As one of the oldest inland cities in the United States, Lancaster was initially occupied by German immigrants known as the Pennsylvania Dutch.
You can find the city in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
The area was previously called “Hickory Town” before John Wright, a prominent citizen, proposed to name it Lancaster after his previous residence in England.
You’ll see a lot of attractions in the city that pay homage to its Dutch culture and heritage, along with historical sites that helped shape American history.
While many people think you’ll need to spend a lot to enjoy the city, there are several attractions you can check out for free.
It also has several things you can experience even on a tight budget.
Check out the free things to do in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Swing by the Lancaster Central Market
For most people visiting a different city, stopping by the local farmers market isn’t exactly on their must-visit list except when you’re in Lancaster.
The Lancaster Central Market on N Market St is the oldest operating farmers’ market in the United States and one of the world’s top farmers’ markets.
You don’t need to spend anything to enjoy the place.
Take a good walk around the market building and immerse yourself in Lancaster’s local scene.
You’ll get a feel of classic architecture with the building’s wooden beams and rustic atmosphere.
Feel the community vibes while wandering the aisles, and see why the Lancaster Central Market is one of the world’s finest.
Visit the array of seafood, fresh produce, baked goods, and more around the area.
Learn about the Amish at the Mennonite Life Visitors Center
Embark on a one-of-a-kind educational journey towards understanding Amish and Mennonite beliefs when you swing by Lancaster’s Mennonite Life Visitors Center.
The establishment along Millstream Rd features free movies and exhibits that shed light on Lancaster’s early settlers.
There are also paid tours at the attraction, but even the free tour is enough to give you a good background of Amish life.
Prepare for a multimedia tour, informing you of the rich history and symbolic dwelling places that are part of Amish and Mennonite culture.
You’ll also find a replica of Moses’ Tabernacle in the Wilderness, a biblical tabernacle reproduction, inside the visitor center.
Spend a Day at D.F. Buchmiller County Park
There’s nothing quite like enjoying the fresh Lancaster air in one of the city’s most popular parks, the D.F. Buchmiller County Park.
This park in Lancaster is home to several free facilities that will get you going with several physical activities.
Enjoy playing in one of the pickleball courts, or have a go at the disc golf course and have a friendly competition with your friends.
After you’ve had fun, hang out by the pavilions and recharge with some good food and drinks.
In 1977, Lancaster County acquired the property.
The 79-acre park is named after Dulon F. Buchmiller, who donated the property to the city in 1922.
Cross the Hunsecker’s Mill Covered Bridge
As you explore the beautiful city of Lancaster, you’ll see several covered bridges with unique stories.
One of the bridges you might want to check out is Hunsecker’s Mill Covered Bridge on Hunsicker Road.
This covered bridge spans the entire Conestoga Creek and is the longest single-span covered bridge in Lancaster County.
In 1843, John Russell built the Hunsecker’s Mill Covered Bridge, which sports a Burr Arch truss system.
The bridge underwent several renovations during its lifetime, the most recent one undertaken after Hurricane Agnes.
Check Out the Displays at Demuth Museum
Lancaster is a living canvas, swarming with hundreds of artworks that you’ll see displayed across the entire city.
If you want to see world-class art, swing by the Demuth Museum on E King St.
Named after the American modern artist and former Lancaster resident Charles Demuth, the museum features several of his groundbreaking works and those from other artists.
This Lancaster attraction has more than 50 of Demuth’s original artworks, primarily watercolors, and drawings on paper.
Unfortunately, you won’t see all of the works on display as the museum tries to preserve Demuth’s works to avoid speeding up their deterioration over time.
Aside from Demuth’s works, you’ll also be treated to a fantastic garden view featuring flowers that Demuth’s mother herself cultivated.
Join Music Friday
The city of Lancaster doesn’t shy away from welcoming talents and budding artists to showcase their craft, especially when it comes to music.
If you don’t have anywhere to go on a Friday night, swing by Penn Square and attend Music Friday.
Music Friday usually happens from May to September on the third Friday of the month, breathing life into the city’s already-vibrant local scene.
Music Friday is a great way to spend a day in Lancaster without spending a few bucks for entertainment.
The event usually features local artists showcasing their style and mastery of various musical genres.
Check Out Events at Long’s Park
“Fun” is probably one of the best ways to describe the beautiful city of Lancaster, and it’s all because of the many free events you can enjoy when touring the area.
Long’s Park along Harrisburg Pike is one of the most popular spaces where Lancaster events usually occur.
From art festivals and summer music series to the annual gala, Long’s Park is the best place to host these events.
If you’re lucky, you might catch performers showcasing their talents in the amphitheater or see a couple of artworks on display.
On a quiet day, Long’s Park becomes an excellent destination for those who want to relax and enjoy the refreshing atmosphere.
You can also have a small picnic on the green field.
