By – D.J. Wilson
History of Amish Journey to America
The journey of Amish to America began with the Charming Nancy, the first ship to set sail carrying 21 Amish families to America. This 1737 voyage carried passengers to America from Rotterdam by way of Plymouth to escape religious persecution. After a long journey over treacherous seas, the families arrived in Philadelphia and sparked the start of Amish migration to America, a movement which lasted until the dawn of the American Revolution.
Who Are the Amish?
The Amish are a group of traditionalist Christian church fellowships and they follow a strong and deep-set religious faith. Their religious practices stem from the Anabaptists’ movement of the Swiss brethren. The Anabaptists became known as Mennonites. In the 1600s, Jacob Ammon broke from the Swiss Mennonites and those who followed him became known as Amish. The Amish maintain fascinating communities which thrive in modern day society, despite a rejection of modern conveniences. Many of the Amish are skilled farmers and craftsmen and welcome visitors to purchase Amish made products. Educational tourism is often accepted as a means to enlighten others and to promote respect of their culture.
The Pennsylvania Dutch Amish countryside is dotted with long established homesteads, barns, corn fields, windmills and open pastures. Watch horse drawn carriages travel along the scenic rolling hills of Pennsylvania, a clear sign of simplistic living. The rejection of modern day electric and use of utility lines reflects the desire to prevent secular influences from intruding into Amish culture. Visitors may get a glimpse of the lifestyle of the close-knit Pennsylvania Amish community by visiting the following tourist attractions:
Strasburg, PA –
- Take a five-hour guided tour of Lancaster County on a single-seat 50 cc scooter. This adventure, run by Strasburg Scooters, will undoubtedly lead you on a memorable trip along the back roads of Lancaster County. Pass Amish farms, schoolhouses, a covered bridge and important area landmarks. Your experienced guide will share his/her knowledge of the region. After your ride, play a game of mini golf at one of the most beautiful miniature courses in the county. Top your experience off with a small ice cream cone at Village Greens. If you prefer, select a scaled-down version of the tour paired with “All You Can Eat Wings” at the Iron Horse Inn. Double seat scooters are available and drivers must possess a valid driver’s license.
Cost is $149 and up and include helmets and scooter rental. For information and to reserve you scooter tour, contact www.strasburgscooters.com
Bird-in Hand, PA –
- Visit Bird-in Hand Family Restaurant & Stage. Enjoy “Half-Stitched” the musical, which shares the stories of lives centered on an Amish quilting club and an Amish widow teaching her very first quilting class. Learn Wanda Brunstetter’s stories of couples and individuals facing problems and learning to heal and grow. Discover entertainment shared through music and storytelling with meals & show packages available. Those choosing meals may choose from lunch or dinner to include a host of traditional Lancaster County recipes perfected by the Smucker Family for three generations. Most shows run Tuesday-Saturday. Show cost is $34 and up. For more information, contact www.bird-in-hand.com/on-our-stage/
Ronks, PA –
- Visit the Amish Village to gain insight into the traditions, beliefs and lifestyle of the Amish people. The village is located on 12 scenic acres and features a one-room schoolhouse where an actual Amish school teacher is seasonally on hand to discuss Amish education. Observe farm animals and explore working gardens, a blacksmith shop, smokehouse market, well house, covered bridge, and more. Take a 25-minute guided farmhouse tour or a 90-minute back roads bus tour to catch sight of farmers and crafters in action. Your knowledgeable guide will share the history of the region as you witness a typical day in the life of the working Amish. Cost to tour the 1840’s farmhouse and village is $9 per adult. The premium package is $26 per adult and includes the village and bus tour. For further information and to download a coupon, visit www.theamishvillage.net
Lancaster, PA –
- Discover the first educational farm museum dedicated to the Amish. Amish Farm & House provides an authentic living history experience. Take a room-by-room tour of the centuries-old authentic Amish farmhouse, once occupied by an Amish family. As you visit the church room, kitchens, and bedrooms, visitors will gain intimate views of the Amish lifestyle. Learn how their clothing reflects their religious beliefs, why the Amish embrace a life of simplicity and other interesting facts during your 45-minute tour. Outdoors, explore the meandering walking trails of the 15-acre farmland deeded from William Penn. Enjoy a stroll to the historic 1855 “Willows” Covered Bridge. See a windmill, water wheel, lime kiln, smoke house, milk house, chicken house, animal barn and more. Visit Willow Lane, a one-room schoolhouse designed and furnished by the Amish. To fully experience the ambiance of the area, add a ride aboard a motor coach and wind through the countryside. Drive past Amish homes, cemeteries, buggies, barns and more. Tour and dinner packages are available following your visit to the Amish Farm and house. They include a family style meal at the Good ‘N Plenty Restaurant featuring Pennsylvania Dutch cooking. Dinner packages include a tour of the farm and house, plus a complimentary guided tour of Willow Lane. General admission is $9.25 per person (12 +) and premium package is $27.95 per adult. Dinner is additional. Visit the website for further information. www.amishfarmandhouse.com Be sure to grab your discount on-line coupon.
