Gina and I live less than an hour from Lancaster, PA. In addition to the Amish stuff that seems to be an attraction for out-of-towners, Lancaster is home to a couple of big outlet malls, which are great for holiday shopping. It’s also home to the American Music Theatre, which puts on a huge Christmas show that we’ve attended three years running as of this past weekend. We’ve made it a tradition, including a trip to the outlets and an overnight stay.
While I’m sure their show isn’t on par with Radio City Music Hall‘s Christmas Spectacular or anything, the American Music Theatre always puts up a solid production. The trick this year was actually getting there in the first place!
We headed out late, just after lunch, on Saturday, with a looming winter storm forecast. The drive out was fine, and we stopped at Tanger Outlets for our first bit of shopping en route. It had started snowing by the time we arrived, but remained fairly light as we walked around. A few Christmas gifts later, and we were on our way to the hotel (a free stay courtesy our Hilton HHonors points) to check in.
Although we were prepared for the worst, with a complete meal in our luggage ready for cooking, we opted for an early dinner at the Chili’s right in front of the hotel. As we enjoyed our crispy chicken crispers (yeah, that’s a thing), the snow got heavier and heavier. I had a lovely view so I could watch our car get slowly buried.
By the time we were done with dinner, there were at least 2–3 inches of wet, heavy snow on the ground. I slowly cleaned things off the car, wondering whether it’d be a better bet to just drive the 1000 feet back to the hotel, as the plow finally arrived in the parking lot. At this point, it was a wet, snowy, slushy mess.
Nevertheless, we began the 10-mile trek to the theatre.
Once we got out of the parking lot, we ended up in a long line of cars waiting to turn left at a traffic light… which wasn’t changing. Since the lane markers were completely obscured, I figured we weren’t triggering the light, but someone arrived across the road, and we were finally on our way as the light switched to green.
From there, it was a knuckle-whitening 30–40 minute drive.
I didn’t unclench the entire time (okay, I’m sure some would argue that I never unclench, but we won’t get into that!), and hardly topped 20 MPH. To keep me focused, I had Gina tell me about her first few cats… because who isn’t calmed by cat stories? Without incident, we eventually made it to the theatre reasonably early, and were directed to a nice parking spot out front, under a tree.
Once inside, we killed a little time browsing the gift shop, walking around the lobby, and enjoying the music of the violin trio they had playing there. Thankfully, there really wasn’t all that much time to kill, and before too long, it was time to head in and take our seats. We were fairly close to the stage (something like eight rows back), but waaay off to the left side (stage right), just two seats in from the side aisle. Of course, given the weather, there were a decent amount of no-shows (though the theatre was still a good 85% full), so we were able to slide a bit closer to center right before the show started!
As I said, this is our third year running at this show, and there’s a good reason we keep going back year after year: It’s a consistently enjoyable show! This year’s offering opened strong, with a rendering of “The First Noel” that started off fairly traditional, then gained a bit of a Celtic flair, building up till there were dancers everywhere, glittery confetti falling from the ceiling, and an energy that didn’t really falter till intermission. (When we had a couple of tasty mulled ciders and some cookies.)
Every year, there’s a somewhat “trippy” number in the mix, and this year’s was “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” They mixed the song with a few passages from How The Grinch Stole Christmas!, building to a dance number including six costumed Grinches and a giant Grinch head and hands “stealing” the set!
I found the second act a slight let-down, partly because almost all the songs were less familiar to me (save their “story of Christmas” medley, which comprised all well-known classics). The opening was linked with a cute story of Santa retiring and being replaced with his head elf, but it just wasn’t as enjoyable as previous years’ equivalents have been. They tend to do a short linked story, and throw in a non-Christmas song or two (like this year’s “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow”).
They ended very strongly with the always outstanding musical number (the band they put together for the Christmas show is utterly amazing, every year), and closed off with a reprise of “The First Noel.”
By the time we left, the snow and sleet had changed to rain, rendering the parking lot a horrible slushy mess. The car was reasonably clear, however (at least partly due to parking under a tree), which was a bonus. And unlike previous years where we’ve been parked in back, we were able to pull out of the lot in no time.
The drive back to the hotel, while still somewhat treacherous, was nothing compared to the drive there. With at least double the speed, we were back in maybe 20 minutes, all snug in our bed (after a quick nightcap… hey, we brought a bottle of wine to go with the possible dinner in the room, might as well make use of it!)
The next morning, the roads were even more clear. We did a bit more shopping on the way out (after all, there was another whole outlet mall to search), then returned home in time to fix the Christmas lights that kept falling off our front porch (the secret was pushpins).
Overall, another great tradition-continuing Lancaster holiday trip. Next up: Christmas in Texas!