Lancaster, a Surprising Gem of a City You’re Going to Love

Every Labor Day Weekend, Mike and I like to take a trip somewhere in Pennsylvania. Over the years we’ve gone to the Italian Festival in Scranton, Bethlehem, the Allentown Fair, Pittsburgh etc. Every couple months as most of you know we take a country drive out to Lancaster County, usually on Sunday. This year we decided to vacation in Lancaster. Originally I had planned for us to stay on a farm, but after a summer of staying in B&B’s in Cape May, Mike really wanted to stay in a hotel. We heard about Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square (tall building on right in the above photo), checked it out online and booked a room for two nights, planning to stay on the Amish Farm Sunday to Monday. I had no idea that Lancaster had a vibrant, walkable, quaint city. I always thought it was rolling countryside with Amish farms and outlets.

From their website: In the heart of historic downtown Lancaster, the integrated Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square and Lancaster County Convention Center offers approachable grandeur and all the amenities discerning visitors expect. An exquisite combination of old and new architectural elements includes a 19th-Century Beaux Arts façade and breathtaking lobby with a city-block view down a magnificent interior street. All 299 luxurious guestrooms offer fantastic views (sunset views are best from the west side, which is where we faced.), 37-inch LCD flat screen TVs, granite countertops, and deluxe pillow-top bedding (Lots of Covid19 safety precautions were in place. I like the blue light cleaning procedure; Only one family to an elevator. Everyone wore a mask. Favorite part their beds are really comfortable. The bathrooms are big and have a rain shower head. The room was beautiful, and had a chair for me to sit up late and read a book.).

The hotel has two restaurants: The Plough and The Exchange. Both are delicious and run well, especially utilizes Covid19 safety protocols. You will feel safe there.

The Exchange

Brand new rooftop bar offering panoramic views of Downtown Lancaster and the inventive small plates and drinks to sip, savor and socialize. The Exchange (my photos are OK but definitely check out their website for the 360 view) is available for 21 years or older and space is first come first served (no reservations). Dress code: Smart Casual Phone: +1 717-207-4096

Both restaurants are headed by Executive Chef Ryan McQuillan who uses ingredients grown locally, relying on what their partner farms are producing to dictate what appears on the plate. Everything was so delcious especially my favorite dishes Deviled Eggs, Chicken Nugs, Burrata, Spicy Crab Bucatini, steak and well basically everything. Thanks to Nicole the GM as well. Super nice, and patient when answering so many questions I had. The Exchange is worth the 90 minute trip from Philly alone for a night out with friends, but you should just stay over and make a night of it.

After checking in I wandered around the Marriott to check out the nooks and crannies. It’s huge, with a large lobby where you can socially distant sit, chitchat with friends, read a book or people watch. When I was checking in I saw this long hallway and was wondering what is down there. It’s the Lancaster County Convention Center Josh Nowak, Director of Sales & Marketing  Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square and Lancaster County Convention Center gave us a tour of the buildings, and how historical buildings were incorporated into the buildings. If you go you can walk this hallway and see how they incorporated two historic buildings into the construction of the convention center. One of the historic houses was owned by Thaddeus Stevens, where he lived with his long-time housekeeper Lydia Hamilton Smith, a prominent African-American businesswoman after his death. His house was a stop on the Underground Railroad. The photo on the left describes the basement which saved many lives of African Americans escaping to the North. In fact as I walked around the City there were many markers for the Underground Railroad as well as buildings were African Americans lived in the 1800s, a history of their lives and their businesses.

Visiting Lancaster City was such a breath of fresh air. It was very quaint, and even in Covid, a lot of shops and restaurants were opened, but people were socially distancing. One of the most popular attractions is the Lancaster Central Market which is the large red building in the center.

And just a short 15 minute drive away is the countryside which is so beautiful.

As much as Mike and I wanted to do the farm stay, ok just me, we made the right choice. Going forward we’re going to stay at the Marriott Lancaster and visit the farm. We really enjoyed Lancaster City so much we didn’t see too many sights to share. Maybe next time, or we might just stay in Lancaster City as we did earlier this month. Happy travels!!