If you’re ready to break away from city life and decompress a little, Ohio’s Amish Country is the perfect place to visit for a weekend get-a-away that will soothe your senses and make you appreciate the simple things in life again.
Ohio’s Amish Country is actually the largest Amish settlement in the world. It’s located in the rolling hills of east-central Ohio in towns such as Berlin, Sugarcreek, Walnut Creek and Millersburg. While most of the population is either Amish or Mennonite (very similar to the Amish, but they sometimes may use some more modern technology), there are non-Amish people that live in the area as well.
You can fly into Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport (what we did) and drive down (about an hour and a half), but Akron-Canton airport is closer (about an hour drive down to Amish Country).
A great first stop from either airport is Lehman’s Hardware Store. It’s like the Costco for the Amish community! It was like going to a museum, but being able to buy the exhibits: Oil lamps, old-time stoves, old-time remedy products for aches, pains and common illnesses, leather belts and Amish hats and bonnets, old-fashioned toys and game, and more! There is a lady that sells homemade fudge inside, a little café area, and tons of flavored sodas. (No beer or wine as the Amish do not consume alcohol.)
For accommodations, I’d recommend staying in Berlin, Ohio. It’s very well situated in the center of all three counties that make up Amish Country. It’s a little touristy with a main street and lots of little shops and restaurants, but it’s fun and lively. There are plenty of hotels in the area. We rented a charming Airbnb house right smack in the middle of Main Street in Berlin.
After you get settled, head on over to the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center to learn about the history and culture of the Amish, and be sure to check out the Behalt - a 10 foot by 265 foot circular mural painting that illustrates who these people were who upset the European religious community, both Catholic and Protestant, by teaching about adult baptism, and why in the face of trials and persecution, they choose non-violence as a response.
Afterwards, visit Heini's Cheese Chalet where you can enjoy free samples of more than 50 different varieties of natural cheeses and see how the cheese is made.
Head over to the town of Sugarcreek, "The Little Switzerland of Ohio," and check out the world's largest Cuckoo Clock! Have dinner at Dutch Valley Restaurant. (The homemade pies are to die for!)
Start the day with a relaxing Amish Horse and Buggy ride. In Walnut Creek, in front of the Carlisle Inn there’s an Amish guy named Lester. You can arrange a ride for up to six people through the front desk.
Afterwards, head on over to The Farm at Walnut Creek, a working Amish farm where you can experience a bit of Amish lifestyle. Ride a horse-drawn wagon to feed exotic animals in Ohio.
After lunch is a great time to sample some chocolate at Coblentz Chocolate Company, where you can watch chocolate being made.
This evening is the ultimate in cultural immersion. You’re going to have dinner with an Amish Family! Twila and her husband and teenage daughter will cook and serve you at their home. They are very friendly and will answer any questions you have about being Amish. You can contact me privately for their telephone number to arrange your lunch or dinner.
After all of that hearty Amish food, cheeses and chocolates it’s a good time to do some walking or jogging. Head over to nearby Millersburg, a quaint little historic town near Amish Country and walk the Rails-to-Trails path. Here it is not unusual to find cyclists, walkers, runners, horseback riders and horse-drawn buggies utilizing the trail for exercise, fun, or transportation. This part of the trail in Holmes County consists of 12 miles of paved trail from Killbuck to Fredericksburg. It is the only dual purpose trail in the United States, half of it consisting of chipped limestone for horse traffic. You can jump on the trail just off of Grant Street at the historic Hipp Station Train Depot in Downtown Millersburg. Bicycles are available to rent.
Afterwards, visit the Victorian House Museum. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 28-room, Queen Anne style home serves as the society's museum of Victoriana and collection of Holmes County history.
Since most places in Amish Country are closed on Sundays, the very unique Warther Musuem should be your main goal for Sunday. It showcases sixty-four of Ernest Warther's ebony, ivory, and walnut hand-carved masterpieces (many of them finely detailed historic trains). In addition to his carvings, the collection contains his wife Frieda's 73,000 piece button collection, Swiss-style gardens, and 5,500 piece Native American arrowhead collection.
This museum truly blew my mind. This guy could name the exact day when he would finish a carving. The trains are so detailed, featuring thousands of tiny pieces. He even carved a steel factory where he worked, featuring actual co-workers and moving parts.
Another amazing exhibit is the Plier Tree - a tree he created from a single block of wood that now has 511 interconnected little pliers. To make it, he did 31,000 cuts and each branch can fully articulate like a functional pair of pliers all the way down to the base of the trunk. Mr. Warther knew how many cuts it would take before he even started the project!
Ohio's Amish Country is a truly unique American cultural experience. The best times to visit are in the spring when the flowers begin to bloom and the rolling green hills come to life; and in the autumn, when the fall foliage explodes on the scene and makes an artist looking canvass of yellow, orange and red colors to behold.