The cities of Hershey, Harrisburg, Lancaster and York play an important part in the history of Pennsylvania and the United States. The culture and traditions of the early German setters, known as Pennsylvania Dutch, can be seen and experienced throughout the region today.
The area’s role the American Revolution included drafting of the Articles of Confederation in York and the colony’s central government moving from Philadelphia to Lancaster in 1799 and later to Harrisburg in 1812. Later, the Underground Railroad and the Harrisburg area were home to Camp Curtin, the first training camp for Union soldiers.
You can infuse this rich history into you next meetings or event. Here are five group options to get a taste of the historical region through experiences, tours and museum-centric events.
Naturally, Hershey, Pennsylvania, is synonymous with chocolate, and in the town that bears his name, the story of Milton S. Hershey and the history of the area can be seen and experienced at The Hershey Story, The Museum of Chocolate Avenue.
Through permanent and special exhibits and interactive experiences, guests can learn about Milton S. Hershey’s early days, ventures and how he changed the way milk chocolate was made.
The facility offers group tours and hands-on classes in the Chocolate Lab. Groups can even sip drinking chocolates in the Tastings: Chocolate From Around the World tour.
Groups up to 200 can pair any of these offerings with a private event at the museum. There are two classrooms, a conference room and the Grand Lobby can also be rented.
Planners can also look to Hersheypark for group fun and event space; Hershey Theater, a performing arts center that can be used for private functions; Giant Center, the over 300,000-square-foot arena home to the Hershey Bears ice hockey club for large groups; and Hershey Gardens, with both indoor and outdoor space surrounded by natural beauty.
What better way to get a better understanding of the region’s history than at the York County History Center? The center has a collection of more than 90,000 artifacts across multiple venues that help tell the story of the history, people and culture of the of the nearly 300-year-old county, as well as of the state and country.
The York County History Center dates back to 1895 when the Historical Society of York County was formed and has now grown to include the Historical Society Museum, the Agriculture & Industrial Museum (AIM), the Colonial Complex, The Bonham House and the Fire Museum.
Guided group and self-guided tours are available at the facilities, and the Historical Society Museum and AIM both have private rental spaces.
The Historical Society Museum is housed in a former a car dealership from the 1920s. The restored and renovated building offers two spaces available for groups: Founders Hall in the main lobby area and Meeting Hall, which has its own private garden entrance.
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At about 2,500 square feet, Founders Hall can accommodate groups up to 170 and features a high ceiling, mezzanine and the building’s original black and white flooring.The 1,500-square-foot Meeting Hall is adjacent to Founders Hall, and includes a stage area with capacity for 150 people.
Groups can also choose to open the museum during events so attendees can explore the galleries.
The AIM is housed in renovated factory buildings, some of which date back to the late 1800s. This facility provides industrial-style spaces for private events, as well as an outdoor courtyard that can be used seasonally.
The nearly 2,000-square-foot lobby, located right inside the AIM’s main entrance, is outfitted with brick walls with wooden beams, unfinished floors and natural light.
Groups up to 170 can use this space, which also includes a bar area. The Hall of Giants can also accommodate functions for 250 people.This gallery space is home to some of the main attractions of the facility and has a cafeteria which is also available for groups using the space.
Like the Historical Society Museum, groups can opt to have the galleries open for guests to explore more of the AIM’s exhibits and experiences.
Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum, a living history museum, showcases Pennsylvania German life from 1740 to 1940. There are more than 40 historic structures across 100 acres of land.
Groups can select from an array of tours and experiences as well as host an event on the property. Led by a period-costumed docent, the guided tours take participants back in time to get a sense of the traditions and folklore of these people.
On the tour, groups will see artisans demonstrating traditional crafts and open-hearth cooking. Planners can add on experiences including a horse-drawn wagon ride, tasting of Pennsylvania Dutch foods, a behind-the-scenes peek and even an intro class on understanding and speaking basic Pennsylvania Dutch.
Private meeting and event space at Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum includes:
- Visitors Center: Built in 1969 to resemble an 18th century market house, this venue offers an auditorium that can seat up to 100 people.
