Have a New York City Experience In Lancaster,PA
Planning a trip to the Big Apple can be exciting: Broadway shows, gourmet dining experiences, strolls through Central Park! There’s so much history, diversity, and life coursing through New York City’s veins, it’s no wonder the city never sleeps. It’s also probably up all night, tossing and turning, wondering how anyone can afford to stay there for more than a day or two. If you want all the perks of what this famously expensive city has to offer, for a fraction of the price and with much fresher air, Lancaster, Pennsylvania has it all. Yes, REALLY!
Broadway WHO?? The glitz and glamour of the theater experience can be fun with elaborate costumes, intricate set design, and dynamic performances. All of these things are great, but most of the time, you’re too far away to really appreciate any of it. Plus, the hefty ticket price of a Broadway show can leave you feeling robbed without ever setting a foot in Penn Station. For a Broadway experience at a fraction of the cost, consider these PA alternatives:
The Fulton – Set right in the heart of Downtown Lancaster, the Fulton is a gorgeous piece of history, and the kind of theater that gives you goosebumps when you step inside. Lead performers are often wrangled in from NY, boasting Broadway and TV credits in the playbill, and the best part? Ticket prices range from $25-$68, depending on day and time, and they even offer special “pay what you can” performances. There are also plenty of amazing restaurants and pubs within walking distance, from upscale French cuisine to casual neighborhood pubs.
Ephrata Performing Arts Center – A little more off the beaten path, but worth every mile. EPAC, formerly “Ephrata Playhouse in the Park”, is a real treat. This theater, literally set in the middle of a county park, tends to lean toward “edgy” rather than traditional shows- pretty spicy for what is a mostly conservative area. Past shows of note include “La Cage Aux Follies”, “The Rocky Horror Show”, and “Urinetown: The Musical!” so this ain’t yo’ grandma’s theater company- unless your grandma has a wild streak and in that case, take her to this theater! Tickets range from $20-$30 and offer special group rates. And just down the road from EPAC, you can enjoy some of the tastiest food in town with affordable prices and the friendliest service around at The Hilltop Inn. Try Mr. Tran’s Porkchops and tell ‘em Erin sent ya!
HOW much is that sandwich?? Step inside any famous Manhattan deli and you may very well spend a good portion of your paycheck. The midtown Carnegie Deli offers a ridiculously sized Reuben for $24.95. For that price, I would hope it includes some antacids because no one can easily digest that much meat, cheese, and sauerkraut in one sitting. Leftovers are never practical when you’re traveling, and if you think sharing will cut the cost, it’s a $3 fee. Even split between friends, you’re roughly looking at a $40 sandwich after tax and tip. A classic roast beef sandwich will run you $17.99, and that’s just the price of the sandwich- no sides, no drinks, no fun. Keep your wallet and belly full in Lancaster, here:
Lancaster Central Market Just a stone’s throw away from the Fulton Theater, this is a Central PA gem, whether you’re hungry or not. You can kick-start your tour through America’s oldest farmer’s market with a specialty coffee from Mean Cup, wind your way through beautiful fresh produce, flowers, bread and pastries, pick up a souvenir or two and head to the S. Clyde Weaver stand for a good honest sandwich under $6. Grab a delicious cold-salad side from The Goodie Shop, wash it all down with a chilled glass of sweet meadow tea from the Amish man who’s even sweeter, and if you’re REALLY lucky? You’ll run into this guy for the most unique busking experience you won’t soon forget.
Local Secret: For the cheapest Pennsylvania Dutch breakfast or lunch experience, head out of the city to Central Manor Bakery, or “Manor Mart” as the locals call it. It’s a beautiful drive, and get a load of these menu prices!
But WHAT about the museums and music venues?? OK, so part of the appeal of NYC is the plethora of art museums. While Lancaster doesn’t have it’s own small-scale version of, say, the Met or MoMA, it is home to over 100 art venues, and was ranked #4 in a top-ten list of most exciting small cities in America. Take a stroll through Gallery Row, and for the ultimate Lancaster Arts experience, go on a “First Friday” of the month. The streets are literally buzzing with art and excitement, and it’s all completely free.
Hot Travel Tip: Stroll First Friday early to take advantage of the galleries offering complimentary wine and snacks, but have dinner reservations made around 8pm. Try Character’s for a classy Gastropub feel, or for something more casual with a healthy beer selection and local live music, Lancaster Dispensing Company can’t be beat.
Nerd Alert: For a truly eccentric museum experience just a short train ride away, spend a day gawking at the creepy collection of oddities that make up The Mutter Museum at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
For live music? Sure, the Bowery Ballroom and Radio City Music Hall have earned their keep as historic musical landmarks, but the Chameleon Club in Lancaster has got it all. A large yet still intimate venue upstairs featuring acts anywhere from big names to up-and-coming acts you’ll be cool enough to know about first. Or head downstairs to the Lizard Lounge, home to some great local acts, pool tables, and special trivia, comedy, and DJ nights. With the hundreds of dollars you’ll save by choosing Lancaster over Manhattan, you could even splurge on a room at the astounding Lancaster Arts Hotel. Or, think deep and troll social media- you’ve probably got a friend in Pennsylvania!
Erin Lampart is a comedian and story-teller living in Los Angeles with her cool dog, Jan. Part-time waitress and full-time dork, you can follow her on Twitter @ThatsSoLampy