We had heard much about this area and were excited to arrive at our Thousand Trails campground near Hershey.
Our first excursion took us to the area east of Lancaster. This is Amish country and there are mile after mile of beautiful farms. The town of Intercourse is surrounded by those farms and is filled with nice commercial shops. We listened to a three piece band and checked out the shops. I especially enjoyed the Candle Barn there. Scott liked the pickle factory with all the free samples of everything from pickles (of course) to apple butter.
Just down the road from Intercourse is Bird-in-hand. There’s a very nice farmer’s market there that we enjoyed very much. There were jams, jellies, sweets, meats, cheeses, baked goods, postcards, knick knacks, and leather goods. We bought some sausage sticks, Amish butter cheese and dried tomato bread and had an impromptu and delicious picnic.
The Amish farms feature impressive barns and often the road runs within just a couple of feet of the front door of the barn. I wasn’t aware that so much corn is grown in Pennsylvania but it is everywhere. As we drove through the area we saw many Amish families working, including a man a boy and a young man cutting and staking tobacco. There were also several girls/ young women using manual push mowers to mow their lawns.
Later in our stay we went out to eat at a highly recommended Amish restaurant in Ronks PA called Dienner’s for buffet lunch. It was really good — especially the desserts. On the way home we drove to Lititz, PA and toured the Julius Sturgis pretzel bakery. They gave lessons teaching us how to hand twist pretzels. We also learned a bit of pretzel history. At first the only pretzels were soft pretzels. Then, because of some batches being accidentally baked twice hard pretzels were created. Julius liked the taste so he started making them commercially. We saw original equipment and ovens and one of automated pretzel twisting machines. At the end of the tour everyone was given a free bag of hard pretzels. We also purchased some hand made soft pretzels that were made right there. It was a nice stop and we thought it was well worth the $3.00 for the tour.
Of course, a highlight of this stay was our visit to Hershey Chocolate World. The free tour/ride was cute and it explained how chocolate is picked, processed and made into Hershey candy. There’s even a free snack size bar at end of the ride! We purchased tickets for the trolley tour and a chocolate tasting experience. The trolley took us on an entertaining and informative history of Milton Hershey: his factory and school. We were sitting near the back of the trolley and had a bit of trouble hearing and understanding the skits.
The Tasting Experience was nice. We learned the history of the use of chocolate and how cocoa beans draw flavor from plants and flowers nearby. We tasted 5 different snack bars and learned how they were different. Then we got a free regular size Hershey bar as we left. Hershey’s Chocolate World features a large gift shop filled with all things chocolate! It was fun and very tempting!
The other highlight of our stay was our visit to Independence National Historic Park in Philadelphia. It’s hard to express how it felt to actually see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. We learned the history of the Liberty Bell as we waited in line to see it. This bell symbolizes a great deal to our nation and to those who love liberty around the world. After seeing the liberty bell we went back to the visitors center and watched two excellent free movies before touring Independence Hall. One film is based on the journals of several young adults who lived through the American Revolution. It told how their lives were shaped and often changed by their decisions at that time. The other movie used quotes of our founding Fathers and told some of what they went through to write and proclaim our Independence.
Seeing Independence Hall and knowing the founding Fathers and citizens of that day actually sat in those rooms, discussing, debating, and signing the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution is amazing. I’m so glad I was able to experience this and hope our grandchildren get the opportunity visit this inspirational place soon.
Scott’s sister, Susan spent a week of our stay at Hershey with us and we enjoyed her company very much. Her and I tried to visit the Thousand Trails campground mini-golf course every day. It was fun but I don’t think either of us has a future as professional golfers! Seriously, we’re so glad Susan came to see us. Having her to share all our fun here made it all even more enjoyable.