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Lancaster, PA July 4th Weekend 2016 Part 1

Steve and I recently took a road trip to PA Dutch Country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania over the 4th of July weekend. It was great trip and I wanted to share some pictures and activities we did. I had visited Lancaster when I was much younger with my family, and I remember enjoying the farm-fresh foods and smorgasbords which are prevalent in the area. It was Steve’s first time to Lancaster, and he enjoyed viewing all the farms and home-grown fruits and vegetables. I’m sure it won’t be our last trip there and are looking forward to our return!

Lancaster, PA is about a 3 hour drive from New York City. We departed on Friday late-afternoon, before the long weekend and drove about an hour and a half to Bethlehem, PA, home to Lehigh University and the new-ish Sands Casino. I wanted to check out the casino and thought it would break the trip up a bit. The Casino sits alongside a former steel mill, and it’s extravagance contrasts with the dilapidated factory next to it. The Casino itself is pretty big and there are other things to do there besides gamble, like shopping, and an arena for shows. We definitely hit the casino and even won a few bucks on the penny slots, which is something that rarely happens, believe me.

We spent the night at the Hyatt Place Bethlehem which I booked using points. It’s a nice hotel and very affordable regularly but because of the long weekend rates were through the roof! So booking it using 8,000 Hyatt points was worth it for us. Our room was huge and definitely afforded a comfortable night after the casino. We didn’t see anything else at the hotel though, and the included breakfast buffet was pretty standard although heaps better than other chains.

King guestroom at the Hyatt Place Bethlehem. All Hyatt Place hotels have very similar decor.

The only gripe is that the parking lot is across the street. I had visions it would be scary especially at night when returning from the casino, but it was brightly lit, and seemed to be ok for one night at least.

Heading into Lancaster that morning we had lovely weather. It was definitely a couple of degrees cooler here than it was back in New Jersey, but we were greeted with the most gorgeous farm views as we arrived and we knew we were in Pennsylvania Dutch County.

Rows and rows of corn are everywhere in Lancaster!

Lots of cows and dairies!

Our first stop was Lapp Valley Farm which is a dairy known for their homemade ice cream. You had to traverse some back roads to get to the farm but it was just gorgeous and the dairy had delicious homemade ice cream. I tried a flavor called Butter Brickle and it is amazing! Think of crunchy, buttery toffee mixed into creamy vanilla ice cream. Yum! As with many of the farms here, it is owned by the Amish or Mennonite. They are super nice and one of the friendlies folks you’ll meet.

So green here!

Farmhouses in PA Dutch County

Lapp Valley Farm

My first taste of Butter Brickle Ice cream (along with a scoop of my favorite, maple walnut) and it was great!

Enjoying the outdoors with our ice cream!

A popular stop in in PA Dutch County is the Kitchen Kettle Village located in Intercourse. It’s a small cluster of shops and local gourmet food purveyors that include the Jam and Jelly Kitchen, a meat and cheese shop, a few cafes, country gifts stores, and even a winery’s tasting room. Note that as with most places in PA Dutch County, it is closed on Sunday so the most popular time to go would be Saturdays.

Fresh kettle corn

Our favorite stores here were not surprisingly, the stores that had all the FOOD. There were samples galore and we literally tasted our way though dozens of items up for sale. Aged and Cured was the cured meats and cheese store which sold gourmet local cured meats, like sausage, meat sticks (yes that is a thing), local cheeses, and different condiments and sauces.

Aged and Cured was great for getting a protein fix!

Delicious locally made dried meats, and cheeses. You could sample almost everything they had for sale.

All natural aged meats require refrigeration

Some of my favorites included the Amish Butter Cheese and the Hot Beef Sticks, they were delicious for a snack, especially when you’re trying to cut down the carbs.

Amish Butter Cheese – it did indeed have an underlying buttery flavor which is probably why I liked it so much.

