Explore the Amish Heritage Trail

Plan a trip to see small towns, serene country views—and slow down for the carriages

Taking a leisurely road trip through small towns along the Amish Country Heritage Trail in Northwestern Indiana feels a bit like time travel. Horse-drawn carriages move slowly along country roads and what those roads lack in conveniences like gas stations or fast food they more than provide serene views.

Amish Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are many Amish communities in the U.S. but the state boasts the third-largest population, about 60,000 residents. Their way of life is traditional: Amish families don’t use electricity, phones, cars, and other such modern amenities; their livelihood is based on farming and sale of home grown food, baked goods, and handcrafted artistry such as rugs, quilts, and woodworks.

You may meet Amish families, taste Midwestern wine, bike a nature trail, and eat made-from-scratch pies on this road trip. Although the mileage is minimal, temptations to stop are many as you make your way through towns where American flags wave on the front porches of Victorian homes.

Quilt Gardens, Nappanee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Prime time to make the drive is during the free Quilt Gardens event held annually in Elkhart County from late May through mid-September to honor Amish quilt-making traditions. More than 15 giant gardens with over 1 million blooms planted by more than 200 volunteers replicate classic and modern quilt patterns as well as hand-painted murals.

Olympia Candy Factory, Goshen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Elkhart to Middlebury (17 miles)

Start your road trip 111 miles east of Chicago in Elkhart, the region’s largest city (population: 54,000) at the confluence of the St. Joseph and Elkhart Rivers. For your first taste of the culture eat breakfast at Baker’s Nook Cafe downtown where you’ll find bacon biscuits, fluffy pancakes, and apple-bread French toast.

>> Related article: Amish Country Heritage Trail

​Energized for the day, drive a mile north to the city’s Garden District for docent-led tours of two historic home museums on Beardsley Avenue. First visit the 1848 Italianate home of Havilah Beardsley, Elkhart’s founding father who built the area’s first flour and sawmills and brought the Michigan Southern Railway to town. Then wander through the 1910 Beaux Arts mansion of Havilah’s nephew, Albert Beardsley who helped establish Elkhart’s Miles Laboratories (which invented Alka-Seltzer). See the family’s extensive Tiffany glass lamp, art, and antique car collections. 

Das Dutchman Essenhaus, Middlebury © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

​On Main Street, less than a half-mile north of the two homes, explore Wellfield Botanic Gardens, an active well site providing Elkhart’s water transformed into a lush sanctuary. Paved promenades wind through sculpture-studded flower gardens, a Japanese garden, and a children’s garden. While resting on pathside benches, listen to birdsong and the sound of flowing water in fountains. Check the schedule for guided bird walks.

​Now make your way to Middlebury driving east on Indiana State Road 120. But about nine miles down the road in Bristol take a slight detour for a quick stop at Fruit Hills Winery and Orchard, two miles south on Indiana State Road 15. The tasting room pours wines made from the 170-year-old family farm’s homegrown regional grapes and fruits.

Das Dutchman Essenhaus, Middlebury © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

​It’s about six more miles 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.

There, cap your day with a scenic bicycle ride on part of the paved Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, a rail-trail linking multiple small towns. Pick up the trail on North Main Street across from Pumpkinvine Cyclery where you can rent your bike. Cycling through fertile farmland you’ll pass white Amish homesteads where laundry on clotheslines flaps in the breeze. 

Shipshewana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Middlebury to Shipshewana and Goshen (31 miles)

A drive about eight miles east on County Road 16 brings you to Shipshewana with horse-drawn buggy traffic building at the intersection of Indiana State Road 5 (aka Van Buren Street, the town’s main drag).

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

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 I’ve ever tasted.

Rise ‘Roll Bakery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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. They melt in your mouth! The cheeses at Heritage Ridge Creamery are made with milk sourced from Amish farms.

