The Amish community is a living reminder of the principles of religious freedom that helped shape America
What comes to mind when you think of Amish country? A slower pace, rolling landscapes, quaint shops, comfort food, black buggies, and the clip-clop of horse hooves.
The first notable group of Amish arrived in America around 1730 and settled near Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Today the largest concentration of Amish is in Holmes and neighboring counties in Ohio. Located in the rolling hills of east-central Ohio, it is easy to find via I-77 to the east, I-71 to the west, and I-70 to the south.
A relaxing drive in Amish Country reveals scenic vistas and charming vignettes of a simpler time and place. It is basically a living history museum of how life was 100 years ago.
Every bend in the road brings a new and delightful surprise: dense woodlands one minute, panoramic views the next; a sudden glimpse of Amish kids bouncing on a front-yard trampoline; a flock of chickens crossing the road.
Drive slowly on these back roads. Livestock lurks in unexpected places. And there’s a steady stream of people, too—on bikes, or in buggies, or just walking down the road.
Honest, friendly, and hard-working describe the people of the area, where thousands come to experience a break from the hustle and bustle of today’s world.
Holmes County has bakeries, cheese houses, wineries, quilt and craft shops, and 80 hardwood furniture stores.
The clip-clop of horse hooves is a familiar sound in the historic town of Millersburg, founded in 1815. Millersville, the Holmes County seat, sits on the bank of Killbuck Creek and is home to 3,500 residents. Along with Berlin and Walnut Creek, Millersville makes up the heart of Ohio’s Amish Country.
October couldn’t offer a more perfect time to visit Holmes County. Of course, Amish Country’s pastoral landscape, complete with one-room schoolhouses and white picket fences, ambling black buggies and Belgian horses pulling plows in the fields, makes for scenery worthy of a postcard at any time of year.
But the burst of vibrant foliage on display here in autumn—countless species of leaves brandishing every shade of the rainbow, colorful treetops rising from the hills like upturned paintbrushes—serves up vistas that make both the Amish people and their surroundings seem transplanted from another century.
The Amish settled in this region of Ohio because it reminded them of their European homelands. They made their living primarily through agriculture, but today the Amish cottage industry is growing. The area has a large concentration of hardwood furniture builders.
They’re also a huge producer of cheese, especially Swiss cheese, with several of their cheese houses using only locally produced Amish milk. A visit to Heini’s Cheese Chalet, home of the original Yogurt Cultured Cheese, or Guggisberg Cheese, home of the Original Baby Swiss provides a glimpse into how cheese is made. Plus, at Heini’s you can sample more than 70 types of cheese, purchase Amish foods, smoked meats, fudge, and more while Guggisberg offers 60 varieties of cheese with all the accompaniments.
Housed in a charming Victorian home where comfortable rocking chairs beckon visitors, the Coblentz Chocolate Company is a destination for locals and visitors to Ohio’s Amish Country. A viewing gallery makes it possible for guests to see firsthand how the staff makes chocolates and other sweet treats the old-fashioned way. More than 60,000 pounds are produced annually at the family-owned business that has a second retail location in Berlin.
Many farms have a small business attached, catering more to Amish needs than to tourists’ taste. There’s even an Amish Maytag repairman who specializes in fixing washers that run on gas.
Enjoy beautiful scenery, visit an Amish farm, savor homemade foods, and listen for the clip-clop of a horse and buggy, the most common sight in an Amish community. Shop for handmade quilts, artwork, and furniture in Millersburg, Berlin, or Walnut Creek.
There is so much more to see and do in this beautiful and historic area. Take time to explore this great county in beautiful Ohio. You’ll be glad you did.
Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast—you miss the sense of where you’re going and why.
The Pennsylvania Dutch Country is definitely worth visiting, if only for a glimpse into how simple and peaceful life can be in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Dutch of Lancaster County is the oldest and second-largest Amish community in the United States, numbering about 37,000. The population has more than doubled in size in the past 20 years.
The largest Amish community in the U.S. is centered in Holmes County in the northwestern part of Ohio with a population of 59,000. The main concentrations of Amish are in Millersburg but areas like Berlin, Charm, Sugarcreek, Dover, Canton, and New Philadelphia are also populated with their ancestors. The Amish are also spread over Tuscarawas and Coshocton counties.
