The Lebanon Valley
(and a list of things to do and places to
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There's more to the Lebanon Valley than meets the
Explore America's early
history at Colonial homesteads, marvelous museums, important
industrial sites, and quaint communities. Choose from natural
attractions ranging from underground caverns to lush gardens, from
wildlife preserves to spring-fed trout streams. Hike, bike, camp,
hunt, fish, canoe, and ride horseback in the great outdoors. Sample
local specialties such as our world-famous
Lebanon Bologna and Pennsylvania Dutch delicacies. Play a round
of championship golf on one of several area golf courses and thrill
to the excitement of thoroughbred horse racing or championship
equestrian competition. Enjoy classical concerts or professional
theatrical presentations. Shop till you drop at area outlets,
antique shops, and friendly farmers' markets. Spend the night in an
historic bed & breakfast and attend lively ethnic festivals. Chances
are you'll be surprised by just how much fun you can pack into your
visit to the Lebanon Valley.
modern world where tradition often takes a back seat to technology,
it's refreshing to discover a place where old-fashioned hospitality
and time-honored customs continue to play important roles in
everyday life. South-central Pennsylvania's Lebanon Valley is just
such a place. While conveniently close to major northeastern
metropolitan areas, the Lebanon Valley nevertheless is well isolated
from the hectic pace of city life. It's winning combination of
friendly folks, charming traditions, easy accessibility and relaxed
recreation never ceases to impress visitors and keep them coming
back for more.
Lebanon Valley's history can be traced to early Colonial times when
German settlers came to the area seeking religious and political
freedom. They brought customs and beliefs of their forefathers,
guiding principles that helped ensure strong family and community
bonds. They built small farming communities and simple churches,
some of which survive today. Yet the Pennsylvania Dutch, as they
have come to be known, built far more than homes and places to
worship; they constructed a complete cultural framework by which to
live. Today the primary reason travelers visit the Lebanon Valley is
to experience an authentic taste of an era that's past but not
Get To Know The Pennsylvania Dutch
Pennsylvania Dutch name actually is something of a misnomer, since
it derives from the German word " Deutsche." The Lebanon Valley's
first Pennsylvania Dutch settlers emigrated in the eighteenth
century from what is now Germany, where they had been persecuted
because of their religious beliefs. Over time, other groups arrived,
each contributing to the religious landscape. Today Pennsylvania
Dutch communities are divided roughly into "plain" and "fancy"
sects. The former still adhere closely to their ancestors' customs,
shunning modern ways and avoiding anything that might be considered
worldly or vain. "Fancy" groups have adopted some of the trappings
of contemporary society, yet remain faithful to their guiding
religious principles. They operate many of the craft shops and
home-style restaurants that visitors find alluring.
most traditional of plain people, the Amish, follow customs that
date back more than two centuries. Their traditions focus on faith,
family and an agrarian way of life; principles that have enabled
them to survive virtually unchanged. On a typical day you will see
our Amish neighbors dressed in simple clothing traveling to market
in horse-drawn buggies. With all the conveniences we take for
granted, it's easy to admire their steadfast devotion to a
traditional way of life.
Visitors quickly discover that the Lebanon Valley offers an
unspoiled look at Pennsylvania Dutch Country, where the Amish are
viewed as neighbors, not as tourist attractions. Here you will find
Amish farms with small signs hanging by the road sides, offering
produce and home baked goodies or special services. These signs are
invitations for visitors to stop, shop and chat with these gentle
people. It's a genuine interaction that takes place in a truly
uncommercialized atmosphere, giving you an unspoiled view of our
Pennsylvania Dutch neighbors. But, please, we ask that you respect
their beliefs and right to privacy. Amish tradition specifically
forbids posing for photographs, so it's best to refrain from taking
snapshots in favor of returning home with lasting memories, tasty
treats, and keepsake crafts.
