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

January 19: However You like Popcorn Enjoy It TODAY on National Popcorn Day

This annual celebration recognizes a treat that satisfies munchies, day or night

On January 19th National Popcorn Day pops onto the scene with a crunch we all love to enjoy! This time-honored snack can be sweet or savory, caramelized, buttered or plain, molded into a candied ball, or tossed with nuts and chocolate. However you like it, enjoy it on National Popcorn Day, January 19th.

Buttered, salted, kettled, and drizzled with caramel, popcorn is one of those snacks perfect anytime, anywhere. It’s great on the go, in the theater, or your living room! Just be prepared to dig some of it out of your teeth.

Yoder Popcorn © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Did you know that the corn we eat and the corn we pop are two different varieties of maize? The corn you’d find on your dinner table is most likely unable to pop at all. Only one variety of corn can become popcorn: Zea mays everta. This particular corn variety has small ears and the kernels burst when exposed to dry heat. 

In 1948, small heads of Zea mays everta were discovered by Herbert Dick and Earle Smith in the Bat Cave of west-central New Mexico. Ranging from smaller than a penny to about two inches, the oldest Bat Cave ears were about 4,000 years old. Several individually popped kernels were also discovered which have since been carbon-dated and shown to be approximately 5,600 years old. There’s also evidence of early use of popcorn in Peru, Mexico, and Guatemala as well as other places in Central and South America. 

Aztecs used popcorn to decorate their clothes, create ceremonial embellishments, and also for nourishment. Native Americans have also been found to consume and utilize popcorn in their day-to-day lives. In a cave in Utah thought to be inhabited by Pueblo Native Americans, popcorn has been found that dates back to over 1,000 years ago. French explorers who traveled to the new world discovered the Iroquois Natives in the Great Lakes region making popcorn. As colonists moved around North America and as the US came to be many people adopted popcorn as a popular and healthy snack.

The word corn in Old English meant grain or, more specifically, the most prominent grain grown in a region. When Native Americans introduce their most common grain, maize, to early Europeans, they aptly applied the word corn.

Yoder Popcorn © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As early as the 16th century, the Aztecs used popcorn in headdresses worn during ceremonies honoring Tlaloc, their god of maize and fertility. Early Spanish explorers were fascinated by the corn that burst into what looked like a white flower.

Popcorn started becoming popular in the United States in the middle 1800s. It wasn’t until Charles Cretors, a candy-store owner, developed a machine for popping corn with steam that the tasty treat became more abundantly poppable. By 1900 he had horse-drawn popcorn wagons going through the streets of Chicago.

>> Read Next: Celebrating all things Pistachio on National Pistachio Day

At about the same time, Louise Ruckheim added peanuts and molasses to popcorn to bring Cracker Jack to the world. Then in 1908, the national anthem of baseball was born. Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer wrote Take Me out to the Ballgame. From that point onward, popcorn, specifically Cracker Jack, became forever married to the game.

Yoder Popcorn © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the movies

Another romance connected to popcorn may have had a slow start but eventually took off. Today, who can imagine going to the movies without getting a box of buttered popcorn? While popcorn was an economical choice for snack food the expense of installing a machine and adequately venting the building didn’t seem worth the effort. If it weren’t for Glen W. Dickson, we would be purchasing our popcorn from a vendor on the street before taking in the show. Dickson put in the effort and expense of placing machines inside his theaters. After realizing how quickly he recouped his costs other theater owners followed suit.

The microwave oven spurred the next big advancement for popcorn. With the invention of the microwave, a whole new market opened for snack food. Magnetrons, a technology produced by Raytheon Manufacturing Corporation for the military during World War II were later used to develop microwave ovens. Percy Spencer was the man who made it happen. He used popcorn in his initial experiments during the microwave’s development. 

Today, Americans consume 17 billion quarts of popcorn a year, more than any other country in the world. A majority of the popcorn produced in the world is grown in the United States. Nebraska leads the Corn Belt in popcorn production.

Yoder Popcorn © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Popcorn by the numbers

  • 17 billion quarts: Amount of popcorn consumed by Americans annually
  • 70:  Percentage of popcorn eaten at home
  • 90: Percentage of unpopped popcorn sales
  • 13.5: Percentage of moisture content in popcorn
  • 31: Calories in a cup of popcorn
  • 5,000: Years popcorn has been in existence
  • 1885: First commercial popcorn machine was invented by Charles Cretors
  • 1981: Making popcorn even quicker and easier to eat, the General Mills patent for microwave popcorn bags is approved
  • 250 million: Pounds of popcorn produced in Nebraska every year (also known as the Cornhusker State, although it’s third in overall corn production)
  • 3: Feet that a single popped corn can fly when popping
  • 400°F: Ideal temperature for popping popcorn
Yoder Popcorn © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to celebrate National Popcorn Day

Celebrating National Popcorn Day is as simple and delicious as it comes! You can start by enjoying a bag of popcorn with your favorite toppings. Pop your favorite popcorn and share a bowl with a friend.

