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 October, and Goshen. There’s also lovely Nappanee, a bustling community of woodworking shops that has been dubbed one of America’s “Top 10 Small Towns”.
Due to the Amish lifestyle you can almost believe you’ve stepped back in time a century of more. No utility wires lace farmhouses to poles, women in old-fashioned bonnets and long skirts bend to their task of hoeing gardens, men in 19th-century attire trudge behind horse-drawn plows across wide fields, and the clip-clop of horses’ hooves on country lanes fills the air with staccato rhythms.
The Heritage Trail could easily be driven in a few hours, but there are way too many interesting stops for that. We spent a week exploring the area while the warranty issues on our Dutch Star were addressed at the Newmar Service Center in Nappanee.
Nappanee is home to numerous woodworking shops, restaurants, antique stores, and Amish Acres, a restored 80-acre Old Order Amish farmstead. The farmstead has been an Amish farm for nearly a century. The historic complex consists of 18 restored buildings including the quaint farmhouse, a pair of log cabins, a smokehouse, and an enormous barn-turned restaurant where meals are served family style with seating for 500.
But Amish Acres is probably best known for the 402-seat Round Barn Theatre. It occupies a barn built in 1911 that has been transformed into a state-of-the-art theater. The theater is the national home of the musical “Plain and Fancy”, and in rotation, five other musicals are performed here.
Leaving Nappanee, we drove northeast to Goshen. Admire the classic courthouse in the heart of town. Peek into the bunker-like police booth on the Corner of Main and Lincoln dating back to the days when John Dillinger was the bane of bankers. Don’t miss the Olympic Candy Kitchen, “the sweetest little place in town,” for a soda at the old-fashioned fountain or some handmade chocolates.
Built in 1896 the Old Bag Factory is home to producing artists, antiques, specialty shops, and cafes. The historic character of the complex provides a unique and charming setting for the specialty shops it houses.
Following Country Road 22 northeast took us to Middlebury. Our destination, Das Dutchman Essenhaus, is an enormous complex that includes a bakery and a handful of village shops. Leisurely stroll across the colorful campus; discover Indiana’s largest family restaurant which offers both family-style and buffet and menu dining options.
From Middlebury we headed east on Country Road 16 toward Shipshewana. We shared the road with dozens of black carriages drawn by spirited horses, many of which stop—as we did at Dutch Country Market, Rise ‘n Roll Bakery, and Guggisberg Deutsch Kase Haus Cheese Factory.
Rise ‘n Roll Bakery offered up display cases full of loaves of wheat bread, pies, cookies, and donuts.
We watched cheese being made at Deutsch Kase Haus, then sampled and purchased it at the retail shop. Their products were recently recognized for their flavor, aroma, texture, and appearance at the American Cheese Society Competition, taking the top three places in the Swiss category as well as first place for their Colby.
Back on the asphalt, we continued southwest to Shipshewana. The small town hosts some million visitors a year for its auctions, theater, history, more than 100 shops offering fine Amish woodwork and food, and twice-a-week Shipshewana Flea Market, the largest of its kind in the Midwest.
To learn about Amish history, we toured Menno-Hof, also in Shipshewana. Through multi-image presentations, historical environments, and other displays, we traveled back 500 years to the origins of the Amish-Mennonite story.
We continued 4 miles south along Indiana Highway 5, stopping at Yoder’s Popcorn, for popcorn the way you remember it. Try their renowned Tiny Tender Popcorn. Then it’s back to our condo-on-wheels at the Newmar Service Center in Nappanee.
The Amish are islands of sanity in a whirlpool of change.
—Nancy Sleeth, Almost Amish: One Woman’s Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life