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Dog jaunt: Visiting lovely Lancaster County with Fido (and FIDO Friendly)

This is a guest post written by Carol Bryant, the Editorial & Social Media Director for FIDO Friendly Magazine, and guardian of Dexter, an irresistible Cocker Spaniel. Carol is also in charge of the excellent FIDO Friendly blog.

Amish farmer in Lancaster County, PA

Buggy rides. Jams, jellies, relishes. Shoo fly pie, Dutch food smorgasbord, shopping, and field after field of crops being tended in one way or another. This is Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

And Fido’s welcome.

Often called “Dutch Country” by visitors and locals alike, Lancaster County was the home of my dog’s veterinary specialist for years. We took the road less traveled to appointments, through Amish towns like Intercourse, Blue Ball, Lititz and Bird-in-Hand — and on a few occasions, we turned the vet trip into a vacation, so when Dog Jaunt asked for a guest post about the area, I excitedly accepted.

Throughout years of visiting Lancaster County with my cocker spaniel, countless numbers of fellow travelers told me, “I wish we could’ve brought our dog along!” In lieu of chatting with each of you about how to make Fido’s frolicking as fun and fret-free as possible, I invite you to sit, stay, and read a while. FIDO Friendly offers these unique tips to make your trip to Lancaster as Fido-friendly as possible.

Where to stay

Ah, the age-old question for travelers with canine companions. Of the many inns and quaint B&B’s in the area, I’ve stayed in and recommend the following:

Brandy at the Hawthorn Inn

Hawthorn Inn & Suites: Affordable, and charges only a nominal pet fee. Complimentary breakfast is included, rooms (located on the first floor) were always clean, and a nice grassy area surrounds the hotel, making for easy access at potty time. The location on Lincoln Highway, which runs through the heart of Lancaster, is ideal — traffic and noise were never issues for us. Fidos weighing 50 pounds and under were welcome at last check, for a $50 non-refundable fee per 7-day stay.

Lancaster Host Resort and Conference Center: We attended a conference at the Host, which gave a nice “Wilkum” (Dutch lingo for welcome) to visitors at its front doors. Adequate but a bit outdated, the Host boasts an 18-hole championship golf course, pool, and restaurant, and is conveniently located within minutes of the Dutch Wonderland amusement park. At last check, dogs of any size were welcome for a one-time fee of $25 per Fido (up to three allowed).

What to see

Be a tourist! Visiting Dutch Country, you’ll want to immerse yourself in the local culture. Prepare to catch glimpses of a time gone by, since the Amish only travel by horse and buggy, on foot, or by scooter/bicycle. However, as local historian Brad Igou writes in the Amish Country News, if you wave to the Amish and they don’t wave back, don’t be insulted. Imagine if tourists waved to you all day long as you went about your business! Nothing would get done. One has to grin at such a sentiment.

There are two great shopping centers located on Lincoln Highway, and Fido is welcome to walk around both: Tanger Outlets, with over 60 shops and services, and Rockvale Square Outlets, with over 100 outlet stores. QVC fans take note! The QVC outlet store is located at Rockvale Square, as is the famed Vanity Fair outlet. I’ve stocked up on socks, undies, PJ’s, and sweats on every trip. Be sure to stop in the customer service center for coupon booklets to save money in a variety of stores.  If you take a family member or friend, one of you can shop while the other explores or relaxes outside on a bench with Fido.

Kitchen Kettle Village is at the top of the list of things to see and visit with Fido while in Intercourse, a quaint little town that’s home to buggy rides, a canning company, a pretzel company, and a quilt museum. Many scenes in the movie “Witness” (starring Harrison Ford)  were filmed here. Kitchen Kettle Village allows Fido to walk the grounds while you shop and take in the aroma of the many jams, jellies, and canned goodies made on site. The visitor’s bureau takes pride in this “village of 32 shops that’s built around one of Lancaster County’s most famous kitchens. Sample fresh pepper jam, see fudge being poured, Shaker furniture being made, and listen as Banjo Jimmy plays a folk tune.” I can personally attest to each of these unique attractions. Be sure to get there early, and bring cool water and treats for Fido and a comfy pair of walking shoes for your tootsies. Shop ’til you drop and eat ’til you’re full are must-dos on the day’s agenda!