Over 200 Years Of History
Boasting a rich history spanning more than two centuries, the
Lebanon Valley is a treasure trove of important historical sites and
cozy Colonial communities. Be sure to take time out to explore some
of these fascinating attractions.
with many regions in Pennsylvania, the Lebanon Valley's early growth
was fueled by its abundant natural resources, namely iron ore,
timber, and limestone. Plentiful supplies of these materials led to
the establishment of Cornwall Iron Furnace in 1742 in the southern
section of the Lebanon Valley. This massive stone charcoal-burning
furnace, stoked by steam-powered blast machinery, operated day and
night until 1883. The vast industrial plantation produced pig iron
and domestic products, as well as cannons, shot, and shells for
George Washington's army during the Revolutionary War. Local mining
operations continued until the early 1970s, capitalizing on what are
to this day the largest iron-ore deposits east of Lake Superior.
the Cornwall Furnace represents one of the world's best-preserved
nineteenth-century iron-making facilities. A visit to the site is a
trip back in time to the iron industry's heyday, when the furnace
supported a complete, self-contained industrial community. Besides
the furnace and blast machinery, visitors can view related
outbuildings, coal bins, and roasting ovens. Through informative
displays, a visitors' center offers insight into mining operations,
iron-making techniques, and the daily life of workers. Remnants of
the ironmasters' mansions and the workers' homes still dot the
surrounding countryside. Administered by the Pennsylvania Historical
and Museum Commission, Cornwall Iron Furnace is open every day
except Mondays and most holidays.
Colonial history comes alive near Myerstown at Tulpehocken Manor Inn
and Plantation, headquarters for the Hanover Rifle Battalion, a
re-created Revolutionary War unit. Established in the 1730s by
Palatine pilgrim Christopher Ley, the plantation grew from a single
stone house to encompass several homes and farm buildings. In 1769,
Ley's son Michael built an eight-room Germanic stone house on the
property, which was visited by George Washington on three occasions.
In addition to the original limestone-arched home built by
Christopher Ley, a perfect example of Germanic Swiss bank
architecture, and the Michael Ley Mansion, expanded in the mid-1800s
to a Victorian manor, visitors can explore the beautiful plantation
grounds and view typical Colonial structures such as the old
smokehouse, bake house, cob house, and barn at this National
Perhaps nowhere else in the Lebanon Valley is the early German
influence more evident than at Fort Zeller Museum in Newmanstown.
The present structure originally served as a homestead for the
Zeller family, who emigrated in 1710 from present-day Germany.
Dating to 1745, the Zeller home functioned as a fort during the
French and Indian War. With its mortar-covered limestone exterior,
two-and-a-half-foot-thick walls, original embellishments, and
massive Queen Anne fireplace, it provides an authentic glimpse at an
architectural style that survives today only in Europe's Rhine
Basin. Fort Zeller Museum is open year-round by appointment.
Bindnagle Church, three miles north of Palmyra, was built on land
donated by Hans Bindnagle in 1753 to the local Evangelical Lutheran
congregation, with the 1803 red brick structure replacing a log
church that occupied the site. Modeled after classic Greek design,
it stands as a fine example of Colonial architecture. Bindnagle
Church still serves an active congregation today, nearly two
centuries after it was constructed. The sexton cordially welcomes
visitors for a tour, which he starts by displaying the hand wrought
iron lock and key, dated 1803 made in Lebanon. Call (717) 533-6037
for current tour times and dates.
an overview of local history, be sure to stop by
Stoy Museum and Hauck
Memorial Library in Lebanon, headquarters of the Lebanon County
Historical Society. Built in 1773 as a home for Dr. William Henry
Stoy, a minister and Revolutionary War doctor, the structure later
served as Lebanon County's first courthouse when the county was
established in 1813. James Buchanan, United States President from
1857 to 1861, practiced law as a young attorney in the upstairs
Dedicated to preserving and displaying Lebanon County history, the
Stoy Museum chronicles
local life since Colonial times with a series of carefully
constructed exhibits showcasing historical artifacts and implements,
period clothing, and Pennsylvania Dutch furniture and quilts.
Displays include a one-room schoolhouse, old-time drug store,
doctor's office, glass and china shop, music store, dress shop,
barbershop, and general store. Railroading, firefighting, and World
War I memorabilia also are exhibited. Of special interest to
baseball fans is the Babe Ruth uniform display. The museum is closed
on Saturdays and holidays.
the Stoy Museum off State Highway 72 north, the Union Canal Tunnel
is noteworthy as America's oldest existing transportation tunnel.
Completed in 1827 for the seventy-eight-mile canal linking Reading
and Harrisburg, it was designated a National Historic Engineering
Landmark in 1970, placed on the National Register of Historic Places
in 1974, and made a National Historic Landmark in 1994.
