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Pennsylvania Dutch Country is not a living history museum, frozen in a time centuries past. It is a living culture, one that has remained stable at its core amid an onslaught of technological, ideological and theological change. And the influence of the Amish on their surroundings -- and vice versa -- continues to evolve.
And while interest in the Amish is undoubtedly a major reason why more than eight million visitors travel to Lancaster County every year, it's definitely not the only one.
If it's greener pastures you're after, you can book a stay at a working dairy, produce or horse farm where the resident rooster can roust the kids at chore time, while you just snuggle in your feather bed. Perhaps the only birdie you want to see is on a score card. For you, there is a galaxy of stellar golf courses and resort-style facilities that make them family-friendly.
Find out how the tiny towns of Intercourse, Blue Ball and Bird-in-Hand got their colorful names and discover each one's unique personality and charm. Walk in the footsteps of the soldiers who fought on the Battlefield at Gettysburg and of the townspeople whose lives were also swept up in the raging tides of Civil War.
For railroad aficionados, all tracks lead to Strasburg, where you can still take a steam-train to Paradise, visit the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania and check out the National Toy Train Museum. Or you can take to the sky for a whole new perspective on the countryside from the basket of a hot air balloon.
Is this heaven or do I just smell chocolate? Both. Pennsylvania Dutch Country is the home of two world-class confectioners -- Wilbur's in the town of Lititz and Hershey in the town of, well, you know... The aromas wafting from these factories are so sweet, the air itself must be caloric. So if you're going to breathe it in anyway, you might as well let your taste-buds in on the fun.
You can work off those chocolate calories during your shopping spree. Discount outlets or priceless antiques (With hundreds of individual and co-op shops, Adamstown, in Northeast Lancaster County, is widely recognized as the "Antiques Capital of the U.S."), artisan crafts or imported luxuries, you'll find opportunities in abundance to give your credit cards a good workout. Come in spring and join the Amish at their annual "Mud Sales," special fund-raising events held at community fire houses where locals and visitors can bid on and buy everything from livestock to farm equipment, furniture to housewares, homemade quilts to shoo fly pies.
So savor the slower pace of a horse and buggy lifestyle. But don't dismiss Pennsylvania Dutch Country as a one-trick-pony. It's rural, it's sophisticated, peaceful, exciting, away-from-it-all and in-the-middle-of-everything.
It's all here...if you know where to look.