Monday, December 15, 2014

Last-Minute Lancaster County Christmas Gift Ideas To Save The Day

If you drive by the Historic Smithton Inn from Thanksgiving through early
January, you’ll quickly see that I absolutely adore the holiday season. With glistening outdoor lights aglow and our countdown to Christmas clock on the corner for all to see, our bed and breakfast exudes enthusiasm for this blessed time of year.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t ever felt the holiday-induced stress of scrambling to buy gifts in the eleventh hour for friends and family! We’ve all been there, right?

Just in case you’re facing that anxiety this year, I thought I’d share a few ideas for last-minute gifts you can buy locally.

Six Last-Minute Gift Ideas You Can Find Right Here In the Ephrata Area

Woman in santa hat with gift on head
A Historic Smithton Inn gift certificate—What could be a better present for out-of-town (or even in-town) friends and family than a weekend getaway to Lancaster County? You can order our gift certificates online to have them delivered instantly via email or choose to have us send them the old-fashioned way.

Local historically inspired gifts—At The Museum Store at Ephrata Cloister you’ll find traditional artwork (watercolors, prints, paper cuttings, and calligraphy) and locally made crafts like pottery, tinware, glass, and more. All are inspired by and reflective of original pieces in the historical collection. You can either stop by to visit the store (632 W. Main St., Ephrata) or give them a call or email them to place your order after browsing through their online store. When you buy items from the Ephrata Cloister, your money goes toward supporting its preservation and educational programs.

Dinner and a Movie gift certificate—Know someone who loves eating out and entertainment? With a gift card from Lily's On Main, they’ll enjoy both. Lily’s gift cards can be used in the restaurant for an exceptional meal and at the Ephrata Main Theatre to catch the latest blockbuster. Give them a call at 717-733-2711 or drop by their location (124 E. Main St. Ephrata) to pick one up.

Authentic PA Dutch goodies from the Green Dragon Farmers Market & Auction—Indulge those tough-to-buy-for folks on your list with some local Lancaster County homemade deliciousness. A quick trip to the Green Dragon market (955 N. State St., Ephrata) will put you within reach of jams, jellies, shoofly pies, and all sorts of other yummy local treats made by local Amish folks.

Something uniquely “them” from Extra Olives Gift ShopExtra Olives (358 N. Reading Road, Ephrata) has everything from gourmet foods to fashionable jewelry to hand-painted cocktail glassware and more. You’ll find many items crafted by local talent. If you’re stumped on what to buy for someone, a walk through this adorable shop will surely spark some ideas as you peruse its unique offerings.

An eye-opening brew from Ten Thousand Villages—Chances are you have some coffee aficionados on your Christmas giving list. Ten Thousand Villages in Ephrata (240 N. Reading Road, Ephrata) has some delicious varieties of fair trade and organic coffees to make that special person’s mornings extra special.

I hope these suggestions take some of the pressure off you this holiday so you can relax and enjoy the season.

Peace and joy be yours!

Rebecca Gallagher

Image courtesy of caminoel at

Friday, December 12, 2014

All Aboard! Lancaster County Is a Train-Lover’s Paradise

As the holidays near, many of us have fond childhood memories of sitting by our family Christmas
Steam locomotive
tree watching our toy trains circle round a miniature village below the branches.

In Lancaster County, that nostalgic joy stays "evergreen." Our area offers plenty for railroad aficionados to enjoy!

Put your holiday season on the right track by visiting these train attractions in Lancaster County:

Strasburg Railroad

Strasburg Railroad is just a little over a half hour away from our inn. Take a 45-minute ride on a steam train throughout the beautiful Amish countryside. The railroad offers a lot of other activities and events as well to appeal to the young—and the young at heart.

Pennsylvania Railroad Museum

Love the railroad and want to learn all you can about trains? Visit the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum; it’s directly across the street from the Strasburg Railroad! Learn about railroad history, attend special events, and check out their educational programs for kids.

Choo Choo Barn - TraintownU.S.A.

Also in Strasburg, this 17,900 ft. model train layout is a sight to behold. It’s awe-inspiring at any time of the year, but around the holidays, it’s transformed into a winter wonderland that will take your breath away.

