steal my vacation

The Dr. Clark Owner’s Oft-Repeated Weekend in Amish Pennsylvania

Mud sales, leather fly swatters, and $3 potato soup.

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photo: Yudai Kanayama
Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photo: Yudai Kanayama

Everyone knows that person who spends weeks sniffing around travel blogs, going deep down into TripAdvisor rabbit holes, collecting Google docs from friends of friends, and creating A Beautiful Mind–style spreadsheets to come up with the best vacations and itineraries possible. In this recurring series, we find those people who’ve done all the work for you, and have them walk us through a particularly wonderful, especially well-thought-out vacation they took, that you can actually steal.

In 2017, I was doing fashion stuff on the side of the restaurant business — basically finding what’s new and trendy in New York and reporting that information to this Japanese fashion brand called BEAMS. At Maker’s Market, a flea market in Greenpoint, I met Bryan Norris, who is a local in Lancaster, Pennsylvania , and makes beautiful leather goods with the Amish people. I didn’t know anything about the Amish, but fell in love with what they made. Bryan liked my passion, and invited me to the town. I went to visit the week after. And after that, I began to go often — sometimes twice a month, always for two nights and three days. The Amish have to have a slow life, which means they can focus on making beautiful things that last forever. After a few months [of visiting], I collected enough items to have an exhibition in Osaka in 2019 to introduce people to what they’re doing, their way of life. It was called “Plain People’s Meeting: Unfashion Week.” Plain is a word that’s really important to me, and Amish people. They always say, “You look plain.” It sounds very negative in our world, because it means you look boring. But to them, it’s one of the best ways you could praise people, and I agree.

Day 1

Book a hotel, or stay with Bryan

I always stay with Bryan when I go, and he says he will host people and give them a tour of all the places the Amish make their crafts (contact via @foragerco, on Instagram.) His apartment is beautiful — really simple and sophisticated. I love his aesthetic so much. He must be heavily inspired by Amish.

8 a.m.: Stop for antiques on the way

We always rent a car on Friday and drive, it’s a four-and-a-half-hour drive , and any type of car is fine. Me and my wife love antiques and vintage stuff, we used to sell at a Brooklyn flea market. On the way to Lancaster, we stop in Adamstown, in Pennsylvania, which has a lot of antique stores on and off North Reading Street. Mad Hatter Antique Mall (61 Willow St.) is one. But really just go inside any antique store in Adamstown — it’s known as the antique capital. The design period is mostly really old stuff, late 1800s, early 1900s, and you can find a lot of quilts, because the Amish make a lot of quilts. We like textiles, and always try to find these beautiful Amish quilts made in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

12 p.m.: Grab a slice at the Fridge

My friend takes me to restaurants in town, always the same places. There’s a pizza restaurant that’s delicious called The Fridge (534 N. Mulberry St.). I think the food there is better than a lot of places in New York City — they serve lots of local craft beers and delicious thin-crust pizza.

Day 2

7 a.m.: Get Amish-made jam and goat-milk soap at the farmers’ market

The first time I went, Bryan took me to one of the oldest farmers’ markets in the country, Central Lancaster Market (23 N. Market St.), which is open on Fridays and Saturdays. The Amish vendors come on buggies. They make the most delicious jam I’ve ever tried, and they sell beautiful soap made out of goat milk. Now, every time I go, the farmers’ market in Lancaster is where I start my Saturday morning, usually with yogurt and jam.

9 a.m.: Pick up an espresso nearby 

I always go to Passenger Coffee (131 N. Plum St.), which is near the farmers’ market. It’s not Amish, but it is obviously Amish-inspired: beautiful, sophisticated, simple, and they make delicious coffee.