Recent figures also revealed that 42 percent of the Amish in the U.S. live in Ohio.
Another large concentration of the Amish is centered in Elkhart and Lagrange Counties in northwestern Indiana which includes Shipshewana, Wakarusa, Middlebury, Bristol, Goshen, and Nappanee. They are known for their involvement in RV manufacturing.
The story of the Pennsylvania Amish community dates back to the 16th century Reformation in Europe when the Anabaptist movement spurred the creation of three “plain” communities: the Amish, Mennonites, and Brethren. Although these spiritual groups have similarities, the Amish are the most conservative, emphasizing humility, family, community, and separation from the non-Amish world which includes a reluctance to adopt modern conveniences such as electricity.
The groups differ primarily in matters of dress, language, forms of worship, and the extent to which they allow modern technology and the forces of the “outside world” to impact their lives. Most Brethren and Mennonites dress much like their American neighbors. Other Mennonites, Brethren, and Amish Mennonites wear distinctive Amish clothing but may make use of “worldly” conveniences such as cars, electricity, and telephones. On the other hand, Old Order Mennonite and Old Order Amish groups are more restrictive in their views of modern technology with the Old Order Amish being the most conservative of Lancaster County’s “plain” groups.
These groups were part of the early Anabaptist movement in Europe which took place at the time of the Reformation. The Anabaptists believed that only adults who had confessed their faith should be baptized and that they should remain separate from the larger society. Many early Anabaptists were put to death as heretics by both Catholics and Protestants and many others fled to the mountains of Switzerland and southern Germany. Here began the Amish tradition of farming and holding worship services in homes rather than churches.
In 1536, a young Catholic priest from Holland named Menno Simons joined the Anabaptist movement. His writings and leadership united many of the Anabaptist groups who were named Mennonites. In 1693, a Swiss bishop named Jacob Amman broke from the Mennonite church. His followers were called the “Amish.” Although the two groups have split several times, the Amish and Mennonite churches still share the same basic beliefs concerning baptism and basic Bible doctrines. The Amish and Mennonites both settled in Pennsylvania as part of William Penn’s “holy experiment” of religious tolerance. The first sizable group of Amish arrived in Lancaster County in the 1720s and ’30s.
Arriving in Amish Country allows you to step back in time to enjoy a slower, more peaceful pace—one where the horse and buggy remain a primary form of transportation. Always a vital part of Lancaster County culture, the Amish are involved in agriculture as well as an array of businesses and cottage industries.
Lancaster County is undeniably beautiful and simplistic in its own charming way. Many times, people end up visiting Amish Country because they’re passing through on their way to or from other destinations. As a stand-alone destination, though, is this traditional Pennsylvania region worth visiting?
The answer is an emphatic yes. However, a more detailed answer includes what travelers are looking for during their authentic Pennsylvania Dutch experience.
Why Visit Amish Country?
As awkward as it might seem, many people are drawn to Amish communities simply due to the fact that they’re often so different than the daily, modern lives of others. The Amish live by tradition and their communities are also shaped by such.
Visiting Lancaster County, specifically, offers a glimpse into a life that’s far simpler without many of the luxuries (often seen as distractions or just plain unnecessary) that most people have grown to rely on. The way of life in Lancaster County is simple and without the desire for many modern means of technology. The result for most is a trip that’s relaxing, laid-back, and peaceful.
What to Do in Amish Country?
In short, Amish buggy rides, attractions, tours, crafts, and home-cooked meals throughout Pennsylvania Dutch Country. With that being said, some visitors might associate simple with boring—but this is certainly not the case. Of course, those visiting Lancaster County in search of theme parks and nightlife will be disappointed. However, those with realistic expectations of the Amish way of life and how bountiful it can be in its simplicity will be pleased with their decision to visit this area. From the traditional Pennsylvania Dutch food to the sights and sounds of the Amish community, visitors will walk away having developed a greater appreciation for a different way of life.
