Keystone Edge has released a series covering Lancaster County and the City of Lancaster.
By Lee Stabert on May 6, 2017
Tourism has long been a driver of Lancaster’s economy. For generations, folks have traveled to this pastoral county to witness Amish life, drive over the rolling hills, and fill their cars with handmade furniture and jars of chow-chow. But if you’ve been following our series on the changing face of Lancaster, it should come as no surprise that there is much more to experience here than buggies and buffet restaurants.
Whether you’re looking for urban bustle on a brewery tour or small-town charm on your way to one of the region’s historic sites, there’s something here for you. Of course, visitors aren’t the only ones who can benefit from looking beyond the expected. Transplants and returnees will be delighted to discover that Lancaster’s offerings are an invigorating mix of innovative and traditional, challenging and relaxing. Another perk: You don’t need a car. Many spots on this list can be enjoyed with just an Amtrak ticket and some spry legs.
One of the most underrated aspects of Lancaster County is its outdoor recreation opportunities. The area features beautiful waterways, plenty of hiking and a plethora of rails-to-trails projects that are transforming the way locals stay active.
Chiques Rock Outfitters in Columbia helps paddlers hit the water. Now in their eighth season, the company keeps adding to its offerings, facilitating rock climbing and bike rentals. Their latest innovation has been dubbed “Bike to Boat, Boat to Bike.” Riders leave Columbia River Park by bicycle, ride the Northwest Lancaster River Trail through Marietta (7.5 miles), then trade their bikes for kayaks and head back to Columbia. The whole adventure takes about five hours.
Owner Jim Cox fell in love with kayaking during a brief stint in Louisville, Kentucky. When he moved back to Lancaster County, he realized that there was a hole in the market.
“We get a fair number of people who come out here, spend a day with the Amish, spend a day shopping,” he says. “Then they want to get out on the river.”
Cox is not the only one who sees the potential in bicycle tourism. Rebecca Branle and her husband Mark own Intercourse Bikeworks. The company offers tours and rentals, and the duo recently opened a second shop — Lititz Bikeworks — at Rock Lititz.
When the Branles launched their business, they knew it wouldn’t be an easy road.
“The Internet has stolen so much marketshare from small bike shops and we knew we’d need a special angle to make it work,” recalls Rebecca. “I was on a drive through Intercourse when it hit me. I saw folks piling onto minibuses to tour the countryside. I thought, ‘They’re never going to experience what I experience on my bike from inside that bus. The sounds, the smells, the small details.’ I called Mark right away. His business experience in travel had taught him that bicycle tourism was one of the fastest growing segments in the industry.”
This summer, the company will launch a bike share along the Warwick to Ephrata Rail Trail in partnership with the local government in Warwick Township.
“I know these back roads like the palm of my hand and I still have to pinch myself when I’m riding,” adds Rebecca. “The beauty is remarkable. This truly is one of the best places in the world to ride a bike.”
Another option for the adventurous is Strasburg Scooters, a touring company that offers that two-wheeled experience while sparing the legs.
To read further and see the sections on EAT LOCAL, DRINK UP, LEARN, and WHERE TO STAY, click HERE.