National Toy Train Museum

Set up like an old-time train station, this museum (also in Strasburg) offers amazing exhibits set off by LED lighting. With a toy train collection with models from the 1800s to present time, you’ll find all the favorites including American Flyer, Lionel, and more.

Short Line Model Railroad Club Holiday Model Train Display

Right here in Ephrata, the Short Line Model Railroad Club offers a wonderful exhibit annually during the holiday season. Train fans of all ages will enjoy watching the miniature trains roll though the detailed scenery depicting the landscape of northeastern Pennsylvania. The exhibit runs Saturdays and Sundays starting November 29, 2014 through January 11, 2015 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

I hope you’ll take some time to revisit the magic and majesty of the railroad this holiday season. All aboard!

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at

Monday, December 8, 2014

National Christmas Center (in Paradise, PA) Is a Holiday Paradise

Merry and bright is how Christmas should be—and that’s exactly what awaits you at the National Christmas Center in Lancaster County. I think it’s so appropriate that this festive attraction is in Paradise, PA, because it truly is a paradise for anyone looking to immerse herself in the holiday spirit.

The National Christmas Center offers enchanting indoor exhibits featuring the history and many traditions of Christmas found around the world. Its fifteen galleries and 20,000 square feet of life-sized, indoor exhibits display both the secular and the sacred ways people across the globe celebrate this time of year.

The lights. The music. The holiday ambiance will renew your fond memories of Christmases past while putting you in the spirit of the season for the Christmas just ahead. I truly believe it’s impossible to leave the center without a heart that’s filled with joy. It’s that magical!

You can even take some of the charm home with you to share with someone special by visiting the center's gift shop, which is overflowing with handcrafted Christmas ornaments and figurines, books, and other holiday collectibles.

You’ll find the National Christmas Center at 3427 Lincoln Highway East (Route 30E) between Lancaster and Gap. It’s just 16 miles from the Historic Smithton Inn—an easy 35-minute drive from our location. From now up until Christmas, the center offers extended hours. Check out their website for their hours of operation, admission prices, and other details.

Why not start your season of cheer and good tidings now with a visit to this wonderful Lancaster County Christmas attraction?

Image courtesy of nipitphand at

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cheer And Warm Tidings For All At Lancaster County Museums Holiday Events

When our inn's guests are looking for holiday festivities to help them get into the spirit of the season,
Christmas tree
I recommend visiting a few of our area’s museums and historical sites. Several offer holiday-themed events to get you inspired and excited about the warm and wonderful times to come with family and friends.

Check out these wintertime events at Lancaster County museums:

Ephrata Cloister

Christmas at the Cloister – December 8 & 9, 2014
Featuring the Ephrata Cloister Chorus with musical group Seasons (known for their fusion of Celtic, folk, and bluegrass music on harp, hammered dulcimer, mandolin, fiddle, and other instruments).

Call 717-733-6600,
visit the website, or visit the museum to reserve tickets, $6 per person.

The Great Comet Lantern Tours 2014 – December 26, 27, January 2, 3 
Experience these tours that take you back in time. You’ll visit the Cloister in the year 1743, the year of the Great Comet. For reservations, call 717-733-6600 (beginning December 1). $10 adults, $9 seniors (65+), $7 (ages 6-11), $5 f(ages 3-5), under age of 3, free.

Landis Valley Museum

"Days of Belsnickel" Dinner Tour – December 3, 2014, 5:30 – 9 p.m.
Begins with shopping at the museum store, then on to a wine and cheese social, followed by a wagon ride to the 1856 Historic Landis Valley House Hotel to enjoy a sumptuous holiday meal. Includes a candlelit tour of two historic buildings, and wraps up with a vignette by "der Belsnickel." Reservations required: 717-581-0590, $36.50 per person.

Country Christmas Village – December 6 & 7, 2014
Tour decorated buildings, see how traditional holiday foods are prepared, and meet "der Belsnickel." All can enjoy complimentary hot chocolate and gingersnaps at the tavern. Plus, kids can make seasonal crafts to take home. And, handbell ringer Ron Bellamy will perform at 1 p.m. in the Visitor Center, followed by an interactive ringing & caroling session.