The first thing on the list for those visiting Lancaster County is to spend some time exploring (and learning about) this beautiful land. Rolling hills and farms as far as the eye can see are part of the landscape and it’s worth planning some time to take it all in. Visitors can take an authentic buggy ride which is still a mode of transportation, enjoy a modern scooter ride on a guided countryside tour, and visit traditional Amish landmarks to learn more about this unique way of life.
Aaron and Jessica’s Buggy Rides: Book a private tour with Aaron and Jessica’s Buggy Rides and experience authentic Amish life with an Amish guide. A buggy ride is an ideal way to learn about life on a real working farm. The company has seven different routes from which to choose with the farm tour being the most popular. Buggy rides are available Monday to Saturday 9 am- 6 pm and Sundays from 10 am- 4:30 pm.
Amish Village: The Amish Village provides an authentic look at today’s Amish lifestyle while surrounding you with beautiful Amish farmland. Explore the 12-acre village taking a guided tour of a historic Amish homestead and learning about Amish culture while touring Amish countryside. The Village is centered around an Amish farmhouse originally built in 1840.
The Amish Farm & House: Opened to the public in 1955, The Amish Farm and House is Lancaster County’s original Amish educational farm museum. Amish Farm & House offers a variety of guided Amish countryside bus tours, guided farmhouse tours, group tours, and self-guided farm tours (included with the purchase of a bus or farmhouse tour ticket).
Strasburg Scooters: Enjoy a guided scooter tour through the back roads of Lancaster County as you follow your guide on a ride full of surprise stops hidden throughout the countryside. A variety of tours are available from several locations with varying rates. TripAdvisor’s #1 rated tour in Lancaster County.
The Amish Experience (at Plain & Fancy Farm): The Amish Experience at Plain & Fancy Farm includes a theater experience and interactions with the Amish community to learn more about their way of life. 2021 is their 62nd year presenting guided tours of the Amish farmlands, tours of Lancaster County’s only officially designated “Heritage Site” Amish House (Fisher Family Homestead) and One-Room Schoolhouse, and the Amish Experience theater five-screen production of Jacob’s Choice.
Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery: The Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery is located in historic Lititz in the middle of beautiful Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Founded in 1861, Julius Sturgis was America’s first commercial pretzel bakery. Today, visitors can tour the original bakery, get a hands-on lesson in pretzel twisting, enjoy delicious hand-twisted soft pretzels, and shop for unique treats and souvenirs in the bakery store.
Wilbur Chocolate: A sweet, historic brand iconic to downtown Lititz, Wilbur Chocolate has a new location—right across the street from the former store. Parking, easy access, and a better shopping experience await guests. But, more importantly, the smell of chocolate from the candy kitchen greets you while you enjoy a free chocolate sample. Watch candy makers creating confectionery favorites and enjoy interesting displays of tins, packaging, equipment, and more from days gone by. You will find a large variety of chocolate specialties, signature Wilbur Buds, and packaged gifts to purchase.
My mother’s people are Old Order Mennonite—horse and buggy Mennonite, very close cousins to the Amish. I grew up in Lancaster County and lived near Amish farmland.
Discover stunning views, historical sites, and Amish heritage along the scenic backroads
A few days in northern Indiana’s Amish country will introduce you to delicious made-from-scratch meals, amazing craftsmanship, tons of shopping, and horse-drawn carriage rides. You can take in the amazing works as you drive the Quilt Gardens along the Heritage Trail.
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. Take a cue from them…slow your pace, unplug, and recharge.
>> During your Heritage Trail adventure… discover 17 super-sized quilt-inspired Quilt Gardens and 22 hand-painted quilt-inspired Quilt Murals.
The Quilt Gardens along the Heritage Trail combine quilting, gardening, and art into one extraordinary ride where you’ll see 16 quilt gardens composed of more than a million blooms as well as hand-painted murals. Every quilt garden and quilt mural has its own intricate pattern, many are original designs and each has its own unique story. Each of the unique communities that host quilt gardens and murals have their own special character and fun finds you’ll want to explore.
Start in Nappanee with a guided tour of the Stahly-Nissley-Kuhns farmstead at Amish Acres. It’s listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Learn the whys and ways of the Amish as your guide takes you through the Old Order Amish farm’s original buildings including the farmhouse kitchen and smokehouse along with a leisurely farm wagon ride through the 80-acre farm with a stop at the one-room German schoolhouse.
