Upon our return from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania the words that keep floating through my mind are peaceful and calming. From the winding roads, the covered bridges, the huge farms and the serene parks it was the most relaxing, unstressful vacation we have taken.
As we crossed the tracks at the Strasburg Rail Road to purchase our tickets I noticed that we would be stepping back in time. A steam locomotive chugged into the station, pulling a line of cars restored to their 100 year old glory.
The trip itself provided our first glimpse into what life was like 100 years ago. Passing Amish farms, we saw farmers in their fields harvesting their crops without the means of powered equipment. Amazing that their farms are so huge and they can function without electricity.
A hundred years ago train companies would develop small parks along their route for people to get away, and Strasburg Rail Road has done the same. Groff’s Grove Picnic Area is a relaxing venue to spend a summer afternoon, before catching another train back to Strasburg.
The entire trip is 45 minutes. We enjoyed it so much we thought of doing it again, but decided to go to the Railroad Museum across the street. The train ride is an attraction for all ages. I could imagine the thrill in our grandchildren’s eyes as we chugged along, if they had been with us. In fact I saw it in the little boy who said, “this is way cool!”
On trips I love finding off the beaten track places to visit or stay. DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel at Willow Valley qualified. It is located south and slightly west of Lancaster in an area of gently rolling hills and wonderful scenery. Willow Valley is a community that believes in friendliness and respect. That premise has carried over to the DoubleTree. They do everything they can to make their guest feel welcome and comfortable. From the moment we entered the vast lobby, walked through the beautiful atrium, to a quick check in, to warm chocolate chip cookies, we felt a sense of how diligently the staff works to please.
I have a few requirements of a hotel when we travel. The 1st is a room that we can actually move around in. Our room was spacious with two queen beds and plenty of walking around space. The beds were neither too hard or soft and had wonderful pillows and bedding.
The shared grounds between the DoubleTree and her sister hotel Willow Valley Inn & Suites next door were well maintained and beautiful, they even have a covered bridge on the premises.
The amenities are numerous, a golf course with what appeared to be very challenging holes, tennis and basketball courts, a water play area for young children, a larger inside pool, an outside pool, a fitness center, a children’s program, meeting rooms and even a chapel on site.
The Breakfast Smorgasbord at the Willow Tree Restaurant at Willow Valley Inn & Suites was great. Everything we could think of and beautifully laid out.
One of the best features was the free, narrated bus tour provided by the resort. We roamed through Lancaster County stopping at an Amish Market, Kitchen Kettle Village and Hayloft Candles and Craft. Places we probably would never have visited on our own, but so glad we did. The driver was great explaining the Amish and Mennonite lifestyle. We were able to see farms up close. We were able to view their harvested crops in the barns. I marveled at the pride they take in their homes. Both homes and yards were spotless.
It was an amazing three days and we can’t wait to go back.
Accomodations, meals, and train tickets were provided. No compensation was received. The honest opinions are own own