Getaway in Ohio's Amish Country
Halfway between Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio's sprawling Amish Country offers travelers divergent paths to sample the rural lifestyle. Most people follow tour buses to the museums, Main Street shops and reliable restaurants. Hungering for a slower, more authentic experience, we followed the buggies along Holmes County's backroads to the farms and shops of everyday Amish life.
Click through the next slides for a sampling of what you can see on a getaway to the world's largest Amish community. A detailed trip guide with suggestions on what to do, where to eat and where to stay begins on slide 9.
An Amish home
Yoder children--Kayla, 7, Anthony, 6, and Kara, 4--swing on the porch at Yoder's Amish Home.
Plunk down $11 for a tour and buggy ride, and Verba Miller, a friend of the Yoder family, will take you through a farmhouse filled with authentic furniture and clothes. In each room, Verba explains the rituals: how Amish families practice their religion, how girls' clothes change as they become women, how families work and play together. Visitors stroll through the 1885-built red barn filled with animals before climbing aboard a buggy for a turn around the farmstead.
A woman hangs laundry at Yoder's Amish Home. Tours here explain how Amish use straight pins to fasten their clothing to avoid ostentatious buttons and buckles.
A stop for sweets
Miller's Bakery offers warm sweet rolls the size of hands folded in prayer. Other specialties at the Amish bakery perched above State-557, the road to Charm: doughnuts, fry pies and cookies, all made from 40-year-old recipes. (330) 893-3002
At stops like these, stumbled upon during slow country drives, you'll learn the most about this five-county community of 38,000 tucked between interstates 71 and 77.
Fresh from the farm
Fresh-picked veggies greet patrons at Hershberger's Farm and Bakery Ltd., which also sells jams, jellies, fry pies and baked goods. (330) 674-6096
Burst of color
Plain on the outside, Miller's Dry Goods holds lots of color inside, with more than 8,000 bolts of fabric. Among the items for sale: Handwritten recipes with handmade pot holders.
Shops among the hills
Blink and you'll miss the sign along County-77 for Baskets and Blooms, one of the small businesses -- quilt shops, greenhouses, candle stores, furniture shops and more - that dot county roads. Most are owned by families living without phones, electricity and cars.
Wild mushrooms flavor dishes at the Inn at Honey Run, one of the local upscale restaurants that aspire to creativity (others include Breitenbach Winery and Rebecca's Bistro in Walnut Creek).
Amish Country: Before you go
Our trip guide on the following slides contains suggestions on what to do, where to eat and where to stay in Amish Country.
Note that addresses can be problematic here; mailing addresses do not always correspond to an actual physical location. Your best bet? Call for directions (cell service is spotty), get a map from the Holmes County Tourism Bureau—and keep an eye out for road signs.
What to do: Customs and history
Yoder's Amish Home, 6050 State-515, Millersburg. From mid-April through October, guides lead tours through the buildings and explain Amish customs. At left, Leah Hershberger preserves peanut butter spread at Yoder's Amish Home. Admission charged. (330) 893-2541; yodersamishhome.com
Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center, Berlin. The center houses Behalt, a 265-foot-long mural that tells the history of the Amish and Mennonites. Admission charged. (877) 858-4634; behalt.com
Kidron Auction, 4885 Kidron Rd., Kidron. Held on Thursdays, the no-frills livestock auction dates to the 1920s. Outside, the parking lot is crowded with trailers, wagons, buggies and vendors selling food and fresh produce. (330) 857-2641; kidronauction.com
What to do: Food shops
Hershberger's Farm and Bakery Ltd. (pictured), 5452 State-557, Millersburg. The selection of jams, jellies, fry pies and baked goods will amaze you. (330) 674-6096
Coblentz Chocolate Company, Walnut Creek. The Coblentz family produces about 100 kinds of premium chocolates and other candies, including fudge made in copper kettles, caramels hand-wrapped in waxed paper and chocolate Amish buggies. (330) 893-2995; coblentzchocolates.com
Guggisberg Cheese, 5060 State Route 557, Millersburg. Billed as the Home of the Original Baby Swiss, this shop is a great resource for snacking, with crackers, pretzels, mustards, sausages, bologna, jams, jellies and candies in addition to cheese. (330) 893-2500; guggisberg.com
Heini's Cheese Chalet, 6005 County-77, Millersburg. You'll find 50 varieties of cheese made from milk from local Amish farmers. Free samples are available, plus visitors can watch cheese being made through large glass windows. (330) 893-2131; heinis.com
Kidron Town and Country Store, 4959 Kidron Rd., Kidron. The shop combines a grocery store, bulk food store, butcher shop, deli, pharmacy and dry goods store; the basement restaurant is a hidden gem. (330) 857-2131; kidrontc.com
What to do: Shopping
Baskets and Blooms (pictured), 5482 Township-629, Millersburg. Two long cylindrical greenhouses filled with colorful annuals, hardy perennials and beautifully arranged planters make a trip to this Amish garden center worthwhile. (330) 893-3675
Bowden Bells, 11671 Township Road-506, Big Prairie. Vince and Jan Bowden turn scrap materials into garden art--bells, birdbaths, fountains and feeders—as well as jewelry and gifts. (330) 567-3460; bowdenbells.com
Carlisle Gifts, Walnut Creek. This gift shop mimics a Victorian house and sells upscale, mostly traditional and cottage-style home furnishings, as well as fun, flirty jewelry and accessories. (330) 893-2535; dhgroup.com
Farmerstown Furniture Ltd., 3155 State Route 557, Baltic. Farmerstown Furniture sells pieces made from hardwoods such as oak, cherry and hickory. The shop also has an extensive hardware section of handles, knobs, hinges, pulls, spindles, legs and feet. (330) 897-0406
Holmes County Pottery, 8500 County Road 373, Big Prairie. Owner Cary Hulin spends his days mixing clay or glazes, throwing pots and loading the Korean-style Anagama kiln that produces birdhouses, planters, dinnerware and baking pans. (330) 496-2406
See next slide for more shopping ideas.
