this bustling market is open to the public three days a week, with over 60 vendors of local produce, prepared foods, and more. Art, organic vegetables, guacamole, pet treats, coffee roasters, candies, pickles, horseradish, açaí bowls, and traditional Lancaster County gifts are just a few of the fun features you’ll discover here!

Photo by Carolyn Clement Photography

Rachel’s Cafe and Creperie

Light, Parisian-inspired cafe fare featuring both sweet and savory crepes and other treats! Come to either of Rachel’s two Lancaster locations for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or a restorative coffee and smoothie session before heading back out on the town.

Penny’s Ice Cream

Who doesn’t love ice cream? This Lancaster-based company has branched out into ice cream trucks and retail.

Isaac’s Restaurant

Casual dining meets truly kid-friendly menus in a fun atmosphere that encourages relaxing family meals. Salads, sandwiches, soups, and more!

Good ‘n Plenty

Eat in or take out at this authentic, family-style Pennsylvania Dutch restaurant!

Lancaster Brewing Company Brewery and Route 30 Taproom

This brewery and its restaurants show a true dedication to locally-sourced, fresh, and sustainable ingredients. Both places to dine feature exciting menus with fun bar fare like beer-battered pickles and Reuben egg rolls, and you’ll also find tasty and satisfying salads, pizzas, sandwiches, and more. A great place to share plates with family and friends after a long day exploring.

Hospitality the Lancaster Way

Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square 

Lancaster Marriott of Penn Square. Photography courtesy of Marriott.

For visiting Philadelphians, this historic Penn Square building will feel like home. This upscale hotel is just moments from the attractions named here, and just five miles from the must-visit Dutch Wonderland. These Marriott rooms feature flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi (for a fee), plus desks, minifridges and coffeemakers, with pull-out sofas and city views available. Upgrade for access to a club lounge with free continental breakfast and evening appetizers! Free Wi-Fi in the lobby, and a casual restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows. Additional amenities include an indoor pool, a whirlpool tub and a gym, as well as a spa, a business center and 31 meeting rooms.

Marriott at Penn Square hospitality. Photography courtesy of Marriott.

The Courtyard by Marriott

Along with the hospitality you’d expect from a Marriott hotel, the Courtyard can also boast its status as the first fully solar-powered hotel in the country. With spacious accommodations and award-winning service, you’re just minutes from downtown Lancaster and the scenic countryside. You’ll enjoy the modern lobby, business center, and free high-speed WiFi. Enjoy a Starbucks or breakfast at The Bistro in the hotel lobby or stop in for a signature cocktail at the end of the day. Find a 24-hour fitness center and heated indoor pool and spa.

Marriott Signature Cocktails. Photography courtesy of Marriott.

Residence Inn Crossings at Conestoga Creek

This notable spot for extended family stays is right on the cutting edge of conservation. Sustainability is the word of the day, which means while you’re attended to during your visit, so is the environment. Conservation, responsibility, and stewardship are key to this facility!

Photo by Carolyn Clement Photography.

Visit our Philly Family Lancaster adventure for more Lancaster County family fun!

Sarah Bond contributed to this article. Feature photo by Carolyn Clement Photography.


Contributing Writer