Slow Travel Will Be Big in 2024: Here’s Where to Do It in your RV

It’s a mindset of going at your own pace and taking things in more like a local than a tourist. It’s about traveling mindfully rather than running through a checklist of must-sees and must-dos.
A new ranking from Travel Lemming named the best spots for travelers seeking a breather.

We’re moving on from the era of revenge travel when people were desperate to take trips to make up for lost time during the periods of lockdown at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a study from Morning Consult, pent-up travel demand is now decreasing—meaning the trend of urgent vacations is over.

Travel Lemming, an online travel guide wants everyone to use this time to embrace a more relaxed approach to traveling in 2024.

The guide released its list of 50 best places to travel in 2024 with a focus on slow travel with a focus on small communities and less mass produced and high-volume travel experiences. The list prioritizes more remote destinations and hidden local gems.

The list is a mix of North American, South American, Asian, and European destinations including 12 American locations: Memphis, Tennessee; Kodiak, Alaska; Eureka Springs, Arkansas; Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota; Vashon Island, Washington; Quincy, Massachusetts; Steamboat Springs, Colorado; Bisbee, Arizona; Townsend, Tennessee; Klamath Falls, Oregon; Hoboken, New Jersey; and Jenner, California.

The lone Canadian destination is St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador.

Following are twelve of my favorite underrated travel destination for the RV travelers desiring immersive experiences over itineraries packed to the brim.

Berea © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Berea, Kentucky

Known as the Folk Arts & Crafts Capital of Kentucky, Berea is a dynamic spot for creators and craftspeople working across a variety of media. Many sell their wares at galleries along Chestnut Street and in both the Artisan Village and the Kentucky Artisan Center. 

2. Mount Dora, Florida

With its live oaks, lovely inns, and quaint shops, Mount Dora offers a nostalgic taste of Old Florida. Head to Palm Island Park to stroll a boardwalk surrounded by old-growth trees and lush foliage or spend an afternoon hitting the many nearby antique shops. 

Learn more about Mount Dora: 11+ Sensational Things to do in Mount Dora

Bay St. Louis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Just over 50 miles from New Orleans, Bay St. Louis blends The Big Easy’s funky, artsy feel with the mellow, barefoot vibe you can find only in a tried-and-true coastal town. The beaches are dog-friendly, the blueways (water trails) are ready for exploring, and Old Town’s French Quarter appeal can’t be beaten.

Learn more about Bay St. Louis: Bay St. Louis: A Place Apart

4. Cottonwood, Arizona

Part river town, wine trail, and historic hub: Cottonwood offers a fun and lively scene that sets it apart from the arid desert to the south and the soaring mountains to the north. Although it might be best known as a gateway to the nearby red rocks of Sedona, Cottonwood has plenty of charms. They start with the quaint Old Town district and branch out to the banks of the lushly green Verde River and the nearby historic towns of Clarkdale and Jerome.

Learn more about Cottonwood: Best Things to Do in Charming Cottonwood, Arizona

Port Aransas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Port Aransas, Texas

Hurricane Harvey caused major damage here in 2017 but nothing can keep this resilient coastal town down. Port A remains one of the state’s main spots for fishing and its 18 miles of beautiful beaches continue to attract returning visitors and new residents.

Learn more about Port A: Oceans of Fun: Port Aransas and Mustang Island

6. Borrego Springs, California

Smack in the middle of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park lies the unpretentious town of Borrego Springs, population 3,429. It’s the only California town that is surrounded by a state park and that’s just one item on its list of bragging rights. It’s also an official International Dark Sky Community—the first in California—dedicated to protecting the night sky from light pollution.

Read more: Borrego Springs: Stars, Art and Citrus in a Laidback Desert Town

Gulf Shores © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Gulf Shores/Orange Beach, Alabama

Although many think of Florida when it comes to great beach towns, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach beg to differ. The coastal twins boast the same sparkling turquoise water, white-sand shores, and family-friendly fun. With miles of coastline and easy access, it’s clear why sunseekers love the area. 

Read more: Experience the Alabama Gulf Coast along the Coastal Connection Scenic Byway

8. Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Groups love the family-friendly attractions and mountain adventures in this bustling resort town. It’s also an entryway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a hiker’s paradise. Book a campsite to take in the scenery and plenty of fresh air. 

