By Kylie Stoltzfus Summer 2021
With global travel limited due to the ongoing pandemic, road trippers can still experience the flavors of the world. South Central Pennsylvania provides a wealth of culture and access to experiences that will open your eyes to the hidden treasures that lie within your community. Enjoy delicious meals at restaurants featuring various international cuisine, or stop at one of Pennsylvania’s best-known markets to enjoy a variety of ethnic and local dishes. Visit extensive biking trails that test your athleticism or provide a perfect leisurely ride with a view. This weekend road trip is ideal for a family or individual to experience the robust cultural offerings of South Central Pennsylvania. Strap your bikes to the SUV and head out on an international culinary adventure.
We begin our South Central PA Taste of the World Tour at York Central Market. Since its opening in 1888, York Central Market has been a staple of downtown York for over 130 years. With over 50 vendors to choose from, York Central Market offers a variety of flavors and cultures to sample. Try Gigi’s Crepes for a French twist, Global Cafe for a combination of Afro, Caribbean, and Latin flavors, or Mezzogiorno for locally-sourced Italian cuisine.
After you’ve enjoyed a delicious meal from local vendors and explored the streets of downtown York, unload your bikes and hit the York County Heritage Rail Trail. This bike trail spans 21 miles, perfect for a rigorous bike ride or a stroll through scenic York County.
Next, we head to Lancaster County. Stop at Aura Espresso Room on Queen Street in the heart of downtown Lancaster. Fuel up for your next adventure with drink options from the popular Italian espresso brand Lavazza and a fresh-made pastry or chocolate croissant. Founded in 2017 by George Zagas, this European cafe offers a unique flavor amid Lancaster’s restaurant scene, inspired by Zagas’ Greek heritage.
While in downtown Lancaster, make sure to visit Lancaster Central Market. Founded in 1730, Lancaster Central Market is one of the oldest farmers markets in the United States. Nestled between Queen Street and Prince Street in downtown Lancaster, Central Market is filled with international food stands and direct access to local fare and fresh-from-the-farm options. Experience Puerto Rican cuisine at Christina’s Criollo or a selection of Middle Eastern food items from Saife’s Middle Eastern Food.
For a leisurely morning hike, explore all that the Conewago Recreation Trail near Elizabethtown has to offer. The nature of this recreational trail makes it an accessible activity for families and individuals of all skill levels. For those looking to take on a more rigorous challenge, the 18-mile Lebanon Valley Rail Trail access point is available nearby.
Continue your day of hiking at the Hawk Rock Overlook in Perry County. This gorgeous hike runs along a portion of the Appalachian Trail and offers points that overlook Sherman Creek and the Susquehanna River. While this is a rocky trail with steep climbs, with a good pair of hiking shoes you will have access to breathtaking views. The peak season for hiking Hawk Rock runs from March through October, so expect to see this trail in its full glory.
After your hike, make your way to Harrisburg for lunch. Enjoy a meal at Mariama’s African and Jamaican Restaurant. Experience excellent food alongside friendly customer service and an inviting atmosphere. Dine in or take your food to-go and visit the Capital Area Greenbelt. The 20-mile stretch of waterfront trails and walkways wraps through and around Pennsylvania’s capital city, providing ample room to picnic and explore.
Bring your South Central PA Taste of the World Tour to a close at Aladdin, a Mediterranean restaurant owned and operated by Alexandre Borkhoche. Located on Penn Avenue in West Reading, Aladdin offers a warm and welcoming atmosphere for its guests. Borkhoche greets his returning customers, some of whom he says come each day to the restaurant. Each dish served at Aladdin is made in-house, from start to finish, informed by Borkhoche’s Lebanese heritage. Enjoy Aladdin’s shawarma platter options to share with your family or one of the many single dish options.
Finish off your meal with fresh-made baklava and Lebanese coffee before heading to the Pagoda for a beautiful view of the sunset. Built in 1908, the Pagoda, in Reading is an architectural masterpiece, offering light hiking trails and an overlook that allows guests to see for miles. While the Pagoda’s interior is currently closed to the public, the view alone is worth the trip.
While we wait for borders to open and travel to become a realistic option, you can continue to support local businesses that bring diverse flavors and cultural experiences to South Central Pennsylvania.