Nestled between Indiana and Armstrong Counties, just over an hour from the great glass skyscrapers of Pittsburgh, you’ll find a more gentle existence.
Here Amish buggies have the right of way, candles are still hand-dipped, and the old-fashioned general store has trotted forward, undaunted by big box grocery competition.
Here, cheese is made and sold fresh, oak furniture is still crafted by hand, herbs and flowers dry in special sheds, and baking goods are sold in bulk.
When the worries of work and city life hang a little heavy, I find myself rejuvenated each time I get in the, er... mint green pottery car... and venture to this world where everything moves just a bit more slowly.
So if you’re in need of a happy mental respite from your stresses, I hope you’ll join me today, as we venture into Western Pennsylvania Amish country.
You’ll want to remember to be kind, proceed slowly, and share the road when you drive past the Amish horse and buggies-- And while it’s always perfect manners to return the friendly wave of the Amish driver and his family, please keep in mind that it’s not polite to take photographs of them-- it would be considered offensive. So to steal a phrase-- “When in Amish Country...”
But photography aside, for the Victorian, country, rustic or cottage decorator, it’s hard not to find something appropriate and memorable for the home. In addition to hand-dipped candles, painted metal pots for in- and outdoors, pottery and blown glass, you’ll find quilts in virtually any color, Heritage lace draperies and mantle scarves, and even some vintage and antique items. Knitters and crocheters may find themselves caught up in some intriguing new yarn, in a Smicksburg shop where the entire first floor is devoted to yarns and woven products.
“Downtown Smickburg Amish Country” is a large barn-shaped shop filled with sturdy Amish-built furniture. Most stores here-- like “The Coleman House” and “Daisy’s Fine Gift Shop”-- are located within formerly-residential houses, so visitors wind through rooms and corridors to see the businesses’ wares-- further reinforcing that relaxed, homey atmosphere to shopping.
Hungry? There are several places to eat, ranging from just a quick bite to a large sit-down meal. “Country Junction Restaurant” is usually where I go for some home-cooked nourishment. Consider it a cross between a diner and an ice cream parlor. It’s the kind of Western Pennsylvania eatery where the hot roast beef sandwiches are made with real potroast, and gravy on your French fries is always an option.
Other restaurants include the Amish House Restaurant, which has a buffet on weekends featuring various Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch style foods, and a soup and sandwich shop right on the main drag in Downtown Smicksburg.
Plus, there are any number of ways to take a bit of Smicksburg fare home with you.
Visit the “B&B Country Cheese Shoppe” or the “Smicksburg Country Store” for a wide array of fresh cheeses and meats. (Here you’ll see some locals I got directions from outside the Country Store. The guy on the left just kept going on and on... Fortunately, his directions were good.)
The “Windgate Winery” is a local vineyard that produces a number of different wines, including some festive spiced vintages right around the Christmas season. Feel like a kid again at the “Smicksburg Mercantile,” which indicates it has over 450 kinds of candy, including those old-timey candies you might just feel a bit of nostalgia for. Or step inside the “Smicksburg Chocolate Shoppe” and purchase anything you’d need for making your own homemade candy, or select from chocolates and hard candies pre-bagged in bulk, perfectly ready to enjoy.
I love going here to get spices, herbs and chicken stock seasonings in big bags-- it’s a bit less expensive than most city stores due to lack of branding and packaging, so I always enjoy stocking up.
Okay-- so now you say you’ve done all there is to do in Smicksburg. Well, back on past the giant Cow-on-a-Stick, and heading back to Apollo, PA, why not tack on some thrifting and antiquing?
“We Miss Back When” is a two floor antique mall, recently under new management who seems to really be working to keep the mall continually filled with new treasures. Or visit the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store, right across the street, and see what treasures await you there.
Lastly, on the road back to Pittsburgh you might stumble upon “Grandma’s Attic” a small one-floor antique mall with glassware, furniture and collectibles.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m bushed! It’s been a big day.
If you’re thinking of making your own real-life trip to Smicksburg, consider doing so on a Saturday, because on Sunday, many businesses will be closed. And if you’d like more information on Smicksburg, PA, I’ve stumbled on the following area websites so you can learn more right online:
--Smicksburg Tourism site: www.smicksburg.com
--Smicksburg-Dayton area site: www.smicksburg-dayton.com
And me? I’m going to get back in my little mint green pottery car and drive on back to those bright Pittsburgh city lights.
See you next week!