Sit down to a traditional family-style “Thresher’s” meal—named for the feast that typically followed a day in the fields. It’s served amid the hand-hewn beams of the century old barn Restaurant.
Take to the road and explore Nappanee’s Countryside Shops. It’s an interesting mix of rural businesses—many are Amish-owned and some are off the beaten path. Miller’s Variety Store is packed with fun finds. Fresh pies and other delectable baked goods are made on site at the newly expanded Rentown Store and loose leaf teas and tea making supplies line the shelves at Teapot & More at Coppes Commons. The Amish are known for their woodworking skills. The Schmucker brothers at Homestyle Furniture specialize in hand-crafted furniture.
>> Need to know … Buggies and bicycles are the main modes of transport for the Amish. You’ll see plenty of the former along backroads.
Leaving Nappanee drive northeast to Goshen and admire the classic courthouse in the heart of town. Peek into the bunker-like police booth on the Corner of Main and Lincoln dating back to the days when John Dillinger was the bane of bankers. Don’t miss the Olympic Candy Kitchen, “the sweetest little place in town,” for a soda at the old-fashioned fountain or some handmade chocolates.
Built in 1896 the Old Bag Factory is home to producing artists, antiques, specialty shops, and cafes. The historic character of the complex provides a unique and charming setting for the specialty shops it houses.
Follow Country Road 22 northeast to Middlebury where your destination is Das Dutchman Essenhaus, an enormous complex that includes a bakery and a handful of village shops. Discover Indiana’s largest family restaurant which offers both family-style and buffet and menu dining options 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.
>> 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. Rather than patterns on their clothing, only solid colors are worn. The men’s trousers have no zippers and instead have a button fly. Women use straight pins to fasten the sides of their dress together.
The roads that connect Middlebury and Shipshewana are lined with Amish farms and businesses. Driving east on Country Road 16 you’ll share the road with black carriages drawn by spirited horses, many of which stop at Dutch Country Market, Rise ‘n Roll Bakery, and Heritage Ridge Creamery. Amish hands and skillfully blended basics create some of the best baked goods we’ve ever tasted. Start at Dutch Country Market for the supersized cinnamon rolls and house-made noodles. Rise ‘n Roll Bakery offers up display cases full of loaves of wheat bread, pies, cookies, and donuts. There are no better donuts, period! The cheeses at Heritage Ridge Creamery are made with milk sourced from Amish farms.
>> Handmade and locally grown is not a trend for the Amish. Generations have perfected the art of hand-stitched quilts, pie (you’ll find every flavor from Amish Sugar Cream to German Chocolate to pecan), and roadside produce stands (they pop up everywhere; selections vary with the seasons).
From peaches to pumpkins, the stalls are packed with locally grown produce at the Shipshewana Flea Market on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Home to the Midwest’s largest outdoor seasonal flea market (open May through September), 700 vendors cover 40 acres of land selling everything from home decor and clothing to plants and tools. If you love the spirit of competition felt at a live auction, you’ll want to visit on Wednesdays for the Shipshewana Trading Place Auction.
Be sure to tour Menno-Hof to learn about Amish and Mennonite history, lifestyle, and beliefs with multimedia presentations and 24 display areas. You’ll travel through five centuries of history from origins in Switzerland to their arrival in America.
You’ll feel like you’re at a Thanksgiving meal whenever you eat in Amish country. Portions are generous and the homemade goodness comes through with every bite. You can dine family-style or order from the menu at the Blue Gate Restaurant and Bakery where they bake up to 29 varieties of pie. While you’re working up your appetite, shop around in any of the onsite shops, featuring handcrafted furniture, a craft barn, and bakery.
Continue 4 miles south along Indiana Highway 5 to Yoder’s Popcorn, for popcorn the way you remember it. Try their renowned Tiny Tender Popcorn.
Trip tips and courtesies:
Take care when driving—buggies travel well under the speed limit
Keep a sharp eye out for buggies as you crest hills and round corners
Flashing headlights and car horns can startle buggy horses
Don’t ask to photograph or film the Amish; it’s against their religious beliefs
Respect private property but take some time to chat with Amish shop owners and artisans who welcome guests
Amish businesses are closed on Sundays
The Amish are islands of sanity in a whirlpool of change.
