I think one of the most exciting parts of our family vacation was having the chance to experience new things. I pretty much knew what to expect at Hershey Park but Lancaster, PA was a terrific surprise!
One of the first stops was a trip on the Strasburg Rail Road (www.strasburgrailroad.com ). Even Grandma and Grandpa drove down to meet us for this part to surprise Spencer for his birthday and this proved to be the perfect excursion for the entire extended family!
Whether you’re a train enthusiast or not, the first glimpse of the beautifully restored steam engine and authentic wooden passenger cars will take your breath away. You can feel the sense of history as people wait at the station to board the train. My entire family loved watching the giant steam engine re-couple as it got ready to depart again. Strasburg Rail Road holds the unique distinction of being America’s oldest short line railroad and is a designated heritage site. On February 22, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln made a stop at Leaman Place on his inaugural train ride, en route to Lancaster. His four-minute visit brought nearly 5,000 people out to cheer for the President and Mrs. Lincoln. To prepare for the President’s visit, Strasburg Rail Road had purchased their first passenger car, which ran on a special train to transport people to and from Leaman Place.
Today, the Strasburg Rail Road is one of Pennsylvania’s most popular tourist destinations, bringing in over 400,000 passengers per year! What’s great is there really is something for everyone which makes it such a wonderful family experience.
Along the 45-minute trip, you’ll get to see the Pennsylvania Dutch Countryside up close. My kids were fascinated when they pointed out the small building that was the Amish school for grades 1 – 8 and seeing some of the young boys farming. We then got to stop in Paradise, PA (yes, I did visit Paradise on my trip!) and then on the way back you can disembark and have a picnic. My 4 year-old was particularly excited when she learned that her good friend Thomas the Tank Engine makes stops in Strasburg and she could ride a train pulled by him!
For the adults, there’s a beautiful First-Class Parlor Car and you can book a trip for one of their wine and cheese tastings. You can also take a behind-the-scenes tour to see steam engines being built, restored and refurbished.
This is such a great trip to have fun and teach your kids (as well as yourself) a bit about the history of railroads in our country and experience Pennsylvania Dutch Country up close. Tickets are extremely reasonably priced and you can get combo passes that include other area attractions including Dutch Wonderland (a must for the under-12 crowd!) and Cherry Crest Farm.
So, if you live on the east coast or are planning to visit, check out all of the fun and affordable things to do in Lancaster, PA (www.padutchcountry.com) with a special stop at the Strasburg Rail Road.
Alison Rhodes is the founder of Safety Mom Enterprises and Safety Mom Solutions, the premier baby proofing and child safety company in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area. Alison is a family safety expert, TV personality and consultant.