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York County set for summer tourism
Memorial Day weekend revelers this past weekend kicked off the season with backyard barbecues, embracing the unofficial start to the summer season, honoring those who served in the military and spending time with family and friends. The weekend was a reminder that summer travel is right around the corner.
York County is poised to see an increase in summer visitors — and perhaps some "staycation" enthusiasts, too, tourism boosters say. Yorkers and their visiting family and friends are finding that it makes sense to stay close to home and enjoy all that the county has to offer.
For example, 35-year-old Andrea Ebert is pregnant with her fifth child, so her desire to run away to the beach on holiday weekends isn’t as strong as it used to be. The Newberry Township resident said even though the weather is not "summery" yet, she’s ready for the season's official arrival.
Ebert’s holiday weekend plans were to stay locally in York County. She said that being pregnant has changed the way she plans her summers.
“Maybe we’ll take our canoe out, we live near Conewago Creek” she said. “Normally, we try to get to the beach, but sometimes we think we should just stay here and enjoy it. Usually, I want to run away, but now that baby No. 5 is on the way, we have to slow down.”
Increase in visitors: York County Convention & Visitors Bureau Communications Specialist Andrew Staub said the county is prepared for an infusion of summer activity. The overall positive economic uptick locally is influencing what people chose to do, and that includes locals staying in York County as well as more visiting out-of-town guests seeing what’s happening here.
Staub said York County “has seen year-to-date demand for hotel rooms increase."
"So far in 2017, York County hotel revenue is up about 6.1 percent compared to the first four months of 2016. Through April, we are at $20,980,468 compared to $19,782,942 last year," Staub said. "That's great news for us — because last year was a good year."
Frequent visitors talk about why they love this park.
According to the Smith Travel Accommodations, York County's participating hotels reported 790,816 booked rooms for calendar year 2016. This 4.3 percent increase in demand over 2015 is more than double the 2.1 percent regional increase for Adams, Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and Dauphin counties in Pennsylvania and Baltimore, Carroll and Harford counties in Maryland. The number of hotel rooms sold in York County also increased at a significantly higher rate than the 1.3 percent growth experienced in the state.
“Compared to the first four months of 2016, it’s been a very strong year,” Staub said. “And we know that York County’s factory tours, Mason-Dixon Wine Trail and other attractions make it an excellent weekend getaway destination.”
Recent college graduate Jennifer Hall said her unofficial kickoff to summer every year includes spending time with her family. The 25-year-old said she links up with her family in Spring Garden Township, and then they travel to their family beach house in Sea Isle, New Jersey.
She and her friend Victoria Stout, 24, strolled through Central Market just before Memorial Day weekend. Despite the spate of soggy spring days, the duo said they are ready for summer as well.
Stout, of West Manchester Township, said her two brothers — one from Maryland and one from Virginia — were driving north to join her family for weekend festivities, which often include kayaking at Lake Redman.
“We have a big cookout at my parent’s house,” Stout said.
Tourism boost: Act 18, which was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf in April 2016, allowed 57 counties, including York, to increase their local hotel-occupancy tax from 3 percent to 5 percent. The commissioners voted to exercise that right last May, and the bureau estimated the county will see approximately $1.2 million in additional annual revenue.
A task force has been working to develop a grant program that is in accordance with the law and beneficial to the county's tourism efforts.
The York Expo Center will receive 30 percent of the additional revenue — nearly $400,000 for the first fiscal year — while the remaining balance will go to the bureau, which put a portion of that money into the tourism grant program.
'Staycations': What’s not accounted for in recent bureau research, Staub said, is the impact locals have on the economy when they decide to partake in a touristy staycation rather than traveling elsewhere on a vacation. Staub said he doesn’t know if local tourist staycations are a trend or not.
York County boasts several local destinations that offer adventure for thrill seekers. While those destinations may be a draw for outdoor enthusiasts, there are always people who are going to prefer to be a beach town tourist.
“If I didn’t have to work, I’d definitely go away,” Rai Carter said.
The 26-year-old Old Navy manager said she'd prefer sand on her feet, but that will have to wait.
York County summer activities:
Brown’s Orchards & Farm Market: Free summer concert series kickoff. Sunday afternoons from 2:30 to 5 p.m. The market showcases local musicians.
Codorus State Park: The 3,500-acre state park is in southern York County. The 1,275-acre Lake Marburg has 26 miles of shoreline. It’s a popular location with sail and power boaters. The park offers opportunities for picnicking, public pool swimming and camping.
William H. Kain County Park: William H. Kain County Park consists of 1,637 acres and two lakes, Lake Williams (220 acres) and Lake Redman (290 acres). The Lake Redman Boat Rental cannot open until the lake is full, so it will be closed until early June. Boat trailers also are prohibited during low water conditions. Lake Redman also offers a 2.5-mile moderately trafficked loop trail. The trail is rated as moderate and primarily used for hiking, trail running and mountain biking. The trail is dog friendly.
Gifford Pinchot State Park: Gifford Pinchot State Park is a 2,338-acre full service park. It’s located in northern York County, between the towns of Rossville and Lewisberry. The park offers hiking the Mason-Dixon Trail; pontoon boat tours; kayaking, disc golf and camping.
Roundtop Mountain Resort: Mountain adventures include, bumper boats, OGO balls, cedar maze, super slide, vertical trek and zipline.
Steam Into History: The William H. Simpson No. 17 is a faithful replica of the Civil War steam locomotive that carried Abraham Lincoln to deliver his now-famous Gettysburg Address. These same tracks carried Lincoln’s funeral train two years later. Experience history as you ride in a custom-built coach pulled by an 1860s-replica steam locomotive.
York Revolution: Saturday home games will have post-game fireworks. Sundays will be “fundays” with pre-game autograph session, catch on the field, post-game kids running the bases and $1 hot dogs, all presented by Hatfield Quality Meats. Revs Got Talent will take place June 15, July 27 and Aug. 24, where fans will show off their talents on the field. Theme nights include NASCAR Night (May 30), Harry Potter Night (June 30), Independence Day Celebration (July 1), Superhero Night (July 31) and Princess Day (July 2).
Veterans Memorial Gold Star Healing & Peace Garden: Veterans Memorial Gold Star Healing & Peace Garden is a living tribute to all veterans, a memorial arboretum particularly dedicated to military service members who have fought the War on Terror. Gold Star Garden names the Pennsylvania fallen.