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Help fill in the blanks....Lancaster

Planning a short trip to Lancaster this summer. Please help fill in the blanks and/or critique my current thoughts....

Day 1 will be at Strasburg RR. Planning on lunch at Christinas Cafe. For dinner, I'm planning on just grabbing the light fare offered at our hotel before heading to Dutch Wonderland for the 3 hour evening preview.

Day 2 will be at Dutch wonderland. Planning on leaving for lunch since we can't bring food in. I want something close by and fast. It'll be a nice break from the park and give us some time in air conditioning. So far I've found DJs Taste of the 50s, Smoketown Diner, and Pasquales. Are any of these solid choices or should we look elsewhere? Not sure about dinner this night either. The kids will be exhausted from a long day at the park. Any good pizza places that we can just bring back to the hotel? Staying at Homewood Suites.

Day 3 we will head to Lititz. Tomato Pie Cafe for lunch, tour Wilbur chocolate, ice cream at Grecos. We will visit Sturgis Pretzels too. If we get started early enough, we will head up to Hershey after. No park, just chocolate world. We should be back in Lancaster for dinner. What would you recommend? Any cuisine is fine, just no fried stuff. The boys love everything from pasta to sushi to spanikopita.

Day 4 we head home via Herrs chip factory.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. Well, the Christina's Cafe I found is in Strasburg VA, not PA. Wow....

    So for lunch on our Strasburg day, I'm now thinking Springerle House. And we can get some yummy cookies!

    I also need one breakfast place in Lancaster please. Was thinking Cafe One Eight. Thoughts?

    2 Replies
    1. re: rizzo0904

      Springerle House is good. For a really kid friendly place near the Railroad and Museum, Isaacs is a good lunch choice. Good Sandwiches and really good soups. Also a good kids menu(if your kids are young). The Strasburg location is Railroad themed)
      Of your Day Two lunch choices I like DJ'S best- very good burgers.

      1. re: brookquarry

        I'll look at Isaacs too. Maybe just a stop at Springerle to get cookies. The menu there is limited for lunch and I'm not sure my mother in law will approve. She can get soup at Isaacs and be happy. It's ironic, my kids aren't the limitations with respect to food, my mother in law is. Aren't kids supposed to be the picky ones? :)

    2. Can't help you with the food, it's been too long since I took my kids there.although dinner at the caboose style RR motel was not bad( I assume that is where you are staying)

      However.do NOT miss the RR museum across the road from the Strasburg RR. You and the kids will love it

      3 Replies
      1. re: FriedClamFanatic

        We are staying at the Homewood Suites.

        Looking forward to the museum. I think they will LOVE it. And I think they'd rather visit that over the choo choo barn.

        1. re: rizzo0904

          At Strasburg I'd check out both the railroad and the museum. Both are great. Watching the trains pull in and out was more fun than riding them when my kids were little.

          1. re: sal_acid

            I think we will do the museum, head to lunch, and then ride the train. If they want to go back to the museum after, we will.

      2. Sounds like a good trip. The kids will have fun. Activities for the kids seem to be your focus, and with that you're going to be more limited with food options. (I can't think of much great in the way of food near Dutch Wonderland or the RR.) But I think you can still sneak in some good meals.

        After a day at Dutch Wonderland I would need an adult beverage or two. The Fridge in Lancaster makes very good pizza (the best I've had in the area), and has a great selection of beer by the bottle to go. Looks like you can call ahead, get their pizza specials for the day and order to go. It's super thin pizza, so plan accordingly.

        I think you'll enjoy Lititz, and Tomato Pie Cafe is a good lunch option. Lancaster to Lititz to Chocolate World to Lancaster is certainly doable, but the kids will probably be tired again, so if it were me I'd look for something on the casual side for dinner. JoBoy's in Manheim serves pretty good BBQ, is kid friendly and is not too far off the route on your way back.

        As for your first night, if you're looking for something on the lighter side, I would recommend Rice & Noodles. Very good Vietnamese that looks like it would be on your way over to Dutch Wonderland. Get there on the earlier side (before 6:00) because it will get busy.

