Your Top Five Holiday Activities To Do In Lancaster, Pennsylvania at Christmastime
1. Stay at the festively decorated Marriott Penn Square Lancaster
The Marriott Penn Square Lancaster is spectacular at Christmastime! It is so elegantly decorated with nutcrackers, lighted wreaths, reindeer and multiple Christmas trees in the lobby, it is magical! The hotel is also directly across from the Mayors Tree, and central to everything in the city of Lancaster. On a festive night for the Mayors Tree Lighting Ceremony, the hotel offered stations for guests to fill their cups with delicious hot cocoa as they walked to the outdoor ceremony. It was definitely an appreciated added touch!
As a family of 5, we booked adjoining rooms-one room with a big king sized bed for us, and the other room with two queen beds for the kids to share. We highly recommend booking separate rooms when traveling with kids. You would be surprised how much more time you spend in your hotel and it is so nice to have separate spaces at bedtime, especially when the adults want to stay up later than the kids!
2. Ride the Strasburg Railroad train with Santa Clause
Take a 45 minute train ride along the Lancaster countryside and expect a visit from musicians, singers, and Santa himself! We were impressed by the individual time Santa spent with our family to talk to the kids, take a picture, and each child left with a special gift from Santa: an adorable train ornament with Santa on it! Afterward, explore the train station’s mini village to enjoy live music, a bite to eat, shopping and a train playground, where our kids spent most of their time!
3. Buy your loved ones Christmas presents by shopping local or purchasing gift cards at our favorite Lancaster restaurants and shops!
I highly recommend walking on Queen Street in the city for a number of little boutiques and shops. I’ll first share with you some of OUR favorite shops and then local restaurants to stop at and purchase gift cards or get a bite to eat after all that shopping!
Bella Boo: A darling toy store with very cute wood toys, baby clothes and more! Our kids just loved looking at everything!
David Lyall Home & Design: This super trendy and colorful store has everything you could possibly need to decorate and furnish your home- from couches to rugs, vases and lamps. They also have a ton of wallpaper and fabric samples to chose from if you are decorating your home and looking for inspiration.
Farbo Co: Located right in the heart of downtown Lancaster, this card and collectibles store has everything Pokémon, Kirby, Dungeon & Dragons, board games galore, and a private game room that you can reserve for $5 an hour.
Sophie Stargazer Boutique: Very stylish boutique with dresses, pants shirts, candles, purses, socks, jewelry, and more.
Nicole Taylor Boutique: An urban trendy clothing shop, adorable, clothes, and jewelry. Located right on Queen Street, the only downside is that it is down a bunch of stairs if you have a stroller with you.
Valkommen Till Swedish: This little candy shop reminded us exactly of Sweden with all the Swedish bulk candy, and a Swedish cafe complete with Gloog, a European warm mulled wine.
Lancaster Pickle Company: It was a first for us to see a pickle shop, so we just had to go in and check it out!! Pickle samples, pickle ornaments, pickle dog leashes, you name it! If you love pickles as much as we do, then this is the store for you!
The Spice and Tea Exchange: Looking for bulk tea? The Spice and Tea Exchange has everything you could possibly need. This store would make a perfect stop for presents for those hard to buy people! Who doesn’t love a cup of tea in the wintertime!?
Read Rose Books:
The highlight of this used bookstore was the Harry Potter book display right when we walked in, they even had a pop-up Harry Potter picture book. Also, there are a bunch of superhero comics and more books for kids.
Beautiful Home Interiors: Located a short 20 minute drive from the city center, Beautiful Home Interiors is an absolutely stunning home decor shop. I couldn’t leave without purchasing something and could have bought every single item in the shop because it is absolutely my style in every way. We highly recommend checking out Beautiful Home Interiors.
Central Market: There is something for everyone in your family and with so many options and vendors. From Amish food stands to brick and motor stores’ kiosks, there’s everything you could possibly need. A few of our favorites were: Shady Maple for donuts, Kauffman Orchards at Bird in Hand for produce, pickles, and canned goods, Oola Bowls for açaí bowl, Maplehofe Dairy for milk and natural peanut butter, Lancaster County Coffee for coffee, Miesse Candies for chocolates and Nord, a Nordic stand that served a Nordic hot dog and salmon. We came for breakfast and were able to find donuts & pastries, an Açaí bowl, coffee, and juice. There weren’t any egg options that I saw but there were a ton of hot lunch selections as well!
Southern Market: Open on the weekends for lunch and dinner there are so many ethnic food options available! Some the stands were: Flavors of Morocco, Latin Cuisine, X Marks, and Pho Life. We chose Lavoli El Sham for Mediterranean and Akhi Sushi for ramen and sushi. It was delicious!
New Holland Coffee Co.: With a plethora of items to order, this counter service cafe is the perfect place to fuel your day. There are a number of coffee drinks available and food items include Cinnamon French Toast, Avocado Toast, Quiche, Açaí bowl, Egg sandwiches and more!
Plough: This high scale restaurant attached to The Marriott Penn Square Lancaster is the perfect spot for a delicious dinner with a classy ambiance.
Shot and Bottle: The menu is small but everything we tried is AMAZING! If you go for brunch, make sure to order something with their specialty hollandaise sauce!
Agape Cafe and Grill: The Motto on the Agape website is “Faith, Food, & Fellowship”. What could be better than that? Agape has something for everyone: from hamburgers and sandwiches/wraps to salads, fish and charcuterie boards; coffee and pastries at the counter, you can’t go wrong. The restaurant is also located near the Strasburg Railroad and directly next to Sight and Sound Theater. We would highly recommend heading there next for a show (make reservations in advanced). You can read about our experience in my Instagram post here.
4. Watch the Mayor’s Tree Lighting Ceremony in Penn Square, Lancaster.
If you are in Lancaster, the day after Thanksgiving, you must attend the tree lighting ceremony! The entire street is closed right outside the Marriott Penn Square, Lancaster and a large stage is set up with multiple bands playing, and an appearance from Santa, and a Christmas Carol sing along before the tree is lit. The streets are packed with over 2000 people, singing and dancing, and just having a really good time celebrating the start of the Christmas season.
5. Drive Through the Christmas Spirit Light Show at the Amusement Park
Right in the city, the Christmas Spirit Light Show is fun for the whole family to experience Christmas music and lights without needing to exit the comfort of your car! I would highly recommend the light show at night on a chilly evening in the city. Regular sized cars cost $25 and you can purchase popcorn, drinks, candy and light up toys at a stand before you enter the light show! As you enter, you are prompted to change your radio station to a specific channel and as you listen to Christmas music being played you drive around the light show as the lights are synced to the music. Seeing our kids’ bright smiles and wide eyes was the main highlight for us. It was magical and a family favorite for sure!!
Lancaster, Pennsylvania surprised us! We truly enjoyed every minute of this trip and it was the perfect way to kick off the holiday season!
*This post is sponsored by Discover Lancaster, all opinions are my own.