by Traci L. Suppa
Located at the intersection of two highways, yet bordering acres of quiet and bountiful farmland, the Fulton Steamboat Inn is one of the closest hotels to the Dutch Wonderland amusement park. It’s a great option as a home base to explore the other sites in Pennsylvania’s Dutch Country, as well, and is just a 10-minute drive to the shopping, dining, and cultural attractions in downtown Lancaster.
A sign out front reminds you of the hotel’s namesake. In 1765, Robert Fulton was born a few miles south of where this property stands. His invention, the first steam-powered ship, made its first journey from New York City up the Hudson River in 1807. While this isn’t an actual steamboat-turned-hotel, the architecture and design of the property do a good job of playing off the nautical, turn-of-the-century theme. It opened in 1990, and has undergone cosmetic updates to keep things fresh and clean.
Guests are referred to as passengers, children are Junior First Mates and the floors are called decks. The dÃ©cor is heavily Victorian, with accents such as tin panel ceilings, brass fixtures and mahogany. This throwback ambiance is obviously a hit with older generations, as we saw a lot of intergenerational families traveling together during our visit.
You can tell right away that children are not just tolerated here; they are warmly welcomed. At check-in, kids receive a paper sailor hat. If they wear it to the onsite restaurant, Huckleberry’s, they get a free serving of ice cream. You can also request a real pet goldfish for your room during your stay, and you’ll find a rubber duck in the bathtub. All of these little touches, plus cookies in the lobby in the afternoon, an impressive playground and indoor pool make this a fun, family-friendly find.
Our Editor Loves
- Central to many PA Dutch Country attractions
- Large playground and year-round indoor pool
- Special welcome amenity for kids
- Theme Park
- Water Parks
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Game Room
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
There are 97 rooms at the Fulton Steamboat Inn, all of which are non-smoking. ADA-compliant accommodations are available. The standard features include complimentary Wi-Fi; 32-inch, flat-panel LCD TV's; mini-fridges; microwaves; hairdryers; coffee makers; and irons. There are several different room types; rooms come with one king bed with a sofa bed, two queen beds with a sitting chair or desk, and one king bed with bunk and trundle beds for children. The bathrooms not only contain Bath & Body Works toiletries, but also a rubber duck for young bathers.
There are cribs and air mattresses available in limited supply, first-come, first-served, for a fee of $10 per night. The air mattresses self-inflate with a built-in electric motor to a height of nearly 2 feet, so it feels more like a standard bed.
There are Blue-Ray DVD players in each room, and you can borrow DVD's at the front desk. The library includes hundreds of G-rated to R-rated titles, and includes all the major releases from Disney, Blue Sky Studios, Nickelodeon, and the like. There is a $20 fee added to your bill if you don't return the DVD by the time you check out. The cable network carries Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel and Cartoon Network.
Promenade Deck (First Floor)
The first floor features nautical- and Victorian-themed rooms with either two queen beds, one king bed with a sofa bed, or one king bed with a set of bunks, a trundle bed, and a ceiling fan.
Observation Deck (Second Floor)
The second floor features nautical- and Victorian-themed rooms with either two queen beds, or one king bed with a sofa bed.
Sun Deck (Third Floor)
The third floor features Victorian-themed rooms with an over-sized king bed or two queen beds and a private balcony. All guestrooms on the Sun Deck offer sitting chairs with an activity table and a ceiling fan. These rooms are reserved for guests 16 years and older. The Captain's Lounge on the Sun Deck offers a quiet seating area overlooking neighboring farmland.
I read so many positive reviews. The room was nice but this was the view for $199/night. I expected something a little better than that but you don’t know until you stay. We also didn’t realize we needed a reservation for a dinner seating at 5pm. That was our fault. A quick foray into town found 40+ minute wait times at most major chain restaurants. The pool was a plus for the kids but I feel like you could find anything they’d be happy with at someplace without a view of rooftop vents.
i would highly suggest that anyone who organizes trips for large and small groups(or even just for two) stay at this fabulous place. the rooms were big, clean and beautiful. the grounds are set up in such away that spending time outdoors is relaxing . the bar, restaurant had wonderful authentic food for the area. a pool, gym and hot tub were an added bonus. you become transformed by the scenery and you can walk to some great shopping! Marissa and her staff were attentive and helpful. professional and made you feel like family!!!!! love this place.
On the Promenade deck, or ground floor, you'll find the heated indoor swimming pool and whirlpool, which are open for families from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult. From 10 p.m. to midnight, the pool is open for adult-only swim time. The kidney-shaped pool ranges from 3 to 5 feet in depth, with stairs at one end. It's in a pleasant glass-enclosed atrium, so the sunlight is ample year-round. There is iron deck furniture with thick cushions, and towels and water are provided. There's also a hot tub for guests 16 years and older.