        9 Replies
        1. re: ahab

          Thank you for the pizza recommendation! That will be a go to for dinner one night.

          We enjoy Asian food so we will add Rice and Noodles to the list.

          Which bakery is better? Bird in Hand Bake Shoppe or Bird in Hand Bakery and Creamery?

          1. re: rizzo0904

            Never been to either bakery, so I don't know. Good luck and please report back on your trip!

            1. re: ahab

              Bird in Hand Bake Shop is better in my opinion. Also a nicer setting- in the country on a farm, with outside seating and a food dispenser for your kids to feed the goats. Run by Old Order Mennonites.

              1. re: brookquarry

                Thanks. Last time I took my boys to feed goats, they ate the feed...ugh, boys. In case anyone is curious, it tastes like bran cereal.

            2. re: rizzo0904

              There is also a very good Vietnamese restaurant in the shopping center right down the street from your hotel, called: Saigon Cafe. I love the food at both Rice & Noodles and Saigon Cafe, but I find Saigon Cafe to be a little more convenient in terms of parking and space inside the restaurant. You can't go wrong with either, but I thought Saigon Cafe was worth a mention since it is so close to your hotel.

              1. re: sballard

                I'll add one more advantage of Saigon Cafe over Rice & Noodles -- it's a little nicer inside with tables spaced apart rather than crowded next to each other as they are at R&N. The soups are wonderful and inexpensive at Saigon Cafe.

                1. re: CindyJ

                  I'm excited about the extensive banh mi menu at Rice and Noodles. That's why I choose it over Saigon Cafe.

            3. re: ahab

              OMG they have banh mi. I can't get that at home. That is now 100% our first night dinner.

              1. re: rizzo0904

                Great! The banh mi are pretty good, but on the smaller side. My wife and I usually split one and order some other things. You really can't go wrong with the basics here -- bun, soups, etc... But if you're in the mood for something different, we also like the following which are not on every Vietnamese menu (from their website):

                CM 7. Xoi Ga Lap Xuong A steamed sweet sticky rice plate topped with stir-fried shredded chicken and yellow onions, Chinese pork sausage, green onions and fried shallots. Served with a special soy sauce on the side.

                BC 1. Banh Uot Cha Chien Steamed flat rice noodles and fried Vietnamese pork bologna topped with bean sprouts, cucumbers, basil and fried shallots. Served with nuoc mam sauce on the side.

                And by the way, this is the our kids' (age 4 and 6) favorite restaurant.

            4. Most of your plan sounds great! The Rice and Noodles idea for the first night is perfect.

              Personally, I wouldn't leave the park for lunch on Day 2. Traffic around Dutch Wonderland in the summer is a nightmare. Leaving the park, IMO, will be a huge waste of time and take much more of it than you anticipate. I believe at least one of the eating places in the park is air conditioned. Plus, it is a small park. With the preview the night before, how much time you want to spend there the next day will depend on if you plan significant time in the waterpark area - which is great, but not everyone wants to do that, change clothes, etc. - and how crowded it is.

              Very close to your hotel is an Isaac's (as was mentioned, there is also one in Strasburg). It would be a much easier dinner and more kid friendly then heading downtown to The Fridge. While I cannot deny for one second that the Fridge is anything less than the best pizza around and definitely hound worthy food, I don't consider it the most kid friendly of places and again, the trek into Lancaster may be too much after a long day. Isaac's is a great family friendly deli, a local chain, and surprisingly good.

              Hershey has some good restaurants, and I would consider dining there before heading home. My kids' favorite is Devon Seafood Grill and it is a finer dining experience for mom and dad, too. If your kids are old enough to read, I'd consider the Hershey Story Museum in addition to Chocolate World. Pay the extra for the Apprentice Program, which creates a scavenger hunt around the museum for answers about Milton Hershey and the company.

              2 Replies
              1. re: centralpadiner

                I'm thinking we don't need the full 2nd day at Dutch. My plan is to do the 3 hour free preview the night before...that'll be water park time. Then the next morning we can do a buggy ride before it gets hot, have lunch, then head to the park. In my experience, parks geared towards little kids clear out around 2pm for nap time. If we get there at noon and stay until dinner time, we should be good. Neither of mine nap anymore....

