Years ago, before we moved back to Pennsylvania, we spent our weekends exploring small towns in North Carolina. We toured the cutest little river front town – New Bern, made a stop in the oldest incorporated municipality in the state – Bath, and stepped back in time to what has been labeled as one of America’s prettiest towns – Edenton. However, since we’ve been back in Pennsylvania, we really haven’t taken the time to explore the small towns this state has to offer.
So, our first stop on the list to change that was visiting what Budget Travel Magazine coined the “Coolest Small Town in America” – Lititz (pronounced “Lit-its). Named after the Litice Castle located in the beautiful country side of Bohemia (the westernmost region of the Czech Republic), Lititz was founded as a Moravian community by Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf – one of the few 18th century European nobles to have actually set foot in the Americas. The fingerprints of the Moravians still sprinkle the town with the architecture dating back to the mid-1700s, such as Linden Hall – the oldest all-girls boarding school in the country and the Moravian Church Square which holds the Brother House that was, in 1777, approved to serve as a hospital when General Washington ordered 250 wounded and sick soldiers to be quartered there. Not only is the Moravian history prevalent in the historical buildings, but stop by Lititz during the holiday season and you’ll find the Moravian star adorning many family homes throughout the town. What once was used by German students as an art project to help demonstrate geometry was quickly adopted by the Moravian Church to symbolize the birth of Jesus and represented the star of Bethlehem.
When we take day trips to small towns such as Lititz, I try to explore as much as possible in a short period of time. So I’ve come up with a sort of checklist that ensures that we make the most of our trips by encompassing three major groups: fun, history, and food. There can be numerous activities that are involved in each group, but I try to make sure that at least something is in each one for a great all-around experience.
So, without further ado – what should you do while in Lititz?
Check out the Wildlife: Just north of town, a local family has offered refuge to gray wolves and wolf-dogs for over 40 years. The Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania is now home to over 50 gray wolves and wolf-dogs alike and offers private and guided public tours throughout the year. This non-profit organization relies solely on the support of their visitors to provide the best habitat and care for their wolves, so by supporting the organization you are in turn supporting these beautiful creatures. So grab your best walking shoes and a camera, and book yourself one of their numerous offered tours. When we visited, it was a bit overcast with cooler temperatures, plus the sanctuary is located in the middle of pretty dense woods, so make sure you dress appropriately. We probably could have done with a light jacket but stayed on the chillier side due to not planning ahead.
Book a Walking Tour: If you’re like me, you’ll want to know all the historical bits about this town, so sign up for a 45 minute walking tour that will take you across the Main Street of town while your tour guide discusses over 25 historical structures as well as the people and stories behind them.
Drink the Beer: In the Moravian Community of Lititz, it was strongly encouraged to increase the production of beer which, in turn, would discourage the growing consumption of distilled liquor. Did it work? I have no idea. But if you’re in the mood to drink some beer and maybe grab a bite to eat – head over to The Bulls Head Public House for some delicious British-style pub food. There’s not much tastier then their Cornish pastie or an order of their fish and chips. Just order at the bar and grab a table inside their cozy wood-paneled dining area. Heads up: if you’re there around the end of October join them for a Halloween Murder Mystery Dinner.
Eat the Pretzels: If you’re planning a trip to Lititz, you can’t not stop by the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery located right on the main street. This pretzel bakery was the first commercial pretzel bakery in America and while this historical location may no longer be a “working factory”, you can still tour the original pretzel bakery and get a hands-on lesson in pretzel twisting. Once you’ve finished the tour, you must head over to the small shop and pick up some goodies like their peanut butter filled chocolate pretzels, a bag of their “little ones” and a bag or ten of their cinnamon sugar stiks. Yum.
End it on a Sweet Note: Move over Hershey – there’s a better chocolate in town. Wilbur Chocolate! Wilbur Chocolate has been delivering premium, high quality chocolate and confectionaries since 1884 and while the factory may have closed down in 2016, you can still visit the company’s storefront in Lititz to pick up some of their scrumptious goodies – like the famous Wilbur Bud. This local favorite was developed by a process that deposited specially blended aged chocolate into a solid shape that resembled a flower bud. So, before you head home for the day, make sure to stop by and grab a bag of the chocolate buds and a little something else the company is known for: their hot cocoa!
Not only do I want to go back to this quaint little town to see what other gems I can find, but I am so excited to see what else Pennsylvania has to offer!