Explore Family-Friendly York, PA


Explore the family-friendly destination of York, PA. When I first moved to Maryland, my entire experience of York, Pennsylvania (“York City” to locals) was driving by the York Barbell Company on I-83. Later, my cousin moved to York. My curiosity was piqued after I visited her and learned more about the places and activities she enjoys. From museums to shopping to parks and trails, York has something to offer every visitor.

York’s historic downtown, its importance as a center for industry and agriculture, and Yorkers’ determination to preserve their heritage make this southern Pennsylvania city an enjoyable destination for Marylanders. Even better, it’s 1.5 hours from Annapolis by car — perfect for a daytrip. Explore some of York City’s family-friendly spots on your next trip north.

York Central Market House

If you’re in York on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday morning or early afternoon, stop by Central Market to find out what York’s local farmers, artisans, and entrepreneurs are up to. Grab a snack, buy farm specialty foods, and browse at vendor stands, all in a historic market space in the heart of York. The Explore York Visitor Center is located in Central Market. Pick up some information about area attractions during your visit. (Tip: Central Market is also open on First Friday evenings.)

Colonial Complex

The York County History Center’s Colonial Complex in the heart of downtown includes three buildings that date back to the colonial and Revolutionary eras as well as a reproduction Court House. From April through October, visitors can take a guided tour of all four buildings. Continental Army General Horatio Gates rented the General Horatio Gates House during the Second Continental Congress’ 1777-1778 session in York. The adjacent Golden Plough Tavern is considered to be a rare and important York County building. The Barnett Bobb Log Cabin, built in 1811, originally stood a few blocks away. While the first York Court House no longer stands, the 1976 replica is faithful to the original building, which served as the country’s temporary capital during the Second Continental Congress.

Agricultural & Industrial Museum

Driving past York gives the impression that York County is a farming area. It is, but York County was an industrial hub for many years and is still home to some of the businesses that put the city on the manufacturing map. At the Agricultural & Industrial Museum, you can learn about York’s many manufacturers. Even better, you can touch some of the artifacts, climb aboard a streetcar and try out an array of rotary dial telephones that actually call each other. (Don’t worry, instructions are provided.) Learn about the engines, safes, pottery, and animal crackers made by York’s entrepreneurs and get a glimpse of the manufacturing process at this family-friendly museum. (Tip: Use the museum’s physical address, 217 W. Princess Street, not the museum’s name, to get driving directions.)

York County Heritage Rail Trail Park

This 21-mile rail trail connects to Maryland’s Torrey C. Brown Trail at the state line, giving you over 40 miles of trail to enjoy. The York County Heritage Rail Trail passes the Colonial Complex, so you can walk or bike from there if you wish. There are also several parking lots along the trail. Pets and horses are welcome. (Tip: The railroad tracks along the trail are active. Trains use them. Do not walk on the tracks.)

Weightlifting Hall of Fame and Museum

If you are into weightlifting or want to learn more about the history of this Olympic sport, this museum is a must. The entrance is inside of the York Barbell Company’s retail store. You’ll find exhibits on the history of weightlifting, an exhibit chronicling the life of Bob Hoffman, the “Father of World Weightlifting,” a colorful overview of Olympic weightlifting championships, and a collection of trophies and photographs. Kids can pose for photos next to Warren Lincoln Travis’ seven-foot barbell, which he filled with sand and lifted during his strongman shows.

Perrydell Farm and Dairy

Calves to pet, dairy cows to see (and hear), a store filled with local treats, and ice cream — what better way to celebrate your visit to York than stopping at a farm and dairy? Children of all ages (and their adults) enjoy petting the calves at this family-owned farm. You’ll see plenty of folks hanging out by the calf enclosures any day of the week. Order your ice cream cones at the store’s outside window or step inside to buy candy, whoopie pies, and ice cream to take home.

Richard M. Nixon County Park and Nature Center

Nixon Park, located eight miles south of York, offers six miles of trails that take you past meadow, forest, and wetlands habitats. The 14,000 square foot Nixon Park Nature Center is the centerpiece of this attractive park. Visitors can view live reptiles, dioramas, and insect collections. You’ll also find a children’s touch area with a puppet theater, a kid-friendly library with birdfeeder observation windows, and an observation deck. Spend some time in the Exploration Forest outdoor nature play area. Nature Center staff members offer special activities, such as nature walks, on most Sundays, April through October. (Tip: The Nature Center is a very popular field trip destination on April and May weekdays. Plan accordingly.)

By Nancy Parode