The Jam and Relish Kitchen which is the store located opposite from Aged & Cured is the store to go to for all things jam, jelly, and pickle-related! There were tons of samples here too, and lots of interesting flavors of jams and jellies. In addition, try some of the pickles like chow chow, which is a mixture of different pickled vegetables, and the 3-bean salad.

Samples galore. Try some of the fruit butters!

We also went to the Waltz Vineyards Wine Tasting room on site. We did a regular tasting and shared it The wines were ok, but it was a nice place to grab a seat and a drink.

Waltz Vineyards tasting room at Kitchen Kettle Village

If you’re around Lancaster you have to try some of the famous soft or hard pretzels made on premises. We tried Immergut which is walking distance from Kitchen Kettle.

Hand-rolled soft pretzels in PA Dutch Country

A yummy fresh from the oven Pennsylvania Dutch soft pretzel!

Oops I took a bite already.

Across the street from Kitchen Kettle we went to a few other stores including a furniture store that sold really great quality stuff for really great prices. Stuff of this quality usually sells for thousands of dollars at other retailers but you could find it here for about half the price, and all made on premises too! It’s great if you like that sort of cottage-y furniture. I believe this store was called Treasure Place.

Quaint well-made and affordable furniture.

It was time to check into our hotel which was just a few miles down the road. We stayed at the Amish View Inn and Suites in a Grand King room, which is in their adults-only wing. This hotel is located in the heart of PA Dutch Country and is affiliated with the Miller’s Smorgasbord and Plain and Fancy Farm Restaurant, two places you will hear a lot of when you visit Lancaster.

I cannot say enough good things about this hotel. We had some of the friendliest service we have encountered, and the property is immaculate. There are not a lot of options in Lancaster aside from your typical chain hotels like Holiday Inn or Hampton Inn, but I wanted something different from your regular chain hotel. We could have stayed at a B&B but that isn’t really our thing. Luxury hotels aren’t really the norm in the area aside from The Hershey Park Hotel, but I would say the Amish View Inn raises the bar for lodging in Lancaster. For the price of a 3-star hotel (about 150-200 USD/night depending on season), you definitely get closer to 4-star order lamisil online service and style.

Welcome in to the best hotel in Lancaster County!

Coffee and tea were always available in the lobby which was great. We checked in and confirmed we had the Getaway Package booked. The Getaway package is a must-do if you intend on eating at Miller’s or Plain n Fancy because for 34 USD on top of your room rate you get dinner at either place (choose one) for 2 people. That more than pays for itself! In addition you get a bunch of coupons for stores in the area, some of those coupons which are in fact better than the ones you find in the brochures or flyers. Definitely choose the Getaway Package if you want to dine at one of those places!

Our Grand King room is in the relatively new adults-only wing which is located off the lobby across an indoor “bridge”. Once we stepped inside, we knew we were in for a treat. We were greeted with this amazing view:

What a great view of the Plain and Fancy Farm right next door!

The room had huge windows overlooking the farm next door. It was the first thing you notice when you walk in. Definitely get a room at on the higher floor (floor 2 which happens to be lobby level in the adults-only wing) for the best views.

The room itself is quite gorgeous. I was surprised at the large size of the room, and it had a very “glam” look, which was different than a lot of the country-inspired looks of hotel rooms in the area.

The Grand King room

King sized bed and luxury furnishings in the Grand King room.

Large flat-screen, and plenty of storage space. The plus, all the lamps have 2 outlets in them, perfect for charging multiple gadgets!

A small closet and a kitchenette is hidden behind closet doors.

The piece the resistance was the gorgeous bathroom. It is close to what you’d find at luxury hotels like the Ritz Carlton, and in fact is a lot nicer than most 4-star hotel rooms in New York City.

I love the claw foot tub and double sinks!

The tub was perfect for taking long baths. There is also a TV in the bathroom perfect situated so that you can take a bath and watch TV at the same time. There was also a separate glass shower stall and a toilet in its own room. They definitely created a luxurious, well-thought-out bathroom when building this wing!

Separate shower stall

I anticipate a few baths here over the next two days!