See their website for hours of operation and admission rates.

Holiday At Landis Valley Bonfire – December 12, 2014, 6 – 8:30 p.m.
A free event celebrating a Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas. Complete with wagon rides, an opportunity to tour decorated historic buildings, and warming up around a bonfire and of course, singing carols (accompanied by the Lititz Moravian Trombone Choir). The fun then continues in the Yellow Barn for hot cider and cookies.

Please consider bringing one or more non-perishable food items to the event. They will be donated to the Lancaster Food Bank.

"Days of the Belsnickel" Lunch Tour - December 13, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
It begins with a video, followed by a guided tour through the village, and then a holiday lunch in the historic 1856 Landis Valley House Hotel. The fun continues with the hilarious antics of "der Belsnickel" at the Firehouse. After that, you’re welcome to shop for locally made treasures at the Museum Store. Reservations required: (717) 581-0590, $34.50 per person.

For a full list of Lancaster County’s holiday attractions and events, visit the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention & Visitors Bureauwebsite

Remember to let me know which you loved the most!

Image courtesy of nipitphand at

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Warm Up To Winter In Lancaster County With What’s Hot In Theater

If spending time outdoors in the chill of late autumn and winter isn’t your thing, don’t dismay. The
Lancaster County theater scene stays hot year round!

Check out these Lancaster County winter theater season highlights:

Ephrata Performing Arts Center / Sharadin Bigler Theatre – Don’t let winter go by without seeing one or more of EPAC’s exceptional productions. You’ll find the theater just down the street from the Historic Smithton Inn. Convenient, right? Known for its critically acclaimed community theater, you’ll find productions that range from classics to avant garde.

One of the most loved musicals of all time!
December 4 - 20

Fulton Theatre – Located in downtown Lancaster, The Fulton is just a half hour drive from our inn. You’ll love its breathtaking architecture and the unforgettable theater experience. The Fulton has something for everyone with its variety of shows including favorite Broadway productions to fun musicals for the whole family.

Bringing the beloved Bing Crosby holiday movie to life on stage.
November 18, 2014 – January 4, 2015

Sight & Sound Theatre  Get ready for inspiring productions that share the favorite stories of the Bible in grand form. The theater is just 20 miles from our bed and breakfast. Sight & Sound has become a must-experience destination for people of all ages and religious backgrounds. Nearly all of their shows feature live animals – always a big hit with the kiddos! And check out the "Behind the Scenes Tour" for a glimpse of how the Sight & Sound crews create the majesty and magic on stage.

The greatest epic tale from the Old Testament on stage.
March 8, 2014 – February 7, 2015

Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre – Fun, food, and theater are what Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre serves up. What could be better than entertaining musicals accompanied by a delightful meal?

The on-stage version of the holiday classic movie celebrating life and its blessings.
November 13 – December 23

Rainbow Dinner Theatre – If a few laughs are right up your alley, then this is the place for you. Rainbow Dinner Theater is known for "all comedy...all the time.”

Burglar’s Holiday (a Christmas comedy)
Crime pays and Christmas wins in this cleverly loony show.
November 1 – December 28

Hershey Theatre – This gorgeous venue is an easy 40-miles west on Rte. 322. Hershey Theatre offers a wide variety of entertainment including Broadway performances, concerts, and even classic films.

To see their full list of events, visit their website.

American Music Theatre – Amazing live musical performances await you here! AMT is only 20 minutes from the Historic Smithton Inn. Rock, Country, Classical, Big Band, plus comedy and specialty performances, too. I think you’ll find their lineup of shows and featured stars on tour impressive. Their own original shows have gained acclaim as well.

An AMT original! The sounds of the season abound in this critically acclaimed holiday extravaganza.

And there’s a lot more going on at AMT—see their website for more shows.

As you can see, the Lancaster County winter theater season won’t leave you out in the cold. Which shows will you see in the coming months?

Image courtesy of Master isolated images /