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Welcoming Ways in Northern Indiana

The towns of northern Indiana offer a close look at some of America’s most fascinating people: the Amish.

In Shipshewana, Nappanee and smaller towns throughout the region, groups can immerse themselves in Amish history and culture, sample Amish food and meet Amish craftspeople who share their heritage through their work.

“The Amish population here in Shipshewana, Indiana, first immigrated to the U.S. as Anabaptists in the 1600s, looking for religious freedom,” said Miranda Beverly, communications and PR manager for Visit Shipshewana.

Now home to the third-largest Amish community in the United States, the region also offers stunning natural beauty and a wide range of outdoor activities. Visitors can enjoy the scenic trails, vibrant Quilt Gardens and serene countryside, making it an appealing destination for nature lovers. The area’s beautiful landscapes, combined with its rich historical and cultural attractions, provide endless opportunities for exploration and relaxation.

“The official population of the small town itself is only 850, but we welcome over 2 million visitors a year,” said Beverly. “Groups will love our off-the-beaten-path feel, the small and walkable downtown shopping district and the combination of modern amenities with small-town hospitality.”

Visitors can enjoy a wide range of attractions, from handcrafted goods and outdoor adventures to the welcoming community spirit.

“It’s easy to immerse yourself in the Amish culture of Shipshewana because the Amish community here is welcoming and hospitable, as well as being an important part of the local economy,” said Beverly. “They love visitors to shop their small stores, buy their hand-crafted goods, try their food, and enjoy things like tours and buggy rides.”

Visitors can stop by the interactive Menno-Hof Cultural Museum to learn the story of the Amish, book an in-home Amish meal, or try the local restaurants and buffets that specialize in Amish foods and pies, like the Blue Gate Restaurant.

“In-home Amish meals are a popular option for groups, and some of those experiences come with buggy rides,” said Terry Mark, director of communications and public relations for the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Groups can also stop by Das Dutchman Essenhaus to experience Amish-style cooking and shopping.

“In Shipshewana, you’ll share the roads with buggies, carriages, bikes and pony carts,” said Beverly. “You’ll drive through Amish communities, small towns, and acres and acres of beautiful, sprawling countryside. You can pet and feed farm animals, tour farms and homes, see cheese or noodles being made, taste fresh milk, buy fresh local honey or make your own wooden carved puzzle to take home.”

Exploring the Outdoors

Shipshewana and its surroundings are dotted with scenic trails and pathways, perfect for hiking and leisurely strolls where groups can soak in the fresh air and peaceful ambiance.

“As you wander along these trails, you’ll encounter the unique Quilt Gardens,” said Mark. “These one-of-a-kind, super-sized gardens are planted in quilt patterns that change every year, offering a fresh experience each time. The gardens are all next to or near other attractions, shops and restaurants, so it’s a full day or two just seeing all the gardens as well as the accompanying Quilt Murals.”

“For outdoor lovers, we also have the Pumpkinvine Trail paved walking and biking path that winds its way through 17 miles of country, small towns and farmland,” said Beverly. “There are many trailheads, so you can go as little or as far as you like.”

Beverly recommends groups try the free Off the Beaten Path map and audio tour, which opens the door to over 120 backroads Amish shops.

Shopping, Arts and Crafts

Groups wandering through town or exploring the charming backroads will discover many family-owned businesses showcasing an array of meticulously crafted items. From intricately woven quilts and rustic wooden furniture to delicate pottery and handmade soap, each shop offers a personal touch, often with the artisans themselves available to share the stories behind their creations. “You can purchase one-of-a-kind handmade Amish goods like quilts, baskets, furniture, noodles, jams or baked goods,” said Beverly.

Groups can also visit Leo and Lorene Miller’s Old Order Amish home to see how the family transforms fabric scraps into beautiful rag rugs or try the many hands-on crafts offerings, such as basket weaving or pretzel making.

Shipshewana is also home to the Midwest’s largest flea market, which runs from May through September and features over 700 vendors offering everything from fresh produce to art, home decor, furniture, crafts, antiques and jewelry. Groups can also participate in weekly antique auctions, year-round events and seasonal craft fairs, adding to the vibrant shopping experience.

For a group-exclusive experience, visitors can try the town’s themed scavenger hunts, where they can discover six locations noted on a provided map, get a Trail Card stamped by answering fun questions at each location and earn a free shopping bag. “We also have a dedicated group travel specialist and experienced and knowledgeable step-on guides and staff to help groups plan their trips,” Beverly said.

Embracing Town Life

Groups will find that planning trips to Shipshewana is not only easy but also full of different experiences.

“There’s no end to the possibilities in Shipshewana,” Beverly said. “You can pet and feed farm animals, tour farms and homes, see cheese or noodles being made, taste fresh milk, buy fresh local honey or make your own wooden carved puzzle to take home.”

On the other hand, groups can also grab a drink at a local café, explore the local Fawn River on a scenic boat tour (or a rented canoe), or venture into Elkhart County to visit the fun Studebaker National Museum and the National New York Central Railroad Museum.

“You can lose yourself in the charm and craftsmanship of our area, whether it is seeing live theater or concerts, browsing artisan shops or enjoying a refreshing beverage overlooking local waterways,” Mark said.

There’s world-class entertainment available at the Blue Gate Performing Arts Center and the Blue Gate Theatre, which hosts world-famous performers, live shows and Amish Musicals.

Mark also recommends walking alongside the Goshen’s Millrace Canal to explore everything from a craft brewery to a farmers market and artisan spaces.