Sophisticated Lancaster

Sometimes you just might crave a little wine and cheese with that farm stay or funnel cake.

It’s Friday night and the lobby bar of the Lancaster Arts Hotel is packed with office workers sipping organic cosmopolitans and couples dressed for date night. Overnight guests wait amid mixed-media sculptures and floor-to-ceiling abstract paintings to check into the renovated tobacco warehouse. Next door, the John J. Jefferies restaurant serves lamb samosas and grass-fed bison tartare with microgreens to eager diners.

This isn’t the image most of us get when we think of Lancaster County. Amish-driven horse and buggies, Mennonite farm stands, and home-style buffets still dominate the surrounding landscape and serve as the cornerstone of the area’s tourism industry. In recent years, however, the area has upped its sophistication quotient in a big way, adding day spas, boutique hotels, expanded wineries, and elegant art galleries.

Lancaster Arts or the Cork Factory Hotel are good bases for such a venture: both are located in gorgeously renovated buildings within easy reach of the city center. Nearby at Penn Square, the Charles Demuth Museum is a rarely crowded homage to one of the country’s best watercolorists, while Fenz Restaurant is sleek and boisterous  and the go-to place for late-night goat-cheese pizza or truffle fries.

If you really want to avoid the horse-and-buggy vibe, the best town to visit is probably Lititz, a few miles north of Lancaster City.  Anchored by a girls’ boarding school on one side and a lovely park on the other, its main street is a haven of Victorian-era architecture, independent shops, and small museums.

Cap a Sophisticated Lancaster weekend with a visit to the peaceful Garden of Five Senses in Central Park (3 Nature’s Way, Lancaster) or a stop at Twin Brook Winery in Gap for samples of award-winning rose and chardonnay reserve.

There will always be time for chow-chow or shoo-fly pie on your next visit.

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