Exploring Shipshewana: A Journey into Amish Country

Shipshewana, Indiana, is renowned for its Amish Country landscapes, quiet countryside, downtown shopping, historic heritage sites, and captivating entertainment options. One may wonder how entertainment fits into a town centered around an Amish community known for its simple, conservative, and electricity-free lifestyle. However, Shipshewana has become a popular destination, offering diverse activities while preserving its serene and quaint small-town charm. LaGrange County, home to Shipshewana, is the third-largest Amish community in the United States.

On a personal note, I hold a unique connection to the area as a “Yoder” who grew up in northern Indiana. My grandfather was once Amish before marrying my “English” grandmother. While I wasn’t raised Amish, I grew up near the community and remember visits to my Amish great-grandparents’ farm and family reunions.

Given my familiarity with Amish culture, customs, and etiquette, I recognize that many visitors may find it unfamiliar. To ensure a respectful and enjoyable visit to Shipshewana, one must be mindful of a few tips and etiquette. The Amish are known for their warm and welcoming nature, but respecting their community is essential. Visit Shipshewana‘s website, which offers an informative article providing an overview of Amish culture. You can access it here.

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Etiquette and Courtesies in Shipshewana:
  1. Respect the Amish Faith on Photograph: The Amish community adheres to the Biblical commandment, “Thou shalt not make unto thyself a graven image.” Ask for permission before taking photos of or around them. They are usually comfortable with photos if their faces are not visible.
  2. Share the Road with Buggies: In Shipshewana, the Amish have a designated “buggy lane.” When sharing the road, drive cautiously and be respectful. Avoid honking your horn, as it can spook the horses.
  3. Visit Amish Shops: The Amish welcome visitors to their shops, which typically close by 5 p.m. and remain closed on Sundays. If a home business is open, you will see an open sign or some form of advertising.
  4. Respect their Privacy: While the Amish are friendly and enjoy visitors, not all are eager to answer questions or engage in lengthy conversations. Treat them with respect and courtesy, just as you would anyone else.
  5. Respect Private Spaces: Don’t stop at Amish homes, home businesses, or schools unless there is a clear indication that they are open to visitors.
Helpful Tips for Your Visit to Shipshewana:
  • Consider bringing cash, as some stores may only accept cash or checks. However, ATMs are typically available at various locations for your convenience.
  • Pack a cooler or insulated bag(s) to refrigerate farm-fresh purchases like cheese, meats, and other cold goods during your travels.
  • Remember that the flea market is open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from May to September, making those days the busiest in Shipshewana. Plan your visit accordingly.
  • Before your trip, visit the Blue Gate Performing Arts Center website to check the event schedule. You might find a show or performance you’d like to attend during your stay.
  • Note that Shipshewana is a “dry” town, meaning alcohol is unavailable in restaurants or shops within the town limits.
Immerse Yourself In Amish Culture

There are plenty of ways you can immerse yourself in the traditional lifestyle and customs of the Amish community and discover their unique values and ways of life. Some of these things include visiting their homes, shops, and farms.

  • Menno-Hof Cultural Museum: Explore the rich history of Anabaptism and the vibrant cultures of the Amish and Mennonites.
  • Amish In-Home Dinners: Savor authentic Amish cuisine in the comfort of a traditional Amish home. Enjoy a multi-course Thresher’s Dinner featuring fried chicken, roast beef, chicken and noodles, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, vegetables, cornbread, salad, homemade bread, and pies. Reservations are required, and a minimum number of people is necessary.
  • Buggy Rides: Take a scenic buggy ride around Shipshewana with Buggy Lane Tours or Blue Gate Carriage. Choose from various ride options and discover the Amish countryside from a unique perspective.
  • Stutzman Dairy Farm: Visit a working Amish farm between May and October. Learn about the milking and pasteurization processes, interact with friendly farm animals, and enjoy daily tours (except Sundays).
Explore the Self-Guided Off the Beaten Path Trail at Your Own Pace

Explore the Amish countryside with the Off the Beaten Path Audio Trail, a completely free activity. Pick up a trail map at the Visitors Center or download the digital version for your self-guided adventure.

Over two hours of captivating narration and directions will guide you through over 100 miles of LaGrange County, showcasing over 120 Amish Cottage shops and 80 vibrant Barn Quilts.

Barn Quilts are artistic murals inspired by quilt patterns that adorn historic barns. As you wander through the Amish Cottage Shops on the trail, you’ll discover handcrafted goods, from intricate woodwork and charming toys to delectable baked goods and exquisite leather products.

Unique Shopping Experiences 

Shipshewana is a haven for shoppers, boasting locally owned Amish shops. Here are some of my favorite must-visit places as both a local and tourist, some of which are owned by Amish entrepreneurs:

  • Davis Mercantile: This four-level shopping destination houses over twenty shops, including Kitchen Cupboard coffee shop and JoJo’s Pretzels. On the top floor, take a ride on the historic Dentzel Carousel, a must-do experience listed among the top 100 Things to Do in Indiana Before You Die.
  • E&S Bulk Sales: This minimalist grocery store has an extensive selection of products. It offers competitive prices, a wide range of cheeses and candies, and friendly baggers who will load your groceries into your trunk. Remember to have some dollars on hand to tip them.
  • Yoder’s Meat & Cheese Co: Experience the exceptional flavors of Yoder’s meat, a favorite for generations. Stock up on their grass-fed, hormone-free beef, considered among the best in Indiana (in my opinion), and over 80 varieties of cheese.
  • Shipshewana Trading Place Flea Market: This massive flea market, open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from May through September, features over 700 vendors and is the largest in the Midwest. Explore a diverse range of goods and immerse yourself in the lively market atmosphere.
  • Yoder’s Red Barn Shoppes: Located adjacent to Yoder’s Meat & Cheese, this shopping complex offers a variety of shops, including a tea cafe, pretzel shop, handcrafted goods, and furniture.
  • GLow: Attached to Our Front Porch and Shipshe Casuals, this Christian bookstore also carries copies of my book “100 Things To Do In Indiana Before I Die.” I may be biased, but it’s also one of the last remaining Christian bookstores in the state and stocked full of great gift ideas and reads.
Where to Stay in Shipshewana

Blue Gate Garden Inn
Farmstead Inn and Conference Center
Super 8 by Wyndham Shipshewana
Der Ruhe Blatz Motel
Shipshewana Airbnbs and VRBOs

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