—Nancy Sleeth, Almost Amish: One Woman’s Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life
From Kentucky to Vermont and Utah, fun times don’t have to cost a lot
Just because the temperature has dropped a few degrees doesn’t mean you have to stay at home watching Netflix.
If the winter blues are making you stir crazy, fear not: There’s plenty of excitement to be had across America. From sampling maple syrup in Vermont to following the Freedom Trail in Massachusetts, you don’t have to leave the U.S.—or break your budget—to have an amazing adventure.
Check out these seven fun activities you can enjoy in these states for free. Note that, in 2020, it’s imperative to check websites and social media updates beforehand to ensure that your destination is open and accepting visitors at the time you arrive.
Free Things to Do in Vermont: Taste Maple Syrup
Don’t leave Vermont without sampling some authentic maple syrup. You’ll find plenty of maple farms in the Green Mountain State, and some of them offer free tastings. At Sugarbush Farm in Woodstock, for example, you can get free admission and try four grades of pure Vermont maple syrup.
Free Things to Do in Massachusetts: Follow the Freedom Trail
You can’t follow the yellow brick road in Boston, but you can follow a red line that guides you along the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail. Visit 16 official sites that are significant in the history of the American Revolution, from the Old Corner Bookstore to the site of the Boston Massacre.
And don’t forget about Faneuil Hall, which hosted America’s first town meeting. These days, you can shop, eat, and enjoy live musical performances in the market.
Free Things to Do in Kentucky: Drink Bourbon
Kentucky is known for its bourbon, so why not take a tour of the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort? All tours are complimentary, and the Trace Tour doesn’t require a reservation. You’ll see bourbon barrels and get to sample some of the best local liquor. Extend your travels on the Bourbon Trail.
Free Things to Do in Texas: Tour a Brewery and Sample Beer in Shiner
Speaking of beloved American beverages… Shiner, Texas is home to 2,069 people, Friday’s Fried Chicken, and—most famously—the Spoetzal Brewery where every drop of Shiner beer is brewed. Tours are offered throughout the week, where visitors can see how every last drop of their popular brews get made. Tours and samples are free. Founded in 1909, the little brewery today sends more than 6 million cases of delicious Shiner beer to states across the country. Founder, Kosmos Spoetzal, would be pretty proud! To which we say “Prosit!”
Free Things to Do in Virginia: Wander Colonial Williamsburg
Explore Colonial Williamsburg in the city of Williamsburg. Visitors typically drop a bit of cash to tour the 18th century buildings in Colonial Williamsburg, but if you keep your wanderings to commercial shops and the city streets, you don’t have to spend a dime.
You’ll be highly entertained as you explore the government buildings, shops, homes, gardens, and taverns of Williamsburg and viewing free outdoor entertainment like re-enactment actors firing cannons. Enter the residents’ homes or learn about their workplaces; see where they sleep, where they eat, and where they socialize.
Free Things to Do in Utah: Explore the Valley of the Gods
This little valley near Bluff, Utah is filled with sandstone formations and starry night skies. Located in the southeastern corner of Utah it is out of the way of the main national park loop.
To drive through the Valley of the Gods you will take a 17-mile, unpaved loop. Similar to Monument Valley, but only a quarter of the size, it remains quiet and peaceful.
Free Things to Do in Ohio: Experience the Past in the Present in Holmes County
The Amish have established themselves in the Holmes County area, and it is estimated that one in every six Amish in the world live in this area. The Amish choose to live a simple way of life, which is clearly evident by the presence of horses and buggies, handmade quilts, and lack of electricity in Amish homes.
Along the byway you will be treated to the typical, yet breathtaking sights of Amish Country: teams of huge, blonde Belgians pulling wagons of hay, farmers working in the fields and of course, beautiful views of lush, green farmland, large white houses, and red barns.
America is laced with nooks and crannies, good places that go undiscovered by many mainstream travelers.
Elkhart County is Amish country and is best experienced along its Heritage Trail, a four season scenic drive
Discover stunning views, historical sites, and Amish heritage along the scenic backroads. Explore country lanes dotted with Amish-owned shops showcasing handcrafted and homemade.