Explore Quaint Towns & Villages
Lebanon Valley residents take pride in preserving their cultural
heritage, as a visit to any of the area's historic communities
quickly reveals. One of the region's best-preserved boroughs,
Schaefferstown was founded in 1758 by Alexander Schaeffer, credited
with establishing North America's oldest public waterworks at the
town's present site in 1744. Schaeffer needed the steady water
supply for a hotel he built, now the Franklin House restaurant and
tavern. It occupies one corner of the old village square. Just north
of the square, the Thomas R. Brendle Memorial Library-Museum
displays items relating to community history. It's open at selected
times, including a May 14 Museum Day, and by appointment.
Schaeffer built his Swiss-bank-style home outside town in 1750. Now
operated as the Alexander Schaeffer Farm Museum, it may be toured by
appointment and during special events such as the June Cherry Fair,
July Tractor Show and Folk Fest, September Harvest Fair and Craft
Show and December Christmas Party.
Another Lebanon Valley community with a storied past, Myerstown, was
laid out as Tulpehockentown in 1768 by Isaac Meier. The borough has
approximately fifty historic structures more than 175 years old. The
Isaac Meier Homestead, recently restored, is the town founder's
handsome stone mansion. Mystery surrounds Meier's death to this day.
A prominent banker and lender, he was shot at a local tavern.
Although a reward was offered by Pennsylvania co-proprietor Thomas
Penn, the assailant was never apprehended.
of Lebanon Valley College, a
liberal arts university founded in 1866, Annville boasts an
attractive historic district featuring many restored Victorian
homes. Each December, the Friends of Old Annville conduct
candlelight tours through the district, offering visitors a special
opportunity to experience a taste of a bygone era.
Nature At Its Best
same natural beauty that first attracted settlers to the Lebanon
Valley continues to entice travelers today. At the region's state
parks and recreational areas, nature lovers enjoy hiking, canoeing,
camping, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, and mountain biking.
Since the valley is an easy drive from urban centers such as New
York, Baltimore, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia, you needn't
travel far off the beaten path to savor the great outdoors here. In
the Lebanon Valley's "civilized wilderness," the comforts of home
are always close at hand.
of the region's most impressive wildlife areas, the 5,000-acre
Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area near Kleinfeltersville offers
a host of recreational opportunities. Visitors can hike on nine
miles of trails crisscrossing the preserve, or hunt and fish in
designated areas. Home to a thriving waterfowl population, Middle
Creek is a favorite of duck and goose hunters. A visitors center,
open in season, provides an informative overview of the area's
ecology, natural history, and wildlife-management techniques. A
nearby nature trail spotlights indigenous flora and wildlife
Lake is located off Jay Street and Route 72 in western North Lebanon
Township. This unique 30-acre property and 7 acre lake is owned and
operated by North Lebanon Township. Originally known as Light's Dam,
the water reserve was constructed in conjunction with the operation
of the Old Union Canal, which passes nearby (operated from
1828-1885.) From 1957 to 1972, this small park provided residents
with terrific swimming, boating and fishing. In 1972, Hurricane
Agnes filled the lake to overflowing but the dam held. By 1981, the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania declared the dam to be unsafe and
ordered the dam breast rebuilt. It took eleven years of fund raising
and community effort before the dam breast was restored and the lake
could be refilled. Now, a visitors center, macadam walkways around
the entire lake, park benches, flower beds, volleyball courts and
picnic tables and benches have all been installed; making Lion's
Lake one of the premier small parks in all of the Lebanon Valley.
For information on Lion's Lake, please call 273-7132.
Another great place for a picnic or hike is Memorial Lake State
Park. This park features boating and fishing on its eighty-five-acre
lake. Canoes, rowboats, sailboards, and sailboats may be rented on
site. Similar outdoor options are available at Stoever's Dam
Recreational Area in Lebanon. Surrounding a thirty-six-acre lake,
the park has a fitness course, nature trail, camping facilities, and
picnic tables. Willow Spring Park in Richland offers picnicking,
swimming, and scuba diving, while three miles west of Pine Grove on
the Schuylkill County border, Swatara State Park attracts hikers,
hunters, fishermen, canoeists, and fossil hunters.
sure-fire fishing expedition, check out Arrowhead Springs Trout
Hatchery in Newmanstown, Limestone Springs Trout Hatchery near
Myerstown or Shikellamy Trout Hatchery near Bethel. license are not
required on these private hatchery lakes that are plentifully
stocked with rainbow trout.
of the region's more unusual natural wonders, Indian Echo Caverns --
just west of Hershey -- ushers you into fascinating underground
realms during a forty-five-minute guided tour. Visitors are dwarfed
by spectacular limestone formations in several chambers, including
the Indian Ballroom with its fifty-foot-high ceiling. Back on the
surface, there's a ten-acre picnic and recreation area, gift shop,
and replica gem mill where you can pan for gemstones. Nearby, the
Hershey Gardens at the
Hotel Hershey feature spectacular seasonal floral displays,
including one of this country's largest rose gardens, on
twenty-three manicured acres.
