The big news in Lancaster this summer is that the Cartoon Network is coming to town in the form of the world’s first Cartoon Network Hotel. The new lodging option, adjacent to Dutch Wonderland, “will be filled with ways to interact with the network’s shows and characters — not just on TV screens,” said Dutch Wonderland’s Jeffrey Eisenberg.
Aside from play areas, a resort-style pool and a Cartoon Network store, there will be an amphitheater where shows will be premiered from time to time. Hotel guests will enjoy discounts and special packages to Dutch Wonderland.
The family friendly theme park opened Merlin’s Mayhem last year, the park’s first suspended roller coaster. Even many of the smaller coaster enthusiasts can meet its 39-inch height requirement. The park is open weekends during May and daily after Memorial Day. (dutchwonderland.com)
There are plenty of other options for a home base as you explore the area. The Eden Resort and a sister property, the Fulton Steamboat Inn, provide different experiences. The Eden is a classic family resort, while the Fulton, built to look like a sidewheel steamboat floating in a lagoon, is definitely a fun themed experience. The Lancaster Arts Hotel provides upscale accommodations in a renovated warehouse with art surrounding guests throughout the property. The Bird-in-Hand community offers an inn, motel, family hotel and campground. And Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse offers accommodations tucked throughout the village.
Lancaster’s Spring Art Walk, May 4-5, is a self-guided journey of discovery through more than three dozen downtown art galleries and includes live demonstrations and opportunities to meet artists. (lancastercityartgalleries.com)
The annual Herb & Garden Faire at Landis Valley Museum on May 10 features heirloom, native and other hard-to-find plant varieties. Browse the offerings of 80 vendors spread throughout the historic village. (landisvalleymuseum.org)
Kitchen Kettle Village welcomes spring with a Rhubarb Festival, May 17-18, with food, a dessert contest and even a rhubarb race car derby. It’s all amid the 40 shops and activities in the village in Intercourse. (kitchenkettle.com)
Fun at a show
New shows open May 1 at the Bird-in-Hand Stage and the American Music Theatre. The musical whodunit Stolen runs at the Bird-in-Hand Stage through Oct. 23 and features the kidnapping of an Amish infant and a quirky detective (bird-in-hand.com). The American Music Theatre’s orchestra, singers and dancers present “Ovation,” a musical journey from classical to pop. The shows are on select dates through early October.
The Strasburg area is Lancaster County’s “railroad country” with attractions both large and small in scale. Model trains are the attraction at both the family run Choo-Choo Barn (choochoobarn.com) and the National Toy Train Museum (nttmuseum.org). Choo-Choo Barn’s 1,700 square-foot layout includes 22 trains. The Toy Train Museum features six train layouts with a collection dating from the 1800s to the present.
Experience the life-size locomotives and train cars at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, then take a scenic ride on the Strasburg Railroad, said to be the oldest continuously operating railroad in the western hemisphere.
Cherry Crest Adventure Farm is 60 attractions worth of fun with rides and activities for youngsters and older family members, too. In the fall, the farm features one of America’s top ten corn mazes. (cherrycrestfarm.com)
It’s hard to visit the Lancaster area and not be intrigued by the Amish buggies on the roads and horse-drawn equipment in the farm fields. The Amish Village is a place for the whole family to learn about the lifestyle by visiting the farm house, school house and the various farm outbuildings. (amishvillage.com)
Head west from Lancaster and the Susquehanna River marks the county’s border. Stop in at the Turkey Hill Experience in Columbia to invent your own flavor of ice cream. That really gets the kids excited! There are also interesting exhibits about Turkey Hill’s history. (turkeyhillexperience.com)
Insider tip: If you’re an iced tea fan, sign up for the 30-minute, reserved seating Tea Discovery Experience where tea experts will broaden your knowledge and share delicious flavors of iced tea.
Across the river in Wrightsville, the Zimmerman Center for Heritage is an 18th-century mansion where you can learn about the Susquehanna River’s history as well as the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Water Trail. But that’s only the beginning, according the center’s Paul Nevin.
“From here, take a guided tour of Native Lands County Park and learn about the native people who inhabited the riverfront,” he said. “Or, take in the great scenery on land or on the water.”
There are two outfitters nearby who rent kayaks and paddleboards or bring your own and use the ramp access at the Zimmerman Center. (susquehannaheritage.org)