                Thanks for the Hershey info. Neither boy can read yet. The five year old is getting there and can do sight words, but that's about it. And they LOVE seafood so I'll be sure to check out the menu at Devon.

                Dinners...if we have a really cranky night, we will just eat the "free" happy hour food at the hotel and/or grab a pizza.

                You all have been great!

                1. re: centralpadiner

                  I agree that the Fridge wouldn't be the best place for kids after a long day at DW. The original rec was for takeout. As an adult, after a long day at DW, I would welcome the chance to leave the rest of the family back at the hotel and make a trip downtown to pick up the pizza (and hope for a wait so I could enjoy a beer).

                2. My adjusted plan:

                  Day 1: Railroad museum and train ride. Lunch in Strasburg...either Isaacs or Springerle...mother in law will decide. Check into hotel. Stop at Rice and Noodles for an early dinner on the way to Dutch Wonderland.

                  Day 2: Abe's Buggy Ride, Bird In Hand Bake Shoppe, lunch at DJs 50s (early, right at 11), head to Dutch Wonderland. Dinner will be whatever works.

                  Day 3: keep the same with Lititz and Hersehy. There are also caves called Indian Echo Caverns that we may stop at before stopping at Hershey. Have any of you been? I think the tour is only about an hour and my boys may think a cave is pretty cool...literally and figuratively. Dinner in Hershey before heading back to hotel...need to review options.

                  Day 4: Breakfast at Cafe One Eight before heading home via Herrs Factory Tour.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: rizzo0904

                    Just note that Isaacs usually only has two or three soups available(almost all of which are very good) Their one constant soup- Pepperjack tomato-is excellent though.

                  2. Great itinerary, you have filled in the blanks for me. Thanks, I will take your lead one day when we see a real Spring day.

                    1 Reply
                    1. Dutch Wonderland is in the heart of Lancaster's outlet shopping district. Within a mile in either direction you'll find any chain restaurant your heart desires -- and little else.

                      1. Do not, I repeat, do not succumb to the temptation to buy food at the RR. Way over-priced and not very good. The suggestion for Isaacs is a great one. Right across the road, very kid friendly and good choices on the menu. Won't break the bank either.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: PattiCakes

                          Thanks. We won't buy food there...I am not a fan of attraction food. It's never good and always overpriced. I did see they have picnic table so I may even pack lunch for that day.

                        2. over on another site, there is an on going discussion about Lancaster and Hershey. I offer these tidbits from simple food type ppl with no editorial:

                          We try to get to Pa Dutch country every year on our way to Maine. I like Millers Smorgasbord in Ronks. Its more expensive then most other buffets, but far better. Its very clean and the quality of the food is good. I love their salad bar and homemade breads. Everything tastes homemade to me. The selection is not as extensive as Shady Maple. Shady Maple (IMHO) is average. Its a huge pig out belly busting kind of place. Its like a giant Golden Corral.
                          Don't miss Lapps Ice cream in New Holland. The place is hard to find, but so worth it. Its a real farm, so kids will love looking at the animals.
                          The Amish make fab pastries. I could live on their pies alone. Beware though, some of the places use canned fruit in their pies, so make sure you ask if the fruit is fresh. Depends on the time of year you go. We went to a farm
                          stand that sold fresh fruits so I thought the pies would be made with the fresh fruit. Nope, canned fruit. I had to throw out the pies.
                          Get those coupon books. Almost everyplace has a coupon. Enjoy, the area is beautiful.

                          Isaac's is a chain of shops in the Lancaster area with delicious hot sandwiches, pita pizzas and such. My favorite is the Twisted Chicken, a grilled chicken breast on fresh pretzel roll. There is one downtown at 25 N Queen, and there is one is Strasburg just down the street from the RR museum and train station.

                          The Lancaster Brewing Co downtown has excellent food and a great craft beer selection.

