8 Must-See Historical Sites for Retirees to Visit In Lancaster

Retiring to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania? One of the best ways to enjoy your retirement in one of the top retirement destinations in the US is to take a trip back in time. 

No, the good people of Lancaster haven’t yet perfected the time machine. What Lancaster does offer, though, is a rich history with an abundance of historical sites to visit, each telling its own tale.

From the time of Lancaster’s first settlers to the American Revolution and beyond, we’ve compiled a list of eight must-see historical sites for you to explore the rich early history of Lancaster County. 

Hans Herr House

Image: Hans Herr House – Source

Let’s begin your journey in 1719. That’s the year the Hans Herr House, the oldest home in Lancaster County, was built. 

The home was the residence of Christian and Anna Herr. It was built with sandstone quarried on-site. The home whisks you back to some of Lancaster’s earliest days, providing a glimpse into the economic success and lifestyle of Lancaster’s early Mennonite settlers.

Visitors can also experience a stunning, full-sized replica of a Native American longhouse. The campus is a total of 11 acres, offering a variety of exhibits, including farmhouses, blacksmith shops, an outdoor bake oven, and a lot more.

To visit the museum’s website to learn more and buy tickets, click here.

Lancaster Central Market

Image: Lancaster Central Market – Source

Opened in 1730, Lancaster Central Market is the country’s oldest continuously operated public farmers’ market. Centrally situated in Lancaster’s bustling square, this is one historic venue too delicious to miss. 

Beyond the beautifully restored building and fantastic architecture, you’ll find 60 vendors peddling fresh veggies, meats, baked goods, arts and crafts, and other food and decor. 

Grab a tasty long john donut from Achenbachs’ bakery, enjoy some Grasshopper’s Wicked Pickles, or visit PA Dutch Gifts to take home authentic Pennsylvania Dutch gifts, collectibles, and more. 

Learn more about the market and its vendors here.

President Buchanan’s Wheatland

Image: James Buchanan’s Wheatland Mansion – Source

15th President of the United States, James Buchanan, called Lancaster his home, purchasing Wheatland, a Federal-style home situated on 22 acres of land on the outskirts of Lancaster City, in 1848. 

Buchanan won the presidential election in 1856, with high hopes from the public that he could stop the plans of secession from the southern states. His efforts failed, however, and he served only one term. Despite poor reviews of Buchanan’s presidency, Wheatland’s elegance and sprawling grounds make this a popular tour venue. 

Each room of this 1800s-era mansion is ornately decorated year-round, with seasonal decor arranged during the holiday season. A stroll through the home or across the sprawling grounds is a stroll through history, harkening back to one of the most intriguing periods in our nation’s history. 

To learn more about Wheatland or to schedule a tour, click here

Historic Rock Ford 

Image: Historic Rock Ford – Source

In the middle of Lancaster County Central Park, you’ll find Historic Rock Ford. The centerpiece of the property, circa 1794 Hand Mansion, sits upon rolling hills, creating a picture-perfect setting. 

The property was home to Edward Hand, adjutant general to George Washington during the American Revolution. 

Approximately 90% of the original fabric of the home is still intact. This includes the woodwork, shutters, glass, flooring, and more. So, when you step on this property, you truly take a step back in time. 

To purchase tickets to Historic Rock Ford, click here

Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum

Image: Landis Valley Farm Museum – Source

The Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum brings together a collection of authentic buildings and artifacts from around the Lancaster area to show how Lancaster’s early German settlers lived. 

This award-winning attraction interprets the farming culture of these settlers and details their progression from the 1740s to the 1940s. 

Tour over 100 acres of historic buildings, see authentic Conestoga wagons and learn about the intriguing history of how the early German settlers helped form Lancaster as we know it today. 

To learn more or purchase tickets to tour the museum and grounds, click here

Ephrata Cloister 

Image: Ephrata Cloister – Source

Ephrata Township, located in northeastern Lancaster County, has an interesting history, including serving as a hospital for over 250 soldiers during the Revolutionary War. 

One of the most intriguing historical venues in the township is the Ephrata Cloister. The Cloister was built by Ephrata’s founder, Conrad Beisel. 

This German architectural structure was built with a mix of log and stone and housed nearly 200 devoutly religious, celibate family members who resided in the surrounding homes and farms. 

To discover the Ephrata Cloister and plan your visit, click here

The Lititz Museum

Image: The Lititz Foundation and Museum – Source

The town of Lititz offers the charm of small-town America and boasts a rich history. Take a stroll down Main Street, stop at all the shops, grab a bite to eat, and don’t forget to drop in and visit The Lititz Museum, run by the Lititz Historical Foundation. 

Enjoy a 45-minute tour through the museum, detailing the history of Lititz since the town’s founding in the early 1700s through to modern times. 

Discover artifacts and exhibits that highlight important historical aspects of the town, including the history of the local Native American tribes, the early Moravian settlers, and on through the decades that followed. 

Find out more about the museum and plan your visit here.

Fulton Opera House

Image: Fulton Opera House – Source

Named after the steamboat inventor, Lancaster native Robert Fulton, the Fulton Opera House is one of only eight theaters in the United States recognized as a national historic landmark. It has a rich and somewhat ominous history.

The historic opera house is built on the site of Lancaster’s pre-revolutionary jail. In 1763, the remaining members of the Conestoga tribe were housed in the jail for their protection when tragedy struck. A vigilante gang called “The Paxton” boys broke into the jail and massacred men, women, and children. 

The only remaining part of the jail now serves as the back wall of the theater. The building began the more pleasant period of its existence when Fulton Hall was built as a place for the community to gather, host lectures and events, and find entertainment. 

From that time until its transition into the Victorian-style opera house that stands on the site today, the venue has housed many famous actors such as Maude Adams, lecturers the likes of Mark Twain, and frequent visits from notable names. 

To learn more about the Fulton Opera or to purchase tickets to an upcoming performance, click here

Retire to a County Rich in History

There is no shortage of things to do for retirees in Lancaster County. We encourage you to explore the area’s history and learn about the rich cultures and events that came together to form what Lancaster is today. 

Visit Lancaster’s historic sites, or take a walking tour of Ephrata, Downtown Lancaster, Lititz, Elizabethtown, or another of the many townships and cities across Lancaster County.

From 1777 when Lancaster became the capital of the American Colonies for one day, to the robust farming culture, the beautiful downtown historic district, and the numerous historical venues spread throughout the county, Lancaster is a wonderful place to retire.

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