Tourism is a significant industry in Lancaster County, employing 47,000.
"I brake for Shoofly Pie" is the state tourism slogan.
In the 1860s, articles in the Atlantic Monthly and Lippincott's Magazine started tourism in Lancaster County right after the Civil War, but it didn't really take off until the 1920s, when the Lincoln Highway was built. A New York Timestravel article in 1952 brought 25,000 visitors, and the 1955 Broadway musical Plain and Fancy brought even more, but tourism tapered off, after the 1974 gas rationing and the Three Mile Island incident led to five years of stagnation.
Local tourism officials viewed it as deus ex machina when Hollywood stepped in to rescue their industry. Harrison Ford, in the popular 1985 movie Witness, played John Book, a Philadelphia detective who in turn played "Plain" in order to protect Samuel Lapp, an Old Order Amish boy who has witnessed a murder. Predictably, John Book falls in love with Rachel Lapp, the boy's widowed mother; the movie is less a thriller than a romance about the difficulties faced by an English man in love with a Plain widow. The film was nominated for eight Oscars, and won two. However, the real winner was Lancaster County tourism, as movie-goers found themselves intrigued by the Plain.
Once again, especially after the 9/11 attacks, tourism in Lancaster County has shifted. Instead of families arriving for a 3–4 day stay for a general visit, now tourists arrive for a specific event, whether it be the rhubarb festival, the "maize maze", to see Thomas the Tank Engine, for Sertoma's annual "World's Largest Chicken Barbecue" or for the latest show at Sight & Sound Theatres. The tourism industry is discouraged by this change, but not despondent:
" "In four years of working here on the Strasburg Rail Road, I've only had one complaint, she said that the ride is too short. People love Lancaster County. They'll keep coming back." – Betty McCormack"
One of the 29 covered bridges in Lancaster County.
The county also promotes tourist visits to the county's numerous historic and picturesque covered bridges by publishing driving tours of the bridges. At over 200 bridges still in existence, Pennsylvania has more covered bridges than anywhere else in the world, and at 29 covered bridges, Lancaster County has the largest share.
The Lancaster County Convention Center Authority is building a controversial $170 million convention center in downtown Lancaster on the site of the former Watt & Shand building. The project's supporters believe it would promote the revitalization of the city's center. Its opponents, however, feel it poses an unacceptable risk to taxpayers.
Other tourist attractions include the American Music Theatre, Dutch Wonderland, Ephrata Cloister, Ephrata Fair, Hans Herr House, Landis Valley Museum, Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire (one of the largest Renaissance fairs in the world[), Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, Rock Ford plantation, Robert Fulton Birthplace, Sight & Sound Theatres, Strasburg Railroad, Wilbur Chocolate, and Sturgis Pretzel House. There are many tours of this historic area including the Downtown Lancaster Walking Tour.