Free attractions in Amish country

A display of modern quilts at the Quilt Museum at the Old Country Store in Intercourse, Pa., which also offers information about quilt-making and a gift shop.
A display of modern quilts at the Quilt Museum at the Old Country Store in Intercourse, Pa., which also offers information about quilt-making and a gift shop. (AP)

From covered bridges to a quilt museum, lots to see and do in the Lancaster area.

Posted: October 28, 2012

LANCASTER - The harvest season is nearing its glorious end, and the culture, architecture, and history of Pennsylvania's Amish country can be seen for free in Lancaster County, where many Amish settled starting in the early 1700s.

The region's central city, Lancaster - which features a wonderful central market, galleries, and antique stores - is about 70 miles west of Philadelphia. In the surrounding countryside are quaint and quirky towns such as Bird-in-Hand, Ephrata, Intercourse, and Strasburg.

The region is well aware of its appeal, having established large, modern outlet malls as well as shops selling Amish goods, not to mention an amusement park - Dutch Wonderland - that draws children and their parents from all around. But there also are plenty of attractions that cost visitors nothing at all.

The Quilt Museum

About 10 miles east of Lancaster, this small museum features antique and modern quilts, information about quilt-making, and a gift shop with folk objects and art. The current exhibition is "A Showcase of Quilts: Dazzling Contemporary Creations." Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Sunday.

Covered bridge driving tour

There are 25 covered bridges in the area, and one of several tours starts in the town of Ephrata, which is also home to the Ephrata Cloister, an early communal society. Another tour goes through the town of Christina, which played a major role in the history of the Underground Railroad. You can visit the Pool Forge Covered Bridge, where President James Buchanan supposedly met his fiancee, and Bitzer's Mill Bridge, built in 1846 at a reported cost of $1,115. Along the way you'll see one-room schoolhouses, sweets shops, and plenty of beautiful countryside. www.

Kitchen Kettle Village

This village of 42 shops is built around the Jam & Relish Kitchen. Sample pepper jam, watch fudge being rolled, and shop for everything Amish, from hand-carved signs to handmade quilts. Open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Sunday.

Lititz Moravian Church Square

This archive and museum features diaries, ledgers, textiles, clothing, and furniture of the early Lititz community, which was organized in 1749. There is also a large collection of early musical instruments. During the Revolutionary War, one stone building was commandeered by Gen. George Washington as a hospital. Located nine miles north of Lancaster. Open Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., or by advance appointment.

Mennonite Information Center

This small museum features a short film about the faith and life of the Mennonites and Amish, an exhibit, and a bookstore. It also features a list of Mennonite bed and breakfasts in the area, and working farms that accept visitors. The center also offers guided tours of the region. Located in Lancaster.

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