A couple of weeks ago, I spent an absolutely lovely spring day meandering around in Downtown Lancaster. Lovely is really the only word I could use for it. Not good, not fine… lovely. It was just one of those days where the weather was absolutely perfect, I had not a care in the world, there was nothing on my agenda and I just wanted to take in some good stuff. In the past few years, downtown Lancaster has totally blown up with art galleries, unique coffee shops, quirky restaurants and eclectic people. And let me tell you, being a short drive away from “The Lanc” (as I’ve slowly become accustomed to calling it) is one of the best things! I really love this city.
Shortly after my day of loveliness (are you tired of this word yet?) I reached out to a few Lancaster friends for their personal recommendations. And guys, I was bombarded with amazing places for nomming, sipping and thrifting… my favorite things! So much happiness overcame me after reading their posts and special, secret places they wanted to share. It’s incredible what goodness can come from a little question. Lesson learned kids. Ask, ask, ask for guidance when you’re curious to learn more about something.
Oh and those recommendations? Yeah I totally followed through and went to almost all of the ones I hadn’t been to before. Ahhh… the life of a travel blogger. Gotta discover it all ya’ll. Here is my Downtown Lancaster City Guide!
AUSSIE & THE FOX– I’m kind of drooling describing the delicious grilled (or barbied) meals this family owned part Australian, part American restaurant dishes out. Perfectly situated in the hub of downtown, this place is stocked with charm and liveliness… and lunch specials that will make you want to book a flight to the land down under. Jokes aside though, it’s a wonderful place. And they even have a to-go service called The Tucker Box placed on their street side window, where customers can pop in for a meal for take away!
RACHEL’S CAFE & CREPERIE– The cutest little French style bistro with the most delicious crepes I’ve found in Pennsylvania thus far. Their dessert crepes and specialty drinks are a sweet tooth’s delight (just try their Spicy Mexican Nutella Hot Chocolate) and their savory crepe options are fabulous too (gimme all the Thai Chicken crepes)!
MA(I)SON– It’s about to get swanky up in here. Downtown Lancaster’s intimate urban cookery is serving up farm raised meals while adhering to the progressive slow-food movement. What’s that mean to you? Well, Ma(i)son’s chefs take the time and effort tosource only the best ingredients through close relationships with local farmers. Their small menu varies by what is fresh and in season. All I know is that if you want to really impress a date, you’d take them here. It’s a true wine and dine (and impress) establishment.
RICE AND NOODLES– Okay. So it’s not exactly in the downtown area… but I’m about to spill the beans on my favorite, favorite place to nom in “the Lanc.” Are you ready?! If you’re feeling adventurous, hop just outside of the city and feast on some of the best Vietnamese food I’ve had ever. I’m not saying this lightly. Although this restaurant isn’t gleaming with picturesque branding and wide open spaces, spending a few bucks here on a true Vietnamese meal here is probably the best thing you could ever do for your stomach! Order any of their traditional meals and a macaron for dessert and thank me later.
Other restaurants and eateries of note: The Fractured Prune, Himalayan, Onion’s Cafe, Spyro Gyro & Lancaster Dispensing Company.
Cafes & Coffeeshops
PRINCE STREET CAFE– It’s hard not to stop at this classic and perfectly located café when in downtown Lancaster. There’s an incredible energy and liveliness to this place. Maybe it’s the multitude of different customers they reel in (from hipsters to business men) or the hustle and bustle of Prince Street itself. Either way, it’s a staple.
SQUARE ONE COFFEE– A coffee aficionado’s coffee stop. This micro-roaster has won award after award after award because of it’s devotion to small batch, handcrafted roasts. These guys care so much about the coffee they give you, and their love for their product is infectious.
COMMONWEALTH ON QUEEN– Forewarning: I love this place. Their staff is incredibly friendly and helpful and kind spirited and motivated to making you feel welcome from the moment you walk in (seriously, they’re the nicest)! No matter what you plan on doing here, there’s always a warm sense of friendship here. Plus, they host weekly meet ups for creatives… and their fresh, delicious snacks and coffee are top notch.
Other cafes and coffeeshops of note: Cafe One Eight, Lancaster Cupcake & Mean Cup.