- Yellow Barn & Courtyard: Built in 1939 with timber framing from the original 1814 Brick Farmstead, this 2,000-square-foot space has capacity for 225 people indoors. The covered stone stable and outdoor grassy courtyard are included with this rental.
- Firehouse: A replica of an early rural firehouse, this space includes a large main room and smaller back room as well as outdoor space. The Firehouse can be used in conjunction with the Yellow Barn and its courtyard.
- Landis Valley House Hotel: This 1856 building was built by Jacob Landis, Jr. and includes a bar room, parlor room and card room, all available for rental.
With over 24,000 artifacts, photographs, manuscripts and other items, The National Civil War Museum is dedicated solely to the American Civil War. Through its exhibits and across the galleries, the museum tells the story of this troubled time in American history, with a focus on the people and lives that were affected.
The museum has 8,100 square feet of space for meetings and events across multiple venues. The Grand Rotunda with grand staircase in the main entry. Set atop a hill, guests can take in views of the City of Harrisburg and the Susquehanna River.
There is also a 3,000-square-foot ballroom that can accommodate 500 people, additional meeting and event rooms and an outdoor patio. The memorial-like grounds allow attendees to reflect on this period in American history before, during and after an event.
Once home of General Edward Hand, adjutant general to George Washington during the Civil War, the 1794 Georgian-style brick mansion gives guests a unique opportunity to look into its past as the Rock Ford Plantation.
Today, the plantation gives an insight into the people who lived and worked on the farm or with General Hand during his life as a doctor, soldier, farmer, politician and slave owner.
The Rock Ford Plantation especially looks at slavery in 18th century Pennsylvania and has a partnership with the African American Historical Society of South-Central Pennsylvania to share the stories of the slaves who once lived on the property, as well as others in this region at the time.
The 33-acre Rock Ford Plantation sits on the banks of the Conestoga River, just south of Lancaster, and the mansion has been preserved and barely touched architecturally. The four-floor estate still has the original 18th century flooring and original stair rails, doors, shutters, windowpanes, paneling and cupboards.
The barn and grounds at the plantation are available for private events with both indoor and outdoor options. The Rock Ford Barn features handcrafted Colonial-style lanterns and stone walls but is equipped with modern amenities, including the catering kitchen and control of the indoor climate and lighting.
This space can accommodate up to 110 people for a seated banquet, while the adjacent outdoor tent can be used for larger groups.
Choose Your Own Adventure
Whichever activity you choose, it’s easy to take your next meeting or event in Pennsylvania back in time to give your attendees a true sense of the region’s local history.
Dutch Country Hotel and Event Venue News
The Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square debuted a new tower with 110 guest rooms. In total the property has 416 guest accommodations and with the adjoining Lancaster County Convention Center offers 90,000 square feet of meeting and event space. The 12-story East Tower with a glass façade is topped with The Exchange, a rooftop bar.
The Eden Resort & Suites , located just outside Lancaster City, underwent $3 million in new improvements over the past year. Included were 56 interior guest rooms, technology infrastructure and its Eden Market offerings. The resort features 25,000 square feet of function space and 300 guest rooms.
In March 2019, the Holiday Inn Lancaster opened its newly refurbished Imperial Ballrooms: the Imperial Grande, which can accommodate 250 people, and the Imperial Blue, which has capacity for 150 guests.
In the Spring of 2019, Decades, a six-lane boutique bowling alley and arcade with a full-service restaurant and bar, opened in the historic Stahr Armory in Lancaster City. The venue will soon be available for private events.
Hershey & Harrisburg
Hershey Entertainment & Resorts is undergoing a $150 million expansion project of Hershey’s Chocolatetown at Hersheypark. Set to open in summer 2020, the project is transforming the park’s main entrance and will provide guests with a themed restaurant, bar and patio as well as introduce the park's newest, tallest and longest coaster.
American Airlines began service from Harrisburg International Airport (MDT) to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) in June 2019. The airline currently has flights from Harrisburg to Boston, Chicago, Charlotte and Philadelphia. The daily year-round route is among 18 new routes announced by the airline.
Pennylsvania Dutch Country CVB Contact Information
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