In the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country in Eastern Pennsylvania, meeting planners will also find Christmas City, USA, and one of the favorite playgrounds for the Northeast.
Lancaster County is home to the oldest and largest Amish community in the country. Visitors can immerse themselves in Amish culture with tours of an authentic village and a buggy ride into the countryside, stopping to dine with an Amish family. The Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum provides an experience in early Pennsylvania German life, commonly known as Pennsylvania Dutch.
Lancaster, established in 1730, has grown by 10 percent in the last decade.
“One reason for that is the influx of artists, new restaurants and new energy,” said Joel Cliff, public relations director at the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors’ Bureau.
Much of the city’s original architecture has been preserved and reused for galleries, eateries, studios and venues for live music. One of the prime examples is the Lancaster County Convention Center and adjoining Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square, which incorporates the facade of the 110-year-old Watt and Shand Department Store. Opened in 2009, the convention center has added a new dimension to the city and the county as a meetings destination. Nearby is the historic Fulton Theatre, which claims to be the nation’s oldest continuously operating theater.
Spaces for smaller meetings include the Best Western Premier Eden Resort and Suites, which has an expanded outdoor recreational area, and the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton.
Reading, the seat of Berks County, sits in the picturesque foothills of the Appalachian mountains and is rich in Pennsylvania Dutch heritage. Whimsical hex stars in all shapes and sizes, a traditional Pennsylvania German motif, decorate barns in the countryside. Now in its 64th year, the Kutztown Folk Festival, the oldest folklife festival in America, celebrates the Pennsylvania Dutch culture.
The Crowne Plaza Hotel in nearby Wyomissing is the city’s largest hotel and offers ample meeting space. Nearby, the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts, housed in a former protective eyewear factory, provides meeting space, a theater, galleries and the opportunity to interact with artists. Visitors can also find lodging in the historic Abraham Lincoln Hotel, recently renovated to bring back the grandeur of the 19th century.
The South Mountain YMCA has meeting space as well as rustic lodging and an opportunity for outdoor activities and team building. Stokesay Castle, a replica of a European castle, is an unusual meeting venue.
Foodies will find plenty of local flavor to sample in the area as well.
“We love food,” said Lisa Haggerty, marketing manager at the Greater Reading Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Pick up a bag of pretzels; try our whoopie pie, shoofly pie and funnel cakes. Lots of people get a kick out of the places we have to eat.”