Best Museums in Lancaster PA

April 17, 2022

There are several museums in Lancaster, PA, that provide fantastic vacation things to do, especially if you're faced with a rainy day! Take a step back in time as you walk through these doors and enjoy a small piece of the past. Museums are a great way to take breaks between other, more spirited outdoor adventures. So, slow down your pace and learn something new during your vacation stay! You will discover a unique variety show as you explore these diverse museums in Lancaster, PA!

Indulge in some local history, art and science during your stay at the Historic Smithton Inn. While our bed and breakfast has a uniquely interesting history of its own, you'll find that our free Vacation Guide has many other great ideas for your visit!

This Blog is All About Lancaster Museums

Great Museums in Lancaster, PA, You Need to Visit

1.  Ephrata Cloister

Address: 632 W Main St, Ephrata, PA

historic buildings
Source: Ephrata Cloister Facebook Page

The Historic Ephrata Cloister dates back to some of the earliest settlers in Lancaster PA.  The founder, Conrad Beisel, chose the site along the Cocalico Creek in the early 1730s as home to his unique religious community.  The Cloister is listed in the book "1,000 Places to See Before You Die", making it one of the most popular museums in the area for tourists and history buffs alike.

2.  Landis Valley Museum

Address: 2451 Kissel Hill Rd, Lancaster, PA

Victorian Village
Source: Landis Valley Museum

At the Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum, you will discover a living history of the early Pennsylvania German settlement. Go way back to 1740 and explore a diverse collection of artifacts from the original 18th-Century village and farm life in Lancaster County. While touring this selection of museums in Lancaster, PA, you will walk through the authentic crossroads village with a knowledgeable guide. Get hands-on with traditional crafts and observe period manufacturing, farming and food preservation, weaving, and cooking.

3.  National Watch and Clock Museum

Address: 514 Poplar St, Columbia, PA

Source: Rebecca Gallagher

If you have time, check out the National Watch and Clock Museum! America’s largest timekeeping collection is on display at this favorite of museums in Lancaster, PA, with over 12,000 items. International watches, clocks, tools, and other time-related items are available for your viewing pleasure!

4.  Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

Address: 300 Gap Rd, Strasburg, PA

Source: Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania's Facebook

The train has an extensive history in Lancaster--one that you can discover at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. Previous exhibits included Railroad Bridges, Train Wrecks, 150 Years of Railroad Photography, and the Role of Railroads in PA During the Civil War. You will be sure to learn some new facts here.

5.  Amish Farm and House

Address: 2395 Covered Bridge Dr, Lancaster, PA

Amish building
Source: Amish Farm & House Facebook

At The Amish Farm and House, you will get an authentic look into the lifestyle and culture of the Amish communities of Lancaster County. This destination among museums in Lancaster, PA, was the first Amish Museum and tourist attraction in the United States back in 1955. It has since developed into an educational center with a true insight into the life of the Old Order Amish. Farmhouse, countryside bus, and dinner tours are all available. Experience homemade Pennsylvania Dutch cooking at the latter!

6.  President James Buchanan's Wheatland

Address: 120 Marietta Ave, Lancaster, PA

Source: Discover Lancaster

Wheatland, or the James Buchanan House, is a brick, Federal style house in Lancaster, PA.. It was owned by the 15th president of the United States, James Buchanan.  The house is now operated by, the Lancaster Historical Society.  The award winning museum and presidential mansion are open for tours and special events.  This is a great place to learn about Lancaster County history in general and specifically the life and times of James Buchanan.

7.  1719 Museum (formerly the Hans Herr House)

Address: 1849 Hans Herr Dr, Willow Street, PA

Stone building
Source: 1719 Museum

Visitors of the 1719 Museum will discover the histories of early Mennonite immigrants, Indigenous people, and how their lives were interconnected.  Christian Herr was one of the earliest settlers in Lancaster County.  Every piece of sandstone used to build the house were quarried right there on site.  One of the most interesting tours is the full size reproduction of a Native Longhouse.  The 11-acre campus hosts three historic farmhouses, barns, a blacksmith shop, a smokehouse, and an outdoor bake oven, among other things. The 1719 Herr House is the oldest building in Lancaster County and the oldest Mennonite meetinghouse in the Americas.

8.  Historic Rock Ford

Address: 881 Rockford Rd, Lancaster, PA

old house
Source: Historic Rock Ford

Historic Rock Ford was the home of Edward Hand and his family as well as enslaved and free servants and laborers. Edward Hand was Adjutant General to George Washington during the Revolutionary War. Today, Historic Rock Ford is located on 33 acres at the southeastern edge of Lancaster City surrounded by Lancaster County Central Park. Rock Ford Plantation hosts guided tours of the circa 1794 Hand Mansion as well as the chance to tour the John J. Snyder, Jr. Gallery of Early Lancaster County Decorative Arts, located in a re-constructed 18th century bank barn.