What to do: More shopping
Miller's Dry Goods (pictured), 4500 State-557, Millersburg. Located in Charm, Miller's Dry Goods carries more than 8,000 bolts of fabrics, plus quilts, table runners and more. (330) 893-9899; millersdrygoods.com
Lamp and Light Candle, 4320 County-114, Sugarcreek. The four Beachy sisters create and sell 75 kinds of reasonably priced scented candles. (330) 852-3234
Lehman's, 4779 Kidron Rd., Dalton. Lehman's is a supersize store specializing in goods from days gone by. (877) 438-5346; lehmans.com
RW Leather, 4415 County Road 114, Sugarcreek. With the help of his wife, Roy Wengerd makes and sells belts, purses and wallets in a shop on his farm near Walnut Creek. (330) 852-3801
Swartzentruber Quilts, 7971 Township-654, Millersburg. Sisters Mary and Lovina Swartzentruber run their cash-only business in their small, white farmhouse. Call (330) 893-3248 for Amish Heartland Tours, which takes visitors there.
Three Feathers Pewter, Millersburg. Willa Hollingsworth crafts decorative and functional pewter objects, including bracelets and serving bowls. (330) 674-0404; threefeatherspewter.com
Amish Country: Where to eat
Rebecca's Bistro (pictured), Walnut Creek. This old log cabin is a cozy restaurant where you'll find delicious tomato-basil soup and cream-filled coffee cake. (330) 893-2668; rebeccasbistro.com
Boyd and Wurthmann Restaurant, 4819 E. Main St., Berlin. Since the 1930s, the restaurant has served old-fashioned American food: sirloin steak, liver and onions, chicken and noodles, and pies. (330) 893-3287
Cafe Breitenbach, 5934 Old State-39 NW, Dover. This girly spot at a family-owned winery is a fun place to try panini, salads and hearth-baked pizzas. (330) 343-3603; breitenbachwine.com
Chalet in the Valley Restaurant, 5060 State-557, Millersburg. Near Charm, the house specialty is Swiss-Austrian food. (330) 893-2550; chaletinthevalley.com
Der Dutchman Restaurant, 4967 Walnut St., Walnut Creek. The menu features traditional chicken, ham and roast beef dinners, as well as Amish standards such as homemade noodles, date pudding, and fruit and cream pies. (330) 893-2981; dhgroup.com
Tarragon, Inn at Honey Run in Millersburg. Huge windows showcase forest views, and the seasonal menu serves simple, fresh flavors. (800) 708-9394; innathoneyrun.com
Miller's Bakery, 4280 Township-356, Millersburg. Off of State-557, this has some of the area's best baked goods. (330) 893-3002
Troyer's Genuine Trail Bologna Inc., 6552 State-515, Dundee. The Troyer family has been making bologna since 1912, combining beef with spices then smoking it over a hardwood fire. You can eat at the vintage lunch counter. (330) 893-2414; troyerstrail.com
Amish Country: Where to stay
Premier Carriage House Cottages (pictured). Berlin. These lovely cottages each offer a whirlpool tub, king-size bed, gas fireplace, satellite TV and Wi-Fi. From $179. (866) 590-1700; berlincottages.com
Charm Countryview Inn, Charm. This country inn has 15 rooms (all with en suite baths), with old-fashioned quilts on the beds. You won't find TVs, Internet or phones. Wake to a homey breakfast and fruit slushes. From $99. (330) 893-3003; charmcountryviewinn.com
(A version of this story appeared in Midwest Living® March/April 2011. Prices and other details can change; please check specifics before making travel plans.)