23 Museums in Lancaster PA: Best to Visit (2023)

If you are planning to visit Lancaster, with one of the largest Amish communities in North America, the are so many great places to learn about the history and culture of Pennsylvania and it’s cities and farms.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania is a city with a rich history that spans back over 300 years. This history is celebrated and preserved through the numerous museums located throughout the city.

From the intricate craftsmanship of Amish quilts to the story of America’s oldest inland city, Lancaster’s museums offer a unique look into the past, present, and future of the region.

Whether you are interested in art, history, or culture, there is a museum in Lancaster that will captivate your interests and provide an unforgettable experience.

Here we’ll share 23 of the best museums in Lancaster PA so you can find the perfect museum in downtown Lancaster and the surrounding Lancaster region.

Source: National Toy Train Museum

#1 National Toy Train Museum

The National Toy Train Museum in Strasburg is a must-see if you’re in the city with kids especially. This place is where the Train Collectors Association showcases its collection of old and new model trains.

It has one of the most extensive toy train collections in the world!

You can find toy train towns and interactive train layouts here, along with various moving parts and buttons that can be pushed to start the trains. 

Source: National Toy Train Museum

The National Toy Train is a museum with a lot of history concerning toy trains that will likely interest you and your child! Though it is not a huge museum, it has some great exhibits everyone will enjoy.

Local tip: The National Toy Train Museum is just a mile away from the Strasburg Rail Road and the Railroad Museum of Pennslyvania which are both worth a trip.

Source: Demuth Museum

#2 Demuth Museum & Lancaster Museum Of Art

Don’t judge the Demuth Museum, a nonprofit organization, by its size; it conceals some of the artist’s finest creations, making it a true treasure for any art lover.

Interestingly, this old building is the actual historic home of Charles Demuth and his family so you will view some of his personal belongings on the upper floor of the Demuth Museum.

Make sure to check the museum’s event calendar for their intergenerational workshops and creative craft kits for kids.

The Demuth Museum also runs the Lancaster Museum of Art where you can see art from local artists, regional artists and international artists as well.

There are also some well-known tourist attractions near the Demuth Museum like the Lancaster Central Market, as well as several restaurants which you can check out after you tour the Demuth Museum right in the city of Lancaster.

Local tip: Want to see more Art? If you’re in the area in early fall, checkout the Fall ArtWalk.

#3 National Watch And Clock Museum

You’ll find the National Watch and Clock Museum fascinating because of its extensive collection of clocks and watches spanning the history of clocks from the invention of the mechanical clock.

This is an interesting museum with grandfather clocks, watches from the 17th century, sundials and other sorts of astronomical timepieces.

FUN FACT: The National Watch and Clock Museum is the largest museum in the world tasked with presenting their shared art, history and science of time and timekeeping. 

The museum doesn’t only have typical watches on exhibit but also a variety of clocks in which you can view magnificent decorative arts with great detail. Both kids and adults will enjoy this museum.

Source: Hands-on House Children’s Museum

#4 Hands-On House (Children’s Museum Of Lancaster)

Unlike other museums where parents are afraid to bring their children for fear of them breaking anything, visitors of all ages are encouraged to touch and explore the exhibits at Hands-on House.

READ NEXT: 10 Tips for Enjoying Museums With Kids

Your children will enjoy the various hands-on activities available at this children’s museum, which are fantastic opportunities for them to learn and discover new things in the fields of:

  • Technology
  • Science
  • Engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Creative arts
Source: Hands-On House Children’s Museum

The museum’s displays are appropriate for visitors of all ages, but I’d recommend them, especially to families with even the youngest children, starting from age 2 up to about age 10.

Their philosophy of childhood learning is “it lasts longer if it’s more fun, and it’s more fun if it includes doing,” and that just about says everything you need to know about what to expect!

Source: Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

#5 Railroad Museum Of Pennsylvania

If you love trains, the Lancaster area is definitely a great place to be with a number of museums and attractions for train fans. .

The Railroad Museum Of Pennsylvania is another great museum dedicated to trains, however, unlike the National Toy Train Museum, this historical museum features actual trains, so plan your visit here to get the whole train experience.

In fact, they have over 100 locomotives and railroad cars for you to see! This great place has many railways, from huge steam engines to electric-powered and diesel models.

Source: Railroad Museum Of Pennsylvania

It will take you at least 90 minutes, and probably more, to see everything here. 

The museum in Stewart Junction is also great for kids. It turns into a bit of an interactive museum for them with displays like:

  • Locomotive “firebox” where kids pretend to shovel coal
  • Railway Post Office tables to pretend to sort mail
  • Lift-and-learn panels to find out more about trains from the Golden Age to the Railroading street scene

Note: make sure to check their event calendar for more learning fun like model railroading days, railroading merit workshops and sensory hours.

