Fifty miles west of Philadelphia is a beautiful region of rolling hills, neatly cultivated farms, covered bridges, and towns with picturesque names like Paradise and Bird-in-Hand. This is the gorgeous Amish Country, also known as Pennsylvania Dutch Country, an area of 7,100 square miles centered in Lancaster County, which is an easy day trip or overnight excursion from Center City Philadelphia. Made even more famous in the Harrison Ford film Witness, the Amish, Mennonites, and Brethren of Dutch Country represent over 75,000 of Lancaster County's 500,000 residents. It's a small group that continues to live a gentle life centered on family cohesiveness and religious worship.
The preservation of the world of the Pennsylvania Dutch evokes feelings of nostalgia, respect, and curiosity. The word Dutch is derived from the word Deutsch, meaning German, as the community is of mostly German descent, though that description isn't restricted to "Plain People." The Old Order Amish offer a rare yardstick for measuring the distance that our own "outside" world has progressed over the past few centuries.
Pennsylvania Dutch Country offers agreeably varied pleasures to visitors. The verdant countryside is laced with tranquil rural roads for driving or cycling. You'll find opportunities to meet Amish and Mennonites on farms that have opened their quaint doors for commerce. Tourism trade has actually promoted continued excellence in quilt and furniture making, and crafts. There are historical sites, pretzel and chocolate factories, covered bridges, and bustling farmer's markets, plus modern diversions like movie theaters, amusement parks, and great outlet-mall shopping. And, of course, Pennsylvania Dutch smorgasbord and family-style restaurants are unique, all-you-can-eat experiences.