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By Amy Flynn, CertifiKID Team Member
Posted Jun 01, 2019
Posted Jun 01, 2019
Nestled in the beautiful Amish countryside in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania lies Bird-in-Hand Family Inn, the perfect location for a family getaway (keep an eye out for the Amish horse and buggies!). The Bird-in-Hand Family Inn boasts plentiful on-site amenities for kids and families, including a game room, an outdoor playground, petting zoo, a fire pit for s'mores, a mini-golf course, and even a magic show!
One of our CertifiKID team members and her family recently visited Bird-in-Hand. She shares an honest review of her experience below, as well as some sweet memories she created with her family over Mother's Day weekend.
We've been to Lancaster/Amish Country a few times, and always stayed in small B&Bs or chain hotels, so I was super excited for a more authentic and family-focused Amish "experience" for our weekend getaway over May 10th-12th, and that's exactly what I got (Happy Mother's Day to me!).
The Bird-in-Hand corporation owns multiple hotels and properties in the town of Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania, and we stayed at their flagship property, the Bird-In-Hand Family Inn, which shares a site with the Family Restaurant & Smorgasbord, the Bird-in-Hand Stage, one outdoor and two indoor pools, and the Water's Edge mini-golf course and ice cream parlor.
Also on-site is a huge playground, petting zoo, fire pits, tennis courts, and basketball courts; plenty to keep the attention of our 5-year-old daughter, Hannah, and 3-year-old son, Bennett.
While by no means the most modern or luxurious hotel I've stayed in, our room was impeccably clean, comfortable, and spacious. We had two comfy Queen beds, cable TV, a good size mini fridge, microwave, coffee maker, and very strong (free) WiFi. The toilet and shower were in a separate room (which was pretty small), but the sink and mirror were on the outside, which is always a huge bonus. The room had everything we needed and the staff couldn't have been friendlier or more accommodating.
After dropping our bags off, the kids and my husband, Dan, headed straight for the indoor pool, while I got us all unpacked and settled in. There are actually two indoor pools and a hot tub, and I was impressed to see that they had a lifeguard on duty, as most hotel pools do not. The outdoor pool wasn't open yet (I believe it opens Memorial Day weekend), but it looked to be a really nice size with a beach/zero-entry, which is always great for younger kids.
Once showered and dressed, we walked next door to the Family Restaurant & Smorgasbord and the Bird-in-Hand Stage, both in the same building. The Magic Show started at 7 p.m., and we were told at check-in to allow at least 1.5 hours for dinner before the show, so we knew we'd be in for some good eats. You can choose to order from the menu, or help yourself to the Smorgasbord (all-you-can-eat buffet... not sure why anyone would order off the menu when there is SO much goodness on the buffet!).
There was just about anything you could imagine on the Smorgasbord, including Pennsylvania Dutch favorites like fried chicken (or "broasted chicken" as they called it), ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, corn pudding, buttered noodles, homemade soups (I loved the chicken & corn chowder), glazed carrots, fried shrimp, meatloaf, barbecued beef, and so much more. I didn't waste my time at the salad bar, but there were plenty of options there, as well as a whole bakery section with freshly-made rolls and different breads baked on-site (which were amazing, especially spread with some locally-made apple butter; my absolute favorite!).
The dessert spread was equally as bountiful, with just about every variety of cake, pie, and pudding you could imagine, including the famous Shoofly Pie, and a Whoopie Pie cake that was to die for. As if that wasn't enough, there was also a self-serve ice cream sundae bar and slushie machines for the kids.
Another major highlight of the Smorgasbord was the Noah's Ark Kids Buffet, an adorable kid-sized section where little hands could fill their plates with chicken nuggets, hot dogs, mac and cheese, pizza, and other kid-friendly foods.
Seemed like kind of a waste since there were so many options on the main buffet to feed appetites of any size, but it's a great addition nonetheless and ensures that even the pickiest of eaters will get their fill.
Sufficiently stuffed, it was now time to head to the Stage for the night's main event, Magic & Wonder: IMAGINE, a family magic show put on by Master illusionist Brett Myers. Luckily, the Stage was just downstairs from the restaurant, as I'm not sure we could've walked much farther after such an amazing dinner!
As you make your way to the show, some of the cast members greet you at the entrance and take your family's picture in front of a green screen. We were there on the early side, so Hannah and Bennett got plenty of time to ham it up for the cameras. They print the pictures on-site and bring them to your seats, and you can buy them for a small fee. There's also a reasonably priced concession stand, so of course, we got some popcorn for the kids (Dan and I were way too stuffed to eat anything more!).
I'll admit, I was a little skeptical when we first walked in, as the "theatre" was basically a small ballroom lined with banquet chairs, but once the show started, I was completely blown away with the set, the music, the lighting, special effects, costumes, and of course the MAGIC!
Brett and his cast (which includes his wife and their young sons) took the audience on a journey through the decades, as well as through the lands of popular movies, with themed acts featuring The Beatles, The Wizard of Oz, Willie Wonka, and more. Brett put his own twist on some of the old standbys like the escape act, sawing a woman in half, and levitation, and in between, there were plenty of surprises and audience participation opportunities.
Hannah loves the spotlight and is always the first to volunteer to get on stage in any situation, and if she doesn't get picked, there are usually tears, so kudos to the Magic & Wonder team for finding a way to give ALL the kids in the audience a chance to get on stage and participate if they want to. I don't want to give too much of the show away, but it's an adorable bit that involves the kids in the audience, and I've never seen bigger smiles on my kids' faces than when they were up there on stage.