Source: Lancaster Science Factory

#6 Lancaster Science Factory

Whenever you can let the kids participate in a variety of actvities and learn something new in the process, it’s definitely something to jump on.

And the place that will give you both is definitely the Lancaster Science Factory.

This interactive science center has over 75 STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) exhibits to touch and test out including:

  • Light and vision
  • Mechanics and motion
  • Electricity and magnetism
  • Fluid dynamics
  • Structural engineering
  • And several more
Source: Lancaster Science Factory

All the kids have lots of fun here (and the adults too!). It’s a favorite with locals and it’s definitely a tourist attraction too.

Local tip: The Lancaster Science Factory has free entry on the first Friday of every month from 5pm – 7pm.

After you have finished spending the day at the museum, there are several Amish restaurants in the surrounding area that are definitely worth visiting.

Heading to the Museums as a Family? The public libraries and the North Museum of Natural History & Science originally partnered together to create the Family Museum Pass Program which now gives free entry to families for the following participating museum:

  • Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum
  • National Toy Train Museum
  • Ephrata Cloister
  • Hands-on House
  • Lancaster Science Factory
  • Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
  • LancasterHistory– includes President James Buchanan’s Wheatland
  • Demuth Museum and Lancaster Museum of Art 
  • Historic Rock Ford/ John J. Snyder Jr. Gallery

Source: The Amish Farm House

#7 Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum

The Landis Valley Museum & Farm Museum, on Kissel Hill Road, shares the fascinating history and culture of the German community in Pennslyvania.

Make sure to take a guided tour as the knowledgeable guides will be able to share a lot of stories and give you a much better understanding of what life used to be like for the German population here.

Source: Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum

You may find out how flax was once used to make linen by hand, how barrels are made, and much more. The different buildings have workers who will share about their roles from back in the day including a blacksmith, general store clerk, leather worker and others.

If you really want to get some hands-on experience with the culture and try something new, watch their web site for some great events and hands-on workshops like:

  • Blacksmithing
  • Wheel spinning
  • Behind the scenes tour
  • Crafts
  • And more

You’ll need a minimum of 1.5 – 2 hours to go through the museum and take the tour. We spent 3 hours and could have spent more. This is one of the nicer, well-kept historic sites in the area and a great way to learn about farm life, history and culture.

#8 Lancaster Newspapers Newseum

By visiting the Lancaster Newspapers Newseum, you will see how people used to rely on newspapers to keep up with the news and how it has changed over time.

There is a lot to learn about the history of journalism at Lancaster Newspaper’s Newseum, which makes it a must-see for any journalist or non-journalist curious about the evolution of the newspapers.

Visitors will enjoy a fascinating tour of the entire facility, with glass displays that are artfully placed to take you through the numerous eras of newspaper history, from its origins to its transformation over time.

You will walk away with a deeper appreciation for newspapers’ role in shaping and educating us throughout these years.

Source: Historic Ephrata Cloister

#9 Ephrata Cloister

Do you know that the historic Ephrata Cloister was one of the first religious communities in America? If not, you need to go to the Ephrata Cloister Museum.

Did You Know?
The Ephrata Cloister is one of 26 historic sites and museums on the Pennsylvania Trail of History.

You can learn a lot about their religion at the Ephrata Cloister Museum. You will be able to see beautiful structural buildings from 1735 and 1840, as well as two graveyards, which will also be open for exploration for tourists.

You can take a guided or self-guided tour to visitor the different buildings. Keep in mind, if you take the self-guided tour you will not be able to visit the main buildings, Sisters’ House and the Meetinghouse.

Source: Historic Ephrata Cloister

So if you want to see everything, make sure to take the guided tour.

For the self-guided tour, you can pick up a map at the visitor’s desk and then take a cellphone tour to learn about what you are seeing as you go.

You’ll need to spend at least 90 minutes here.

The museum works with the PA Historical and Museum Commission to preserve this national historic landmark.

Source: Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society

#10 Mennonite Life (Formerly Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society)

The Mennonite Life Museum is dedicated to the history and culture of the Amish people right in the middle of Pennsylvania, making it a popular stop for both out-of-staters and residents.

The museum has been designed to create a rich and informative interactive visit including the beautiful historic antique Mennonite costumes and carriages. You’ll find:

  • A museum
  • Bookstore (with new & used books)
  • Historical library (with books on Mennoite, Amish, Brethren and more)

Attend the annual Book Worm Frolic with over 40,000 books, magazine’s and more.

There is also a great resource and research center where you can search for information and get answers you are looking for.