CENTRAL MARKET– A must-go stop in your travels downtown. If you’ve ever visited Lancaster or planned a visit to Lancaster or talked to someone who has visited Lancaster, they’ve visited here. It is a completely unique and special place to nibble on fantastic produce and regional delights. Pennsylvania Dutch sausage, scrapple, headcheese, handmade preserves and bread and butter pickles, freshly baked bread and treats…. I could go on!
BUILDING CHARACTER– Man did I feel like a fool for never discovering this until a few weeks ago! This place is like walking into a warehouse of Etsy stores. Seriously guys, soooo many beautiful vintage and handmade things. The three warehouses are filled with these little adorable shops that’ll empty your wallets with all its eclectic goodness.
HIDDEN TREASURES– One of Lancaster’s hidden treasures is Hidden Treasures. Who’d’ve thunk it? Located right smack dab in the heart of downtown, this two storied building has a ton of antique collectibles, vintage clothing and art.
HINESITE VINTAGE– If you want vintage… real, genuine vintage… GO HERE. I could peruse this gem’s racks for hours upon hours. Their dresses, shoes, accessories and home ware selection spans over all decades, from legitimate flapper dresses to art deco rings to flashy seventies bell bottoms to 50’s glassware. It’s a feast for your eyes!
Breweries & More
THE FRIDGE– Craft beer bottle shop and pizza joint in one? Are you kidding me? This place is the bomb.com for multiple reasons… the first being the fact that they thought of such an ingenious idea and the second being its absolutely fantastic (and I really, really mean fantastic) selection of craft beers.
POUR– The chicest, sleekest bar with a zillion and a half (I almost mean that literally) with amazing wines. Come here after perusing Gallery Row and you’ll be considered one of the elite Lancasterites. Oh yeah and the beer and cocktail lists are incredible too!
HUNGER-N-THIRST– Guys, if you like to snack while you sip, this is your place. Enjoy a fine selection of craft beer or a perfectly crafted cocktail while snacking on some insanely awesome cheeses and charcuterie selections… or a full-blown eyes rolling into the back of your head good dinner. I’ve heard nothing but great things about the provisions served here day after day!
LANCASTER BREWING COMPANY– Lancaster’s own brewing company is located in the downtown area in a really rad warehouse (and nice deck/patio area for when it’s beautiful outside). For a taste of what they’ve got, get their sample tray of everything on tap!
TELLUS 360– The coolest space. I repeat. THE COOLEST space where all good, artist things come together. Guys, if there’s one place I’d recommend visiting the most… it’s this! The first floor pub and restaurant segues into their music venue space (which I’m dying to come to one of these days), walk up the stairs and you’ll find a chill seating area for nomming and kicking your feet up, and above that? Their green roof bar that hosts art galleries and a great look at the city from above. When you walk in, you can just tell that this place care about giving happy, lively and fun times back to the artist community of Lancaster. There’s no other place like it in the area.
TRUST PERFORMING ARTS CENTER– The new kid on the block for performance spaces… but a stunner none-the-less. The Trust refurbished one of the city’s oldest banks into a venue for music, theater and dance and, let me tell you, it’s really, really cool. The gallery is always showcasing some spectacular work, but if you happen to be visiting when one of their season’s artists are in town, you’re in luck!
GALLERY ROW– I’ve mentioned this before, but Lancaster’s art scene is in full bloom these days! Not only is a nationally recognized art center, but this city really supports its artistic residents. You can always bet on at least one art event happening on any day of the month. It’s one of the main reason why I love this city. Concentrated on two blocks of art galleries abound in the historic shops that line the street, Gallery Row represents many artists from fine art to quirky. Bonus points if you come on First Friday when the whole city comes alive for a full night of taking in art!
FULTON THEATRE– A staple regional theater that produces some of the best musicals, comedies and dramas I’ve seen in the Lancaster-Lebanon area. This theater is truly in a league of it’s own! The Fulton employs professional directors, designs and actors from across the country and is constantly surprising me with its amount of great work they put out there. I also happen to love that they offer acting classes for the community! If you’re wanting to do a dinner and a show… come here for a classic musical and be prepared to be dazzled.
To my Pennsylvania natives, thank you for your recommendations and input! I had such a blast doing “blog research” for the past few weeks while perusing around some of the coolest little spots of the city. Want to share some more of your favorites!