What's it like to live in Lancaster, PA?

Marie Loiseau

Profile written by local expert:

Marie Loiseau

Lancaster, Pennsylvania, offers a balance between natural and commercial spaces that residents appreciate. Expansive farms rub elbows with manicured suburbs, which lead right into the bustling city. A short drive can take one through each of these environments. Each area boasts its own unique groups of inhabitants: farmers, families, college students and young professionals. From close-knit church communities to the indie coffee shop scene, Lancaster holds something for everyone.

Lancaster County's rolling farmland may be a draw for residents, but all those farm animals do bring a specific odor to the area's air. Meanwhile, the local Kellogg's plant, Mars Chocolate North America and the world's largest chicken barbecue add their own aromas to the mix. Though new residents will surely take notice at first, this unique smell eventually becomes the smell of home. 


U.S. News analyzed 125 metro areas in the United States to find the best places to live based on quality of life and the job market in each metro area, as well as the value of living there and people's desire to live there.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania is ranked:

#48 in Best Places to Live

#3 in Best Places to Retire




Best Places to Live

  • Desirability
  • Value
  • Job Market
  • Quality of Life
  • Net Migration

Read how we rank places

Lancaster, PA Quick Stats

  • 536,494

    Metro Population

  • $43,760

    Average Annual Salary

  • 61.9° / 42.3°

    Avg High/Low Temps

  • 38.5

    Median Age

  • $196,025

    Median Home Price

  • 42.0 inches

    AVG Annual Rainfall

  • 3.4%

    Unemployment Rate

  • $957

    Median Monthly Rent

  • 23.1 minutes

    Avg Commute Time

What's the cost of living in Lancaster, PA?

Lancaster is affordable compared to other major metro areas, and homes are less expensive than the national median home sale price. Other living expenses like food, health, transportation and miscellaneous expenses fall in line with the national average.

Value Index

Index Score: 6.7 /10

How we calculate this.

Lancaster offers a comparable value to similarly sized metro areas when you compare housing costs to median household income.

Housing Costs 2018



Housing Costs Over Time

Data sourced from Zillow median home sale price data series. Additional data provided by the Austin Board of Realtors, Houston Association of Realtors, Intermountain MLS, Omaha Area Board of Realtors, San Antonio Board of Realtors, and the Salt Lake Board of Realtors.

Buying or selling a home? Find top real estate agents in Lancaster, PA.

What's the weather like in Lancaster, PA?

Many things depend on the season in Lancaster, as each of the four seasons brings distinct conditions: temperate, blossom-filled springs; hot, barbecue-filled summers; crisp, colorful autumns; and frigid, snowy winters.

Seasonal Temperature (Avgs)









Seasonal Rainfall (Avgs)

3.1 in


4.0 in


4.4 in


4.3 in


Monthly High and Low Temperatures (°F)

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center.

What's the best way to get around Lancaster, PA?

Lancaster proper isn't too big (just over 7 square miles), and many points of interest are accessible on foot.

Most suburban residents drive to and from work. Because there is no single metropolis to which people are driving (some area residents work in Harrisburg or York), traffic is usually not a problem. Meanwhile, the Red Rose Transit Authority operates 17 different bus routes that serve Lancaster city and some parts of Lancaster County.

The Amtrak at Queen Street Train Station is located downtown, and is a convenient means of traveling to PhiladelphiaNew York City or Washington, D.C., for the weekend. Lancaster does feature the small Lancaster Airport, but the nearby Harrisburg International Airport offers more flights and more destinations. Philadelphia and Baltimore airports are viable options as well.

Commuting in Lancaster, PA

Means of Transportation
Above national average

Equal to national average

Equal to national average

Public Transit
Below national average
Average Commute Time

23.1 minutes

3.3 minutes less than national average

Average Commute Times by Zip Code

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Who lives in Lancaster, PA?

New bars downtown and the shops and eateries on College Row have drawn college students and young professionals into the downtown area, which has resulted in a more youthful community. However, the majority of Lancaster's households belong to families.

Lancaster is famous for its sizable communities of Amish, Mennonite, Brethren and other "Plain People." It's not uncommon for outsiders to think that everyone in Lancaster shuns modern technology. However, cultural practices, or "Ordnung," are determined by communities' individual churches and can vary from group to group. While some Amish populations still rely on horses and buggies, others use cellphones and have social media accounts.

Despite the presence of the Amish and Mennonite communities, only about half of the overall population is religious. 

Many Lancaster residents struggle to make ends meet. In the city proper, roughly 30 percent of people live below the poverty line (compared to around 10 percent in Lancaster County). 

Age Distribution

Marital Status Breakdown

Fewer single people in Lancaster than
national average

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

What is there to do in Lancaster, PA?

In the downtown area, which is easily traversed on foot, it's common for residents to take advantage of events in Lancaster city. There is an arts and music "First Friday" that occurs on the first Friday of each month, which draws a large crowd.

When the weather is nice, residents enjoy nearby hiking trails, corn mazes and tractor pulls. Buchanan Park, just one of the area's many parks, is quite popular with its sports facilities and impressively equipped dog park.

As winter sets in, many residents take advantage of indoor sports leagues, snow tubing and the nearby Roundtop Mountain Resort.