Not far from Kitchen Kettle Village is the Bird-in-Hand Farmers Market — although Fido can’t enter, it makes for a great pit stop for fresh corn, veggies, and baked goodies. Also in Bird-in-Hand, and conveniently across the street from the Farmers Market, is a delectable bakery featuring highly-recommended cinnamon buns and apple dumplings.

Be sure to check out Country Creations on North Star Road in Strasburg, PA (I’m having an “I can’t believe I’m sharing this because this is an awesome find” moment!). Country Creations is located in a 100-year-old, three-story barn. The Hayden Company soy candles are a must-buy — no soot, and long-lasting scent. While I shopped, a family member ambled around the premises with Fido. Nearby cows, horses, and farmlands provide a glorious background for some four-legged strolling.

Please note: This may sound like a lot of driving, but everything is within 20-30 minutes of the Lincoln Highway (a.k.a. U.S. Route 30).

Have a family member take Fido, perhaps with a picnic basket of local goodies, to a Lancaster-area park (for example, the Overlook Dog Park on Fruitville Pike) while you  explore neighboring towns like Hershey (“the sweetest place on Earth“) and Mount Hope (home of the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire). Bird-in-Hand, which you’ve already visited for its Farmers Market and its bakery, is also the launching point for delightful hot-air balloon rides.

What to eat

I really think this section should be called “what’s not to eat,” since you’re visiting an area that prides itself on its home cooking and variety of treats. If you travel with Fido, you either like finding a place that does take-out, or one that won’t make you wait for hours while Fido unwinds from a busy day back at the hotel room. With that in mind, here are a few restaurants and area specialties to check out:

Those are only a few of the places yours truly can personally recommend, but you’ll certainly find others just by driving around the county and following your nose. Still can’t decide? Check out Lancaster County’s visitor information site for more suggestions and information.

Rich in history, culture and art, Lancaster County has something for everyone, including the four-legged member of the family. The tourism bureau boasts that there are “so many things to do, you’ll come back again and again,” and it’s very true. Happy FIDO Friendly Vacationing!!!

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  • Michele C. Hollow

    I’m a Fido Friendly fan. We’ve been to Lancaster County and stayed at a few working farms. I have mixed feelings about Lancaster because it has been called the puppy mill capital of the east. So, we pick and choose what we do and how we spend our money there. We’ve been to Good ‘N Plenty, where the portions are huge. And we loved Wilbur Chocolate Factory.

  • Hi, Michelle! Thanks so much for your comment — now I’m scratching at the door to go to the Wilbur Chocolate Factory. I hear you about the puppy mill issue — Carol and I both had doubts about highlighting an area that’s infamous for its puppy mills (my parents live in northeastern Ohio, another hotbed of puppy mills — the Amish are charming to look at, but the reality is pretty hardscrabble, and puppy mills are the flip side of the canned-goods-and-quilts coin). It could be that discouraging people from visiting Lancaster County until this issue is addressed will prompt Pennsylvania to pass laws banning puppy mills. Alternatively, fewer tourist dollars coming in might make more people turn to puppy farming (though I wonder how much tourist money actually reaches the Amish). It’s such a popular destination that it may not be possible to stop or stem the tide of tourism. Probably the best thing to do, as you do in your comment, is to make visitors (and locals too) aware of the issue, and tell them how to contact lawmakers with their concerns. Organizations like United Against Puppy Mills are doing good work in the region, and can use all the help and support they can get:

  • Just read rave reviews of Boehringer’s Drive-In, in Adamstown — open seasonally, and a great place for hot dogs and burgers and outstanding ice cream, shakes, etc. Drive-in, so no problem for people traveling with dogs, and you can eat at picnic tables next to the stream.

  • Rachael

    And if you’re visiting Lancaster County with your pups, don’t forget to check out the Beneful Dog park!! It’s on Race Ave, near F&M college! It’s great for some off-leash fun!

  • Katie Persiani

    I was aware of Lancaster’s puppy ill reputation, however, my brother and sister-in-law got an absolutely wonderful poodle from a breeder in that area and my husband and I got the most wonderful standard poodle from a breeder in Mt. Joy. Just wanted to let you know there are some good breeders in that area if you check around 🙂

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