Along the Heritage Trail – Amish Country in Indiana

You know you’re in Amish country when you see these as you travel down the road…

But in this post I’ll focus more on what we saw along the Heritage Trail, a 90-mile route that led us through the small towns of Elkhart, Bristol, Middlebury, Goshen, Shipshewana, Nappanee and Wakarusa in Northern Indiana.  We were deep in the heart of Amish country, where we took a free audio CD tour beginning in Elkhart, our home base for a week.  The visitor center provided us with it, and we think it’s worth stopping for if you want to see and learn about the area.

Amish Acres

This was our first self-guided driving tour following an audio CD, which provided driving instructions and information as we went along.  It took a little getting used to, but after the first few turns we had it figured out.  The route wound through several small towns and past many miles of corn and soybean fields.  The broad horizon was punctuated by neat red barns, white farmhouses and black horse-drawn buggies.  The history of the region and the Amish people who began settling here in the 1840’s was detailed, as were the various must-see attractions along the way:

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Although we had already learned quite a bit about the Amish way of life during our stay in Ohio last year, we saw many more farms and businesses while driving through this area. Here’s a look at some of the highlights along the Heritage Trail, which took us most of a day – including stops along the way.

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Quilt Gardens

Many of you know that I like flowers, and when they are grouped together to form a giant pattern like a patchwork I’m in heaven.  This region is dotted with thousands of blooms, with up to 20 large flower gardens planted in classic quilt patterns.  These living displays adorn the seven communities along the Heritage Trail from May 30 to Oct 1 and can be viewed for free.

Here are some samples, with detailed descriptions, including the different kinds of flowers planted:

Seasons of Change pattern

Seasons of Change pattern, Ruthmere

Seasons of Change pattern

Cross Town Rivals Pattern

Cross Town Rival, Elkhart

Cross Town Rivals pattern

Driving along and following the audio CD tour is one way to view these gardens.  We also walked around the city of Elkhart and biked the Pumpkinvine Trail in Middlebury, which gave us an up-close view of these somewhat hidden attractions:

Beauty and the Beast Rose Quilt Garden, Elkhart

Beauty and the Beast Rose Quilt Garden, Elkhart

Beauty and the Beast Rose pattern

Other patterns:

Vibrant outdoor quilt murals also added to the experience:

Amish Quilt Commemorative Stamps

Amish quilt commemorative stamps

Pinwheels and Ribbons of Hope

Pinwheels and Ribbons of Hope

More scenes along the Heritage Trail:

Apple Art could be seen dotting the town of Nappanee.  These are  4-foot apples stationed around town, each with its own appealing artistic design.

Amish craftsmanship could be admired or bought at shops in Middlebury:

Amish Country

Amish craftsmanship

The Old Bag Factory (built in 1890) in Goshen has been renovated, and is now an eclectic collection of artisan shops.  In one of the historical displays we learned that those little paper plumes found in Hershey’s Kisses were originally made here from 1921 to 1982 – cool!

Old Bag Factory, Goshen

In Wakarusa we stopped by to get a sugar fix on candies, like their Jumbo Jelly Beans.

Wakarusa Dime Store

The dime store in Wakarusa boasts the largest jelly beans in the world!

Shipshewana is known as the midwest’s largest flea market, but we skipped it as traffic into the property was horrendous and we don’t have room in Betsy for trinkets from places like that anyway.

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Quality outdoor Amish furniture near the flea market

On another day we biked the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, a 16.5 mile linear path connecting Goshen, Middlebury and Shipshewana, which was originally  a railroad corridor.  This trail, which passed through woodland, pastures and cultivated fields also included one of the quilt gardens that can be viewed up close at Krider Gardens.

Pumpkinvine Trail

Water Wheel, Krider Gardens

Water Wheel at Krider Gardens

The countryside along the trail was home to the third largest Amish community in the USA.

Amish Country

Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

 

 

Amish Country

 

Amish Country

Driving the Heritage Trail was not only fun, but also informative and scenic.  I have to agree with the editors of LIFE magazine that it is “One of America’s Most Scenic Drives.”  It was interesting and there were a few surprises at every turn.  But for me the quilt gardens were the star of the tour!

P.S.  We have good friends traveling with us this week and having so much fun, which is why I am a bit behind with my posts.  We’re now in Mackinaw City, MI.  Stay tuned!

 

Next up:  More about the city with a heart!