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MOUNT GRETNA >> Founded in the 1890s by the Pennsylvania Chautauqua Society, historic Mount Gretna is located just a few miles off the Lebanon exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The charming little area can be described as a bucolic refuge from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, where residents relax and socialize on wrap-around porches and visitors are in little hurry to leave.

It's here, every year, where Mount Gretna Music holds its biggest annual fundraiser called the "Tour of Homes" during the first Saturday in August.

Mount Gretna Music brings chamber music, jazz and other musical genres to Central Pennsylvania and the organization has been going strong for 40 years now. This year's fundraiser was, once again, deemed a success. Each year, the self-guided tour becomes more popular as guests gladly pay to get a glimpse of what it's like to actually live in the secluded little

enclave.

This year, ticket holders were invited inside homes with colorful appellations like "Southern Comfort," "It's a Wonderful Life," and "The Moose Den," to learn about the history of the homes and a bit more about the residents who choose to live there.

For some guests, the "Tour of Homes" was their first taste of the area and being duly impressed, they vowed to visit again to spend more time enjoying all that Mount Gretna has to offer.

Those who have yet to experience the magic of Mount Gretna may appreciate these few suggestions on navigating around this little gem of an area, and may even consider marking their calendars now for next year's "Tour of Homes."

Renting a cottage

Some residents of Mount Gretna live there year round, others prefer to stay only during the warm months. If your idea of paradise is reclining on a hammock on a wrap-around porch amidst a copse of trees, armed with the latest mystery novel, then go no further than Penn Realty. Conveniently located on Gretna grounds, Penn Realty is the place to visit to view a list of

what's available for rent, or purchase.

Seeing a show

Known as one of the oldest summer theatres in the United States, the Gretna Theatre, nestled in the woods, offers a mix of Broadway musicals and comedies in an outside pavilion.

If you'd prefer a little dinner with that show, go to the top of Timber Road to a playhouse that has been entertaining audiences for years. The Timbers restaurant and dinner theater offers guests both a la carte and buffet dining before performances.

Owner Kathleen Roberts escorts her team to New York every February to audition first-class performers, eventually winnowing down the field to those few talented enough to make the cut and perform at this well-respected establishment.

Taking a swim

The family-owned and -operated Mount Gretna Lake and Beach is open every day from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Daily admission charge is $16. Seniors and children ages 4-11 pay $8 each and those aged 3 and younger are admitted for free.

With its 300-foot sand beach, its large, grassy lawn area and children's play space, this hot spot is closer than the beach and much more convenient. Canoes and kayaks are rented by the half hour and giant inner tubes and chairs are available for rent by the day.

Dining at Gretna

There's still time to enjoy breakfast or lunch at Le Sorelle Porch and Pantry, another family-owned option which is open through Labor Day. If you're lucky, you can grab a seat on the spacious front porch and watch the world go by, at your leisure beneath the gentle breeze of ceiling fans.

Not far away from Le Sorelle is the Jigger Shop, a fixture in the area for decades. Known for its famous "Jigger" sundae, with French vanilla ice cream with a choice of chocolate, or butterscotch topping, and whipped marshmallow, the Jigger Shop is a tradition for many families in the region.

A little further away, The Hideaway offers hungry guests a variety of lunch options, from sandwiches to wraps and dinner selections like chicken Parmesan, filet mignon, or crab cakes. Guests can dine inside, or al fresco on the comfy deck.

Don't miss the shops

No getaway is complete without a little shopping, and Mount Gretna has that too.

The Gretna Emporium, located near the Jigger Shop, is chock full of unique gift items from crafts, to puzzles, toys, yard art and more.

Up the hill from Penn Realty sits La Cigale, which offers linens and goods imported from Provence, France, along with an array of art for sale by local artists.

There are plenty more activities available at Mount Gretna; just stop by the cute little visitors' center located up the little hill past the Jigger Shop. There you'll find plenty of information on upcoming events.

Enjoy your visit.

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