9.  Wright's Ferry Mansion

Address: 38 S 2nd St, Columbia, PA

Source: Rebecca Gallagher

The history of one of the oldest frontier towns is alive and well in this restored 1738 mansion, which interprets the life of early settler, Susanna Wright. The home was originally built for James Wright and his family members of Columbia’s founding family who settled in the area in 1730 and established a ferry service across the Susquehanna River for westbound pioneers.  The house is open for tours SEASONALLY (May - October), so check their website to be sure they're open and operating before you visit.

10.  The Demuth Museum

Address: 120 E King St, Lancaster, PA

museum entrance
Source: Demuth Museum

The Demuth Museum in downtown Lancaster, PA, is a museum dedicated to the paintings of Charles Demuth (1883–1935) located in his former studio and home. The museum presents a rotating view of their permanent collection which includes 42 Charles Demuth originals, as well as artists and works that compliment the Demuth connection in theme, technique and period.

11.  North Museum of Nature & Science

Address: 400 College Ave, Lancaster, PA

Source: The North Museum Facebook Page

Visitors of all ages have something to learn from experiencing the North Museum in Lancaster PA.  Guests discover the natural world through their many exhibits- from live animals and interactive displays to the beautifully displayed birds, mammals, fossils and minerals.  From the Live Animal Lab and STEM Art Gallery to the Coding Corner and Dinosaur displays, there's something to spark the imagination and inspire the creativity of young and old alike.

12.  Christiana Underground Railroad Center

Address:  Historic Zerchers Hotel, 11 Green Street, Christiana, PA 17509

white house
Source: Christiana Underground Railroad Center

The events that occurred on September 11, 1851 in Christiana, Pennsylvania are cited as major flash points that led to the outbreak of the Civil War. These events are described in a guided tour by local historians at the Christiana Underground Railroad Center in an interesting and educational format for all ages. The persons, dates and the locations leading up to and following the Resistance at Christiana – originally called the Christiana Riot -- are presented in an authentic and easy-to-follow format of maps, photographs and narratives.

13.  Barry's Car Barn Museum

Car Museum
Source: Barry's Car Barn Facebook Page

Address:  3504 Old Philadelphia Pike, Intercourse

Barry's Car Barn is an Antique Car Museum located in Intercourse, PA housing a collection of muscle cars from the 50's to the 70's, plus so much more!  Tours of the museum are self-guided and no reservations are required.  The museum features 50 vehicles and 10 motorcycles from the personal collection of Lancaster native Barry Baldwin.  The building was custom-built to showcase the collection and is decorated with car-related memorabilia.

14.  National Toy Train Museum

Source: National Toy Train Museum Facebook Page

Address:  300 Paradise Ln, Ronks

The National Toy Train Museum was founded in 1977 by the Trail Collectors Association.  The museum is a world-class destination for train enthusiasts of all ages.  The building is modeled after a Victorian train station.  The collections indoors include seven (7) interactive train layouts, a library where you can do research, and just about any type of model train on display including some dating back to the 1800s!!

Great Museums Near Lancaster PA

15.  Cornwall Iron Furnace

Address: 94 Rexmont Rd, Cornwall, PA

Stone Building
Source: Cornwall Iron Furnace Facebook Page

This Cornwall Iron Furnace is part of a National Historic Landmark District, and America’s most complete charcoal fueled ironmaking complex.  Robert Vogel of the Smithsonian Institution described the importance of the Cornwall Furnace:

“With the exception of a mere handful of similar preservations in Sweden and Germany — and possibly a few in eastern Europe — I doubt that elsewhere in the world is there a 19th century iron furnace complex with the degree of historical integrity to be found at Cornwall…”

16.  National Civil War Museum

Address: 1 Lincoln Cir, Harrisburg, PA

Source: National Civil War Museum Facebook Page

When looking for museums in Lancaster, PA, don’t forget about the National Civil War Museum. Without bias to Union or Confederate causes, the National Civil War Museum presents a variety of unique, fact-driven exhibits.


17.  The Hershey Story Museum

Address:  63 W Chocolate Ave, Hershey, PA

Hershey Museum
Source: The Hershey Story Facebook Page

One of the most famous museums in Lancaster, PA, is on Chocolate Avenue. The Hershey Story is both a historic and delicious museum, featuring the journey of Milton S. Hershey and beyond. Over 150 years or chocolate-making endeavors hand lead up to the modern-day Hershey kiss. Discover the journey by exploring interactive exhibits, experimenting in the Chocolate Lab, and stocking up on chocolate and memorabilia at the Museum Shop. Then, delight in Hershey desserts at Cafe Zooka. A vacation would simply not be complete without chocolate!

This Blog is All About Lancaster Museums

Plan a Getaway for the History Books at Historic Smithton Inn

king bed What better way to enjoy the local history than a stay at the Historic Smithton Inn? For an authentic Lancaster County experience, this is the place to be! Our beautiful and spacious rooms are the perfect venues for your escape. So, contact us today to book your next getaway! And, as always, for more to see and do, download our free vacation guide!


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