Las Cruces © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Las Cruces, New Mexico

Las Cruces, the second-largest city in New Mexico behind Albuquerque is home to just over 100,000 people thanks in part to hosting New Mexico State University. That gives the city a unique southwestern culture. However, the surrounding area offers numerous popular attractions all within easy driving distance. White Sands National Park is less than an hour away with huge sand dunes that you can hike or sled down.

Read more: Las Cruces: Outdoor Adventure & Rich History

10. Shipshewana, Indiana

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, tour Menno-Hof. Through multi-image presentations, historical environments, and other displays, we traveled back 500 years to the origins of the Amish-Mennonite story.

Read more: Explore the Amish Heritage Trail

Greenville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Greenville, South Carolina

As the hub of South Carolina’s Upcountry region, Greenville has been finding its way onto many national Top Ten lists for its lively arts scene, modern downtown, and livability. Known for its exceptional beauty, the two most distinctive natural features of downtown Greenville are its lush, tree-lined Main Street and the stunning Reedy River Falls located in the heart of Falls Park. Liberty Bridge serves as Greenville’s signature postcard setting and downtown’s extensive collection of public artwork adds beauty and energy to its public spaces.  

12. La Conner, Washington

La Conner is one of those places that people love to visit—time and time again. The reasons are many but one that stands out is that there are so many things to do in and around La Conner. A waterfront village in northwestern Washington, La Conner is nestled beside the Swinomish Channel near the mouth of the Skagit River. La Conner is a unique combination of a fishing village, an artists’ colony, eclectic shops, historic buildings, and a tourist destination. Relax by the water, enjoy fine restaurants, and browse through unique shops and art galleries.

Learn more about La Conner: La Conner: Charming, Picturesque & Quaint

Worth Pondering…

A happy life is not built up of tours abroad and pleasant holidays but of little clumps of violets noticed by the roadside, hidden away almost so that only those can see them who have God’s peace and love in their hearts; in one long continuous chain of little joys, little whispers from the spiritual world, and little gleams of sunshine on our daily work.

—Edward Wilson

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

10 of the Best Small Towns to Visit this Fall

Like a red, orange and gold wonderland!

Peak foliage season varies by region and by year, depending on the weather so it’s best to check with local sources before you go. Many top destinations to view fall’s splendor have leaf and foliage reports, maps, and trackers so you can follow the local predictions and current conditions—and arrive just in time for the best of the season.

Some of these destinations will be familiar while others are lesser-known locales where you can capture and embrace fall’s beauty. So, pack your jacket and grab your camera for one of nature’s most spectacular spectacles.

Gatlinburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

As you might expect from the destination that acts as the gateway to the expansive Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg isn’t short on views or things to do—an aerial cable car, a ski resort, and a 407-foot observation tower with park views, to name a few.

The autumn season is well celebrated during the Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival which runs from mid-September to late November encompassing the full spectrum of colors including the peak in mid-to late October.

Stowe Community Church © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stowe, Vermont

Stowe is a tiny town with a big reputation—not only for its ski slopes which tempt powder hounds year after year but also for its abundance of sugar maples that come alive in the autumn. With the colors peaking between early September and late October, Stowe makes it easy to hike, bike, or drive through the expanse of fall foliage. If you time it right, you may be able to make the annual Trapp Family Lodge Oktoberfest (September 17, 2022).

Related article: Must-See under the Radar Small Towns to Seek Out this Fall

Shipshewana, Indiana

Shipshewana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nestled in the heart of Indiana’s Amish Country, Shipshewana is a great place to learn about Amish communities and enjoy fun fall activities. Take a buggy ride with Buggy Lane Tours for a look at the Amish experience while enjoying the beautiful autumn colors or walk the Pumpkinvine Trail, known for its brilliant foliage. The Shipshewana Swap Meets offer locally grown pumpkins, gourds, and more.

Old Talbott Tavern © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bardstown, Kentucky

Kentucky’s second-oldest city, Bardstown was first settled in 1780. Nearly 200 buildings in the historic downtown district are listed on the National Register of Historic Places including a 1779 stagecoach stop that today is the Old Talbott Tavern, the oldest bourbon bar in the world.

