Ohio’s Amish Country: Picturesque, Peaceful & Plentiful
Story by Tania Meek
Imagine a place to escape the reality of our fast-paced world – a place that lovingly greets you with its lush, rolling hills; remarkable farm country; warm comfort food; and welcoming, kindhearted smile. Ohio’s Amish Country extends all of the above and much more. Join me as I unfold a sampling of the treasures found neatly tucked in the heart of Ohio.
Not long ago my husband and I celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary and explored nearby options for the perfect weekend getaway. We didn’t have to go far. The open road and our willing hearts led us to Amish Country, and by the end of the weekend, we’d made another charming memory to slip into the travel chapter of our life’s storybook.
Our journey began in historic Millersburg with an overnight stay at a not so historic (actually brand new) Holiday Inn Express. This contemporary hotel was the ideal landing spot for our ventures to the neighboring towns and countryside. But rest assured, there are numerous other lodging accommodations in the surrounding area to meet your every need and whim, ranging from quaint farmhouse bed and breakfasts, cabins and tree houses, to RV parks, historic inns and modern resorts.
The town of Millersburg, dating back to the early 1800’s, offers a historic downtown that is both quaint and picturesque. We happened upon it during their 56th annual Holmes County Antique Festival, which lined the streets with vendors tempting us to take home a new-to-us vintage find. The town center offers a variety of shops, such as a couple of my personal favorites – Modern Farmhouse and Farmhouse Frocks – to capture your interest for an afternoon. In between perusing local shops, pop into La Palma Restaurant where you can enjoy chips and salsa at a table in a bank vault or stopover to the Historic Millersburg Inn, dating back to 1847, for a taste of yummy fare and history combined. If refreshment is what your taste buds are thirsting for, the Millersburg Brewing Company, located in the heart of downtown, offers 12 beers on tap daily and an inviting ambiance where you can relax and share a drink or two with travel companions.
Take a walk back in time with a visit to the Victorian House Museum and the nearby Millersburg Glass Museum. The home is an excellent example of Queen Anne Architecture and Victorian living. Built by a wealthy industrial from Cleveland, L. H. Brightman, this 6,000+ square-foot home has 28 rooms, four floors and 97 windows and will not disappoint you on your jaunt back to the 1800s.
Leaving Millersburg behind, set out to discover where the highway will lead you. One of the greatest enchantments of Ohio’s Amish Country is simply exploring the landscape. With sweeping views of the hills and valleys dotted with barns, farmlands, and a buggy or two, the scenery alone is worth the trip. On the final evening of our stay, we watched as the orange sun set on the horizon, bathing the landscape in golden light.
Holmes County, the heart of Ohio’s Amish Country, is gratifying wherever the road may take you but when you venture out either north to Big Prairie or south to Killbuck, you find wineries placed neatly among the landscape with owners that love their trade and the area they call home.
Scott and Kathy Buente have operated the French Ridge Winery in Killbrook since 2001. Their love for grapes and wines is evident not only in the growing and producing of the wines sold on site but in the education they provide regarding the processes involved at the vineyard. With over 10,000 vines on 23+ acres, this winery provides 14+ assorted wines to taste or take home. Recently, they have added two cabins for overnight guests to extend their stay and enjoy the essence of the region. If you venture to the north side of the county toward Big Prairie, the Sunny Slope Winery and General Store will greet you. The Bright family has operated this location since 1978 but it’s been a staple of the Holmes County community since 1927. Tom Bright takes pride in hand-crafting a number of different fruit wines released throughout the year. Considered a small batch winery, they provide the opportunity to sip and savor the flavors of the county. After doing so, peruse the General Store and shop a wide-variety of foods, dry goods and home and garden accessories.
A jaunt to the wonders of the outdoors would not be complete without a visit to the Open Air Art Museum located on the property of the Inn at Honey Run. Purposely positioned among the woods and hillsides of the property, the museum showcases original works from local and regional artists of various backgrounds, mediums and disciplines; and unites nature and art in a manner left simply to your own personal interpretation and inspiration.
If you’re like me, an area with town names such as Welcome, Charm, Sugarcreek and Mt. Hope render my imagination wild with the riches I might uncover in the region. A jaunt down Route 557 leads you to Charm, Ohio and gems like Hershbergers Farm and Bakery – petting zoo included , Charm Sweete Shoppe & Pizzeria, Charm Family Restaurant, Miller’s Dry Goods, Guggisberg Cheese, among other enchanting options.
Head east on Route 62 to Berlin, where you will want to park and experience this town for an afternoon or day. Wear comfy walking shoes and hit the several blocks of unique shopping, lip-smacking dining and scenic photo opportunities. You will also wish to not miss the opportunity to tour the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center to grasp a clearer understanding of the authentic faith and history of people who live and make up the majority of this community’s population. Here you can behold a Behalt, meaning “to keep” or “to remember,” which is a 10 foot tall by 265 foot long cyclorama, or mural-in-the-round illuminating the heritage of the Amish and Mennonite people from their beginnings in 1525 to the present day. You may also tour the Pioneer Barn, South Bunker Hill School and Amish School, making this a stop that will add an impressionable layer of awareness to your visit to Amish Country and its culture.
Just outside of Berlin sits Schrock’s Heritage Village. This too may require a couple of hours to appreciate. The Village includes an antique mall, craft center, Christmas store, Olde World Bakery and Bistro, candle factory and more. And of course, a visit to Amish Country isn’t quite complete without a tour of an Amish home and a ride in a genuine Amish buggy; both of which may be completed at Schrock’s.
Continue your journey eastward on Route 39 towards the last town we will explore on our journey through Ohio’s Amish Country – Sugarcreek. But be sure to make a quick sugary pit-stop along the way at Coblentz Chocolates. Jason and Mary Coblentz started Coblentz Chocolates out of their own kitchen in the spring of 1987 and have served up mouthwatering indulgences such as buckeyes, truffles, cordials and clusters for more than 30 years.
After gratifying your sweet tooth, Sugarcreek is your next satisfying choice. Owning the title as “The Little Switzerland of Ohio,” this downtown showcases Swiss architecture and murals on many storefronts. Peruse shops and eateries, such as Broad Run Cheesehouse, Dutch Valley Gifts, Studio 200 and Troyer Furniture. Spend an evening taking in a live show at the Ohio Star Theater. And last but surely not least, do not depart town without a visit to the “World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock”. Standing over 23 feet tall and 24 feet wide, the Sugarcreek clock dances the polka every thirty minutes and delights visitors of all ages.
Amish country is a tourist destination that combines a picturesque setting, a peaceful atmosphere and plentiful memory-making opportunities around every corner. It lives out the following Amish quote beautifully – “You will always leave something behind: Your influence” (Unknown). The Amish influence is seen and felt at every winding turn; from the beauty of the homes and farmlands, to the taste and fragrance of its home cooking, to the compassionate greeting given at kitchens like Mrs. Yoder’s. At the close of our anniversary weekend getaway, we headed homeward with our hearts full, our bellies satisfied and our souls in harmony with each other and the world around us. Charm, both literally and figuratively, had won us over and love prevailed.
Go to visitamishcountry.com for further information on the area’s lodging, dining, events and activities.