Greetings travellers! Philadelphia Regionals isn’t in Philadelphia this year. It’s in Lancaster, PA. I’ve lived in PA a number of years, and have travelled to TCG tournaments all over the state. For the most part, I’d say this venue transition is a good thing. The TO has put up some hints on travel, but being a TO, cannot really say everything that a Pokemon player might want to know before coming to a new Regionals venue. I live in Lancaster County, know the region very well, and have some words of advice on making a journey here to play Pokemon. Here’s a rundown of what to expect.
Flying to Lancaster
PA Regionals has the benefit of being the only Regionals event for the weekend – and it has no airport for commercial travel. This is the one BIG down side to having Regionals in Lancaster. If you are flying in, you have one of three choices:
- Philadelphia International
- Harrisburg International
Flights into BWI and PHI are going to be cheaper than flying into Harrisburg, but these airports put you at least 1.5 hours away. A flight into Harrisburg will put you about 30 minutes from the convention center, but you will have to rent a car. If you are flying in, I suggest meeting up with friends and having them drive you in. I would fly into BWI every single time if I had the choice. The traffic in Baltimore is bad; the traffic in Philadelphia is horrendously bad. I missed an international flight for a Magic tournament because I was parked on the interstates leading into Philadelphia. It only takes one bozo to bring major thoroughfares in Philly to a screeching halt. And driving in from BWI has an additional benefit: it’s an easier route to the venue.
Driving to Lancaster
The drive into Lancaster from the four quadrants of the compass is really lovely as it showcases PA agriculture at Fall harvest. But there are some super important local factors to keep in mind. The primary trouble route is from Philly into Lancaster. If you are coming from the North, South, and West, you should really be golden. But if you are planning on gathering in the Philly area, and carpooling into Lancaster, I must give you the strongest possible warning:
Stay as far away from Route 30 as possible on the drive in. If you hit Route 30, it’s because you checked Waze and there is an accident on the Turnpike.
In all other cases, stay away from 30. If you put “Lancaster” into your GPS, and it sends you to the PA turnpike, take the turnpike and pay the toll. Don’t try to save money here by navigating Route 30 as an “alternate route.” If you decide to drive into Lancaster via Route 30 either the Friday night before, or the morning of the tournament, please understand that I have personally experienced the following:
- Local Amish celebrations that bring horses and buggies all over major highways clogging up traffic for miles (this could be any time of day)
- Tractor Trailer caravans that are too heavy for Interstate 81 or the Turnpike. Since they would come in heavy at those weigh stations, they hit route 30 travelling at 30 mph for 30 mile single lane stretches.
- Local “Flea Markets” and “Farmers Markets” that bog traffic into a standstill as 80 year old passers by go 10 mph to check out the goodies without stopping the car
- PA State Police shutting down both lanes to stop some illegal trafficking
I could literally go on and on. DUI checkpoints, highway cleaning crews, construction, etc. My point: if you MUST drive on 30, do NOT trust your projected navigation times. Just add 1.5 hours to what navigation projects, and you won’t be disappointed. Again: Waze is your friend here.
Staying in Lancaster
The price of the room associated with the venue is very affordable, and I would book now if you can. I just did a Hotels.com search and a Priceline search for Regionals weekend, and rooms are drying up. The reason: It’s the last weekend for Dutch Wonderland; Lancaster has two convention centers (the other is in downtown Lancaster); I’ve heard that Lancaster could use an additional 1,000 hotel rooms to satisfy its tourist demand. Not sure if that’s true, but if you plan to come, book now. For your reference: the nicer hotels are a bit of a drive to the Pokemon site, so if you like nicer amenities, plan to get up a bit earlier on Saturday & Sunday mornings. Top tip: when doing your hotel search, make sure the address to your hotel is in the 2100-2300 blocks on Route 30 (Lincoln Highway). The one exception would be the Holiday Inn Express Rockvale on Willowdale Ave. Any other hotel is going to take you farther than you might want to be; any within the listed range should be within 5 minutes driving. Oh – one last thing: when you do your hotel search, you will find a bunch of one star hotel names. I dare say just about all of them will be better than Best Western Kings Quarters. I haven’t stayed in them, but they all appear clean with good curb appeal.
Dining in Lancaster
At the Pokemon convention center, there are lots of local dining options, but they are all chains. If you want suggestions for better places in Lancaster, send me a PM. My only word of caution here: Chik-Fil-A is always backed up. If you want to eat there, send someone that dropped from the event.
Shopping in Lancaster
This is the one Regionals where there is a ton of shopping literally right next door to the venue. If you have family members that want to shop, check out Tanger Outlets and Rockvale Outlets. Bring your credit card. There is so much local shopping that a person could not hit all the stores in one weekend.
Convenience / Gas
Just an FYI: If you are looking for gas, cigarettes, Red Bull, etc., the local convenience chain is called Turkey Hill. No clue why, but it’s just like Sheetz, Wawa, 7/11, etc.
One last tidbit. You will likely see Amish only if you come via route 30 (see above). They tend to avoid the section of highway by the convention center. But if you hit a convenience store, Target, grocery chain, etc, you will likely see them. My word of advice is not to publically ridicule them. They are very highly respected farmers and carpenters. There are certainly components of their worldview that doesn’t mesh with 21 century Westerners, but overall, the Amish are respected. If you are going to make fun of them, do it privately. If you’ve never seen a horse and buggy parking area, swing by Costco to take a look. The shovel is for… well… you’ll figure it out.
See you in Lancaster!