Makers Mark Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since the 18th century, bourbon has been central to Bardstown, home of the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival (September 16-18, 2022). In fact, along with Covington and Frankfort, Bardstown is part of a collaboration called Come Find Bourbon. These quaint towns offer some of the most respected bourbon distilleries in the world as well as restaurants, pubs, diners, boutique hotels, and of course, distillery tours and tastings. Fall weather is mild in this part of Kentucky, but if evenings get a bit brisk, there’s always a glass of bourbon to take away the chill.

Related article: America’s Fall Foliage: Leafing through America

Urbanna Oyster Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Urbanna, Virginia

On the Rappahannock River on Virginia’s Middle Peninsula, Urbanna (population 442 as of the 2020 census) is about an hour outside of Richmond making it an easy destination for a last-minute fall getaway. When it comes to charm, it doesn’t get much better than historic Urbanna which is home to seven buildings that have been in continuous use since the Colonial period. This tiny tidewater town is notably home to a fall oyster festival (65th annual, November 4-5, 2022) which attracts about 75,000 visitors a year.

Omni Mount Washington Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

New Hampshire is notably at the forefront of any leaf-peeping conversation and if you want to experience it with a touch of luxury why not head to the Omni Mount Washington, an elegant hideaway in dreamy Bretton Woods? Dating back to 1902, guests came here by train from New York and Boston and then explored the gorgeous surroundings by horse and carriage. Several presidents have stayed here as did Thomas Edison

In addition to the foliage, there are zip lines and a golf course to keep you occupied. And if you should happen to get here after the leaves fall, don’t sweat it, as the Omni is a top ski resort as well!

Brasstown Bald © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blairsville, Georgia

Nestled in the north Georgia Mountains, Blairsville (population 652) is just a short drive from one of Georgia’s most notable landmarks, Brasstown Bald. Within the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests, the Brasstown Bald Recreation Area & Visitor Center is the highest point in Georgia rising 4,784 feet above sea level. It’s an ideal place to take in the stunning fall colors of the mountains around Blairsville. And on a clear day, Brasstown Bald visitors can even get a glimpse of the downtown Atlanta skyline more than 100 miles away. 

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fredericksburg, Texas

The small Texas Hill Country town of Fredericksburg located between San Antonio and Austin dates back to 1846 when it was founded by German immigrants. Its German roots are still present today and mix well with the Texas culture. That’s why fall is a great time to visit and experience this heritage at Oktoberfest (42nd annual, September 30-October, 2022). For history buffs, there is the National Museum of the Pacific War, the only museum of its kind in the continental U.S., and Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic National Site. Another park, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, is known for its giant pink granite dome.

Related article: 8 of the Best Leaf-Peeping Destinations! But is it the Season of Fall or Autumn?

Mount Dora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mount Dora, Florida

One of the most popular small towns in Florida, Mount Dora is beloved for its 19th-century clapboard houses, antique shops, and outdoor cafes that line its historic district. Offering the best of both worlds, you can go shopping for valuable collectibles at Renninger’s Antique Center & Farmer’s Flea Market before soaking up the scenic natural setting around Lake Dora. Go on a fishing excursion, sample local cuisine in the gourmet restaurants, or relax with a glass of vino at The Cellar Door winery.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Langley, British Columbia

This little town in British Columbia seriously looks like it was plucked right out of a Hallmark movie. There are so many small shops to explore and in the fall, you can expect to see pumpkins and other autumn decorations scattered everywhere.

Fort Langley National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Fort Langley National Historic Site is home to the Hudson Bay Company’s fur trading post, still standing over 150 years later as a reminder of Langley’s proud heritage. Come watch as costumed interpreters demonstrate the pioneer way of life, where Hudson’s Bay Company fur traders mingled with California gold prospectors, and hear Indigenous interpreters tell century-old tales, feel the blast of the musket fire, and pan for gold dust dreams.

Related article: Fantastic Fall Foliage…and Where to Find It

Located along the Fraser River, Fort Langley features a variety of museums, shops, restaurants, art galleries, parks, trails, and iconic yellow Community Hall which is featured in many TV & Films.

Worth Pondering…

As long as autumn lasts, I shall not have hands, canvas, and colors enough to paint the beautiful things I see.

—Vincent Van Gogh, letter to Theo van Gogh

Life Is a Highway: Taking the Great American Road Trip

Ready. Set. On the road!