Many of the towns along the Amish Country Heritage Trail date back 150 years or more. Among these are Middlebury, tiny Shipshewana known for a enormous flea market where 1,000 vendors peddle their wares twice a week from May through September, and Goshen. There’s also lovely Nappanee, a bustling community of woodworking shops that has been dubbed one of America’s “Top 10 Small Towns”.
Due to the Amish lifestyle you can almost believe you’ve stepped back in time a century or more. No utility wires lace farmhouses to poles, women in old-fashioned bonnets and long skirts bend to their task of hoeing gardens, men in 19th-century attire trudge behind horse-drawn plows across wide fields, and the clip-clop of horses’ hooves on country lanes fills the air with staccato rhythms.
The Heritage Trail could easily be driven in a few hours, but there are way too many interesting stops for that. We spent a week exploring the area while the warranty issues on our 2019 Dutch Star were addressed at the new state-of-the-art Newmar Service Center in Nappanee.
Nappanee is home to numerous woodworking shops, restaurants, antique stores, and Amish Acres, a restored 80-acre Old Order Amish farmstead. The farmstead has been an Amish farm for nearly a century. The historic complex consists of 18 restored buildings including the quaint farmhouse, a pair of log cabins, a smokehouse, and an enormous barn-turned restaurant where meals are served family style with seating for 500.
But Amish Acres is probably best known for the 402-seat Round Barn Theatre. It occupies a barn built in 1911 that has been transformed into a state-of-the-art theater. The theater is the national home of the musical “Plain and Fancy”, and in rotation, five other musicals are performed here.
Leaving Nappanee, we drove northeast to Goshen. Admire the classic courthouse in the heart of town. Peek into the bunker-like police booth on the Corner of Main and Lincoln dating back to the days when John Dillinger was the bane of bankers. Don’t miss the Olympic Candy Kitchen, “the sweetest little place in town,” for a soda at the old-fashioned fountain or some handmade chocolates.
Built in 1896 the Old Bag Factory is home to producing artists, antiques, specialty shops, and cafes. The historic character of the complex provides a unique and charming setting for the specialty shops it houses.
Following Country Road 22 northeast took us to Middlebury. Our destination, Das Dutchman Essenhaus, is an enormous complex that includes a bakery and a handful of village shops. Leisurely stroll across the colorful campus; discover Indiana’s largest family restaurant which offers both family-style and buffet and menu dining options.
From Middlebury we headed east on Country Road 16 toward Shipshewana. We shared the road with dozens of black carriages drawn by spirited horses, many of which stop—as we did at Dutch Country Market, Rise ‘n Roll Bakery, and Heritage Ridge Creamery.
Rise ‘n Roll Bakery offered up display cases full of loaves of wheat bread, pies, cookies, and donuts.
We watched cheese being made at Heritage Ridge Creamery, then sampled and purchased it at the retail shop.
Back on the asphalt, we continued southwest to Shipshewana. The small town hosts some million visitors a year for its auctions, theater, history, more than 100 shops offering fine Amish woodwork and food, and twice-a-week Shipshewana Flea Market, the largest of its kind in the Midwest.
To learn about Amish history, we toured Menno-Hof, also in Shipshewana. Through multi-image presentations, historical environments, and other displays, we traveled back 500 years to the origins of the Amish-Mennonite story.
We continued 4 miles south along Indiana Highway 5, stopping at Yoder’s Popcorn, for popcorn the way you remember it. Try their renowned Tiny Tender Popcorn. Then it’s back to our condo-on-wheels at the Newmar Service Center in Nappanee.
The Amish are islands of sanity in a whirlpool of change.
—Nancy Sleeth, Almost Amish: One Woman’s Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life
From Great Lakes and rivers to rolling hills, wide-open plains and lush forests, there’s plenty to discover in the Midwest. Whether you’re up for a summer vacation, week-long road trip, or a Sunday drive, set a course for the middle section of the United States and get out there to explore some of the most diverse scenic terrains in the country. Here are six Midwestern journeys of varying lengths and distances worth considering.
