Culture and Crafts in the Amish Country of Indiana

The geographical mid-section of the United States is densely punctuated with fascinating towns and vacation destinations that are overlooked by far too many travelers!  Much of our country’s cultural history is tied up on the roads across the Great Plains states that our ancestors traveled and forged their way through as they helped to develop this beautiful land.  A cornerstone of this history still thrives in Amish communities throughout the rural heart of America.  These areas are the heart of our nation’s RV industry so the best way to visit them is by rolling over these roads in your very own RV whether you buy or rent one!

Amish Community in the Heartland of USA

Amish Community in the Heartland of USA

To start your exploration, pick up an RV in Chicago.  Then it’s a 2 hour, 20 minute drive to Elkhart, Indiana, which is called the RV Capital of the World.  This entire area caters to RV enthusiasts like nowhere else.  First of all, four out of every five RVs in the United States are manufactured here.  Because of the RV industry centered in the area, you can also find plenty of RV campgrounds and stores that sell RV accessories in the area.

You can also find one of the most unique museums in the country right here in town at the RV and Motor Home Hall of Fame.  You can learn the history of these incredible vehicles at the Founders Hall.  Travel back in time by looking at classic vehicles from the 1920s and 30s all the way up to present time.  You can even see the Chevrolet “Housecar” that was used by screen legend Mae West in 1931.  It’s a fun way to see some of the classic craftsmanship that has helped keep vacationers traveling across the country.

Once you’re done with the Hall of Fame, it’s time to immerse yourself in the historic Amish culture of the area. Head a few miles south to Nappanee and discover Amish Acres.  This settlement was first homesteaded by Moses Stahly, a member of one of the first Amish settler families in Indiana all the way back in 1873.  The property is now an 80 acre farm where you can experience real Amish life.  Tour the original buildings, like the ice house and blacksmith shop, or even stay to watch a repertoire theater production of Plain and Fancy, a musical about Amish life that was co-created by the Tony Award winning composer of Fiddler on the Roof.

Amish Acres in Indiana

Amish Acres in Indiana

Next, drive along the Heritage Trail in order to view the 2014 Quilt Gardens.  Updated every year, these twenty gardens are planted in patchwork designs that evoke the image of giant quilts spreading across the land.  The vibrant flowers show a special care and love for the natural gardening that residents of this area love.

There’s no better way to finish off your trip than to visit Das Dutchman Essenhaus, an authentic old-world bakery and restaurant that serves the best pies in the county.  While it evokes small-town charm, the Essenhaus is actually a massive establishment that is the largest restaurant in the state at a massive 1,100 seats.  You don’t have to be from Indiana to crowd in with all your friends for some pie, after all.

It’s time to head to Amish Country for a vacation strong on simple pleasures, and the way to get there is in an RV!

For more information on renting or buying a motor home CLICK HERE! or call 1-888-337-2208

Photo Credit:  top photo of Amish Community by Jack Pearce  licensed under Flickr Commons and Amish Acres under Wikimedia License.
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An RV Journey through Indiana’s Amish Country

Longing to relax in a beautiful place that harkens back to another time? Indiana’s Amish Country is just such a place – abounding in cultural attractions, farm tours and quaint, historic villages. Take a trip with us as we tour this wonderful region by RV.

What You’ll Find in Indiana’s Amish Country
We suggest you start your trip in Elkhart, Indiana (the RV Capitol of the World!), two hours east of Chicago. Before leaving Elkhart be sure to visit Island Park where the St. Joseph and Elkhart Rivers meet and the premier celebration of RV travel, the RV/MH Hall of Fame. History buffs will also want to visit Ruthmere, the glorious 1908 home of the Beardsley family, early leading citizens of Elkhart.