Local tip: start in the Mennonite Life Visitors Center to learn more book tours and also start to tour several places as shared here including: the Mennonite Life Museum, 1719 Museum and the Biblical Tabernacle Experience.

Source: Mennonite Life

#11 Biblical Tabernacle Experience

The Biblical Tabernacle Experience is definitely something unique as you’ll get to see a full-scale replica of the Tabernacle. You’ll also see life size replicas of:

  • Ark of the Covenant
  • Table of Shewbread
  • Golden Candlestick
  • And more

Note: this experience is inside the Mennonite Life Visitors Center

To understand the Tabernacle better, you will be able to walk around the chambers and view the exhibits which cover several relevant topics.

Source: Hans Herr House

#12 1719 Museum (Formerly Hans Herr House & Museum)

This Pennsylvania historical museum on Willow Street, known as the 1719 Museum, is the oldest building in Lancaster and the oldest mennonite meeting house. Their goal is to preserve the rich history of the region’s early Mennonite inhabitants.

This museum is popular with visitors since it is considered one of the historic buildings in Lancaster County and was constructed in 1719, as the name suggests. 

The Herr Home Museum is a great spot where you can get insight into what life was like for the Herr family and other pioneers through the many interactive displays on exhibit. 

Source: Mennonite Life

The house is well-kept and filled with furniture and artefacts from that time, making you feel like you are in that old time.

Also, your children will find so much fascinating stuff here, such as the wagons, which played a vital role in delivering products throughout the nation, and they will even get to view one close enough to touch. 

Another famous display is one devoted to the Underground Railroad, which shows Lancaster’s crucial role in assisting slave individuals to flee for freedom.

Source: The Conestoga Area Historical Society

#13 Conestoga Area Historical Society

The Conestoga Area Historical Society shares the Penn Manor Area history. The museum is completely volunteer run and while not huge, it packs a lot of history.

There is a Conestoga wagon to see, plus antiques and artifacts.

The volunteers are amazing here! So knowledgeable and happy to share everything they know and that definitely makes it well worth the trip.

Also, many of hands-on activities and interactive exhibits are available for children to participate in.

Source: The Amish Farm House

#14 The Amish Village

What kind of lifestyle do the Amish follow? Where did they find the resources back then? You can peep into the Amish school and the farm, which you can tour at The Amish Village. 

You’ll definitely want to take a guided tour here as this place covers 12-acres. On the tour you’ll get to see:

  • Amish home from the 1840s
  • Barn
  • 1-room schoolhouse

This is also a great way to see an Amish Farm and tour the farm property. This is one of the best things to do in Lancaster to really get a sense of the history and culture.

Source: Lititz Moravian Church

#15 Lititz Moravian Church & Museum

The historic and active Lititz Moravian Church & Museum was founded in 1749 by Moravian colonists. It is not only a religious institution but also a museum, and it serves as an educational centre for people of all ages.

We first came here for a Christmas service a few years ago and they sang a few songs in German which was really neat so we decided to come back to visit the museum.

In the museum there are a number of items you definitely want to see including:

  • Colonial shoes
  • Viola
  • Serpent horn
  • Brass, wodwind and string instruments
  • Coffe mill

You’ll also want to take a tour while you are here so you can see the historic church sanctuary, restored coffee kitchen, organs and more.

Besides the tour and museum, even just the building’s design is worth a stop to appreciate some of its hand-carved artwork and stained glass windows.

Source: LancasterHistory

#16 LancasterHistory

I don’t know whether you know this, but LancasterHistory has been recognised as a prize-winning museum and the home of President James Buchanan.  

Here you can take a guided tour of Wheatland, President Buchanan’s home which is really fascinating as you can actually stand right in the room of where a previous US president stood as there are not a lot of barriers in place.

As a local history museum, there’s also a lot more to see. The Research Center, for instance, has over 2 million historic documents and databases which is quite fascinating.

Source: LancasterHistory

There is also an 11-acre Arboretum there too which is beautiful and relaxing to stroll around on a nice day.

The museum also offers scavenger hunts activity, encouraging kids to explore the exhibits in search of a prize.

More in-depth exhibits, including the blacksmith shop and printing press workshop, are where you’ll have the most fun at the museum in my opinion. Definitely a great museum for history buffs!

Source: North Museum of Nature and Science

#17 North Museum of Natural History & Science

If your kids love dinosaurs, fossils, bones and science, this is definitely the museum to visit!

The North Museum of Natural History and Science is a great place for kids ages 2- 10 and it takes them hours to explore.

The museum has 3 main floors, each including unique activities, with the first floor’s bird-themed instruments and microscope projectors, letting curious children zoom in on whatever they want to learn more about.

