At least where I live when driving through a residential area with a double yellow line in the middle is a good sign you should be doing 30mph. Not so on most of the back farm roads. Speeds were around 45mph. However, these can drop and change very sporadically so keep your eyes open and don't feel bad if you get past by the locals.
Road Apples is what us locals call them. Otherwise known as horse droppings, manure, poop, and other things. Anyway, with those buggies going to and fro, the horses are bound to get the urge every so often. So, you may have the opportunity to drive over some road apples. Not so bad if you're driving a rental, but if you're bringing your motorcycle or classic car, you may want to be aware...
White tail deer bed down during the day and come out in the early evening. You will want to watch for them when driving near creeks, wooded areas, and meadows from early evening to just after dawn. They typically travel solo or in herds of 3-5, although we've seen larger herds. They may stop in the road when they see your headlights, and just stare at your car with a "deer in the headlights" look. I have lived here for many years, and avoid collisions (knock on wood) by carefully watching the roadsides, and traveling slower when passing places where they might be.
When driving around the county, especially in certain areas (generally east and north of the city), beware of Amish and Mennonite horse-drawn buggies. Horses can be unpredictable, and every once in a while there will be a collision between a buggy and an automobile. Unfortunately, the folks in the buggy usually get the short end of the stick.
You are allowed to pass them....but TAKE YOUR TIME!
You will often see more buggies at certain times of the evening, and on certain days of the week (usually weekends, as YES, the Amish and Mennonite folks have family get-togethers and special events such as weddings too!).
Of all the zipcoded areas that are included in Lancaster listings of crime reports, only one is considered really safe (ZIPCODE 17601). That area is listed among the top 10% of safe Pennsylvania towns (it is the region in north of US30 in Lancaster over by the golf course).
The other areas in Lancaster for which data was available showed crime rates way above the average.
In general, Lancaster is no longer the quiet town that I remember from 30 years ago.
It deserves your attention and you can show it by using safety precautions to keep yourself from being a target.
Lock doors; check with the motel staff to determine if the areas you want to visit are okay for tourists; put valuables in a locked safe place.
There are over 150 sexual predators registered in the Lancaster area. That sounds like a lot but considering the huge population involved, it really is less than one half of one percent.
If you are concerned, see the website below.
We visit the Lancaster area two or three times a year. Since it is not very far from Philadelphia or our home, it is usually a day trip for us; however, we do occasionally stay overnight so we can rest as well and enjoy more activities the next day. Included in my Lancaster tips are information about our favorite small towns surrounding Lancaster City: Smoketown (Ronks), Bird-In-Hand, Intercourse, Strasburg, and New Holland.
The Lancaster area is generally a strong, family-oriented place with a pleasing, Bible-influenced atmoshpere. Most places are peaceful, yet full of life, which makes this area so attractive to visitors from around the world.
The roots of the Mennonite and Amish belief-systems come from the teachings of one German man, Menno-Ammon (sp?). At some time in the foggy mists of history, there was a slight spilt in the church, which produced the Mennonite and Amish faiths. Although very similar, there is more "give" in the Mennonite side of the split. To discover more about these Anabaptists, you can visit their website at the attached link.
Not all areas are perfectly safe in Lancaster, however, and downtown Lancaster is much different than the farmlands surrounding the city. Lancaster downtown has some of the most lovely, Victorian homes. Many, unfortunately, are in a state of disrepair. Lancaster was, at one time long-ago, the Capitol of the United States.
Saturdays you will see the families working outside preparing for their Lord's Day of rest - sometimes baling hay into the dark of the night so they will be able to rest on Sunday; Sundays you will encounter many buggies traveling to- and from- Sunday meetings and see families and children playing outside on the Lord's Day of rest. Be prepared for a lot of establishments, restaurants, and shops to be closed on Sundays! Large shopping centers are usually open on Sundays. It is a good idea to call ahead to check with the places on your itinerary.
This photo was taken outside the Bird-in-Hand Farmers Market on Rt. 340. The mother doesn't look particularly thrilled because the Amish don't like to have their photographs taken. It is against their faith.
If you're spending time on the Route 30 strip (aka Lincoln Highway), never, ever walk across the road. I don't care how attractive it is on the other side of the road....use your car!!! There have been many fatalities here.
Do not go to Lancaster in the summer time without planning ahead and booking a hotel. We drove around for close to two hours before we finally found something, and then ended up paying too much for what we got. Even though the area is chock full of hotels, finding one with vacancy could be tough during peak tourist season.
The Amish people share the same highways and byways as those who drive cars. It is important to give leeway, not tail gate or honk your horn as you do not want to spook the horses. There have been many terrible accidents involving amish carts and motor vehicles, so be patient, you are on a vacation.
There are warnings for auto drivers to beware when they encounter a slow moving horse and buggy which may pull out into the traffic. You either need to wait for passing lane or wait until they pull over for you. Horse drawn buggies only travel at 4 to 9 mph. When pulling farm equipment they will be slower.
A horse may back up a few feet when stopped. Leave some distance between your car and the buggy in front of you at a stop sign or traffic light.
The reason you don't see pictures of Amish folks on this page is because they don't really like being photographed. I saw plenty of Amish selling their wares, driving their horse drawn carriages and eating their lunches, but I decided to hold off on taking their pictures. You can still get lots of good shots of Amish farms and carriages, etc.
While Lancaster appears quaint and terrifically safe, it is a populated area. ANd like any popular area, we do have crime, so be careful like you would anywhere else.
Watch out for the traffic. Locals get a little frustrated with tourists, so watch for the signs.