The Amish View Inn has an indoor pool area with a jacuzzi and decent-sized pool. The pool was pretty standard but it was definitely bigger than some comparable properties I have stayed in before. There is a very small gym and arcade next to the pool. There are also laundry facilities if you need them (coin operated). Every morning a gourmet breakfast buffet is served which I will go into in my next post.

Pool area at Amish View Inn

I highly recommend the Amish View Inn for your Lancaster stay. We only experienced the adults-only wing, but the regular rooms and suites are very child-friendly and may be slightly bigger. The rooms in the regular wing are decorated in a more traditional manner but they look equally as comfortable. I definitely recommend the adults-only rooms for a romantic getaway or even a girls weekend. You definitely get luxury for less here!

That evening we had dinner at one of the included restaurants in the Getaway Package, Miller’s Smorgasbord. It’s definitely the best deal because Miller’s is more expensive than Plain and Fancy so it would be a better use of the included dinner. Miller’s is located a few miles from the Amish View, and is one of the only places in PA Dutch County that takes reservations, which I highly recommend doing, especially during busy summers and weekends. The restaurant is huge but they draw large crowds so you can expect waits if you don’t make reservations, especially when you have a large party.

Welcome to a traditional PA Dutch Smorgasbord: Miller’s!

Miller’s is a pretty large buffet serving PA Dutch comfort food as well as continental favorites. The space is huge and always busy, hence the reservations recommended.

Miller’s smorgasbord

There were plenty of buffet stations serving both hot and cold foods. Here are just a few of the buffet stations:

Chilled shrimp and salads

Locally made cheeses and spreads

The hot food stations

The hot food included crisp fried chicken, brown buttered noodles, stuffing, stewed tomatoes, mashed potatoes, corn (of course!), mac n cheese, harvard beets, various gravies, chicken pot pie and other comfort food staples. They had a specialty dressing for their salad bar as well, Hot Bacon Dressing, which is a delicious honey-mustard style sauce with bacon bits. It’s served warm, and let me tell you this was so good over some fresh spinach salad, especially with a sprinkling of cheese!

Hot Bacon Dressing, you complete me!

One of Miller’s specialties is their Chicken n Waffles. It’s different here because the chicken is not fried, but more of a pot pie filling that you can ladle over freshly made waffles. I did not think the gravy needed the waffle and thought it was delicious on its own.

Chicken n Waffles, Miller’s style.

In contrast, their Chicken Pot Pie is actually none other than chicken n dumplings, a hearty chicken soup served with thick, broad noodles. There is no crust on PA Dutch style Chicken Pot Pie. That is an interesting tidbit! I loved all the delicious chicken dishes!

PA Dutch version of Chicken Pot Pie.

In addition to Chicken Pot Pie, there were at least 8 other soups. The Chicken Corn Soup is a local favorite.

For all the carb lovers, there were plenty of breads and sweet treats.

Iced Raisin Bread

Steve enjoying his spread

We enjoyed our dinner at Miller’s but note that it is a pretty touristy spot, and you’re not going to get that traditional “Amish” experience. The prices are going to be a little more expensive than other PA Dutch restaurants but you get a huge variety of foods, and the dining room is nicer than many others. There is also a gift store onsite as well as a small pantry area where you can buy some of their baked goods and the aforementioned bacon dressing!

Gift shop at Miller’s

Local condiments for sale

The bacon dressing is good! Just heat small portions and serve along with your salad!

Needless to say, we were stuffed from dinner! Back at the Amish View Inn, we ended the evening with the most incredible sunset. I assure you the following pictures have absolutely no filters nor post-processing done, all taken with my iPhone.

Sunset at Amish View Inn

It got more amazing as the sun set further…

Here’s a little video I took showing how amazing the sunset was!

Amish Sunset 2 from Su-Lynn Teo on Vimeo.

Just beautiful!  Coming up in Part 2 of our Lancaster, PA trip, we create our own ice cream flavors at Turkey Hill! Stay tuned!

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