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Ohio has a secret. Away from the influence of the cities, out of creeping urbania and industrial smog there is a land and a people that exude a quietude of life rarely found in the twenty-first century. Even the roads that beckon you to explore seem to have one purpose in mind, to slow you down to a pace where pretty countryside can be leisurely enjoyed and appreciated. We are talking of lands that have been farmed by the same families for several centuries and a people whose lifestyle hasn't changed in more than one hundred years.
More than 45% of Amish peoples in North America live in Ohio. By shunning the use of automobiles and electricity, their life appears to be a version of 19th century idealistic existence. But make no mistake, they are hardworking people with high moral standards and a total commitment to family, community and church.
There are several things you should know if planning a visit. As visitors you should enjoy their unique world without intruding on their privacy. This is horse and buggy country so drive accordingly. Leave cameras in vehicles if your intentions are to take photos of the Amish. It is against their religion to be photographed.
Amish country comprises areas in a number of Ohio counties including Holmes, Wayne, Tuscarawas and Coshocton. Communities with names like Apple Creek, Berlin, Charm, Holmesville, Kidron, Mt. Hope, Millersburg, Orrville, Shreve, Strasburg, Sugar Creek, Walnut Creek and Wilmot, beckon with small town charm. The peripheral communities of Dover, New Philadelphia and Dennison have great attractions. For best use of time, choose a central location for accommodation. As there is so much to see, plan each day's excursion based on your interests. Comprehensive information and detailed maps are available from County Chambers of Commerce. Plan to visit during the week as many attractions and restaurants are closed on Sunday. We drew a line north to south and spent several days touring the western sector, then explored east of the line.
Your first stop should be in Berlin to see Behalt at the Mennonite Information Center. Through a cyclorama of Amish and Mennonite history, you will better understand the culture and religion of these gentle people.
Amish Country is a shoppers paradise for those of that persuasion. You will not find huge outlet malls and commercial strip development in this fertile farming area. You will find excellent small family-operated shops that offer quality service and specialty products. There are lots of farm-gate businesses. Flea, farm and craft markets abound. The towns of Berlin and Sugar Creek are beehives of activity. The crossroads community of Trail is home to Troyer's Trail Bologna.
Cheese manufacturing is big business in Amish Country. Swiss Cheese in particular is well represented at places like Guggisburg Cheese Factory, Heini's Cheese Chalet and Alpine Alpa, home of the world's largest cuckoo clock.
Visit Kidron on a Saturday morning to enjoy the outdoor Flea Market at the Stockyard & Fairground before crossing the street to see Lehman's. For more than forty-five years Lehman's has made a business of selling products geared to a simple, self-sufficient lifestyle. This is the place to find butter churns, wood stoves, crocks, copper kettles, hand pumps, apple peelers, oil lamps, old fashioned toys and good quality hand tools. As with other communities in Amish country, many buildings in the town of Kidron are in the Swiss style as the Amish are of Swiss ancestry.
Orrville, west of Kidron, was the childhood home of the Smucker family. It was here that Smucker jams and jellies were first manufactured. Smuckers still have a presence in Orrville. Simply Smuckers, a newly opened outlet, offers more than 350 varieties of product. I dare you to leave this place without a few jars of sticky-good.
Sunday is a great day to travel narrow byways that crisscross the area. Roads take one past tidy farms, some with 2-3 dwellings to accommodate various generations of Amish folk. This is friendly country where people wave from front porches and expect you to return the greeting. There are lots of buggies on the road as people gather for prayer and friendship. On any other day you will see a wide variety of horse drawn wagons including some huge four-hitch freight haulers. Monday is washday. Clothes hang on lines stretching from house to out-building, across well tended flower and vegetable gardens. Some farms have oil or gas wells, a reminder that this part of Ohio is known as the Big Valley and lies below the south shore of Lake Erie, an area with rich natural resources.