Remember to travel with caution, follow good health practices, and behave responsibly when outdoors or around other people. As always, be safe, have fun, and enjoy!
Ohio’s Amish Country Byway
Take a break from the fast-paced world of smart phones, computers, and demanding schedules and enjoy the “simple life” found on the Amish Country Byway in Ohio. At first, you may feel as if time is standing still, but you’ll soon discover that the Amish folk are highly enterprising and productive. They have simply chosen to maintain their traditional beliefs and customs, continuing a lifestyle uncomplicated by the ways of the modern-day world.
As you travel the Amish Country Byway, sharing the road with horses and buggies, you will experience first-hand the Amish way of life. You will also take in plenty of beautiful scenery and have a wide variety of recreational opportunities to pursue.
Indiana’s Covered Bridge Tour
Explore Parke County (aka the Covered Bridge Capital of the World) on well-marked driving routes. Parke County has 31 historic bridges, many built in the 1800s and still in use. They’re especially charming nestled amid fall foliage and autumn is a great time to hike or go on a horseback ride at Turkey Run State Park.
Five well-marked driving routes, each about 30 miles long make finding the bridges and exploring easy. Each covered bridge comes with its own unique past.
Ohio’s Neil Armstrong Scenic Byway
The Neil Armstrong Scenic Byway celebrates the early years of Neil Armstrong’s life with special emphasis on the time period in which he obtained his pilot’s license. In 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon. Prior to that, his early interest in flying was cultivated in his hometown of Wapakoneta. Armstrong was so determined to fly that he successfully attained his pilot’s license before his driver’s license.
The byway route through downtown Wapakoneta retraces the route of his homecoming parade after returning from the moon. Some of the storefronts have changed but several of the sights appear largely as they did during Armstrong’s boyhood.
South Dakota’s Badlands Loop Scenic Byway
Anyone who’s ever made the patriotic pilgrimage to Mount Rushmore comes away impressed by the otherworldly Badlands geography, a scope of grassy stretches and startling rock buttes, mounds, and peaks. Throughout the 39-mile SD Highway 240 journey between Wall and Cactus Flat across Badlands National Park, 16 designated overlooks provide opportunities to stop and marvel at the surreal views.
If you choose to stop and hike, keep your eyes peeled for appearances by the indigenous wildlife—buffalo, prairie dogs, mule deer, and antelope, to name just a few. The Minuteman Missile Visitor Center and the Ben Reifel Visitor Center are great spots to load up on helpful maps and advice.
Indiana’s Amish Heritage Trail
Traveling along lively Main Streets and scenic backroads you’ll find surprises at every turn and soon discover why it was voted the top USA Today Reader’s Choice and editors of LIFE consider it one of “America’s Most Scenic Drives.”
This scenic winding loop takes you through the communities of Elkhart, Goshen, Middlebury, Nappanee, Bristol, Wakarusa, and Shipshewana. Discover stunning views, historical sites, and Amish heritage along the scenic backroads. Explore country lanes dotted with inviting Amish-owned shops showcasing handcrafted and homemade.
Ohio’s Covered Bridges Byway
The Covered Bridges Byway in Ashtabula County (also known as the Ashtabula County Covered Bridge Tour) is an especially beautiful way to take in some of Ohio’s back road scenery and discover some charming covered bridges along the way. You can drive through America’s shortest and longest covered bridge along this scenic route which features a total of 19 covered bridges in Ashtabula County. It’s perfect for a leisurely scenic drive or a weekend road trip in northeast Ohio.
Escape to mountains, lakes, beach, and desert. You can also escape to small towns.
Looking to get away this summer? Travel is a popular pastime every summer, but with months of lockdowns and stay-home orders confining Americans to their homes due to the pandemic, many people are more ready than ever for a change of scenery.
Atlanta has so much to do, but sometimes you just want to get out of the city and explore what the surrounding areas have to offer! Or possibly, like us you’re an RVer and can’t locate a decent campground within 50 miles.
Distance from Atlanta: 83 miles
Oh, Macon! Home to a downtown area that’s got so much to do! Visit Amerson River Park and walk the paths while watching the kayakers paddle by on the Ocmulgee River. A visit to the Ocmulgee National Monument is a must-do, take a hike or bike the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail, or spend the day on Lake Tobesofkee.
