Things I Wished I Did While I Lived in Central PA (aka reasons to visit)

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As highlighted in my last post, I’m somewhat unceremoniously moving from Lancaster, PA, where I’ve lived and worked for the past five years, back to the little known town of Browndale, PA (which is right next to Forest City, which is just north of Carbondale, which is close to Scranton, if you need a point of reference) where I grew up.

I knew this was coming for a while, but now that I’m actually back at my parents house and slowly moving my belongings back into our attic and garage it’s becoming real. As I mentioned in my last post, while I’m excited to see where the next step of my life will take me, relocating back to NEPA from Central PA is bittersweet. I grew to really like Lancaster city as a place of residence and enjoyed exploring all that Central PA had to offer.

In fact, I feel like there’s a whole list of things/places I would have wanted to do/visit had I been in Lancaster for this upcoming work year. I also feel like there’s a list of things I’d always been meaning to do, but you know how it is, life gets in the way and you don’t get around to it. My solution? I’m creating a list of things I wish I did when I lived in Central PA (using Lancaster as a homebase), aka a bucketlist I could check off when I got back to visit, which I think I’ll be doing much more than I ever anticipated I would (see my last post where I discuss how my love of Lancaster was a gradual thing).

Visit the Original Victory Beer Hall

This is on the top of my list on account of the following Instagram picture my friend Jacki posted the other day.


One of my favorite things to do in Lancaster is not only visit all the breweries but collect pint glasses for the bar I’ll one day have in my basement. That Victory glass will be mine.

Anyhow, Victory Brewing Company is one of the first big name craft breweries in PA and located in Downingtown. My friend who posted the picture lives in the area, which is about a 40 minute drive from Lancaster and always had good things to say about Victory’s beerhall, which is in the German style I love so much. We always said we’d meet and go there someday, but usually ended up going to The Whip instead.

Along with food and drinking, you could take tours at the Downingtown facility for free OR for $58.00 you could take a bus from the Downingtown Beer Hall to their main facilities in nearby Parksburg (which includes a mug and dinner), which is what I think I might be shooting for. FYI Victory is also making ice cream these days. It must be a PA-brewery thing.

Visit Rooster Street Provisions

Rooster Street Provisions is a recently opened meat shop in Elizabethtown, PA. They specialize in pork products and cured meats and also have a stall in the Central Market, which I was unaware of.  I’m not a huge foodie or anything, but what appealed to me about this place is that you could take butchering or sausage making classes, which for someone like myself who is pretty much a straight up carnivore, would be something of a dream come true.

Learn to Windsurf at Marsh Creek State Park-

Random fact: did you know that modern day windsurfing was actually perfected in Pennsylvania on the Susquehanna River? Crazy, right, being that we’re landlocked and everything. I’ve never windsurfed, but it looks fun. It also looks like the type of thing you can’t just pick up on your own, like say, kayaking or paddleboarding. Speaking of paddle boarding, one of my favorite weekend activities in Lancaster was to drive the forty minutes to Marsh Creek State Park and rent a paddleboard for a couple of hours. The lake there also has kayaks, sailboats and windsurfers and offers a 90 minutes lesson for $125.00. This was one of the things I always said I was going to do, but never got around too, and it’s still on my bucket list.

Hike the York Side of the Susquehanna-

Another favorite activity of mine was hiking along the banks of the Susquehanna in southern Lancaster County, but I never made it over to the York side, which I regret. This map, courtesy of PP&L, shows the trails on the York side, all near the Holtwood Dam and Lake Aldred.  A significant portion of the Mason-Dixon Trail also runs through York County, which I never got around to checking out.

Paddle-boarding in Harrisburg-

I made it to Harrisburg often enough since one of my good friends from home lived there, and normally it was to go out to eat or barhop. I never really got to explore what else Harrisburg has to offer, and no offense to Harrisburg, there’s not a ton I’m really torn up over missing. That being said, I recently stumbled upon the website for Susquehanna Outfitters which rents stand up paddle-boards (SUP’s) off of Harrisburg’s City Island, which would have been a great way to spend an afternoon.

Shop in Sam’s Man Cave

This one pisses me off.

You know how there are those places you’ve passed a million times but never stopped at because whenever you pass them you’re too busy? Sam’s Man Cave, located in Lancaster on the Lincoln Highway near the outlets falls in that category.

I know a lot of people love outlet shopping, but I avoided this stretch of Route 30 at all costs due to the traffic (unless I was going to Wawa), and if I was stuck in it, it was usually on my way to Philly or West Chester, or on my way home from Philly or West Chester where I was usually hungover and miserable.

Anyway, Sam’s Man Cave is a small store, unassumingly situated next to a beer distributor that sells and specializes in German beer steins (!!!), tap handles, pint glasses, vintage tin signs and other drinking/bar paraphernalia. I always said I was going to stop but never got around to it. Look at the website. The selection is glorious and I think I’ll be rectifying this one when I return to Lancaster sometime later this month to collect my furniture.

*On second thought, it might have been best for my bank account to leave this hidden gem be. I just spent forty minutes on their website. They have a section on their website devoted to Hamm’s beer, I’m officially obsessed.

Visit Snitz Creek Brewery

I’ve done a pretty good job of visiting all the breweries in the Lancaster/York area, but Snitz Creek, located in Lebanon, is one that I missed. Like Sam’s Man Cave, I can file this under, places I’ve driven by often but never stopped into (mostly because normally when I passed it I was driving either back to Browndale or returning from there and trying to make it to Manheim in time for work).

