Northern Indiana is home to nearly 20,000 Amish, a culture that remains true to centuries-old traditions even as the world around them changes at break-neck speed. Modern technology – including television and electricity – are noticeably absent from Amish homes. The Amish “connect” in a different way – through engaging conversation, straightforward business transactions and a solid grounding in faith and family-based values.
We suggest you take a cue from them slow your pace, unplug and recharge.
3 Day Experience - A Window into a Unique World: Amish Life along the Heritage Trail
DAY ONE (Nappanee)
Take to the road and explore Nappanee’s Countryside Shops (Pick up a free map at the Nappanee Center, 302 W Market). It’s an interesting mix of rural businesses – many are Amish-owned and some are (way) off the beaten path. Miller’s Variety Store (8920 N SR 19) is packed with fun finds, fresh pies and other delectable baked goods are made on site at the newly expanded Rentown Store (1530 Third Road), and loose leaf teas and tea making supplies line the shelves at Teapot & More at Coppes Commons (401 E Market).
The Amish are known for their woodworking skills.
The Schmucker brothers at Homestyle Furniture (1359 W Market) specialize in hand-crafted furniture while Mint City Millwork (3013 Birch Rd, Bremen) specializes in tall case and mantle clocks. Henry Chupp’s hand-carved walking sticks are works of art. See his hand-hewn creations at Chuppville Carving (11726 N 1000 W).
>> Need to know ... Buggies and bicycles are the main modes of transport for the Amish. You’ll see plenty of the former along backroads
DAY TWO (Middlebury en route to Shipshewana)
Amish hands and skillfully blended basics create some of the best baked goods we’ve ever tasted. Try the supersized cinnamon rolls at Country Lane Bakery (1/4 mile off US 20 on CR 43). The tiny, gas-lit shop is surrounded by rolling fields and grazing horses. Back in town, shop where the Amish shop, head to Gohn Brothers (105 S Main) for plain clothing made by and sold to Amish residents and have a leisurely lunch at the nearby Village Inn (107 S Main) where you’ll find lively conversation and dishes commonly found on Amish tables.
No trip to Middlebury is complete without a stop at Das Dutchman Essenhaus (240 U.S. 20) home to Indiana’s largest restaurant, serving over 30 varieties of pie. After a satisfying meal, stroll through the campus grounds with five unique Village Shops, take a carriage ride, or play mini-golf.
The roads that connect Middlebury and Shipshewana are lined with Amish farms and businesses. Start at Dutch Country Market (11401 County Road 16) for the house-made noodles. You might even see members of the Lehman family making them. Lyle Helmuth, owner of B&L Woodcrafts (10045 W 250 N) can help you choose that perfect pair of Adirondack chairs just right for relaxing in the backyard. The cheeses at Heritage Ridge Creamery (11275 W 250 N) are made with milk sourced from Amish farms.
By all means, travel the road(s) less taken. There are plenty north and south of County Road 16 / State Road 250. Driving them, you’ll get a respectful glimpse of Amish life and land on some unique local finds like beekeeping supplies and fresh-from-the-hive honey at b Honey (2260 1000 W), hand-carved puzzles and hand-woven baskets from Teaberry Wood Products (1450 N 1150 W) and Five & Dime-style merchandise at Laura’s Fabrics (55140 CR 43). Ruth Otto makes and sells rag rugs while her son weaves baskets using natural dyes. Their shop is open if they’re home (look for the sign at the corner of 10435 W 050 N & 1000 W).
>> Only in Amish Country will you find ... a supermarket with a hitching post (Forks County Line Store, 508 E Warren, Middlebury) and kids “driving” (safely that is, and in pony carts on back roads).
DAY THREE (Shipshewana)
The Amish-Mennonite story is an interesting one – and you won’t get anything close to the truth from “reality” television – so start at Menno-Hof (510 S Van Buren). Here, multi-media presentations and historical environments paint a factual and fascinating look at this often misunderstood culture.
Amish-owned shops are everywhere in “Shipshee.” Visitors can watch the carving process before buying at Owl Toy Craft (9555 W 300 S, Topeka), shop with Amish locals at Spector’s Store (305 S Van Buren) and purchase Amish-made jams and preserves, along with quilts, at Little Helpers Quilt Shop (1030 N 1000 W).
From peaches to pumpkins, the stalls are packed with locally grown produce at the Shipshewana Flea Market (345 S Van Buren - Tuesdays and Wednesdays, May thru September), in colorful displays at E&S Sales (1265 N Van Buren).
>> Handmade and locally grown ... is not a trend for the Amish. Generations have perfected the art of hand-stitched quilts (search shopping/quilts), pie (you’ll find every flavor from Amish Sugar Cream to German Chocolate) and the roadside produce stand (they pop up everywhere; selections vary with the seasons).
>> Amish Customs and Culture ... ever wonder why the Amish are referred to as “Plain People”? The main reason is because of the way they dress; very plainly. You will never see patterns on any of their clothing, only solid colors can be worn. Further, the trousers that the men wear have no zippers and instead have a button fly. Women use straight pins to fasten the sides of their dress together.
>> During your Heritage Trail adventure ... discover super-sized quilt-inspired Quilt Gardens and hand-painted quilt-inspired Quilt Murals, viewable free May 30 - September 15.
Some of the most insightful experiences into Amish life can only be enjoyed by groups of 15 or more!
Here are a few to consider ...
Levi and Esther Miller share the details of an Amish wedding, from the bride’s dress to the customary German wedding song. A traditional Amish wedding dinner follows the presentation
Real Indiana Amish Country Housewives Tour. Get a firsthand look at home-keeping without electrically-powered appliances and other modern conveniences
Watch a baking demonstration.
Participate in an Amish quilting bee.
Meet an Amish teacher, see her classroom and learn how the Amish integrate education into their lives