The show itself was a little over 1.5 hours, with a short intermission, in which some of the cast came out to the lobby to teach the kids a few magic tricks and sell some merchandise. We bought the magic rope and magic coloring book tricks for $10 each, and the kids have been having a ball performing their "magic show" for anyone willing to watch. I can't say enough about how entertaining and well-produced the show was. Brett is a true master of his craft and performed some absolutely amazing sleight of hand tricks. With a perfect mix of magic tricks, music, dancing, comedy, special effects, illusions, and audience/child participation, Magic & Wonder: IMAGINE hits a home run for wholesome, family entertainment.
Brett and the cast also make themselves available at the end of the show to sign autographs and pose for pictures.
We got an early start the next morning to try and get to Dutch Wonderland as soon as it opened at 10 a.m., but before that, I walked across the street to the Bird-in-Hand Bakery & Cafe to pick up some breakfast sandwiches, pastries, and coffee. The place was amazing, and I was even able to use some coupons that we got from the hotel at check-in to save a few dollars. I highly recommend the Creme Brulee Latte.
After breakfast, we checked out the playground and petting zoo on the property, and then I walked with the kids over to the popular Bird-in-Hand Farmers Market, right next door to the hotel. I could've spent so much more time here browsing the local produce, baked goods, meats, cheeses, crafts, baked goods, homemade fudge, housewares, baked goods, jellies, jams, spreads, etc... And did I mention the baked goods?
Bird-in-Hand is only about 3 miles away from Dutch Wonderland. We set off around 9:50 a.m., and were walking in the gates by 10:10 a.m. After an exciting and adventurous day at Dutch Wonderland (in which you can see my full review HERE), we headed back to the hotel, picking up some delicious Italian food from a local spot, Capriccio's, on the way. We were too exhausted to sit and eat in the restaurant, so we set up our spread in one of the many cozy common areas we found within the hotel.
Our family had never played mini-golf together, so we decided to check out the on-site mini-golf course, Water's Edge, which was open until 9 p.m. Kids 6 and under play for free, and as hotel guests, we got a 2-for-1 coupon, so the price was definitely right! As expected, 3-year-old Bennett didn't really have the patience to play 18 holes, but the course obstacles and sights along the way kept him plenty entertained for the rest of us to enjoy our game. We had so much fun! There's also an ice cream parlor at the golf entrance, serving our favorite ice cream (Turkey Hill!), so of course, we stopped for a post-round scoop.
One of the most memorable parts of the weekend for me was seeing some of the Amish kids/teenagers out playing mini-golf together (there was even dedicated horse-and-buggy parking right by the course!).
Believe it or not, after such an action-packed day, the kids still weren't ready for the fun to end, so Dan took them to the pool one last time (the pools are open until 10 p.m.). Needless to say, we all got a great night's sleep and woke up refreshed and ready to enjoy our Mother's Day together.
I loved having everything so convenient in one location/property, without it feeling like a mega-resort. The property was quiet and peaceful, and it felt as if you were "going back to a simpler time" without anything seeming too dated, and still having all the modern amenities readily available whenever you needed them.
Getting There and Getting In
We left our home in Columbia, Maryland around 11 a.m., stopped for a leisurely lunch along the way and a few potty breaks (of course!) and got to the hotel property around 2:30 p.m. If we'd driven straight through, it would've taken about one hour and forty-five minutes.
The hotel was easy to find. It was right in the heart of Amish Country, in the tiny town of Bird-in-Hand, along Old Philadelphia Pike. There's not much in the town, so the Bird-in-Hand Family Inn, Restaurant, and Stage are well marked and all part of the same property. It's surrounded by farms and small shops, and the kids loved seeing all the Amish horse-and-buggies going by.
Parking is free and readily available. It was raining pretty hard when we arrived, so we were thrilled to find that the hotel registration, as well as multiple other entrances, all had drive-up covered carports, so we could go inside to check-in, then drop off our bags and get to our room without getting wet.
Time Recommended to Enjoy Experience
To get the most out of a getaway to Lancaster, I'd recommend at least two nights, so you could do the Magic & Wonder show, Dutch Wonderland for one full day, then maybe Strasburg Railroad, Cherry Crest Farm, Amish Experience/Buggy Ride, or Turkey Hill Experience, etc.
Recommended Age Range
Our kids are 5 and 3. This was definitely the "sweet spot" for the Magic Show and most of the on-site hotel activities, but I think kids up to age 12 would love it just as much.
Tips for Families
My biggest tip is to plan a few nights stay so that you can check out all there is to do! There are many great places nearby to visit and eat: Bird-in-Hand Bakery & Cafe, Bird-in-Hand Farmers Market, Good & Plenty Restaurant, Dutch Wonderland, Amish Experience at Plain & Fancy Farm, Abe's Buggy Rides, Strasburg Railroad, Cherry Crest Farm, Turkey Hill Experience.
One of the greatest perks for hotel guests is a free 2-hour bus tour of the Amish countryside, with two morning departures on operating days (8:45 a.m. and 10:45 a.m.). We missed it on Saturday since we were going to Dutch Wonderland, and the tours don't run on Sundays.
Make sure to bring bathing suits, even if going in cold weather months, since there are two indoor pools! Also, bring quarters so you can get feed for the animals at the on-site petting zoo.
Would Your Family Visit Again?
YES!!! We're already talking about a return visit this winter to see the Magic & Wonder Christmas show.
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