Everything to know about Lancaster Rec’s new beer gardens in Musser, Buchanan and Reservoir parks | Food

Temperatures are getting warmer, which means it’s the prime time to grab a drink with friends and sit outside.

Lancaster Rec will soon offer three new places to do just that. The organization will host three nearly weeklong beer gardens in Musser, Buchanan and Reservoir parks in Lancaster city this June. 

The best part: It’s for a good cause.

Proceeds from the event will go toward funding Lancaster Rec’s activities, including summer camp programs and recreational sports teams, but they’ll also go towards beautifying the parks in which the beer gardens take place. Funds will be allocated for park benches and new trees, among other park improvement projects, says Heather Dighe, executive director for Lancaster Rec.

The beer garden will serve beer, wine and cocktails, as well as many non-alcoholic drinks. The goal is to be family friendly, Dighe says.

“As a young parent, there aren’t really a ton of options” for entertainment for the whole family, says Dighe, a mother to two young children.

Most kid-friendly entertainment is geared more toward kids, like Dutch Wonderland and Hands-On House, whereas the beer gardens will have plenty of activities for both kids and parents to enjoy, Dighe says. She says they’re also an apt destination for hanging out with friends or enjoying happy hour after work.

“I keep saying, it’s like a giant neighborhood backyard barbecue for people living in the city that might not have backyards,” Dighe says. “All you guys got to do is show up and have a good time.”

The basics

Lancaster Rec will host beer gardens in collaboration with Tellus360, an Irish bar and entertainment space in Lancaster city. The beer gardens will happen in Musser, Buchanan and Reservoir Parks in the spring, and again later in September. Dates and locations for the fall beer gardens have not yet been announced.

Here are the dates of each beer garden this spring:

– June 1 to 5: Musser Park, 135 N. Lime St.

– June 8 to 12: Buchanan Park, 901 Buchanan Ave.

– June 15 to 19: Reservoir Park, 832 E. Orange St.

Each beer garden has free admission and is kid- and pet-friendly. Those who are 21 years old or older will be given wristbands which allows them to purchase alcohol. People under 21 years old can enter the garden as long as they’re accompanied by someone of age. 

There will be food trucks at each beer garden event, as well as a few food vendors. The beer garden will accept cash and credit card, though payment methods may vary for individual food trucks.

The beer selection will be local, with options from Wyndridge Farms, Our Town Brewing Company, Spring House Brewing Company and Lancaster Brewing Company.

“When we worked with Tellus, we said that the most important thing for us is to use local,” Dighe says. “We really want to celebrate our local craftsmen and artisans here.”

People can bring their own blankets and chairs, though there will be enough seating at the sectioned-off event to accommodate around 250 people, Dighe says. Organizers will not take reservations; seating is first-come-first-served.

“We want to make this a really attractive and special place to visit,” Dighe says. 

There will be several lawn games, such as checkers, corn hole and ladder golf.

“Our hope is that the kids will play on the playground, and the family will take a nice walk around the park. It’s a way to enjoy time in a beautiful green space, in addition to being a beer garden,” Dighe says. 

How it happened

Dighe is always searching for inspiration, wanting to bring new ideas to Lancaster County.

Most of the time, she’ll look at other recreational programming in big cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to see if she can somehow make the ideas work locally.

The beer gardens were directly inspired by Philadelphia’s Parks on Tap program, a traveling beer garden that gives back to the parks that host the events. Dighe talked with people at Philadelphia Parks & Recreation to see how she could bring something like this to Lancaster, being that the gardens are well-received in Philadelphia and help several of its parks.

Though it’s the largest recreation organization in Lancaster County, nonprofit Lancaster Rec is not run by local government.

The organization applied for key event permits with the city of Lancaster. 

“We met with the permitting team, which is zoning, public works, all those folks, to walk them through this idea,” Dighe says.

Once the idea was approved, they came up with a plan to execute the beer garden and meet the standards of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and Lancaster city. 

The beer gardens will operate under Tellus360’s Off Premises Catering Permit, Dighe says.

The permit allows businesses with a liquor license to serve alcohol at events with strict rules and regulations to follow, according to the PLCB.

Lancaster Rec will receive donations from Tito’s Vodka ($1 per cocktail made with Tito’s sold) and hard seltzer brand High Noon ($1 per seltzer sold). Local businesses can also buy sponsorships to help support the beer garden’s mission. Participating businesses so far include Members 1st Federal Credit Union, Harlan Financial and Trout, Ebersole & Groff.


People have generally been receptive to the idea of beer gardens in Lancaster city parks, Dighe says. She hasn’t gotten any blowback about the idea.

But, that doesn’t mean Lancaster Rec won’t listen to complaints if they come up.

“If we hear strongly from a particular neighborhood that it’s not the right fit for them, we totally understand that, and that’s okay,” Dighe says. She’s open to the idea of bringing the beer gardens to other neighborhoods, too.

“We know it’s something new and different,” Dighe says. “We just hope the community will enjoy it, and they see it as a space for them. Parks are for everyone.”