There’s a lot of America out there. It’s a big, beautiful country with so much to see. And when you fly to your destination, you’re missing most of it—the landscapes, the views, the small-town diners, the quirky roadside attractions. You lose the chance to experience all the special little stops that exist in between the big cities. To get to know America, you have to drive through it in an RV.

World’s Largest Runner, Los Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The cross-country trip is the supreme example of the journey as the destination.

“I discovered I did not know my own country,” John Steinbeck wrote in Travels with Charley explaining why he hit the road at age 58.

Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Travel usually implies seeing a place once and moving on; but this became a trip in which I made lists of places I’d return to—Prescott and Sedona and now Gallup, New Mexico where I’d happily go mountain-biking or hiking in the high desert or visiting the people who possessed the country before we claimed it as ours.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kentucky, well-tended and fenced, and the soft green of its fields and hills, the sight of horses and farms, made it seem an orderly Eden, parklike—another place to return to. This part of the state was rich in classic names—Lebanon and Paris, but Athens and Versailles had been tamed into Ay-thens and Ver-sails.

Versailles, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Ten days into my road trip I began wondering if I were perhaps pushing it a little too hard. But wasn’t the whole point to keep going down the proud highway? The thrill is in the moving, gaining ground, watching the landscape change, stopping on impulse.

“At one point, bowling along the open road, the Supertramp song Take the Long Way Home came on the radio. Listening to music while driving through a lovely landscape is one of life’s great mood enhancers. And hearing the line, ‘But there are times that you feel you’re part of the scenery,’ I was in Heaven.”

Related Article: The Great American Road Trip: Born in 1856

Kentucky Bluegrass Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The journey and not the destination is the joy of RVing. Taking your RV on the open road and experiencing breathtaking views along the way can make for the one-of-a-kind vacation your family is looking for. Highways can guide you along the coast to take in ocean views at sunset. Others wind you through the mountains exploring history.

A lot goes into planning a great road trip from finding the best diners along your route and the quirkiest roadside attractions to queueing up road trip songs that make the trip. It’s all about the journey.

World’s Largest Pistachio Nut, Alamagordo, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I can tell you scenic roads to take, where to camp, where to eat, and where to stop (I can even tell you where to find the world’s largest roadrunner or pistachio nut), and help you make the best road trip playlist.

With that in mind, I put together this Great American Road Trips Guide to help you find some inspiration. Discover favorite routes to drive plus some of the best stops along the way.

And remember: These are just jumping-off points. Once you’re on the road, you’ll think of other parts of the country you want to see. Along the way, you might even stumble upon a road that takes you even farther off the beaten path. If you do, follow your wanderlust. Trust me—it’s worth it!

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blue Ridge Parkway

Known as one of the nation’s best and most beautiful drives, the Blue Ridge Parkway runs for 469 miles across Virginia and North Carolina. It follows the Appalachian Mountains—the Blue Ridge chain, specifically—from Shenandoah National Park in the north to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the south. Because the Blue Ridge Parkway connects two national parks, it’s easy to visit both during your drive.

Monahans Sandhills State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shifting Sands

West Texas winds transform an ever-changing landscape of sand dunes at the 3.840-acre Monahans Sandhills State Park. The field of dunes begins south of Monahans and stretches north into New Mexico. Opened in 1957, the state park harbors a peaceful Chihuahuan Desert playground where people can explore the rolling landscape, slide down the hills, picnic, camp, and take in extraordinary sunrises and sunsets.

Related Article: Ultimate American Road Trips

Klosel’s Steakhouse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kloesel’s Steakhouse & Bar, Moulton, Texas

It was hard to believe the locals when we were told that one of the best restaurants around was Klosel’s. After some hesitation, we stopped for lunch en route to the little brewery in Shiner and give it a shot and what a pleasant surprise. The food was truly amazing and good value. Great atmosphere and friendly service. We have eaten here over the years numerous times and have always been impressed with their food and staff. Particularly love their chicken fried steak—and desert.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Creole Nature Trail All-American Road

Starting on the outskirts of Lake Charles and ending at the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road is a network of byways where you’ll find more than 400 bird species, alligators galore, and 26 miles of Gulf of Mexico beaches. Also called “America’s Outback,” the Creole Nature Trail takes visitors through 180 miles of southwest Louisiana’s backroads.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll pass through small fishing villages, National Wildlife Refuges to reach the little-visited, remote Holly and Cameron beaches. Take a side trip down to Sabine Lake, or drive onto a ferry that takes visitors across Calcasieu Pass. Throughout the trip, expect to see exotic birds; this area is part of the migratory Mississippi Flyway. 

