As a lifelong resident of South Central Pennsylvania, I am very fortunate to live within an hour’s drive of three All-American vacation spots – Gettysburg, Hershey and Lancaster. The scenic beauty that exists virtually within my “backyard” defines this special place that people worldwide know about and dream of visiting. Luckily for me, it’s a matter of jumping in the car and traveling 30 miles down the road in almost any direction.
To my south lie the hallowed grounds of Gettysburg. America wouldn’t be the nation she is today had the events that took place exactly 150 years ago never occurred. For me, while climbing the rocks of Devil’s Den, a favorite spot of mine since I was little, or looking out over the grassy fields of Pickett’s Charge, I can’t help but wonder what was going through the minds of the soldiers, some of them as young as me, hearts pounding as they prepared to do battle. A visit to the brand new Seminary Ridge Museum brings the battlefield experience to life with an interactive exhibit about the first day of the Battle and how the wounded were cared for right there on the battlefield. And no visit to Gettysburg is complete for me without a meal at the Dobbin House, Gettysburg’s oldest and most historic building. The cozy, candlelit room with servers in period costume gives a glimpse of what life was like over 200 years ago. Their Spit Roasted Chicken rocks!
To my north is Hershey, Chocolatetown USA. Driving into Hershey, my family and I compete for who gets the first whiff of chocolate and who sees the top of Hersheypark’s Kissing Tower first! The “Sweetest Place on Earth” is a kid’s dream come true. Chocolate and rollers coasters all packed into 110 acres of fun. The iconic Hershey Kiss-shaped street lights – alternating between silver wrappers and pure milk chocolate – that line Cocoa and Chocolate Avenues are really cool. But my favorite view has to be from the top of Great Bear…front row… hands up….at night!
And lastly, to the east is peaceful Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Dutch Country. It’s home to the oldest Amish settlement in the United State and truly a unique place. Learning about the Amish culture and way of living is so fascinating. For an insider perspective, take a horse and buggy ride and stop at a real working Amish farm. This will usually lead to sampling homemade lemonade and freshly baked cookies served by the family that lives there. This brings me to food. Ahhhh the food! No visit to Lancaster County is complete without sampling some of the most wonderful foods that are unique to this area. Home to whoopie pies, shoo-fly pies, sticky buns, pretzels and amazingingly rich and creamy ice cream staying on a low carb, low cal diet here is a challenge. Not to mention smorgasbords! You definitely won’t go away hungry. In the fall, picking pumpkins and eating apple cider donuts always kicks off the harvest season in our house. If you’re like me and you like to get “hands on” there is so much to try. Twist your own pretzel, milk a cow, or try your hand at quilting.
So plan to visit the heart of America, this special place I’m lucky enough to call home. You’ll be glad you did!
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