If you mention Strasburg, Pa., that’s probably someone’s first, and maybe only, thought.
And, yes, trains are a big part of this Colonial-era borough, which actually began life as a prosperous stagecoach stop between Philadelphia and Lancaster before the railroad came through. But there is much more to this small, historic town, especially during Christmastime.
If you’re like me, you like to start off a day of sightseeing with solid sustenance and a good jolt. That’s why we began our tour of Strasburg at Speckled Hen Coffee, which has been serving craft coffee and a full menu since 2015.
“We had over 70 chairs in the restaurant and wondered if anyone would show up on that first day,” said co-owner Janae Dagen. “Since opening day, we’ve continued to exceed our goals from year to year.”
Janae and husband Ryan opened their café because they felt the community would benefit from having a restaurant where families could gather together and enjoy good food. Much of their business, though, turned out to be tourists like me.
“We anticipated serving mostly locals and providing life to our community,” Dagen said. “Since opening, however, we’ve been delighted with how many customers travel a distance to eat with us.”
At the Speckled Hen, you can get breakfast all day, and many ingredients come from local farmers, including eggs that originate from the poultry farm where Dagen grew up. The couple also serves many family recipes and emphasizes home-style foods that are tasty, healthy and nicely plated.
“When we first opened, we outsourced our baking,” Dagen said. “Now we have a full prep kitchen as well as a baking facility in the basement. I enjoy creating many of the recipes along with our team of talented chefs.”
The Speckled Hen’s large Christmas tree will help set the mood for your Strasburg visit, and they even plan special holiday dishes.
Art & Home
Two decades ago, the Lancaster County Art Association moved from Lancaster city to a modern-style building in Strasburg that features two galleries, a large classroom and a clay room.
“We have a number of shows each year,” said gallery Director Carol Herr. “Some are member shows, and some have themes.”
During the holidays, the association will host a “Home for the Holidays” and a “Merry Miniatures” member show in the Kauffman Gallery. The miniatures (10-by-10 inches or smaller) can be purchased as holiday gifts
Over in the Steinmetz Gallery, the association will exhibit the work of the late Dale Ziegler.
“Dale was a prize-winning member of the Pennsylvania Watercolor Society and was well known for painting Lancaster County farm lands and Amish society,” Herr said.
On Dec. 9, the association will host a special holiday tea. Attendees are encouraged to bring their favorite teacups to show off as they sample finger sandwiches and other treats.
To see more of the historic town center, visit during the Strasburg Heritage Society’s popular holiday home tour, which takes place on Dec. 1. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $20 or at the door of the First Presbyterian Church the day of the event for $25.
“While at the church, you should check out vendors at the public holiday market and the food at the holiday pantry,” said publicity event chair Lorna Mentzer. “There is a silent auction for a Colonial-themed dinner at a historic home.”
The tour features nine stops—eight houses and the model railroad exhibit of Linn Moedinger, the president of the Strasburg Rail Road, who has created a scale model railroad of scenes from the Colorado and Allegheny mountains.
The model railroad may the perfect way to ease into the real thing.
Strasburg Rail Road features the “The Night Before Christmas Train,” which recreates the excitement of the traditional tale as a costumed reader in each car tells the story to riders. Dining car seats may be reserved where passengers can purchase a meal with all the holiday trimmings. Then jump aboard the Christmas Tree Train, which takes you to a field where you can pick your tree, then have it delivered back to the station by flatcar.
National Toy Train Museum is the headquarters of the Train Collectors Association. Enjoy an interactive display of toy trains with the collection that dates from 1800s. Santa will be at the museum during the first three Saturdays in December, bringing candy canes for visitors.
Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania houses one of the largest collections of historic railroad artifacts in the world. On Saturday, Dec. 1, and Saturday, Dec. 8, you can glimpse 100 years of holiday railroads and enjoy costumed railroaders and the music of the season.
At Strasburg, it seems, you just can’t avoid hopping aboard a train or two. But who would resist anyway?
Speckled Hen Coffee, 141 E. Main St., Strasburg, www.speckledhencoffee.com
Lancaster County Art Association, 149 Precision Ave., Strasburg, www.lcaaonline.org
Strasburg Rail Road, 301 Gap Road, Ronks, www.strasburgrailroad.com
National Toy Train Museum, 300 Paradise Lane, Ronks, www.nttmuseum.org
Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, 300 Gap Road, Ronks, www.rrmuseumpa.org
Strasburg Heritage Society, 124 S. Decatur St, Strasburg, www.strasburgheritagesociety.org