Several local outfitters stand ready to assist outdoor-lovers
interested in canoeing, horseback riding, and mountain biking.
Annville's Union Canal Canoe Rentals supplies canoes and equipment
for float trips on scenic Swatara Creek. Pickup and delivery service
is available for trips of varying length along fifty-eight miles of
"the Swatty." Our famous equestrian attraction, the Quentin Riding
Club, is a private-membership organization that hosts numerous horse
shows during the summer season, many of which are open to the
public; call (717) 273-1151 for details.
Year-round camping is available at local family campgrounds,
Hershey Highmeadow Campground. Options range from full-service
camping resorts with RV hookups to cozy shaded groves where you can
pitch a tent. Whatever your outdoor pleasure, the civilized
wilderness in the Lebanon Valley delivers!
Lebanon Valley Specialties
many visitors, the first taste of Lebanon County comes in the form
of our mouth-watering, world-famous
Lebanon Bologna. Since the early 1800's local residents of
German descent have produced this tasty sweet-and-spicy bologna
using carefully guarded recipes handed down for generations. Today
nearly all of the Lebanon Bologna produced in America comes from the
Visitors can sample the smoked bologna and see the bologna-making
process in action at two local factories. Established in 1885, the
Daniel Weaver Company in Lebanon produces Weaver's Famous Lebanon
Bologna and Baum's Bologna using a cold-smoke process in authentic
outdoor smokehouses. Tours are free. Seltzer's - Bomberger's Lebanon
Bologna Company, also offering free tours, has produced Lebanon
bologna at its Palmyra facility since 1902.
Kutztown Bologna Company
is located north of Myerstown. Kutztown Bologna Company earned a
Guinness world record in 1989 for its 61-foot, 1,202-pound Lebanon
time that's sure to be sweet, there's no better place than
Hershey -- "The Sweetest Place
on Earth." At
Chocolate World, "chocoholics" will think they're in paradise.
Visitors also can take a thrilling roller-coaster ride at
Hersheypark, view indigenous wildlife at
ZooAmerica North American Wildlife Park, and learn about local
history at the
Hershey Museum. A popular time to visit is during the annual
Christmas in Hershey celebration, held mid-November through
Lebanon Valley might seem an unlikely place to hear clashing
broadswords and clanking armor, but that's exactly what you'll
encounter at the
Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. This regional medieval fair
features a re-created Tudor hamlet complete with jousting knights in
shining armor, magicians, storytellers, craftsmen, and costumed
performers. While at the estate, be sure to tour the opulent
Victorian mansion, formerly the home of a local ironmaster.
Visitors thrill to the action and excitement of thoroughbred horse
racing year-round at Penn National
Race Course, just north of exit 28 on Interstate 81 in
Grantville. Hosting ten races daily on Wednesday, Friday, and
Saturday nights as well as Sunday and selected Monday afternoons,
the track offers grandstand or clubhouse seating for nominal fees.
Visitors can bet on a live race, or wager on any number of simulcast
you have a taste for culture, there's no shortage of artistic events
in the Lebanon Valley. The woods in Mount Gretna come alive with
musical presentation, including chamber music and a special
summertime jazz series from Music at Gretna.
Theater takes center stage each summer at the
Gretna Theater. The
Lebanon Community Theater features quality plays at affordable
prices during spring, summer, and fall, as well as a summer concert
series. And if you're in the Lebanon Valley area in summer, be sure
to check out the annual August Mt. Gretna Outdoor Art Show, when
nationally recognized artists assemble their finest during an
two Lebanon Valley establishments you can enjoy a fine meal followed
by an entertaining theatrical performance.
The Timbers Dinner
Theatre in Mt. Gretna serves up lively musical reviews from June
13 through September 2. The Lantern Lodge in Myerstown presents a
summer and winter series of plays put on in the Lantern Playhouse.