A Window into a Unique World: Amish Life along the Heritage Trail

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.

Quilt Gardens in Nappanee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Quilt Gardens Mural in Nappanee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Amish Acres © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Rentown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Amish Buggy © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

>> 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.

Old Bag Factory in Goshen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Das Dutchman Essenhaus © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Rise ‘n Roll Bakery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Amish buggy © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

>> 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).

Shipshewana Flea Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Menno-Hof © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Yoder’s Popcorn © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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
Amish crafts © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

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

Amish Country Heritage Trail

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”.

Amish Farm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

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.

Newmar Service Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

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.

Amish Acres © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

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.

Nappanee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

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.

Olympia Candy Kitchen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

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.

The Old Bag Factory © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

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.

Das Dutchman Essenhaus © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

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. 

Amish carriage with horse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

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 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Rise ‘n Roll Bakery offered up display cases full of loaves of wheat bread, pies, cookies, and donuts.

Heritage Ridge Creamery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

We watched cheese being made at Heritage Ridge Creamery, then sampled and purchased it at the retail shop.

Shipshewana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

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.

Menno-Hof © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

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.

Yoder’s Popcorn © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

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.

Worth Pondering…

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

Experience the Past in the Present along the Amish Country Byway

Traveling the Amish Country Byway is quiet, clean, and refreshes the soul

Due to changing advisories, please check local travel guidelines before visiting.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On a map, routes 39, 62, 515, and 60 form a sort of “eyeglasses” shape throughout Holmes County in Ohio. That’s fitting, because exploring these four roads are a great way to explore Amish Country. These routes make up the Amish Country Scenic Byway, designated in June 2002 as a National Scenic Byway. These 72 miles of roadway are recognized for their unique cultural and historic significance.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Along these roadways, 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. In the fall, the vistas become even more awe-inspiring, as nature puts on its finest show—the reds, oranges, yellows, and browns of the trees amid a backdrop of that bluest sky that only fall can produce.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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. Entrepreneurial businesses owned by the Amish add to the friendly atmosphere along the byway while creating a welcome distance from the superstores of commercial America.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Agriculture is the economic heart of Amish Country and visitors to the area are likely to see rows of haystacks or fields being plowed. Holmes County boasts the second largest dairy production in the state, the largest local produce auction during the growing season, and weekly livestock auctions in the communities along the byway. The Swiss and German heritage of the early settlers in the county is evident in the many specialty cheese and meat products and delicious Swiss/Amish restaurants.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Apart from the beautiful scenery, these routes have numerous special attractions that shouldn’t be missed along the way. U.S. Rt. 62, for example, winds down into the heart of Holmes County from Wilmot, passing such Amish Country mainstays as the Amish Door Restaurant and Wendell August Forge before leading you into Berlin, the area’s ultimate shopping destination.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Before you get to Berlin, however, you’ll pass through the cute village of Winesburg. There’s enough here to keep you busy at least an afternoon, with several unique shops, antiques, art, and sculptures for sale, and an old-fashioned corner restaurant.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just outside Winesburg, you can turn off 62 onto State Rt. 515, a hilly, winding road that takes you through Trail, home of the famous Troyer’s Trail Bologna, and past Yoder’s Amish Farm, where you can tour two Amish houses, a barn full of animals, a schoolhouse, and even take a buggy ride. Rt. 515 ends up in Walnut Creek, intersecting with another part of the byway, State Rt. 39.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rt. 39 offers a wealth of things to see and do, especially in the eastern portion of Holmes County. The road passes through Millersburg, Berlin, and Walnut Creek before heading to the village of Sugarcreek.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travelling east toward Berlin, Rt. 39 merges with Rt. 62 for a time, and you’ll pass numerous shops and restaurants. In Berlin, go through the light (stay on 39) and immediately turn left, for you’ve found yourself at the Berlin Village Gift Barn, one of the best places around to find just the right accessory for your RV. You’ll also discover Country Gatherings, a new off-shoot of the gift barn, featuring primitives and floral designs.

“Must-stops” in Walnut Creek include the shops at Walnut Creek Cheese and Coblentz Chocolates, both easily accessible from Rt. 39.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll leave the Amish Country Byway feeling much the same as the traveler who said, “Traveling to Amish Country is a great getaway from our day-to-day routines. It’s quiet, clean, and refreshes the soul. When you get away from the telephone ringing, from the traffic on the roads, it’s a gift, a refuge from the everyday noise of your life.”

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Growing up around Amish farmland, I enjoyed the opportunity to witness firsthand their love of family, of the domestic arts—sewing, quilting, cooking, baking—as well as seeing them live out their tradition of faith in such a unique way.

―Beverly Lewis

Experience a Different Way of Life along the Amish Country Byway

The Amish community is a living reminder of the principles of religious freedom that helped shape America

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.

Along the Holmes County Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

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.

The Amish people in Holmes County, Ohio, make up the largest concentration of Amish communities in the world, and they provide a unique look at living and adapting traditional culture.

Along the Holmes County Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Amish community is a living reminder of the principles of religious freedom that helped shape America. With a devout sense of community and adherence to beliefs, the Amish Country Byway gives a rare opportunity to witness a different way of life.

Begin your tour of the Byway by visiting the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center. Learn about the community and see Behalt, a dramatic 10-foot by 265-foot mural-in-the-round that depicts Amish/Mennonite history, painted by the late international artist, Heinz Gaugel.

Along the Holmes County Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Then, visit Yoder’s Amish Home and witness for yourself early traditional farming ways. Also, go for a buggy ride, and tour two homes completely furnished in traditional Amish decor.