12 p.m.: Book a tour of Intercourse

The Amish community lives in a town called Intercourse. You can drive around the farm, but there’s no light, the GPS doesn’t always work, and the roads all look similar, so you can easily get lost. You don’t want to drive around after 5 p.m. But they start early, by 6 a.m., they’re outside cleaning, cleaning, cleaning with the brooms that they make. You can also take a guided tour through the farmland on a buggy (AAA Buggy Rides, $18 per person)

2 p.m.: Buy a leather flyswatter in town

On Main Street they make the harnesses for the horses and buggies. And they also have a leather shop called the Village Harness Shop (3578 Newport Rd.), where they sell beautiful bags. This is the place I always go. My favorite item I ever found here was a leather flyswatter for about five bucks. It is beautiful, and the top part that’s made out of leather bends well — it lets me kill flies in the air. And it’s just so simple and sophisticated.

6 p.m.: Order the potato soup at Katie’s

Katie’s Kitchen (200 Hartman Bridge Rd.), just outside Lancaster, has delicious potato soup ($3) — an Amish thing — and a big menu. It’s a 1970s-era restaurant that’s now Amish-operated and serves classic Pennsylvania Dutch food like ham loaf served with pineapple glaze ($10), and a pork-and-sauerkraut dinner platter with applesauce ($10). The staff is very friendly.

Day 3

10 a.m.: Shop for quilts and heavy machinery at a mud sale

My very favorite experience is to go to a mud sale. They’re auctions that take place in a field, and happen almost every weekend from March to August — in different locations, but always on mud. You can find everything from a tractor trailer to a beautiful Amish-made quilt. You can arrive at any time of the day and join in from there, because they go on all day long.

2 p.m.: Watch the sport of ekball

The Amish have a traditional sport called ekball, where 200 kids watch four players in the center, who are throwing a very hard leather ball that they made at each other. They have these acrobatic movements where they try not to get hit, they spin and make all these sounds, beautiful screaming. It was fascinating. You don’t understand how anyone can play on such a muddy field, but they’re playing morning to night at the farm, switching players — once you get hit, I guess, you go to the outside.

5 p.m.: Leave town around sundown

We leave on Sunday night when the farm gets dark, and do some antique treasure hunting on the way back. Especially the Renningers Antique Market (2500 N. Reading Rd.), which happens on Sundays. At this point, you should be a master of finding minimal and simple and sophisticated “plain” goods. Then get home late, around 11 p.m. Going to the Amish community, seeing how they live, then coming back to New York City again, I open the door of my house and think, “What should I throw away in my house?” Always, you come back “plain”: sophisticated, simple, and beautiful.

Yudai’s Lancaster Packing List

Bag for tchotchkes

For objects and food he picks up throughout the trip, Kanayama tells us this is the “perfect-sized tote bag, with cute stitches, that I wear around my neck.” He adds that it’s also entirely handmade in Afghanistan.

Airy summer shirt

Kanayama says Bode make his favorite summer shirts for travel because they’re made from a “very breathable fabric” that is still “not too see-through, so it doesn’t really show my skin that much.”

Reversible sun hat

“I make hats using garments people don’t wear anymore and turn them into a reversible tulip hat,” Kanayama tells us, adding that if the clothes he receives have pockets, he’ll convert them into a mask holder. (The hats are also reversible, with “fun fabric” on one side so you can change it depending on your mood.) Kanayama accepts commissions for the hats over Instagram DM.

Fine-tip pens

Kanayama always brings business cards with him, “so I can give them to the people I meet.” He also carries a pen, in case he wants to add any extra information. While he brings pens from Dr. Clark, these easier-to-obtain markers landed in the top three of our investigation into the 100 Best Pens.

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The COVID situation there: All COVID-19 restrictions related to gatherings, restaurants, and all other businesses have been lifted in Pennsylvania. Masks are still required for those not vaccinated. Norris tells us there are plenty of fine motels closer to where the Amish live, but that he recommends friends and business associates stay at the Lancaster Arts Hotel, which is “near the best coffee shop, easy to get to, and housed in a beautiful old brick tobacco warehouse.” from New York
The Dr. Clark Owner’s Oft-Repeated Weekend With the Amish