Shipshewana Flea Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spend time on South Van Buren Street shopping at the region’s Shipshewana Trading Place Auction & Flea Market if you’re in town on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Inside the auction hall each Wednesday year-round, Amish auctioneers stand on step ladders above bidders vying for antique brass-bed headboards, vintage toys, carpentry tools, paintings, and architectural remnants. The loud, monotone drone of the auctioneer chorus sounds like a gigantic buzzing beehive.

Shipshewana Flea Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 75-year-old outdoor flea market held May through September covers 40 acres (scooter rentals available) and features nearly 700 vendors (many Amish). Browse booths selling everything from tooled-leather horse saddles to bags and belts and flowering plants. 

Nearby, Amish-owned specialty stores are open year-round including Brandenberry Furniture, Countryroad Fabrics & Gifts, E & S Sales (bulk foods grocery store), and Eash Sales (outdoor decor and patio furniture). 

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. Exhibits explain Amish, Mennonite, and Hutterite history, faith, and lifestyle. 

>> Related article: Experience the Past in the Present along the Amish Country Byway

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

Retrace your steps back to Shipshewana and from there it’s a 21-mile scenic drive west on County Road 34 (aka 400 South St. in Shipshewana) and Indiana State Roads 13 and 4 to Goshen. You’ll pass towering cornfields, verdant horse pastures and farms with shops selling seasonal vegetables, honey, and fresh-baked goods.

Elkhart County Courthouse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 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. They have been making classic BLT sandwiches, ice cream sundaes, and caramel-chocolate turtle candies since 1912.

Old Bag Factory © 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.

Come evening, go for dinner and live music at family-friendly Goshen Brewing Company which pairs small-batch beers with seasonal cuisine and Southern-style smoked foods. Its outdoor patio overlooks leafy Millrace Canal, paralleling the Elkhart River. 

Amish Acres, Nappanee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Goshen to Nappanee (15 miles)

Pastoral vistas (think endless green fields) and the scents of tilled earth and lilac abound on the drive southwest to Nappanee via Indiana State Road 119 and County Road 7. 

Spend your morning with a guided tour of the Stahly-Nissley-Kuhns farmstead at Amish Acres, a historic farm-entertainment complex near downtown. Once occupied by three Amish families from 1874-1968, 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.

Amish Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

>> Related article: Ohio Amish Country: It’s About Life…Plain & Simple

Take to the road and explore Nappanee’s Countryside Shops. It’s an interesting mix of rural businesses—many are Amish-owned and sogoshme are off the beaten path. Miller’s Variety Store is packed with fun finds. The Amish are known for their woodworking skills. The Schmucker brothers at Homestyle Furniture specialize in hand-crafted furniture. 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.

Coppes Commons © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A former kitchen cabinet factory dating to 1876, Coppes Commons has been turned into an inviting attraction filled with restaurants and specialty shops selling locally made, handcrafted products—furniture, home decor accessories, quilts, toys and rugs—and fresh-baked goods. Spend some time browsing through the shops then visit its museum displaying Hoosier Cabinets handcrafted here in this factory in the early 20th century recalling a bygone era of American home life.

Head about a mile east back through town to Coppes Common where there’s plenty to do the rest of the afternoon. ​

Wakarusa Dime Store © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nappanee to Elkhart (20 miles)

Return to Elkhart via Indiana State Road 19 making a slight detour to Wakarusa about eight miles north out of Nappanee. There, pick up delicious pastries, pies and breads at Grandma’s Pantry, a bulk food store, deli and bakery.

In Elkhart, make one final stop at the stunning Southgate Crossing barn, just south of downtown. Built by Amish craftsmen in 2006, the 51,000-square-foot barn is a beautiful example of woodworking craftsmanship. If you’re still in a buying mood, the barn is a combination antiques-artisan shopping complex where you can purchase home-decor pieces, quilts, and foods including noodles, peanut butter, and fruit jams.

Southgate Crossing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

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

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