Woodstock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Woodstock

In a state that’s home to the Hamptons, Finger Lakes, Appalachian Trail, and Big Apple it’s no surprise that small communities like Woodstock fall to the back of the mind. To assume that Woodstock is only notable for its namesake 1969 music festival (that didn’t occur there) would be a major blunder—the three-day festival was held on a dairy farm in nearby Bethel. In reality, Woodstock is a charming little Catskills oasis where fewer than 6,000 residents prop up an art, religion, music, and theater scene worthy of national attention.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

The stretch of Interstate running from Minneapolis, Minnesota, through the heart of the North Dakota Heartland is fantastic if you’re big into grain silos and livestock. Otherwise, nobody’s confusing a drive down I-94 with one of America’s most scenic routes. Then, out of the blue, it happens: About an hour east of the Montana border—and a seemingly endless four hours from Fargo—the Earth drops out from under the highway and mountains somehow appear out of nowhere. This is how you’ll know you’ve reached Theodore Roosevelt National Park, a plains-state paradise often forgotten in the world of Arches and Bryce Canyon. The three-unit park is surprising not just in its grandeur but also in its very existence in a state few know much about.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mount Washington Cog Railway

At 6,288.2 feet, Mt. Washington is the highest peak in New Hampshire. Ride in style to the summit on a historic cog railway that has been operating since 1869. Grades average 25 percent! Keep your eye out for hikers on the Appalachian Trail which crosses the line about three-quarters of the way up. Enjoy far-reaching panoramic views at the summit on the Observatory deck on a nice day. The visitor center has snacks, restrooms, and a post office. And, don’t miss the Mount Washington Weather Museum.

Related Article: Road Trippin’

Lockhart © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lockhart

A short trip to this flavor-packed smoke town should be on any food lover’s bucket list. Dubbed the “BBQ Capital of Texas,” Lockhart is easily one of the most legendary barbecue destinations anywhere. Your itinerary includes the Big Three: Black’s Barbecue (open since 1932), Kreuz Market (established 1900), and Smitty’s Market (since 1948). You’ll be consuming a lot of meat so be sure to stop for breaks. Proceed in any order you please. Lockhart has one more stop in store for you: Chisholm Trail Barbecue (opened by a Black’s alum in 1978).

Shipshewana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shipshewana

Many of the towns in northwestern Indiana’s Amish Country date back 150 years or more. Among these is tiny Shipshewana known for an enormous flea market where 1,000 vendors peddle their wares twice a week from May through October. Due to the Amish lifestyle you can almost believe you’ve stepped back in time a century or more. To learn about Amish history, tour Menno-Hof. Through multi-image presentations and historical displays, you’ll travel back 500 years to the origins of the Amish-Mennonite story.

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Monument Valley

A huge swath of Arizona seems to have been designed by cartoonists, from the trippy Dr. Seuss waves of the Vermillion Cliffs to the splaying cacti of Saguaro National Park. But Monument Valley is where nature gets serious. This is a land of monolithic red sandstone bluffs seemingly carved by the gods where enormous spires emerge so far in the distance they’re shrouded by haze even on a clear day. Each crevice tells a story and every ledge is its own unforgettable vista.

Related Article: Road Trip Planning for the First Time RVer

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While Monument Valley is undoubtedly national park-worthy, this is a Navajo Tribal Park and I hope it stays that way. It’s a place rooted in ancient Native religion and serves as an expansive gateway to the wondrous desert landscapes of both Utah and Arizona.

Worth Pondering…

Life is a Highway

Life is like a road that you travel on
When there’s one day here and the next day gone
Sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand
Sometimes you turn your back to the wind

Life is a highway
I wanna ride it all night long
If you’re going my way
I wanna drive it all night long
Come on. Give me give me give me give me yeah

—recorded by Tom Cochrane from his second studio album, Mad Mad World (1991)

8 U.S. Towns Stuck in Time

Travel through time to a bygone era

America is full of unique and colorful towns that have stayed true to past customs and lifestyles. The next time you have the urge to escape the modern, fast-paced cities, consider these eight wonderful towns scattered across the country.

Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tombstone, Arizona

Live out all of your Wild West dreams in Tombstone, the location of the infamous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Cowboys, cowgirls, and wannabes fill up the town’s saloons and the O.K. Corral museum puts on reenactments of Wyatt Earp’s 1881 shootout. The buildings are so well maintained and the townsfolk so authentic that at times it’s easy to think you’ve landed on a John Wayne movie set.

Related: 10 Towns Older Than America

Lancaster County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

The Amish are the masters of clinging to their roots and there are more than 50 thriving Amish communities spread throughout Pennsylvania. Lancaster County is home to the country’s oldest and largest community. Expect to see horse-drawn carriages trundling past lush green pastures dotted with windmills. Witness the simple lifestyle of the Amish, their iconic plain attire, and their reluctance to embrace modern technological advances.

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mesilla, New Mexico

Step back in time to one of the oldest and most unique settlements of southern New Mexico. Mesilla has been a part of Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederacy, and finally the United States.  Mesilla has a rich history filled with prehistoric cultures, Spanish explorers, Apache raids, the civil war, and the Wild West. Pancho Villa and Billy the Kid walked the streets.  The famous trial of Billy the Kid was held here and the Democrats and Republicans had a bloody showdown on the plaza. Many residents are direct descendants of the original settlers.  Today Mesilla is a part of living history.  Great care has been given to preserving the original adobe buildings and the beautiful plaza.

Related: Old Mesilla: Where Time Stood Still

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Williamsburg, Virginia

When in Williamsburg, head to the Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area to be transported to an American Revolution-era town. You’ll encounter men dressed in red coats and carrying muskets and people trotting past elegant brick buildings via horse and carriage. You’ll see tradespeople carrying out apothecary, bindery, and blacksmithing tasks. You can even join in 18th-century games on a village green.

Related: Historic Triangle: 400 Years & Counting

Midway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Midway, Kentucky

Historic Midway was the first town in Kentucky founded by a railroad. Electricity was introduced in 1911. During the railroad’s heyday, the 1930s and 40s, up to 30 trains a day rumbled through the middle of town. Revitalization and rebirth began in the mid-1970s when several antique shops and galleries were established. In 1978, 176 buildings in Midway were placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Now, Historic Midway once again thrives and enjoys its present reputation as one of Kentucky’s favorite spots for antiques, crafts, gifts, restaurants, and clothing.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee is a mining town or was. Like many mining towns, it is situated up against a steep hill. Walking the streets of Bisbee is a journey back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Just exploring the shops, restaurants, galleries, and other establishments housed in these fine old buildings is a pleasant way to spend a morning or afternoon. The primary historic district includes Main Street, Brewery Gulch, OK Street, Tombstone Canyon, and much of the surrounding hillsides.

Keystone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keystone, South Dakota

After the discovery of gold within the mineral-rich region of the Black Hills, Keystone became a busy mining hub. It wasn’t long before Keystone began to boom, reaching over 2,000 people. In the early 1900s, the railroad reached Keystone, and with the railroad came further development of the area, mines, and community. Although many mining towns appeared throughout the nation with the discovery of gold and minerals, few have lasted the test of time like Keystone. 

Shipshewana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shipshewana, Indiana

Nearly 670 residents call Shipshewana home, and many of the two million annual visitors wish that they, too, could call it home. Locals hold their heritage close to their hearts while visitors admire and even long for this simpler way of life. The Shipshewana area is celebrated for being home to the third-largest Amish community in the United States, for having the Midwest’s largest flea market, and for its reputation of hand-crafted wares. 

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

Worth Pondering…

The undiscovered places that are interesting to me are these places that contain bits of our disappearing history, like a ghost town.

—Ransom Riggs

Must-See under the Radar Small Towns to Seek Out this Summer

Favorite lesser-known destinations from around America to consider for your summer adventure

The smaller towns in the United States feature many great locations to visit when looking for an underrated summer vacation. Each of the towns has its own standout attractions that will make for a good trip in your RV. These are ten small towns in America that should be on one’s travel bucket list.

Red Rock Canyon between Panguitch and Bryce Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Panguitch, Utah

Panguitch captures the enduring pioneer spirit of Utah with its welcoming rural charm and a strong sense of heritage. Much of the town’s main drag sits on the National Register of Historic Places and offers quaint, Western-themed local shopping and dining options. Panguitch is an important base camp for many of Southern Utah’s top natural attractions including Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks, two vast expanses of national forests (Fishlake and Dixie), two national monuments (Cedar Breaks and Grand Staircase-Escalante), and several state parks.

