Although it was a shared feast in Massachusetts that inspired our tradition of a day of thanks, Thanksgiving has deep roots in Pennsylvania. During the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress met in York and Philadelphia and declared national days of Thanksgiving to celebrate American victories in key battles.
In the 1800s, the editor of a Philadelphia-based magazine started to push for a national Thanksgiving holiday focusing on home and family. Even before Abraham Lincoln declared that Thanksgiving should be held each November, the Pennsylvania Dutch celebrated the harvest after the first frost and gave thanks for food to last them through the winter.
Today, Pennsylvania is still a great place to spend Thanksgiving, especially here in Lancaster County. You’ll find plenty to do if you stay at the Family Inn in Bird-in-Hand for the long weekend. Here are some of our favorite things to do in Lancaster:
#10. STAND WHERE IT STARTED
Want to see the home of the first nationally celebrated Thanksgiving? About an hour from Bird-in-Hand, the York County History Center has the first Thanksgiving story you probably never heard. You’ll find a plaque commemorating the Continental Congress’s November 1, 1877, declaration on the north side of the first block of East Market Street.
In addition to the Historical Society Museum/Library and Archives, other historic York sites include the Colonial Complex, the Fire Museum on West Market Street, and the Agricultural and Industrial Museum on Princess Street.
#9. SEE A CHRISTMAS SHOW
Thanksgiving kicks off the winter holiday season, and what better way to get into the Christmas spirit than to see Christmas stories unfold on stage? This year’s Christmas show at American Music Theatre in Lancaster is Home for the Holidays. This all-new original show blends song, dance and holiday traditions with your favorite sacred hymns and traditional carols—all in a setting that’s lavishly decorated to celebrate the season. The show opens on November 8.
On the Bird in Hand Stage, we’re excited to present The Christmas Tree Ship in partnership with Blue Gate Musicals. This heart-warming inspirational musical is based on the true story of the Schuenemann family and their heroic quest to save Christmas by giving away Christmas trees to the less fortunate of Chicago, even in the wake of the family’s tragic loss. This epic tale, which runs through December 31, reminds us all of the importance of tradition, kindness and the joy of Christmas.
#8. LOVE A PARADE!
The City of Brotherly Love hosted the first formal Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1920. Organized by the head of Gimbels Department Store, the route ran from City Hall to the store at Ninth and Market streets. The event inspired Macy’s to hold its own parade in New York City.
Over the years, different organizations have sponsored the Philadelphia parade, which now marches along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Thanksgiving morning. This year’s 6abc Dunkin’ Thanksgiving Day Parade begins at 8:30 a.m. with a preview and wraps up at noon—so there’s plenty of time to get back to Bird-in-Hand for Thanksgiving dinner.
#7. LIGHT UP THE NIGHT
Lancaster City can be magical during the holidays. One of our favorite events is the Mayor’s Tree Lighting, which will take place this year on November 25. Enjoy live entertainment, the arrival of Santa and more, and, of course, the lighting of the majestic Christmas tree on Penn Square.
The festivities usually start at 5 and continue until 8 p.m. The next day is Small Business Saturday, so stick around for some shopping!
#6. FIND BLACK FRIDAY BARGAINS
If you’re looking for pre-Christmas sales, you’ll find two major outlet centers within a 10-minute drive of Bird-in-Hand. At The Shops @ Rockvale, you’ll find more than 40 nationally known brands, from Alfred Dunner to Coleman Factory Outlet, to Orvis to Van Heusen/Izod.
Nearby, Tanger Outlets has a wide array of the best-known brands in clothing, shoes, accessories and more, including Aeropostale, Banana Republic Factory, Calvin Klein, Fossil, Kate Spade, Pottery Barn, Samsonite, Timberland, The North Face, Yankee Candle and dozens of others. To enjoy maximum savings, stop at each outlet’s customer service center before you start exploring the stores.
#5. HAVE A SWEET TIME
Traveling with kids? They’ll love Hersheypark Christmas Candylane®—an annual holiday season event at the popular park about 45 minutes from Bird-in-Hand. The whole family will enjoy the giant Candymonium roller coaster and other rides, take pictures with Hershey characters and even meet Santa and his reindeer.
Catch the NOEL show, with 250,000 animated lights dancing to classic holiday tunes. Take in the Christmas decorations, too! The halls are decked with more than 5 million twinkling lights, and The Boardwalk features more than a dozen festive trees.
Nearby, drive through Hershey Sweet Lights to see nearly 600 illuminated, animated displays.
#4. VISIT THE CHRISTMAS VILLAGE
If you love Christmas lights, make the trek to Bernville, about an hour north of Bird-in-Hand, to see Koziar’s Christmas Village, where more than a million lights adorn buildings that include Santa’s post office, an old-fashioned bakery shop, the Kissing Bridge, a toymaker and his toy shop, a manger scene and many others.
What began as an elaborately decorated home and property in 1948 has grown into an attraction that draws visitors from around the world. It includes indoor and outdoor train displays, trim-the-tree ideas, unique gift shopping, and visits with Santa.
#3. WALK IN A DUTCH WINTER WONDERLAND
Last year, Dutch Winter Wonderland won an award for “The Best Theme Park Holiday Event–2021.” Only about 10 minutes from the Bird-in-Hand Family Inn, it’s well worth the ride. The nearly 50-acre theme park is decorated with thousands of lights and holiday ornaments, and kids can enjoy more than 20 rides and attractions and meet Santa himself.
#2. CATCH THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT AND SEE THE LIGHTS
Even if the weather outside is frightful, you can view delightful Christmas light displays from the comfort of your car at Clipper Stadium in Lancaster. The Christmas Spirit Light Show is an immersive multimedia experience along a mile-long track. Tune in your car radio and enjoy the show as thousands of color-changing animated lights dance in harmony to your favorite Christmas classics.
This year’s light show opens November 25, followed a week later by the opening of Christmas Tree Lane, with more than 100 decorated trees that support local non-profits.
#1. HAVE A FABULOUS THANKSGIVING MEAL WITH NO FUSS
Why spend a whole day (or more) in the kitchen when you can let us cook Thanksgiving dinner? Enjoy home-cooked holiday goodness at our Bird-in-Hand Family Restaurant & Smorgasbord. We will serve all of the traditional Thanksgiving favorites—tender roast turkey, homestyle gravy, baked ham with pineapple sauce, Pennsylvania Dutch bread filling, mashed potatoes, rolls and butter and your favorite side dishes. You’ll find all that and more on our Holiday Grand Smorgasbord.
Be sure to save room for dessert, too! Choose from fresh-baked pies and other goodies. The best part about it? Instead of doing dishes, you can relax and enjoy the company of family and friends.
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Bird-in-Hand. We’d love to share the holiday with you!