Visit the Brewery at Hershey

Another missed brewery. This one, I tried valiantly to go to several times, but always decided to stop somewhere first (once at Troegs, once at Springhouse, once at 2nd Street in Harrisburg) and got distracted (I’m the worst person ever at barcrawls, they always just end up being “stop at one bar and never leave”). What makes this destination unique though is that it’s both  brewery and winery and has an extensive outdoor deck and grounds which you can wander around with your drink.

Daytrip to Havre De Grace

I feel like it always surprises people when I tell them how close Lancaster is to Maryland. It’s probably about twenty minutes and , if you start driving south along route 220 it doesn’t take long before you start hitting roadside crab stands. Seriously. One thing I always wanted to do was take a daytrip down to the Chesapeake Bay town of Havre De Grace, Maryland, located where the Susquehanna empties into the bay just an hour’s drive from Lancaster. Havre De Grace looks like a nice little harbor town to walk around and boasts some interesting history and boating, as well as some great seafood, I’m sure. We planned to go there one day to kayak, I even had a barcrawl back mapped out, but it rained and we ended up having a sober fun day indoors instead.

Ghost Hunting in Gettysburg-

I was very impressed with Gettysburg the one time I visited. I’m a big history person, but normally I stick with WWI-on, and I think a lot of historical sites are overly whitewashed and basic. Gettysburg was interesting and is impressive just in terms of how large and maintained it is (it reminded me of Washington DC, or Disney, in that way). As mentioned I only made it there once, which is a shame since Gettysburg wasn’t a bad drive. Aside from being historically significant, Gettysburg is also thought to be one of the most haunted places in the country. I wish I went either during the Halloween season, or at night to do one of their ghost tours.

Make it to Some of PA’s Most Scenic Viewpoints-

Penn Live did a great photostory project entitled “Pennsylvania’s Best Views” that I’m now making it a personal goal to work through. I’m currently focusing only “Part 2” which includes the “south lookout” at the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and Pine Grove Furnace State Park, both of which are easy drives from Lancaster.

Complete a Amtrak or Route 30 Barcrawl-

I’ve talked before about how wonderfully weird I think the drive along Chester/Lancaster’s Route 30 is. I’ve been trying for years to get one of my friends to barcrawl from Philly to Lancaster (or vice versa) along this route and stop at all the weird bars and stores along the way. In the same vein, riding the Amtrak from Philly to Lancaster or vice-versa might be fun as the stops at Mt. Joy, Downingtown, and Ardmore all let you out within walking distances of small downtown areas.

Visit Bookstores-

Reading is up there as one of my number one hobbies. I enjoy getting lost in a book and I also enjoy purchasing them and filling up my bookshelf, in the same way that some people enjoy filling up their closets. Lancaster has a number of small independent and used bookstores, like Dog Star Books and the Book Rack,  that I probably could have totally gotten lost in for whole afternoons. I think the problem is that I got spoiled with my Amazon Prime account, in which I could get any book I wanted within 2 days, or immediately to my kindle app if I was being super lazy.

Get into Biking-

Lancaster is a big biking area. You can’t drive around the countryside without having to avoid cyclists, which makes sense because it’s very scenic and hilly without being overly steep. There’s also quite a few people who bike around downtown, as it’s an easy place to traverse on bike, rather than car. My first year in Lancaster I had this romantic notion that I’d purchase a bicycle and become one of those people who bikes to the gym or to CVS or the Central Market. I took it out twice and decided that I hated biking. Now that I’m moving back home, I considered not even bringing my bike, but was told by two friends who live here that they just got into Mountain Biking and we should go sometime. Maybe I’ll still hate it, but maybe I’ll get into it here in NEPA and then wonder why it didn’t click while I was down in Lancaster, where it would have actually been useful.

Go to an Amish Mud Sale

For being in Lancaster for an entire five years, I never really got down with the Amish, and still don’t know a ton about their culture. I have ideas about where to go to spot them and it got to the point that following a horse and buggie or seeing a horse plow a field didn’t make me blink twice, but I never visited any Amish one room schoolhouses or took a buggie ride or Amish tour, mostly because I felt like a lot of it was tourist trapesque. The one thing I wish I did was attend an Amish “mud sale,” which I think would’ve been as authentic as any Lancaster Amish experience could get these days. These sales, are usually held by local fire companies, are auctions that are held during the spring (hence, mud-sale) where a number of Amish do come to sell goods they’ve made and/or grown.

Taste Some Oysters-

This one is admittedly kind of dumb, but since I just found the Lancaster City Oyster Company on Instagram a few weeks ago (ugh, am I becoming a hipster foodie?), it’s right at the forefront of my mind.

I’m a seafood fanatic. It’s probably my favorite food group besides dairy (which wins based on the inclusion of chocolate milk alone). If I had the resources I would consume it much more then I currently do. Shrimp is my favorite, followed by good scallops, and then lobster (I like lobster, but 9 out of 10 times would pick shrimp). Grilled (yes, grilled) clams are one of my favorite things, and while I never fully got on the crab train, I’m a huge supporter of crab-dip.

You know what I’ve never had? An oyster. I don’t know how. But I do know my friends seem to be frequenting rawbars and buck-a-shuck happy hours as of late and are all talking oysters and I want in. I think I also like that Lancaster, in Pennsylvania, has an oyster company; it’s unexpected and fun and while it looks like they normally run as a catering company, it looks like they do functions in conjuncture with restaurants, mostly recently Hunger n Thirst, a location in Lancaster I have no sufficiently checked out (we stopped there towards the end of my farewell, Lancaster bar tour and I think they were happy it was quick).

I’m sure there are a bunch of things I’ll want to add as soon as I finish posting this but I feel like it’s already gone on long enough. I have more than enough reasons to venture back down to Lancaster and South/Central PA, and like I said in my last post, maybe you do now too.

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