                          We love the food at Dienner's Family Restaurant on Rt 30 near Paradise, but strangely they close at 6pm. If you're going by there it's worth stopping next door at Dutch Haven and picking up a shoo-fly pie. Kitchy building, fabulous pie.

                          There are a number of those smorgasbord places in the region that get a lot of hype, but I'm also a skeptic. The one's I've been to were nothing special.

                          Jenny's diner on Rt 30 is pretty good, but avoid the Gap diner further east in Gap, PA and the Cloister Restaurant in Ephrata.

                          More or less in the Berk County area
                          Risser's Family Restaurant is a must. It's my favoite Penn Dutch restaurant in the area.
                          The great thing about Risser's
                          is that they don't offer buffets/smorgasbords (although there is a salad bar), and they serve Authentic Penn Dutch Cuisine such as chicken and waffles, beef heart, schnitz und knepp and stuffed pigs stomach (they are all weekly specials)
                          most of the buffets in the area just serve generic "roast beef" or "chicken" or "ham"
                          all their pies are homemade - We had fresh peach pie last summer

                          the last post is from someone I know and respect

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                            Thank you for the great info...and the heads up on canned fruit in the pie! The one thing I really hope to try is shoo-fly pie. I had to google to even figure out what it is.

                            The smorgasbord places give me pause. I'm guessing some of the great reviews have to do with quantity rather than quality.

                            I also get nervous when I read tripadvisor and yelp and some of the top rated restaurants are ChickFilA and CiCis Pizza.

                          2. If you are in Lancaster (city) on a Saturday, their Farmers Market will be entertaining for your children and delicious. Varied foods from both PA Dutch Country and ethnic cuisines, a wide variety of foods to take home, home made chips, horseradish, etc., and a few tables to grab a bite.
                            A wonderful sit-down lunch can be had next door to the Market, at Carr's. A little more pricey than Isaac's but infinitely better, nicer atmosphere, depending on what folks are looking for that day.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: jay seigle

                              We arrive on a Monday so we will miss the Market.

                              Thanks for the info on Carrs. I will check that out.

                              As for Isaacs, I know they get great reviews, but the children's menu is one of the worst I have ever seen....a sandwich made with dino nuggets, sandwiches made with bread that is full of food dye, marshmallows added to the pbj. I just can't do it.

                            2. One heads up...

                              PA Dutch "chicken pot pie" is soup with fat noodles. You were warned.

                              A dissenting note...
                              I grew up in this general area and have lots of experience with the PA dutch places around Lancaster. The best of them is unimpressive to my palate. Its just farm food. Well-made usually, but boring and covered in a thick gravy half the time. And they are expensive for what you are getting.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: sal_acid

                                Fat noodles? As in, noodles made out of fat? Or egg noodles...that's what we call the wide ones up here in New England.

                                I'm not overly interested in the PA Dutch food...just their desserts. :)

                                1. re: rizzo0904

                                  Fat, as in big and chunky.
                                  Shady Maple (known ito many locals as "Sh***y Meatball) is worth a trip if you have time. Not so much for the food as for the experience. They can seat over 1,000 (yep!) people at any given time. They even have one wing to accommodate bus loads of visitors. Church ladies, older folk with walkers, men with huge pot bellies & suspenders, young Mennonite girls in their caps, little kids -- gluttony on display. Certainly not gourmet, but palatable. And the desserts? Oh my! AND the tables are covered with oilcloth, so it's the perfect place to take toddlers or messy eaters.

                              2. Well, Central Market in Lancaster City is open Tuesdays and Fridays also. That said, I don't necessarily recommend it with young kids, Its usually crowded. There is also very limited seating. Its much more of a produc-meat-seafood-baked goods market than it is a place to get meals.
                                I had to laugh about the chicken pot pie. This confuses tourists all the time. It is true that Pa Dutch food is not highly seasoned. To those of us that grew up with it, its comfort food.
                                I also completely agree with the comment about Shady Maple.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: brookquarry

                                  People think pot pie is what Marie Callender makes, with actual pie crust. In the Pennsylvania German culture, it's actually a creamy chicken and vegetable concoction topped with those big fat square noodles, or "bot boi".