Walk through the 300 Block Shops
Window shopping will always be a great idea to explore the streets of Lancaster, and you don’t need to spend a dime to get the most out of your experience.
If you like browsing great finds, walk along the famous 300 Block Shops in Downtown Lancaster.
The 300 Block is the city’s go-to for unique shopping and dining experiences and an area to enjoy different events.
Most of the establishments you’ll see in the area are locally owned, a way for residents to support their own.
From clothes and antiques to candy and great food, the 300 Block is the place to enjoy bustling city life.
Explore the Phillips Museum of Art
There’s a lot to love about the thriving city of Lancaster, and one of them is the city’s love and passion for the arts.
At the Phillips Museum of Art at Franklin and Marshall College, tourists are treated to an array of contemporary, historical, and multicultural materials.
There are four permanent galleries inside the Phillips Museum of art, each featuring distinct works from various artists.
You’ll find the college’s permanent collection in the Nissley Gallery, which has about 8,000 displays.
Meanwhile, the Dana Gallery will take you back with historical-themed materials.
Rotating exhibits are usually featured in the Gibson Gallery, while works on paper, photography, textiles, film, and digital art are in the Rothman Gallery.
Enjoy the Great Outdoors at Lancaster County Central Park
Situated along Rockford Rd is the majestic Lancaster County Central Park, which covers 544 acres.
From camping and hiking to simply biking along the trails, Lancaster County Central Park offers a variety of outdoor experiences for you to enjoy.
Pack your bags with the right gear, and conquer the great outdoors because this recreational park has stunning views and opportunities to embark on an adventure.
You’ll also find a skate park inside Lancaster County Central Park, so if you’re up for it, you can bring your board along.
Lancaster County Central Park was once inhabited by the Susquehannock Tribe, making it an important historical artifact for the entire county.
Take a Walk on Gallery Row
When you walk along Prince St and explore the famous Gallery Row, get a good look at Lancaster’s local art scene.
You’ll find Gallery Row along Prince St in the heart of Downtown Lancaster, which is also home to dozens of shops and events.
Gallery Row is the premier destination for tourists who want to immerse themselves in the local art scene.
Check out a collection of bold paintings at the Christiane David Gallery or mixed-media works from the Freiman Stoltzfus Gallery.
You’ll see unique works, such as handcrafted bowls from Gallery on Market or Afrocentric works from the PAVAA Gallery.
Bring Your Dogs to Buchanan Park
Let your furry friends enjoy Lancaster when you take them to Buchanan Park on Buchanan Ave.
Inside Buchanan Park is Beau’s Dream Dog Park, which houses a small and large dog area and splash pads where your pet can cool off.
The area gets its name from a dog named Beau, who won the 2012 Beneful Dream Dog Park prize and was awarded $500,000, which went to a total park makeover.
If you want to swing by this dog park, don’t forget to ask your furry friends to thank Beau for creating a fun space for them.
Buchanan Park is usually open from dawn until dusk, giving you plenty of time to run around with your dogs and enjoy the surroundings.
Explore the Garden of Five Senses
Marvel at nature’s greatest wonders at the Garden of Five Senses along N Queen St.
The Garden of Five Senses treats your senses to various scents and sensations with flowers and scenic views.
This Lancaster attraction also sits on a hill overlooking the Conestoga River, giving you another sight you won’t find anywhere else.
Go on a relaxing walk along the trails and find several informational placards teaching you how the human senses work.
You’ll also find a gazebo where you can take a break before resuming your journey.
See the Displays at the Lancaster Museum of Art
As a city open to letting creative juices flow, Lancaster takes pride in having a museum dedicated to works of art.
The Lancaster Museum of Art on N Lime St was established in 1965 by various artists to cultivate a space that acknowledges regional talents.
You’ll also find several rotating exhibits inside the museum, which sheds light on budding and international artists using various media.
The Lancaster Museum of Art was formerly known as the Goethean Gallery when it resided on the Franklin and Marshall College campus.
The facility encompasses 4,000 square feet, allowing you to explore everything on display.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Hike along Kelly’s Run
Outdoor enthusiasts will blast going on an adventurous hike, particularly along Kelly’s Run in Martic Township, Pennsylvania, 28 minutes from Lancaster.
Kelly’s Run Nature Preserve spans 458 acres, offering a 3.8-mile loop that takes you on an enchanted journey through the woods.
Treat yourself to the finest views of Lancaster County and Pennsylvania when you traverse this scenic trail.
Be careful, though, because Kelly’s Run has rugged and steep terrain, requiring you to cross a couple of streams and climb bedrock.
Once you’ve conquered the trail, you’ll see the most fantastic view at the Pinnacle Overlook, so bring your camera.
You don’t need to spend a lot to enjoy your stay in the city.
All you have to do is stick to this list of free things to do in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and you should have a great time.
Book your trip today!
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