THERE'S MORE to Lancaster than outlets and buggies.

Although the eighth-largest city in Pennsylvania is closely associated with the Pennsylvania Dutch, a community that came to this part of Penn's Woods back in the early 1700s, there's as much city as there is country to this picturesque part of the state.

Located about 65 miles west of Philly, downtown Lancaster is an artsy enclave of indie shops, cafes and galleries - an evolving cultural scene that delivers plenty of action for a weekend getaway. You can even leave your car at home - the hour-long Amtrak Keystone train from 30th Street is a bargain at $15 each way. Once you hit town, everything is within walking distance.

What's there to do in downtown Lancaster? Plenty.

Dazzling Demuth

Just one of a handful of pocket museums around downtown, the Demuth Museum is set in Lancaster artist Charles Demuth's home, garden and studio. After studying in Philly at PAFA, Demuth spent time in liberal Paris but still maintained lifelong ties to his hometown. Known for stunning watercolors, Demuth's work can be found in the Barnes Foundation collection, on the walls of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and in museums all over the world. His dreamy style, still considered avant-garde, is especially fetching when seen in the intimate quarters where much of it was created.

120 E. King St., 717-299-9940,

Christmas every day

It sounds over-the-top kitschy at first blush, but the "National Christmas Center's Christmas Through the Decades" exhibit in the back of the Lancaster Quilt & Textile Museum is super cool. Christmas past comes alive in a series of 15 galleries recreating holiday tradition from Victorian times up through the '50s and '60s.

Curator and historian Jim Morrison brings cultural details into focus, including a groovy metal Christmas tree of the swinging '60s, a toy-stocked Woolworth's decked out in holiday finery and a solidly staid 1950s scene, complete with a newfangled console TV and overstuffed armchair.

Expect pangs of nostalgia as you spot a vintage snow globe, a pattern of wrapping paper or an unwrapped box of Lincoln Logs.

Heritage Center Museums at Market Square, 37 N. Market St., 717-397-2970,

About those quilts . . .

The setting of the Lancaster Quilt & Textile Museum is a jaw dropper, a grand Beaux Arts bank building originally owned by the Lancaster Trust Co. that failed during the Great Depression. Rescued by local developer Owen Kugel in the '80s, the gorgeous space is used for events and weddings, and houses the Heritage Center Museum, dedicated to Amish culture and the Lancaster Quilt & Textile Museum.

Catch the ongoing exhibit, "THE GRID: Amish Quilts, Esprit Clothing and Postmodern Design," a stunning array of quilts as bold, graphic commentary, a collection originally owned by Doug Tompkins, founder of Esprit. Many of the quilts inspired work that Esprit put out in the '80s, making these textiles retro and modern at the same time.

Heritage Center Museums at Market Square, 37 N. Market St., 717-397-2970,

A 1st-place First Friday

Believe it or not, First Friday in Lancaster gives Old City's a run for its money. There are more than 70 arts organizations, galleries, eateries and coffeehouses involved - a combination street fair, block party and hipster walkabout that draws thousands of visitors. The Pennsylvania College of Art & Design Gallery, on Prince Street, is a good place to start: a student exhibition space that showcases work by local, regional and national artists and designers. Stop in for a beer at Lancaster Brewing Company or Annie Bailey's Irish Pub; catch live music in the park or at one of the street parties and just soak up the feel-good vibe. The fun runs from 5-9 tonight and every first Friday monthly, and it's free.

Music to your ears

From Mozart to Mendelssohn, Rossini to Ravel, the (happily solvent) Lancaster Symphony Orchestra delivers first-rate classical programming and world premiers at the gorgeous Fulton Opera House downtown. In its 63rd season, the community-engaged symphony spotlights a bright array of soloists, many from the Baltimore and DC areas, under music director Stephen Gunzenhauser. Tickets start at around $18. Free open rehearsals on some afternoons before performances are a great way to expose kids to the excitement of 75 musicians in concert.


It's showtime at the Fulton

The Grand Old Lady of Fulton Street, the jewelbox Fulton Theater, dates back to the days of vaudeville. The National Historic Landmark has seen the likes of W.C. Fields, Mark Twain and Marcel Marceau on its stage. Marc Robin, known to Walnut Street Theatre audiences, is the artistic director. Now the home of the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra and Opera Lancaster, the Fulton is also the place for touring Broadway shows and family theater. "Hairspray" is up next, followed by "God of Carnage," "Sunset Boulevard," "August: Osage County" and "Miss Saigon." There's usually one "wine and theater" night per show, featuring nearby Thorn Hill Vineyards. Tickets start at $20, a good deal.

12 N. Prince St., 717-397-7425,

To market, to market

A kissing cousin to Reading Terminal Market, Central Market in the heart of downtown claims to be the country's oldest farmers' market, situated in a 120-year-old red-brick building oozing local charm. Open Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, the market is heavy on produce, meats and dairy from local farms, plus Pennsylvania Dutch foodstuffs, along with prepared foods, specialty cheeses, sweets and crafts. A personal fave: Sweethearts Celery, a stand where Vince the celery guy sells - you got it - celery. It's the best celery you've ever tasted.

23 N. Market St., 717-735-6890,

Up the road to table

Throw an organic apple in any direction and it'll probably land in a farm field. Which makes the whole farm-to-table thing more than just a lot of talk. For an upscale evening, dine at John J. Jeffries, in the swanky Lancaster Arts Hotel, a mile from downtown.

Chefs Sean Cavanaugh and Michael F. Carson stick to local, seasonal, sustainable and organic ag from small Lancaster County farms. The fare is delish, from the tasty Highbourne Farm Red Deer Tartare served with a soft-boiled quail egg to the Kookaburra Farms grass-fed steak Chimichurri and JJJ's grass-fed pork, lamb and venison Bolognese with local mozzarella. You'll love every bite.

300 Harrisburg Ave., 717-431-3307,

*  Just adjacent to Central Market, head to Carr's, where chef/owner Tim Carr delivers a taste of Lancaster County (try the Ebberly roast chicken) in a sophisticated setting. Great wine list and wines by the glass.

50 W. Grant St., 717-299-7090,

Strolling and shopping

If you're not a mall person, you'll love shopping in downtown Lancaster. Go to funky Festoon for accessories and fashion names like Lilla P, Christine Alexander and Beyond Threads. Peruse Winding Way for used books, Mommalicious for vintage furnishings and quirky bits, and Art & Glassworks for handmade gifts and glass.

Sleeping over

There's a spanking new Marriott downtown, attached to the new convention center; it's an impressive, 110-year-old Beaux Arts building that was formerly the Watt & Shand department store. Rates from $159.

* A mile up the road, the stunning Lancaster Arts Hotel, built from a former tobacco warehouse, is as much an arts venue as it is a mod hotel, with 269 works by 36 artists - an impressive $300,000 collection. From $159.

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