Source: North Museum of Nature and Science

The history of dinosaurs can be found on the second floor, while knowledge of natural events, such as tornadoes and cyclones, can be found on the third floor.

And don’t forget to check out the live animal room with over 20 different animals includes snacks, tarantulas and more!

Source: America’s Transportation Experience / AACA Museum, Inc.

#18 Aaca Museum, Inc.

The Aaca Museum, Inc. is a stunning facility that displays all types of autos, including cars, buses, and more. As a Smithsonian Affiliate, this museum has vehicles from the 1800s to the present.

Some of the exhibits you can expect to see are:

  • Museum of bus transportation
  • Tucker automobiles
  • Hershey’s Kissmobile cruiser
  • Roads to rails
  • Remembering road maps
  • And more

Renowned as one of the top automobile museums, you’ll find motorbikes, model trains, buses, early machines, covered bridges, miami art deco, drive-in movie theatre and more.

Source: Franklin & Marshall College

#19 Phillips Museum Of Art At Franklin & Marshall College

The Phillips Museum of Art at Franklin & Marshall College is a wonderful site to see art from all across the world and it has both permanent exhibits and touring fine art on display.

Some of the types of art you can expect to see are: sculpture, painting, poetry, and others.

Some of the interesting things you can do during your visit are:

  • Visit the outdoor sculpture trail
  • Frankliniana to learn about Benjamin Franklin
  • Ask questions to one of the attendants

Best of all, this museum is free!

Source: Rough and Tumble Engineers Historical Association

#20 Rough & Tumble Engineers Msm

This Rough & Tumble Engineers Msm place is for any adult or child who has a passion for engines and is more interested in learning about the engine than the entire train, as the engine is the primary portion of the train that keeps it running!

There are several outstanding steam engines, odd machinery, :

  • Antique steam engines
  • A Blacksmith shop
  • Train rides
  • Watch tractor pulls

Rough & Tumble is considered “The Most Complete Operating Steam and Gas Engine Show in the East.

This gives you a more hands-on experience to see what was created in the 1800’s to the 1960’s.

This is definitely a great place for families and really helps you appreciate all that we have today.

#21 American Military Edged Weaponry Museum

Located right on Old Philadelphia Pike inside what used to be an old bank, the American Military Edged Weaponry Museum houses one of the country’s most comprehensive collections of US military knives, swords, fencing bayonets, pikes, sabers and other (sharp!) artifacts

The items on display are from the:

  • Spanish-American war
  • WWI
  • WWII
  • Korean War
  • Vietnam
  • Desert Storm
  • and others

This museum has the most comprehensive collection of knives and other artifcacts used by American servicemen in the United States.

This museum gives visitors a close-up view of a few of the most famous blades in American history.

The museum not only tells the tale of the American military but also educates visitors about the history, culture, and innovation of the many weapons on display.

Source: Historic Rock Ford

#22 Historic Rock Ford

Visit Historic Rock Ford if you’re looking for a venue to learn about fascinating historical events.

At the Rock ford Plantation, you can step back in time to the 18th century and learn about the lifestyle of General Edward Hand (who was the adjutant general to George Washington) and his family.

As you explore the stately home, you’ll come across historical pieces that have been carefully conserved for over two centuries. 

Source: Historic Rock Ford

You can also look forward to seeing the collection of more than 230 items made by Lancaster County artists in the exhibition, featuring items like:

  • Tall case clocks
  • Silver
  • Antiques
  • And portraits produced during Edward Hand’s residence

Even more visually appealing than the rest of historic Rockford is the beautiful garden outside the building.

Everyone, young and old, will benefit from spending time discovering everything that this ancient landmark has to offer.

Source: Manheim Historical Society

#23 Manheim Historical Society

The Manheim Historical Society is a great place to visit for families. They have a trolley ride which the whole family will enjoy and also a model train display. Both of the activities can be paid with a donation of your choosing.

This is definitely a local historical gem, displaying a restored railroad station and other local buildings.

They also have a reading library and artifact collection.

Source: Manheim Historical Society

Visiting Museums in Lancaster PA

Lancaster, PA is a offers so many great museums from art to history to science, there is something for all family members to enjoy and learn from.

The city’s museums showcase a wide range of exhibits and collections that provide visitors with an opportunity to explore and appreciate the past, present, and future.

For an even more fun experience, make sure to keep an eye out for your favorite museums special events and educational programs that take throughout the year.

Whether you are one of the local Lancaster County families, a first time visitor or a returning visitor planning their next visit, these Lancaster museums are an excellent way to spend your time and expand your knowledge.

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Emma Williams

Emma was born and raised in Pennsylvania and loves exploring the state with her 3 kids, husband and Labrador. She loves nature and finding new, fun places to go.