Each year Lancaster County attracts more than 8 million visitors, adding more than two billion dollars to the Lancaster County economy. It wasn’t always this way. In January 1955, a play entitled “Plain and Fancy” appeared on Broadway. The musical comedy depicted a New York City couple that learns about Amish Life when they become lost in a small town called Bird-In-Hand in Lancaster County. While the depiction of Amish life wasn’t the most accurate, the simple life portrayed in the play stimulated the curiosity of New York City dwellers. Later that spring the Lancaster New Era newspaper reported that Lancaster County was attracting nearly 1,000 visitors a week.
The tourist industry as we know it today may be relatively new, yet the village of Bird-In-Hand has a long history of welcoming guests. The King’s Highway, now known as the Old Philadelphia Pike, was the primary route to Lancaster City. A series of inns appeared along the route to accommodate weary travelers on the way to the western frontier. Legend has it that two road surveyors were pondering whether to return to Lancaster or stay at an Inn owned by William McNabb. One of the surveyors was reported to have said “One in the hand is worth two in the bush”. Early settlers spoke a number of different languages, so landmark signs used pictures that could be easily recognized and communicated. McNabb’s Inn was identified by a sign with a bird perched on a hand with two more nestled in a nearby bush. Apparently the name stuck.
Today, the Bird-in-Hand Village Inn & Suites stands on the site of the original inn and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Inn and surrounding hotels serve as a launch point for many people visiting Pennsylvania Dutch Country. A mandatory stop on any visit to Dutch Country is the Bird-In-Hand Farmers Market. Funnel cakes, soft pretzels, homemade jams and jellies and other Lancaster County staples can be found there. The beautiful rural landscapes are best experienced via an authentic buggy ride. There is so much to see and do that Route 340 (Old Philadelphia Pike) has been named a Cultural Scenic Byway by the American Automobile Association.