When we told our friends we were going to Pennsylvania for vacation, they all had one question for us: “Do you have family there?” And when we told our family members we were taking the kids to Pennsylvania for vacation, they all had another question: “Why?”
As always, our answers consisted of: No and why not. Why not take our kids to a little known town in the heart of Amish country where they could spend a carefree week without all the commercialization? Instead of wandering the mall, we took them where they could play tag in the middle of an apple orchard. Where my husband and I could take long, romantic walks after dinner every evening. Instead of acres of chain restaurants and souvenir shops with inexpensive trinkets, we went to the opposite extreme. We ate at family owned Amish restaurants and made family meals in the vacation house we rented. The souvenir shops were replaced with shops that sold handmade quilts and preserves. It was peaceful.
I remember our older daughter being fascinated with The Doll Outlet where she agonized over just the right baby doll to adopt. It took her two days of gazing at their life like faces, cradling their little beings, and counting her money before she chose Patrick James. The tire swing hanging from the big tree in the yard where we stayed that week was another family hit. Every morning, the kids were out the door taking turns, pushing each other to go higher and higher and trying to fit all five of them on it at once. For kids who lived in the suburbs, this was a real treat.
We took to the roads every day that week. Driving along old country roads, taking pictures of the scenery, and stopping for ice cream or fresh vegetables that we would later go home and cook for dinner. One afternoon we stopped at a farm where the owners were giving horse-n-buggy rides. The air was hot and sticky and the smell of horse manure was strong. We sat at an old picnic table by the barn waiting for the driver to return from an earlier tour. The kids played with barn cats and swatted at flies. I remember feeling like I would melt from the heat of the sun. The fact that there would be no air conditioning in the buggy escaped us in that moment as we waited for our turn.
As we loaded up in the wagon though, it didn’t matter really matter anymore. The horses’ hooves clopped along the road making a tapping sound with each step. The driver didn’t talk much. He let the scenery speak for itself. Corn fields, family gardens, folks outside hanging their laundry. It was like going back in time. Our tour of the countryside ended at another family’s farm where they ran a store out of their house. There were beautiful handmade quilts, aprons, rag dolls, and canned jellies. There were no high pressure salesmen or bright fluorescent lights or clearance racks. Just a family making an honest living. The quilt that my husband ended up ordering from them via snail mail for me that following Christmas was divine. I felt like I was given not just a blanket, but a rich piece of a family’s love that was woven into the threads.
Have you ever taken a trip to a place like this? Where life goes at a slower pace and a tire swing is more fun than a roller coaster ride? If you haven’t, I encourage you to venture out of the traditional family trips and meander over to the small town of Intercourse Pennsylvania. Don’t worry. The name might be unusual, but the destination is family friendly. In fact, the most inappropriate thing I found when we visited there was the pink hoodie with Intercourse Pennsylvania scrawled across the front of it. And yes, I did buy it and I do wear it.
Sometimes when the breeze blows just right or the sun is shining a certain brightness or I have a memory of the taste of chocolate cake tucked inside the perfect pie crust, it’s like I’m there again. The trees hugging the streets, the grass so green and rich, the quiet of a countryside. And I miss it so much that I long to be there. To feel the simplicity of life that is a tire swing and an apple orchard. And missing it hurts just a little bit.
The next time you’re looking for an unusual destination that is known for good food, culture, and a relaxed atmosphere I encourage you to try Intercourse. Drive until you get to the junction of Routes 340 and 772, where Intercourse lies. Take the time to explore and visit Intercourse’s sister cities of Bird-in-Hand and Strasburg. If you’re hungry, head over to the Bird-in-Hand Family Restaurant and don’t leave until you try a piece of chocolate shoo-fly pie. Trust me; a bite of that pie will be worth the drive from wherever you call home. If you’re a family of “do-ers” visit Intercourse during festival time. You might enjoy the Rhubarb Festival in mid-May or the Holly Days Festival that runs from late November to mid-December.
And when you’re there, soak it in. Because I guarantee the memories and sounds and tastes and feelings you experience when visiting, will carry you through the days afterward when you wish you hadn’t ever driven down the road with Intercourse in your rear view mirror.