From Elkhart, you’ll travel through towns and villages that celebrate relaxed rural living and the Amish heritage for which the area is famous. Here’s a sample itinerary:

  1. Take IN-19 from Elkhart to Wakarusa, where Schmidt Furniture offers tours of its heritage furniture building operation. From Wakarusa, continue south on IN-19 to Nappanee, IN, home of Amish Acres Historic Farm. Take a buggy ride, enjoy demonstrations of 1830s farm life and enjoy a “Threshers Dinner” at the Restaurant Barn. By the way, if it’s your first trip to Amish country, here’s a helpful guide to respectful travel among the Amish.
  2. From Nappanee, it’s a twenty minute drive past the hillside Amish farms on IN-119 to Goshen, Indiana, a 19th century village rich with Amish history. Shop and dine in historic buildings throughout the downtown district and explore the works of area artisans at the Old Bag Factory. One more tip for family-centered fun in Goshen: visit Knollbrook Farm, where rural delights such as corn mazes and the afternoon “cow parade” are sure to delight the kids.
  3. Your trip now follows bucolic country highways from Goshen to Shipshewana, IN, where we suggest RV travelers stop for the night at Shipshewana RV Park and Flea Market, just off US-20 on IN-5. It’s a marvelous stop for RV travelers, offering front-row access to the Midwest’s largest flea market every Tuesday and Wednesday from April to November. Shipshewana is also the site of a number of Amish country attractions. Here are some you’ll want to visit:
    • Yoder’s Red Barn Shops offers delights at shops like Wana Cabinets and Furniture and Red Bud Gourmet Coffee.
    • Menno-Hof Information Center takes visitors through a number of experiences including a “Quilt Garden” (one of many in the region) and fascinating exhibits that explore the history of the Anabaptists (Mennonites and Amish) from before the Reformation to modern times.
    • Hostetler’s Hudson Auto Museum, “the world’s largest collection of Hudson products.”
  4. On the way back to Elkhart, be sure to stop in the village of Middlebury, where another excellent area RV campground, Elkhart/Middlebury Exit KOA, greets travelers to Amish Country. Middlebury is also home to Das Dutchman Essenhaus, an Amish-style eatery in a picturesque setting.

All along your route from Elkhart through Indiana’s Amish Country, you’ll be surrounded by heritage farms, quaint villages and excellent cultural attractions. For information about travel in the region, be sure to visit A favorite with our readers, this is one of El Monte RV Rental’s recommended routes for Indiana RV travelers.

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Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore-A Perfect RV Getaway

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Wouldn’t it be nice to lie on the beach, enjoy great RV camping and really get to know the region, all in the same vacation? We think it would, so we’ve put together all you need to start planning a trip to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. A Northern Indiana treasure, Indiana Dunes combines regional flavor and casual beach pleasures in one enormous RV camping destination.

What can we say first about this premier Lake Michigan attraction? How to get there is a good start! The National Lakeshore lies between Gary, Indiana on the west and Michigan City, Indiana on the east, and is roughly fifty miles from Chicago. For quick interstate travel to reach the beach, I-80/90 is the best east/west route. Once you’re there, you can access all areas of the Lakeshore from Indiana State Highway 12.

Now, to the reasons this will become one of your favorite motorhome camping destinations. Attractions you’ll surely want to spend time exploring include the following:

  • Bailly Homestead/Chellberg Farm – this historic landmark was once home to the first non-native resident in the region (and they still make their own maple syrup!)
  • Indiana Dunes State Park – adjacent to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is a bonus-a two thousand acre state park on Michigan’s south shore boasting three miles of pristine beach and plenty of RV campsites.
  • Ly-Co-Ki-We Trail (PDF) – take the family on a memorable hike on loops of varying lengths, all offering the chance to learn more about the beauty of Lake Michigan’s windswept shoreline.
  • Mount Baldy – a natural wonder, this ever-moving twelve story sand dune will fascinate as you take the trail to the summit.
  • Northern Indiana Art and Earth Trail – seven scenic loops have been mapped to take you to regional attractions such as blueberry farms, farmer’s markets, and arts centers. Whether your tastes run to Amish handicrafts or the eclectic art of Winona Lake, you’ll find more than enough to enjoy on the Art and Earth Trail.
  • West Beach – located at the southern-most tip of Lake Michigan, West Beach is the only one of eight Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore beaches protected by lifeguards. Spend the day swimming in the lake, exploring the dunes or simply soaking up the sun at this classic summer attraction.

One more incentive to visit is the abundant availability of RV campgrounds. If you’re not camping at the National Lakeshore or State Park, try Sand Creek Campground at Chesterton, right in the heart of the Dunes. The family will also love Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Campground at Portage, Indiana, just south of the lakeshore.

There’s still time to unwind at the beach, and there’s no better place than Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Pack your swimsuit, pick up an affordable RV rental at our Chicago El Monte RV Rentals location and get ready for some later summer fun!

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