Between Pennsylvania and New Jersey: Amish, Alpacas & the Poconos

I recently discovered two new joys of road-tripping: I-80 between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and gas station potato chips. Not just any potato chips, but artificially flavored Italian Hoagie chips by PrimoHoagies. Do they taste like a hoagie? No. Yet, it makes your breath smell like you ate a footlong. How? Pennsylvania magic.

PrimoHoagies Chips

Aside from the chips, this road trip is perfect for kids and kids-at-heart looking for a quick getaway with plenty of attractions. This was my route and some great stops along the way:

Alexandria, VA to Aberdeen, MD. Lunch at Chaps Pit Beef. The Maryland chain’s claim to fame was being featured on Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives. I had the pulled pork sandwich with fries and immediately sprouted frosted tips and a goatee.

Coatesville, PA to Lititz, PA to Kennett Square, PA. The original plan was to visit the Wolf Sanctuary of PA, but I waited too long to reserve and tickets were sold out. Be sure to reserve your tour beforehand, as they can only accommodate a limited number of guests and don’t take walk-ins. About an hour south of the Sanctuary is Longwood Gardens, the former estate of Pierre du Pont. This was my second visit and I still haven’t been able to see it all. Look out for a separate blog post about this grand garden and its fountains.

Intercourse, PA to Lancaster, PA. You best believe I was going to make a stop for coffee at a town called Intercourse. I had a deliciously consensual Americano at The Corner Coffee Shop, located next to The Treasure Place and only steps away from Kitchen Kettle Village. Plus, there’s a huge sign outside the shop that makes for a really great photo opportunity. Intercourse isn’t the only funny-to-fourteen-year-olds town name in Lancaster. There’s also the rural hamlet of Fertility, the towns of Bird-in-Hand and Paradise, and my second-favorite, Blue Ball.

Pocono Summit, PA to Hope, NJ. Ever since I could remember, the Poconos was for honeymooners. So, I was fully expecting kitschy inns with heart-shaped beds. Instead I found the most beautiful lakefront Airbnb that brought me much-needed peace and privacy. Then, I went on a serene drive deep into Jenny Jump State Park where I chose the giddy chaos of feeding Llamas and Alpacas.

Hershey, PA to Alexandria, VA. For years I believed the myth that the entire city of Hershey smelled like chocolate. As soon as I reached the city limit, I rolled down the windows and poked my head out, sniffing like a golden retriever. Disappointed and unsatisfied, I had no choice but to stop at Hershey’s Chocolate World and spend $20 customizing a huge, one-pound REESE’S Peanut Butter Cup.

Gas up and get ready for new insights, indulgent food, and adorable wildlife. Here are the top three highlights:

The Amish Farm & House, Lancaster, PA

I had so many misconceptions of the Amish before visiting this…I’m not sure what to call it. Attraction? Museum? Learning center? It was exactly the primer I needed to understand this religion-based culture. We started off with a guided tour of a typical Amish home. We sat in the pews of the in-home church where they would typically hold services every other Sunday. From there, we went room to room, where we looked at clothes and books, and talked about jobs and education. After, we spent time on their 15-acre farm and coincidentally saw a goat give birth. Luckily, my wife was there, so I was able to grab on to her when my knees buckled. There’s only so much rural this city girl can handle at once.  

If you go: Open every day, the house is located at 2395 Covered Bridge Dr. in Lancaster.

Hidden Brook Ranch Alpaca, near Jenny Jump State Park, New Jersey

Before this, I couldn’t pick out a llama out of a line up of alpacas. After this…well, I’m still not 100 percent sure I could, but at least I know they are definitely different animals. Overall, it was an amazing experience to be in their space and to hand feed them. You even take one on a walk — and by one, I believe it was a llama, but I’m not entirely sure. The ranch owner/host was incredibly knowledgeable and welcoming, with the added bonus of being forgiving when I kept confusing her alpacas for llamas. I made it up to her by buying some lovely souvenirs in her small gift shop.

If you go: Open every day, but by appointment only, the ranch is located at 196 State Park Rd. in Blairstown, New Jersey.

Lancaster Central Market, Lancaster, PA

At the nation’s oldest, continually operated Farmer’s Market, the mission was simple: sample all of the staple Amish goodies. And I did. Here, you’ll find shoofly pie, soft pretzels, whoopie pies, donuts, scrapple, and chow-chow in the 70-plus stalls. But, you know what else I found? Two Cubans making the best-tasting guarapo I’ve ever had. I mean it. Ever. I saw a Cuban flag draped on the wall behind the stall named Havana Juice and I sprinted over there to order my freshly pressed sugar cane juice squeezed directly from the stalk into my glass. Near the back corner by the restrooms, I found another treasure in Empanada Gourmet, offering handmade Uruguayan empanadas made with vegan dough and gourmet fillings.

If you go: Open only on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, Lancaster Central Market is located at 23 N Market St., there’s plenty of metered parking.

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