On the more eastern extremities of Amish Country, Sugar Creek, The Little Switzerland of Ohio well deserves its name. Sugar Creek is a great in-theme village. Home of the annual late-September Ohio Swiss Festival, the community is astute enough to see the value of their Swiss heritage. Businesses with names such as Alpine Hills Historical Museum, Swiss Village Bakery, Swiss Village Quilts & Crafts, Swiss Village Smithy compliment Swiss style architectural features. Appropriate street music is played year-round.
Interstate I-77 acts as a barrier between that which is totally Amish and what is purely Ohio attraction. No visit to the area is complete without a side trip to Warther Carvings in Dover. Ernest Warther's intricate and correctly detailed carvings of steam locomotives and trains are priceless works of art. His genius talent put him into the ranks of World Master Carver. The son of a Swiss immigrant, Ernest's formal education ended at Grade 2, but his legacy lives. One of Warther's most famous carvings in the Lincoln Funeral Train, executed in ebony and ivory. A tour of his studio and carvings is a must-do. His wife's extensive button collection is worthy of a look-see too.
A few miles east of Dover, the historic village of Zoar was settled in 1817 by German Separatists. The Society of Separatists of Zoar was a unique and successful experiment in communal living until 1898. Today Zoar, owned by private individuals and the Ohio Historical Society, is a living village. It's charm, simplicity and architecture have been sympathetically maintained. Ten of the properties are museums. Others have been restored and house home-based occupations as in the Zoarite era. Zoar Garden, Dairy and Spring house are well worth a visit as are the Tin Shop, Bakery, Wagon Shop, Sewing House and Number One House. Plan to have a meal in Zoar Tavern & Inn. Stop at Zoar Store for admission tickets.
Be sure to book for a Saturday or Sunday train excursion at Dennison Depot. Destinations and times vary with the seasons and special events. The Depot was known for its famous Red Cross Canteen that greeted more than 1.5 million soldiers during World War II. Dennison was now by the servicemen as "Dreamsville, U.S.A." Dennison Depot has been restored to c1940's and contains an excellent railroad-related museum. The Canteen Restaurant features dishes such as Flyboy Chicken Dinner and Victory Garden Salad. Dennison was once home to one of the largest clay pipe industries in Ohio. You might want to visit the local cemetery to see the unusual clay-pipe headstones. As an inexpensive material and one that lasted a long time, the pipe made an ideal medium to mark the graves of clay workers.
Ohio's Amish Country is located approximately two hours from Cleveland, hours from Cincinnati and seven hours from Buffalo making a great year-round vacation destination. Although there are lots of accommodation in the area, our personal recommendations are The Inn at Amish Door and Atwood Lake Resort.
The Inn at Amish Door is located near Wilmot. With an on-site restaurant and shops this facility is definitely setting new hospitality standards. From its lofty location, you can look across pastoral rolling hills and wooded dell. In the quiet of an evening, the distinctive sound of horses and buggy traffic can be heard in the distance. Amish Door Restaurant offers a wonderful buffet featuring local specialties. There is also family-style and order-from-menu dining. Try their mouth-watering desserts. If your visit does include a Sunday, remember that the restaurant and shops at this establishment are closed.
Centrally located to eastern extremities of Amish Country, Atwood Lake Resort is situated on a hillside overlooking the lake and wooded hills. The resort has all the amenities one would expect, including a dining room with excellent sunset views over the lake. The resort's central location means that visitors are never far from visitor attractions. Its proximity to Zoar Village, Dennison Railway and the gateway to Amish Country, Sugar Creek makes the Resort an ideal accommodation choice for any visit.
IF YOU GO:
P.O. Box 96
Dellroy, Ohio 44620
Wilmot, Ohio 44689
#1-888- AMISH DOOR
Orrville, Ohio, 44667
Dover, Ohio 44622
Zoar, Ohio 44697
400 Center Street
Dennison, Ohio 44621
New Philadelphia, Ohio 44663
35 N. Munroe Street
Millersburg, Ohio 44654
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