America’s fourth-largest city is a cosmopolitan destination filled with world-class dining, arts, entertainment, shopping, and outdoor recreation. Take a stroll through the historic Heights, spend the day exploring the Museum District, or head down to Space Center Houston.
Distance from Houston: 50 miles
Come to the island to stroll the beach or splash in the waves. Or come to the island to go fishing or look for coastal birds. No matter what brings you here, you’ll find a refuge at Galveston Island State Park. Just an hour from Houston, but an island apart!
Begin your adventure in the capital city of the 48th state known for year-round sunny skies and reliably warm temperatures. Phoenix is the epicenter of a sprawling metro area (the country’s 5th most populated) known as the Valley of the Sun. You’ll find dozens of top-notch golf courses, scores of hiking and biking trails, and the well-regarded, family-friendly Papago Park and adjacent Desert Botanical Gardens.
Distance from Phoenix: 100 miles
A Western history lover’s sweet spot, mile-high Prescott is home to more than 700 homes and businesses listed in the National Register of Historic Places as well as museums that tell their stories. Stroll along Whiskey Row where saloons thrive alongside shops, galleries, eateries, and antique venues.
Los Angeles is home to renowned museums, diverse experiences, 75 miles of sunny coastline, and hundreds of miles of bike and hiking trails. LA’s cultural attractions include the Space Shuttle Endeavour, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Getty Center, and art galleries. No trip to Los Angeles is complete without a visit to Hollywood, the home of movie studios, many of L.A.’s most popular and historic tourist destinations, and its world-famous namesake boulevard.
Joshua Tree National Park
Distance from Los Angeles: 130 miles
Joshua Tree National Park is an amazingly diverse area of sand dunes, dry lakes, flat valleys, extraordinarily rugged mountains, granitic monoliths, and oases. Explore the desert scenery, granite monoliths (popular with rock climbers), petroglyphs from early Native Americans, old mines, and ranches. The park provides an introduction to the variety and complexity of the desert environment and a vivid contrast between the higher Mojave and lower Sonoran deserts that range in elevation from 900 feet to 5,185 feet at Keys View.
Chicago is a city unlike any other. There are a few things you need to do like eat a Chicago style hot dog, see “The Bean,” and take a river boat cruise. Located on the south bank of the Chicago River, the Riverwalk stretches 1.25 miles from Lake Shore Drive to Lake Street. Chicago’s nearly 600 parks and 26 miles of lakefront make it easy to enjoy the great outdoors in the middle of the city. Whatever it is you’re looking for, you’ll find there’s no other place like Chicago.
Distance from Chicago: 110 miles
Northern Indiana is home to nearly 20,000 Amish, a culture that remains true to centuries-old traditions. A few days in Amish country will introduce you to delicious made-from-scratch meals, amazing craftsmanship, delightful theater works, tons of shopping, and horse-drawn carriage rides. You can take in the amazing works as you drive the Quilt Gardens along the Heritage Trail. Shipshewanna is home to the Midwest’s largest outdoor seasonal flea market where 700 vendors cover 40 acres of land selling everything from home decor and clothing to plants and tools. Take care when driving—buggies travel well under the speed limit.
Beyond the traditional D.C. attractions—the Smithsonian museums, the U.S. Capitol, the monuments—you’ll find fresh food and cultural events. You can peruse a farmers market and take in the scenery from the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. Plan to spend some time along the Tidal Basin, a 2-mile-long pond that was once attached to the Potomac River and serves as the backdrop to some of D.C.’s best-loved sites.
Shenandoah National Park
Distance from Washington, DC: 75 miles
Just 75 miles from the bustle of Washington, D.C., Shenandoah National Park is a land bursting with cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas, fields of wildflowers, and quiet wooded hollows. With over 200,000 acres of protected lands that are haven to deer, songbirds, and black bear, there’s so much to explore. The Skyline Drive is one of the most beautiful drives in the US at any time of the year but especially during autumn. The picturesque 105-mile road travels through Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains where 75 overlooks welcome visitors to take in panoramic views of the Shenandoah wilderness.
I’d rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth.