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The Underground Railroad

The pastoral Lancaster County village of Christiana was the scene of what could be considered the first battle in the Civil War -- long before states started seceding from the Union. Violence erupted here in 1851 when the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was put to the test: A deadly conflict between slave bounty hunters and local abolitionists became known as the Christiana Resistance, and a landmark court decision signaled that the North would not comply with legislation contrary to human rights. The new Underground Railroad Center at the Historic Zercher Hotel, at 11 Green St. in Christiana (tel. 610-593-5340; www.zerchershotel.com) illustrates this area's contribution to African-American heritage, and is one of many destinations on the Quest for Freedom Trail that stretches from Philadelphia to Gettysburg (visit www.questforfreedom.org for more information). Another highlight is the historic Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 450-512 E. Strawberry St. in Lancaster (tel. 717/393-8379; www.bethelamelancaster.org.), which offers Living the Experience performances, a poignant reenactment of the struggle for freedom, told through story, song, and audience participation.

Throughout the region, courageous abolitionists provided safe houses, known as "stations," for fugitive slaves, and several homes that provided refuge are now guesthouses, including Rocky Acre Farm B&B, 1020 Pinkerton Rd., Mount Joy, PA 17552 (tel. 717/653-4449; www.rockyacre.com), and Across the Way B&B at the Fassitt Mansion, 5061 Old Philadelphia Pike, White Horse, PA 17527 (tel. 888/984-3929; www.acrossthewaybb.com).

You can catch a glimpse of another station -- this one literally underground -- at Bube's Brewery, 102 N. Market St., Mount Joy, PA 17552 (tel. 717/653-2056; www.bubesbrewery.com). This remarkably intact 19th-century brewery offers tours of the vast building's original brewing facilities, including "catacombs" 43 feet below the earth, where beer was stored and slaves hidden. The Catacombs is now one of three diverse and wonderful restaurants on the property, where live music, playful-themed feasts (think Roman and medieval), and murder-mystery parties are featured. Bube's Brewery also has seven original hotel rooms refurbished in a uniquely theatrical style that are popular with groups.

The Arts Scene

Think that Pennsylvania Dutch country art is restricted to hex signs and Amish quilts? Then the burgeoning and quite sophisticated arts scene that has blossomed in Lancaster and Berks counties over the past few years will come as a wonderful surprise. There are more than 80 galleries within a 5-block area in downtown Lancaster, ranging from fun-and-funky home furnishings at Metropolis, 154 N. Prince St. (tel. 717/572-9961; www.metropolis-store.com), to changing exhibits at Red Raven Art Company, 138 N. Prince St. (tel. 717/299-4400; www.redravenartcompany.com), plus loads of great (non-Dutch) cafes and bakeries, including Rachel's Café & Creperie, 309 N. Queen St. (tel. 717/399-3515; www.rachelscreperie.com). The city is also home to the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design, 204 N. Prince St. (tel. 717/396-7833; www.pcad.edu) and the Demuth Museum, 120 E. King St. (tel. 717/299-9940; www.demuth.org), housed in the historic home of early-20th-century artist Charles Demuth.

For artistic lodgings, check into the superb Lancaster Arts Hotel, 300 Harrisburg Ave. (tel. 866/720-ARTS [2787] or 717/431-3266; www.lancasterartshotel.com), an incredibly stylish, art-bedecked boutique hotel with high-end amenities and gorgeous individually decorated rooms and suites. The property features architectural elements from its former life as a tobacco warehouse, and its cutting-edge restaurant, John J. Jeffries, specializes in fine local and seasonal cuisine. (A signature on an old tobacco inspection slip found during renovation inspired the name.) At nearby Checkers Bistro, 300 W. James St. (tel. 717/509-1069; www.checkersbistro.com), local artists who often paint at a mid-dining room easel add to the lively ambience.

Art energy peaks during festive, well-attended First Friday celebrations; visit www.lancasterarts.com or www.figlancaster.com for more information. Another alliterative arts event, Second Sunday, is hosted 30 miles northeast at the Goggleworks, 201 Washington St. (tel. 610/374-4600; www.goggleworks.org) in Reading. Housed in a huge, multibuilding former goggle factory site, this vibrant, comprehensive center for the arts is packed with five stories of galleries, studios, and classrooms, and includes an art-house film theater, a gift shop, and a casual restaurant. A voluminous hot-glass studio has stadium seating so you can observe the fiery spectacle of molten glass being transformed into fragile masterpieces. Open daily, there's no admission fee, and parking is free.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.