>> Read Next: Light Your Fires on National Chili Day

Ways to enjoy popcorn: You can have it with a classic mix of butter and salt or get creative and add your favorite spices and herbs to it! There isn’t anything that doesn’t go wonderfully with it. For a light heart-healthy addition you can skip the butter and shake it down with herbs like rosemary and thyme or spice it up with cayenne. Or you can forgo the healthy options and bury it under a delicious coating of caramel and bacon and enjoy the decadence.

Yoder Popcorn © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go global with popcorn: First made readily available in America in the early 1800s, this delightful treat has grown in popularity so that it is now a delicacy found the world over. And different places seem to enjoy their popcorn in different ways:

  • Japan: In addition to the standard ways, they appreciate flavors such as honey, milk tea, and curry
  • Europe: Enjoyed here as a sugary treat, popcorn is often sold in bags at the cinema rather than freshly popped
  • Nigeria: Best enjoyed by popping it in the microwave, a preferred flavor of popcorn here is fruit chutney
  • India: In addition to the standard butter and salt popcorn, it can be found in unique flavors such as miso soup, Thai red coconut, and anchovy garlic

Crafting with popcorn: You can also celebrate popcorn by doing crafts with it. Popcorn strings are a wonderful decoration use them to make garlands or even glue them to construction paper for a collage. String or glue popcorn onto a metal or styrofoam to make a festive popcorn wreath to welcome friends into your National Popcorn Day party. And don’t forget the paint and glitter to glitz it up even more. Popcorn can even be used as a filling for glass Christmas ornaments to make cute decorations that give a little nod to the day.

Yoder Popcorn © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan a movie marathon: Three weeks into January? Chances are you just want to hide and eat comfort food—but, your resolutions. There’s a win-win! Tee up your favorite Star Wars Trilogy and pop a big bowl of popcorn. You can enjoy the wisdom of Yoda and keep to your diet. (A little olive oil and salt with the carby goodness of the popcorn may just hit the spot!)

Most of the popcorn we consume is either a Butterfly (also known as snowflake) or Mushroom popcorn. Butterfly popcorn produces a fluffy, winged kernel while Mushroom popcorn produces a denser more compact kernel. While both are delicious for snacking, Mushroom popcorn holds up better to caramel, cheese, and other coatings.

Yoder Popcorn © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yoder Popcorn

On our first visit to Amish Country in northwestern Indiana, we discovered Yoder Popcorn near Shipshewana. It has been a mandatory stop on each return visit.

In 1936, Rufus Yoder started growing popcorn on his family farm. In the Amish custom, he shared his excess crop with his neighbors and friends. They told their friends and neighbors about the excellent quality of Yoder Popcorn and soon a business was born.

After Rufus retired, his children Larry and Pauline continued to market Yoder Popcorn.

Yoder Popcorn © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1999, Yoder Popcorn was purchased by Rufus’ great niece, Sharon, along with her husband Richard and their youngest son, Russell, and his wife Allyse. Besides operating the Popcorn Shoppe, they farm 1,700 acres which include the acreage around the Shoppe.

>> Read Next: January 16: National Day Calendar + RVing with Rex 4th Birthday

A large variety of popcorn and related products are available at their store and on-line purchase:

  • Tiny Tender White: Very small kernel with a mild corn taste; enjoy crispy and nearly hulless popcorn
  • Baby Blue Popcorn: Tiny kernel that pops white with a dark center; sweet and crunchy with very little hull
  • Sunburst Popcorn: Large kernel with a red stripe (being that it is yellow popcorn, it will have that corn taste but with less hull than the Premium Yellow)
  • Lady Finger Microwave Popcorn: Tiniest kernel, completely hulless with a strong corn taste
  • Tiny Tender Yellow Microwave Popcorn: The ultimate in tenderness and is virtually hull-less (yellow popcorn usually pops a little bigger than white popcorn)
  • Mirowave Sample Pack: 3.5 oz. butter-flavored pouch of each of the following: 1-Yoder Premium Yellow, 1-Yoder Premium Yellow Extra Butter, 1-Yoder Premium White, 1-Yoder Yellow Tiny Tender, and 1-Yoder Premium Red
  • Gift Baskets: Price range from $6 to $62

Related popcorn days

National Caramel Popcorn Day (April 6)

Worth Pondering…

Have you ever pondered the miracle of popcorn? It starts out as a tiny, little, compact kernel with magic trapped inside that when agitated, bursts to create something marvelously desirable. It’s sort of like those tiny, little thoughts trapped inside an author’s head that―in an excited explosion of words―suddenly become a captivating fairy tale!

―Richelle E. Goodrich