Along the Holmes County Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

If you travel the Byway during growing and harvest season, typically from April to November, you’ll definitely want to stop by the Farmer’s Produce Auction. Here you will find everything from bedding plants and dried flowers to asparagus, zucchini, pumpkins, and Indian corn. Both the Amish and English people in the area maintain a strong tradition of agriculture and produce wonderful crops, cheese, and specialty meat products.

Along the Holmes County Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Nature along the Byway only adds to the peaceful setting of the countryside. Enjoy an early morning picnic or fishing trip at the Killbuck Marsh.

In the 21st century, the Amish Country Byway is an important example of a multicultural community, as both the Amish and non-Amish traditions are strong in the region. These two cultures have built on similarities while still respecting differences. By working together, they have created a thriving, productive community.

Along the Holmes County Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Amish, as a branch of the Anabaptist people, are traditionally devout and religious. Like so many other immigrants, they came to America in search of religious freedom. In Europe, the Anabaptists had been persecuted for their beliefs. Horses and buggies, plain dress, independence from telephones and electricity, homemade quilts, and lots of reading materials are some of the things you might find in an Amish home.

Along the Holmes County Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

When the Amish settled in the area, most depended on agriculture as their profession, but others who were not farmers worked instead in blacksmith shops, harness shops, or buggy shops. In addition, many specialties sprang up, such as furniture-making. Today, shops are scattered along the byway, specializing in everything from furniture to gazebos.

Along the Holmes County Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Amish and their neighbors work together, making Holmes County an important agricultural, furniture manufacturing, and cheese-producing region of Ohio and the nation.

Along the Holmes County Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Amish Country Byway is not one for speed. By slowing down, you get to experience the many recreational opportunities that are unique to this byway. There are carriage rides, hay rides, and sleigh rides that reflect the agricultural traditions of the area. One of the most popular activities is visiting Amish homesteads and farms, antique shops, and museums. In addition, you can find many places to stop and enjoy some good cooking or shopping.

Along the Holmes County Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Considerations: Early autumn means harvest season— which brings produce stands—and stunning fall foliage. Respect the privacy and religious beliefs of the Amish and don’t take pictures of them. Because of the unique agriculture and culture of Amish Country, you must share the road with Amish buggies, agriculture equipment, cyclists, etc.

Along the Holmes County Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The two-lane state routes and State Road 62 should be traveled at a somewhat slower pace than most paved roads. Keep in mind that many services are not available on Sundays.

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.

Along the Holmes County Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

The Amish are islands of sanity in a whirlpool of change.
―Nancy Sleeth

Overtourism and Undertourism in 2019

Celebrating the “Undertouristed” places for RV travel in 2019

If there was a competition for the Word of the Year in tourism, a serious contender would be “overtourism”.

From Barcelona to Bali, the Indian Ocean to the Adriatic, 2018 was the year that people in the world’s most coveted, visited, and Instagrammed places said enough was enough.

There were protests in Barcelona and Mallorca. And the New Year began with Venice vowing to charge tourists for entry.

Let’s celebrate the alternatives in 2019—the undertouristed places that deserve more visitors and where the locals won’t take to the streets and forums to protest.

Let’s hear it for undertourism in America. From the rugged mountains to the giant forests to the vast desert, the RV traveler has it all.

Overtouristed: Charleston, South Carolina and Ashville, North Carolina and Zion National Park, Utah

Undertouristed: A sampling follows

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Capitol Reef received its name from the great white rock formations resembling the U.S. Capitol building and from the sheer cliffs that presented a barrier to early travelers.

However, it is the park’s multi-colored sandstone that earned it the nickname, “land of the sleeping rainbow”. The park runs along a huge buckle in the earth’s crust called the Waterpocket Fold. This noteworthy geologic feature is a wrinkle in the earth’s crust. Layer upon layer of rock folded over each other.

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, Kentucky

The Bernheim Arboretum in Clermont (about 30 miles south of Louisville) includes 15,625 acres of fields and forests, as well as over 40 miles of hiking trails that weave their way through the forest and a bike route that winds along Long Lick Creek.

Whether it’s hiking one of the many trails, fishing in Lake Nevin, enjoying public art, reading under a tree, or taking advantage of one of the many informative programs, Bernheim offers visitors unique opportunities to connect with nature.

New River Gorge, West Virginia

A rugged, whitewater river flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on the continent. The park encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along 53 miles of the New River, is rich in cultural and natural history, and offers an abundance of scenic and recreational opportunities.

Hiking along the many park trails or biking along an old railroad grade, the visitor will be confronted with spectacular scenery. There are opportunities for extreme sports as well as a more relaxing experience.

Holmes County, Ohio

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.

Entrepreneurial businesses owned by the Amish add to the friendly atmosphere along the byway while creating a welcome distance from the superstores of commercial America. The Swiss and German heritage of the early settlers in the county is evident in the many specialty cheese and meat products and delicious Swiss/Amish restaurants.

Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia

This pristine 680-square-mile wilderness is an ecological wonder. Wetlands provide a critical habitat for abundant wildlife and migratory birds. Take a walk on the 4,000-foot boardwalk and view the prairie from the observation tower. Visitor center offers displays and film. TAKE THE GUIDED BOAT TOUR. From the open, wet “prairies” of the east side to the forested cypress swamps on the west, Okefenokee is a mosaic of habitats, plants, and wildlife.

Worth Pondering…

This is not another place.

It is THE place.

—Charles Bowden