Intercourse, PA –
- If you wish to draw closer to the true Amish experience, what could be more fun than riding a buggy? AAA Buggy Rides offers tours of Amish country on one of its famous horse and buggy tours. Choose from the Ultimate Four Mile Country Buggy Ride, the Five Mile Covered Bridge Ride, or the 60 minute Amish Farm Tour. AAA stands for “All About Amish” and proudly offers visitors memories to last a lifetime. The buggy tours are located smack dab in the heart of Amish country at Kitchen Kettle Village. No reservations are required, just stop in and sign up. The buggies are clean and comfortable and are driven by experienced guides who offer engaging conversation, facts, and perhaps some humor along the way. Let the clip-clop of hooves become your soothing background tune as you ride and relax through picturesque Amish country. Cost of the tours begins at $14 per adult. For more information and to get your discount coupon visit www.aaabuggyrides.com
Also fun to do in the area:
- Stroll through the Bird-in-Hand Farmers Market, featuring vendors of fresh fruits, vegetables, homemade baked goods, meats, cheeses, canned goods and area specialties. The stores offer regional gift and souvenir shopping opportunities, from furniture and tin ware to handmade crafts and quilts. Be sure to check out the website for hours of operation and for driving directions. www.birdinhandfarmersmarket.com
- Visit Miesse Candies, founded in Lancaster County, PA, in 1875. With over 140 years of service, this company provides quality chocolates to their customers and uses fresh and all natural ingredients with no added preservatives. Miesse’s high-quality homemade chocolates feature handcrafted chocolate made with real butter, fresh cream and pure vanilla. They have been a sweet staple of the region and are chocolates are available pre-packed or may be sold as specialty items. Visit www.miessecandies.com
- Strasburg Railroad is considered one of the best ways to experience the region. Visitors travel aboard authentic passenger cars pulled by a mighty coal-burning steam locomotive. Enjoy rural landscape and farms as you travel on a 45-minute train ride on America’s oldest short-line railroad, circa 1832. There are special events featured for every season and include the Easter Bunny Train, the Great Train Robbery, Wine and Cheese Train, Day Out With Thomas, the Rolling Antique Auto Show & Run, Steampunk unLimited, Santa’s Paradise Express, and The Night Before Christmas Train. Events offer innovative themes and ways to up the ante on adventure! For more info, visit www.strasburgrailroad.com
Did you know? The Pennsylvania Amish speak a dialect of German, originally known as Pennsylvania Deutsch. The dialect helps to preserve ties to their ancestors and creates a bond among the Amish. Amish children also study High German for worship services.
Travel tip: It is best to visit the outdoor attractions during favorable weather. Be sure to check the websites for directions, hours of operation (keep in mind some places are closed on Sundays), current prices, and for other pertinent information.
When visiting the region, please show respect for the Amish. Here are a few helpful suggestions.
Let the Amish go about their daily business. Do not stop them to ask questions.
Do not stare at or attempt to photograph or record them.
Do not enter private property.
Drive safely and respect the slower moving Amish buggies on the road. Avoid honking your horn and shining bright headlights directly upon them.
Do not pet or feed harnessed horses.
Use appropriate language and demonstrate proper manners in public.