If you’ve only heard about Lancaster in passing, you’re probably conjuring up images of Amish country as you read this. And, true, Lancaster is a hub for farming and Old World sensibilities, but in recent years, the city has grown into something entirely new.

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A historic town of 60,000 in the southeast corner of Pennsylvania, Lancaster is a city on the rise. It combines many of the draws of a big city but with the charm (and cost of living) of a small town. At just seven square miles in area, Lancaster is highly walkable and has a fairly developed bicycling infrastructure, making it easy to ditch the car. Real estate is affordable — the median home listing price comes in at a cool $300,000 — and the job outlook is strong, with the area’s unemployment rate hanging at a low 2.3%.

Couple sharing coffee and a pastry in Lancaster
Matthew Tennison / Discover Lancaster

Lancaster also has a food scene that can give most towns a run for their money: Greek, Thai, Vietnamese, Irish pubs and Trinidadian fare line North Prince Street and North Queen Street downtown. For a different vibe, pop by Lancaster Pie & Coffee for a slice of coconut cream pie, or check out the locally grown produce and meat at Lancaster Central Market. Historic theaters, museums and breweries dot the city as well, and traveling out of town is just as easy as getting around, with a downtown Amtrak station that takes you to Philadelphia, D.C. or New York in a couple of hours.

Amish countryside with handwritten signs in Lancaster
Left: Brian Evans / Discover Lancaster; Right: Janey Wall / Discover Lancaster

Of course, we would be remiss to ignore the Amish culture that put Lancaster on the map. Hundreds of acres of Amish farmland still surround the town, providing locals with the freshest eggs, flakiest pastries and finest quilts money can buy.