The Happy Harbor Landing playground is a highlight for kids, with a climbing fort structure in the shape of a two-level ship connected to a playhouse, which has a ramp, slides, rope ladder, tire and sling swings, as well as a baby swing. It's designed for kids 10 and younger, with adult supervision, and is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
On the Observation deck (second floor), there is a small game room that is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. It has video games such as Galaga and Nitro, and a pinball machine.
On the grounds, there is a large duck and Koi-feeding pond, and a short walking trail surrounding it. There are coin-operated dispensers with food for both the fish and the ducks. Along the trail is a series of signs about Koi, describing where the species get its name, feeding habits, and more.
The hotel offers a Guppy Love program. Upon check-in, children can request a companion goldfish for the duration of their stay in their room. You can go to the gift shop and pick the one you want as your temporary pet. If you want to take it home with you, the hotel will provide you with the necessary materials.
Just across the street is the Lost Treasure Miniature Golf course. The hotel is one of the closest to the Dutch Wonderland amusement park, a half-mile from several outlet centers, and a 10-minute drive to the Science Factory.
Huckleberry's Restaurant and Tavern
This onsite restaurant is open for breakfast from 7 to 10 a.m.; lunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and dinner from 4 to 8:30 p.m. There are high chairs and booster seats, as well as a children's menu, but the regular menu is full of comfort food items that appeal to all ages.
The menu includes American classics, with local specialties like Lancaster County ham and pot roast, and some items fitting the turn-of-the-century theme, like sarsaparilla (a type of soft drink). There is live musical entertainment on weekends, primarily a singer with a keyboard.
If your room is on the Promenade or Observation deck (the first and second floors), check the back of your room key card for a 10-percent discount off lunch and dinner entrees, good for up to four people.
Huckleberry's Tavern is adjacent to Huckleberry's Restaurant, and this space serves as the bar at night. During the day, families can dine on a limited pub-style menu with "Huckle-wiches" and other appetizers.
In the lobby, you'll find complimentary coffee service in the morning. In the afternoon, there is lemonade, lemon-infused water, and a plate of chocolate chip cookies.
Along Route 30, also called the Lincoln Highway, there are scores of restaurants, from fast-food favorites like Chick Fil-A to casual family chains like Olive Garden, Ruby Tuesday, and the Waffle House.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
The "Emporium" gift shop carries travel-sized toiletries and related sundries, but also a nice array of gifts, including specialty foods and local Amish crafts. For the kids' enjoyment, there is a live fish tank near the cashier stand. Outside the shop, you'll find an ample supply of luggage racks, similar to the kind found at airports, which are so much easier to navigate than the typical hotel luggage carts.
Chandler's Nook, a "telegraph and information center," is actually a modern business center with a computer and printer, as well as a large touch-screen "E-ttractions" kiosk that provides information on local attractions, dining, and shopping in six different languages.
On the Sun Deck (third floor), there is a fitness center open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
On the Promenade Deck (first floor), there is a self-service, coin-operated laundry facility open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Additional onsite amenities include an outdoor patio and fire pit overlooking the duck pond.
The Fulton Steamboat Inn has a "Captain's Club," and by signing up, you will receive e-mail updates including discounts and promotions for the hotel and Huckleberry's Restaurant. If you plan to visit the Dutch Wonderland amusement park during your visit, wait to purchase your tickets onsite. If you buy them at the front desk, you will save more than $3 per ticket versus buying them at the park's main gate.
The Art of Smart Timing
Summer and fall are the busiest tourist seasons in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, when the seasonal attractions are open. However, there are indoor, year-round attractions you can visit in the winter and early spring, such as the Lancaster Science Factory and the Turkey Hill Experience, which could make the more affordable rates during these months even more appealing. The weather can be unpredictably snowy during the months of November through April.
The closest airport is the small, limited-service Lancaster Airport. Harrisburg International Airport is 45 minutes away in Middletown, and the Philadelphia International Airport is approximately two hours away. There is an Amtrak train station in the city of Lancaster, which sits on both the Pennsylvanian and Keystone lines.
The Fulton Steamboat Inn, and Lancaster County in general, is mainly a regional drive destination, and with limited public transportation options, is best navigated in a private or rental car.
For Mom and Dad
If you're traveling with grandparents or other built-in babysitters, a great adults-only evening can be found in the dining district in downtown Lancaster. You can find a plethora of unique, independent restaurants in a range of cuisines, from Irish to Thai.
If you prefer to stay at the hotel, head to Huckleberry's Tavern for a drink and some live entertainment.