Medora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Medora, North Dakota

Situated in the Badlands, Medora has established itself as a popular destination despite having fewer than 200 residents. Visitors flock to Medora to visit outdoor attractions including Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Bully Pulpit Golf Course to take in the sights and sounds of the American Frontier. Perhaps the town’s most notable and unique event is the annual Medora Musical. Every summer from June through early September, the town hosts a professionally produced musical celebrating President Theodore Roosevelt’s sojourn in the region.  

Wolfeboro © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wolfeboro, New Hampshire

This town’s motto is “The Oldest Summer Resort in America” and its prime location on Lake Winnipesaukee proves why. People from all over New Hampshire and Boston vacation here during warm summer months. Incorporated in 1770, it stakes its claim based on an early mansion built by Governor John Wentworth on what eventually became Lake Wentworth, just east of Winnipesaukee.

Shipshewana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shipshewana, Indiana

Many of the towns in Amish Country date back 150 years or more. Among these is tiny Shipshewana known for an enormous flea market where 1,000 vendors peddle their wares twice a week from May through October. Due to the Amish lifestyle, you can almost believe you’ve stepped back in time a century or more. To learn about Amish history, tour Menno-Hof. Through multi-image presentations and historical displays, you’ll travel back 500 years to the origins of the Amish-Mennonite story.

Midway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Midway, Kentucky

Some of our most pleasant moments always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else. So it was when we unexpectedly came upon the historic town of Midway. Located midway between Frankfort and Lexington, Historic Midway was the first town in Kentucky founded by a railroad (1832). During the railroad’s heyday, the 1930s, and 40s, up to 30 trains, a day rumbled through the middle of town. The passenger trains dwindled until the old depot was closed in 1963. Now, Historic Midway once again thrives and enjoys its present reputation as one of Kentucky’s favorite spots for antiques, crafts, gifts, restaurants, and clothing.

Keystone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keystone, South Dakota

You may not have heard of this little town of less than 350, but if you’re planning a road trip to one of America’s most iconic monuments, chances are you’ll drive through its winding streets or rent a room in one of its many lodges and resorts. Located a short drive from Mount Rushmore, this former mining town has successfully pivoted to become a desirable destination for tourists, while maintaining its small-town charm.

Folly Beach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Folly Beach, South Carolina

Folly Beach is one of America’s last true beach towns. Just minutes from historic downtown Charleston, Folly Beach is a 12 square mile barrier island that is packed with things to do, see, and eat. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Folly River, visitors enjoy six miles of wide beaches, surfing, fishing, biking, kayaking, boating, and eco-tours. Folly Island was named after its coastline which was once densely packed with trees and undergrowth: the Old English name for such an area was “Folly.”

Williams © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Williams, Arizona

West of Flagstaff in the Coconino County, Williams is on the historic Route 66 and at the southern terminus of the Grand Canyon Railway. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, Williams is named after a mountain man called William “Old Bill” Williams. A popular destination for tourists, there are many fun activities to keep you entertained here in Williams.

Tour historic Route 66—Williams was the last town to have its section bypassed. Check out the Williams Depot and see a steam locomotive before wandering the historic Business District.

Woods Hole © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Woods Hole, Massachusetts

This tiny, bustling Cape Cod town was once a pass-through destination for Martha’s Vineyard ferry travelers. Now it holds its own thanks to a charming waterfront filled with restaurants and shopping. Woods Hole is the epicenter of marine and biological science in the US with more than five major science institutions headquartered here (WHOI, MBL, NOAA, SEA, and Woods Hole Research Center).

Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jacksonville, Oregon

Jacksonville is nestled in the Siskyou Mountain foothills along the Rogue River Valley and is easy to fall in love with. The little town is the Heart of Rogue Valley wine country which includes the Applegate Valley Wine Trail. Though sometimes busy the small-town ambiance (population 2,860), gorgeous setting, and beautifully preserved late 1800s architecture combines to make a very attractive town. The little gem of a town is highly walkable and has at least one of everything—except chain stores. Everything from wine to cheese to chocolate, art, and fine dining.

Worth Pondering…

Here and there…not quite everywhere yet!

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