Two-Day Itinerary for Indiana's Amish Country
Soft afternoon sun warms the fields, lifting the scent of damp, furrowed earth and wild lilacs into passing cars. Here in Elkhart and La Grange counties (110 miles east of Chicago), land and customs are nearly inseparable. Even the spirit of quilts that warm beds all winter emerges from the ground in spring when blooms appear in 17 quilt gardens and 21 quilt-theme murals sprinkled throughout the area.
While some avid tourists vow to see all of the region's artwork and planted patchwork, most travelers take a meandering path, stopping at family-owned shops, art galleries, Amish heritage sites, wineries and restaurants. Many visitors make time for a walk or bike ride on the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, dubbed the Amish Highway by locals. The paved trail flanks tidy farms and threads through towns with quilt gardens and murals. Families pick wild raspberries along the path's fringes. Men in suspenders lift their bearded chins in greeting as they pedal past visitors in Middlebury's Krider Gardens. The slow pace suits both visitors and locals—relaxation, after all, is what a weekend here is all about. htadventures.com
The Midwest Museum of American Art in Elkhart showcases 19th- and 20th-century American works, including 45 Norman Rockwell-signed lithographs and Overbeck sisters' pottery.
Cafe and gift shop B on the River serves light lunches, such as turkey-cheddar panini, and salads with walnuts and feta cheese.
Paths wind by woods, ponds, waterfalls and themed gardens at Wellfield Botanic Gardens.
Ten miles away, in tiny Bristol, wind down over a glass of regional grape or orchard-fruit wines at Fruit Hills Winery.
Back in Elkhart, a hamburger piled with bacon, mushrooms, cheddar cheese and fried onion strings stars at 523 Tap and Grill.
In all its former Vaudeville glory, the 1924 Lerner Theatre anchors downtown's restored arts-and-entertainment district and shows plays, concerts and movies.
Spacious rooms, an indoor heated pool and a hot breakfast buffet await at Staybridge Suites Elkhart North.
Start the day with fresh cinnamon-caramel doughnuts at Rise 'N Roll in Middlebury.
In Goshen, the Old Bag Factory houses antiques shops, cafes and studios featuring metalwork, sculptures and furniture.
Kelly Jae's Cafe blends Asian flavors with the Spanish tapas concept; try crispy chicken wontons with Asian slaw.
For dessert, nibble hand-dipped chocolates from Olympia Candy Kitchen.
The Shipshewana Flea Market (every Tuesday and Wednesday, May through September) is populated by 700 vendors selling toys, potted plants, home decor, tools and food.
Bike rentals at Middlebury's Pumpkinvine Cyclery facilitate exploring the 16-mile Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, linking Goshen, Middlebury and Shipshewana.
In Middlebury, Das Dutchman Essenhaus delivers a carb-reload with beef and noodles over mashed potatoes.
Guests at McKenzie House Bed and Breakfast enjoy a pool, movie-rec room and garden views.
Or head to Amish Acres Historic Farm and Heritage Resort in Nappanee for shopping, lodging, dining, theater and guided house and farm tours.